St. Croix, Virgin Islands
It’s just 28 miles long and seven miles wide, but St. Croix is home to big-time relaxation. One of the U.S. Virgin Islands (others are St. John and St. Thomas), scenic St. Croix sits just southeast of Puerto Rico in the Caribbean Sea. Its proximity to the U.S.—and the fact that it uses U.S. dollars—makes it a prime tropical destination for all seasons. But for honeymooners, queer-friendly St. Croix is especially convenient for making a post-nuptial getaway both easy and easygoing.
Now that your sights are set on the turquoise waters and swaying palm trees of St. Croix, it’s time to figure out how best to celebrate your special couple’s holiday. Lucky for you two, the Caribbean’s most popular lesbian-owned hotel is ready to welcome you into one of its 21 studios, suites or private villas. Sand Castle on the Beach (127 Smithfield, Frederiksted, 800-524-2018, sandcastleonthebeach.com) is perched right on the sea’s edge in the Victorian-styled Frederiksted, the largest town on the island’s southwestern corner.
Sand Castle offers an intimate escape with all you need to kick back and claim the joys of a lazy beach vacay (think hammocks, Beach Side Café dining and spa services). With honeymoon and “romance” packages, the crew behind Sand Castle is eager to show you just how hospitable they can be, while helping you plan activities from snorkeling and scuba trips, to horseback riding and sailing. Special wedding packages also are on the menu, just in case the dreamy warm air of St. Croix sparks your passion all the way to the altar.
Each year, in celebration of Mardi Gras, Frederiksted hosts one of the island’s most colorful and rowdy parties: Mardi Croix. Usually held on the Saturday before Fat Tuesday (this year on March 1), the lively parade floats along a beach route, with local vendors and plenty to imbibe along the way. And all year round on every third Thursday of the month, Fredricksted hosts “Sunset Jazz” on the beach just north of the cruise ship pier. Take in the gorgeous view and dance through the evening to local bands intent on upping the love quotient.
While the Caribbean is dotted with many lovely destinations, St. Croix stands out for feeling more undiscovered than the rest. Like Frederiksted, Christiansted is another sleepy tropical town—and both offer quaint cafés and open-air bars where you can chat with locals and artists and other romantics. Outside of the villages, find beautiful nature settings like the Salt River National Park and Ecological Preserve and Caledonia Valley, where you can stumble upon waterfalls and overlooks that will sweep you away. Prepare to be swept.
Alpe d’Huez, France
The French Alps: The name alone conjures an almost cinematic caliber of romance that automatically raises the honeymoon bar. But to actually plan such a trip, an amorous couple must hit pause on their fantastic visions of snow-capped peaks and Côtes du Rhône sipped by a roaring fire, and make some decisions. Important decisions, like what fabulous gay-friendly lodge to book, and which stylish-yet-practical parka will look hottest on the slopes.
The gay-friendly destination du jour in this enchanting corner of the world is Alpe d’Huez, a small resort town in the central French Alps. Home to the past three out of six European Gay Ski Weeks (europeangayskiweek.com), Alpe d’Huez will once again host the continent’s ultimate wintry gay sports and music festival this March 22-29. For honeymooners keen to marry the joys of winter sports with those of the party spirit, look no further. Women-centric entertainment options set this week apart, with performers like London’s Folly Mixtures Burlesque Revue, French-born DJ Slamma Laury spinning the opening-night party, and British singer Nicolette Street headlining, among many other events and gatherings.
Through the Gay Ski Week website it’s easy to find a cozy hotel of any size, for any budget (well, any European-size budget). But the highlight of them all is the CGH Residence Le Cristal de l’Alpe (cgh-residences.co.uk/winter/residence/residence-le-cristal-de-l-alpe.html). This centrally located, four-star property is home to 70 short-term apartments fit for group stays. Plus, it’s home to an indoor pool, spa baths and sauna, and of course ski racks with shoe warmers—oh, and heated towel racks. The lodge features great views of south-facing Alpe d’Huez (nicknamed “l’ile au soleil,” or “the sunny isle” for its 300-plus days of sunshine each year), and is one of the most popular for its proximity to the many Gay Ski Week venues.
Although the special gay and lesbian invasion at Alpe d’Huez comes just once a year, the town remains a popular destination all winter. After all, it’s just an hour from gorgeous Grenoble, and promises plenty of mountainous majesty to behold. Its Old Town, or Quartier des Vieil Alpe, remains home to original buildings and narrow streets that can transport your newly wedded selves to a scene from a snowy Van Gogh painting. And in case you’re visiting outside of Gay Ski Week, the website remains a great year-round resource for things to do, places to eat and drink, and ideas for cozying up with your beautiful new spouse. And really, she will probably offer the best heated rack of all.
Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada
For some, it’s just a scenic alpine lake, perfect for a long-drive loop; a little cousin to Reno. But for many more sporty souls, Lake Tahoe is an adventure playground well suited to both winter and warm-weather getaways—and, naturally, for honeymoons fit for a pair of outdoor lovers.
Lake Tahoe is often thought of as a city, but really it’s North America’s largest alpine lake, situated smack on the California-Nevada state line, just south of Reno and west of Carson City. Its surroundings are sprinkled with both fabulous and quaint resorts, natural wonders and amazing vistas of the crystal blue water and rugged mountain backdrop that attract about three million visitors a year.
For newlyweds seeking a natural wonderland in which to celebrate, Tahoe offers a slew of options for all seasons. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find any lakeside inlet unwelcoming to the queer set, it is South Lake Tahoe, on the California side, where the gays tend to flock. And it’s no wonder, considering the town is home to the annual WinterFest Gay Ski Week (laketahoewinterfest.com), this year held March 2-9, its 19th year. The week is filled with special dinners, parties, comedy and other nightly events, including a lake cruise. And, of course, there’s the world-class skiing. All of this fun can be experienced through package-ticket deals or à la carte.
This year, Aston Lakeland Village Resort (3535 Lake Tahoe Blvd, South Lake Tahoe, 877-997-6667, astonlakelandvillage.com) will host Gay Ski Week, filling its 19 scenic acres with more lesbian snow bunnies than you could shake a ski pole at. Another charming and gay-owned option is the Black Bear Inn (1202 Ski Run Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, 877-232-7466, tahoeblackbear.com), where owner-partners Jerry and Kevin will see to your every romantic inclination. Between the fireplaces, hot-tub gazebo, private patios, and proximity to loads of outdoor activities, it’s no wonder Black Bear is a hotspot for homo honeymooners—with special package deals to boot, as well as wedding accommodations.
Though the fresh mountainous beauty of Lake Tahoe is an obvious winter winner for ladies in love, summer too is an equally idyllic escape. So no matter which season your nuptials strike, the Sierra Nevada’s lush land of romance, recreation and relaxation awaits.
NYC: Quick-Hitch Wedding Guide
Is there anything more rousingly romantic than hailing a cab bound for City Hall and tying the knot on a passionate whim? OK, maybe there is. However, for those exhilarated by urgency and inspired by spontaneity, here’s what you need to know about getting hitched with the quickness in the Big Apple.
Learn to love the City Clerk’s office. You’ll be visiting it twice, since a New York marriage license (cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/license.shtml) requires a 24-hour waiting period between license-getting and vow-making. The first time around you’ll have to fill out an application—which you should definitely complete online in advance to save yourself a little time and pay the $35 fee by either credit card or money order.
Be prepared to wait. Unlike the enthusiastic nuptials you’ve come there for, employees behind the City Clerk’s counters are, generally speaking, underwhelmed by your bliss, and uninterested in expedience. So pull a number and grab a hopefully gum-free seat, and canoodle your hearts out for however long it takes to reach the paperwork-submission window. And remember—on the bright side, you’re in a room full of happy, loving, soon-to-be newlyweds just like you! P.S.: The shortest wait time will be first thing in the morning, or least nowhere near lunchtime. Also, consider bringing a snack.
B.Y.O. witness. The City Clerk ceremony will set you back $25 and requires a witness, so you can bring your own—just make sure he or she has time to wait with you—or find a lovely stranger to do the honors. The ceremony itself will take somewhere around 30 seconds, so it’s the wait time that proves most trying. The good part might be over before you even know that you did, in fact, just kiss the bride.
Beauty and the brides. There’s no dress code at City Hall, so feel free to don your gown or tux, or jeans or sweats—it’s all up to you. And while there are photographers loitering around to immortalize your bliss on camera, you can also bring your own pro or amateur shutterbug. The non-sentimental types might just consider a selfie on their phones.
Or build a ceremony on your chosen turf. If getting hitched outside of a glamorous municipal building suits your fancies, just pick the time and place, hire a city-registered officiant (here’s how to register as one: cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/marriage/officiant_reg.shtml), and hitch your hearts out! Then the newlyweds, officiant and witness sign the marriage license, and the officiant returns the license to the office where it was obtained within five business days.
Now about those rings…If you ever been to jury duty in NYC, you’ll know that each borough’s civic centers are home to a good many jewelry stores. Lower Manhattan being home to Wall Street, it’s no doubt there you’ll find more high-end jewelers than in other boroughs—though you can also accommodate tighter budgets at many shops just outside the Municipal Building, especially in nearby Chinatown. However, with a little advance planning you could factor in some ring-shopping time, possibly even getting bands made by a queer jewelry designer (the website engaygedweddings.com may prove helpful, among many others).
Here come the brides! Many newlyweds can profess to the wondrous ease of the quick-hitch wedding at the City Clerk’s office. And one of its greatest perks is the tremendous flexibility for celebrating the occasion with either a full-on or more spontaneous reception or simple soirée. If you’re downtown, Chinatown is a good bet for reserving large tables at the last minute. Similarly, there’s always large private-room karaoke to get jiggy with downtown. Beyond those most obvious of options, it’s your chance to mark this historic and intensely intimate expression of love however you want. So seize the chance to make your wedding day the most cherished, festive and unforgettable of your newly wedded lives!
(Locations and hours of each boroughs’ Marriage Office: cityclerk.nyc.gov/html/about/office.shtml)