Back in 1989 Demark led way and where the first country to introduce civil union status. There are now many more countries that offer a form of legal gay marriage or civil union. We have all the up-to-date information on countries where gay marriage is legal plus other countries and states that recognize same-sex civil unions and civil partnerships.
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Top Tips for Gay Marriage Abroad
Choose Your Destination
Grab some brochures and decide on which country you and your partner want to get married in. Check out our destination overview for lots of ideas for your wedding setting.
Sun or Snow?
Think about the time of year you want to get married as this may affect your choice of destination. Is it a background of snow capped mountains you want or a sun drenched beach?
Set Your Wedding Budget
Once you have decided on your destination, work out your budget including air fare, accommodation and wedding package fees.
Book Your Venue
Plan and book as early as you can. Weddings overseas are becoming more popular and the best venues and dates get booked early. Certain destinations require a minimum of 12 weeks’ notice.
Establish a Contact
As soon as you have made your booking ask the venue who your contact will be and establish communication with them to start planning your desired wedding package and booking all your chosen suppliers.
Visit Your Destination
If you’re planning your wedding way in advance, you may want to visit your chosen wedding destination and hotel beforehand to ensure that it’s what you are looking for.
If you need to take any medical certificates or have any vaccinations, visit your GP. Some countries require you to be vaccinated against diseases such as yellow fever and typhoid.
The legal requirements for marrying abroad vary from country to country. In general you must be over 21 years of age. If you are unsure check with the local registry office.
Investigate all the legalities for getting married in your chosen destination. Contact the relevant embassies to find out the exact requirements and that your commitment will be valid when you return home. Check out our Legal Information section for more help and advice but we recommend you always contact the local registry office or embassy to confirm up to date information.
Gather Your Documents
Organise all of your original required documents in a folder, such as birth certificates, decree absolute. You will not be able to get married without them in most destinations.
How Many Days?
Check the number of days you legally need to be in the country of your choice before your wedding can take place. Check our Legal Information link for more advice.
Book your wedding insurance to ensure peace of mind as it will cover any damaged wedding photographs, clothing and if wedding rings or gifts are lost.
Send Out Invitations
Send out invitations to your guests at least six months before. This will ensure that they have time to organise flights, accommodation and time off work.
If you are travelling with a large wedding party there will often be group discounts available at many of our venues. Please ask when you make your booking.
What to Wear
Start shopping for your wedding outfit. Keep in mind the climate of your destination when you are trying on outfits.
Think About Luggage
Make sure you have a suitable luggage carrier for your wedding clothes and check weight allowance with your airline.
Get some Help
You may want to get yourself a wedding coordinator. They will take you through all aspects of the ceremony and with their local knowledge will ensure your day runs smoothly. You can discuss the finer points of your special day such as decorations, photographs, videos, music, cake and flowers with them too.
If you are planning to have your hair done in your chosen destination, take pictures from hair magazines so the local hairdresser can re-create the style. Make sure you pre-book any beauty treatments before the big day and ensure you sunbathe sensibly as you want to look suntanned rather than sunburnt in your photographs.
Choose Your Readings
In many cases your actual wedding ceremony will be quick and informal. If you want to have a specific reading or hand written vows most registrars are happy to include them so get your thinking caps on.
Have a Video
Having a video is the best way to show friends and family when you return home. Some locations can also offer live internet linked weddings so your friends and family can actually see you getting married via their home PC’s.
Check documents before you leave
In most cases you will receive your marriage certificates at the hotel after the ceremony. It is important that you check every detail of this carefully. Where your certificate is not ready prior to departure, your tour operator should send it to your home address. In many countries this can take up to four months.
Gay Marriage Abroad FACTS!
Back in 1989 Demark led way and where the first country to introduce civil union status. There are now many more countries that offer a form of legal gay marriage or civil union. Countries where gay marriage is legal include:
- South Africa
- Mexico City, Cancun & Cozumel
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
Other countries and states that recognise same-sex civil unions and civil partnerships but do not offer equal rights to heterosexual couples include:
- French Guyana
- Falkland Islands
- Czech Republic
- The Australian Capital Territory
- New South Wales
- Northern Territory
- South Australia
- Western Australia
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
For a full explanation of gay marriage legalities in each of these countries and states please visit our legalities of gay marriage section.
Gay Marriage Legalities Worldwide
Gay Marriage Legalities Worldwide
More and more countries worldwide now accept some form of legal partnership for same sex couples. This level of recognition ranges from civil marriage to domestic partnership.
Domestic partnership is classed as a relationship between two individuals who live together but are not joined by a civil union or traditional marriage; however it can be legally recognised. In some places a domestic partnership is deemed equivalent to a marriage however the exact rights of a domestic partnership vary greatly from country to country.
Civil Marriage alternatively known as civil union or civil partnership - this is a legally recognised commitment between same sex couples. It provides partners with the rights, benefits and responsibilities similar to opposite sex marriage. With so many countries worldwide now accepting some form of civil marriage why stay at home for your special day when you can take advantage of some of the world’s most stunning locations.
Browse through our information pages and you will see that we have provided information on the various legalities of same sex marriage in some of our most popular destinations. Due to the constantly evolving political climate for same sex partnerships we strongly suggest that you check the most update information on individual countries from their official authorities. Links are provided for your convenience.
Gay Marriage Legalities by US State
California has recognised same-sex domestic partnerships since 2005. Those who have registered domestic partnerships have all of the same rights and responsibilities as marriages under state law. To register both persons must have a common residence in California. In May 2008 the Supreme Court of California ruled that same sex partners would be legally entitled to full marriage rights. California was the second state behind Massachusetts to offer such rights.
In November 2008 a successful majority of California residents voted for Proposition 8 which defines marriage as an act between man and woman - effectively this ruling bans gay marriage. Protests to have this ruling overturned have begun. The ban was known as Proposition 8.
After 2 years of protests against Proposition 8 a US Judge overturned the ban enabling gay couples to marry from 18th August 2010.In November 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled that the sponsors of Proposition 8 have the right to defend the initiative, leading to the case to be heard in the Court of Appeals.
On February 7, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court in California ruled 2 to 1 that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.
Same-sex marriage still remains a controversial issue within California. Gay marriage supporters are trying to get an initiative on the November 2012 ballot to return the state to granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
Gay Marriage is Legal. Connecticut has recognised same-sex civil unions since 2005. It became the second state in the United States (following Vermont) to offer gay couples all of the same rights and responsibilities as marriage.
District of Columbia
Gay Marriage is Legal. In December 2009 the District of Columbia became the sixth jurisdiction in the USA to allow same-sex couples to legally marry. The District of Columbia has recognised same-sex domestic partnerships since 2002. In 2007, Washington D.C's domestic partnership bill was signed into law giving gay and lesbian couples many of the benefits of marriage.
After a failed attempt to legalize civil unions in 2008 a new law to allow gay and lesbian couples in Hawaii to form a civil union was approved in February 2009 by the State House of Representatives. Same sex partners would firstly have to apply for a licence.
A form of civil union open to same-sex and to mixed sex couples is currently recognised in Hawaii giving a limited number of rights and benefits on state level, including inheritance rights, workers compensation, the right to sue for wrongful death, health insurance and pension benefits for state employees.
Gay Marriage is Legal. In April 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court voted to allow gay marriage. Iowa is the first Midwestern state to allow gay marriage. It now becomes the third state in the USA joining Massachusetts and Connecticut to allow same sex couples to wed.
Maine has recognised same-sex civil unions since 2004. To register as domestic partners here, both parties must have been in legal residence together in Maine for the preceding 12 months.A bill to allow same-sex marriages in Maine was signed into law on May 2009, but opponents successfully petitioned for a referendum on gay marriage, meaning the law could not be put into effect.
Gay Marriage is Legal. In 2004 Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legalize same-sex marriage. The State of Massachusetts also issues licenses to gay couples from New Mexico and Rhode Island since neither state explicitly prohibits same-sex marriage.
Since March 2010 Maryland has formally recognised gay marriages which were performed outside of the state. Despite ongoing legal battles to fight for the right for same-sex marriage in the state only marriage between a man and a woman is valid in Maryland.
Gay Marriage is Legal. Back in January 2008 New Hampshire became the 4th state behind Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut to offer civil unions. In June 2009 the New Hampshire Democrat governor John Lynch passed a law to legalise gay marriage making it the sixth state to allow same-sex marriage.
Gay Marriage is Legal. New Jersey became the third US state to offer same-sex civil unions behind Vermont and Connecticut. The same-sex civil union’s law, grants gay and lesbian couples the same rights as marriage.
Gay Marriage is Legal. New York legalized same-sex marriage in July 2011 under the Marriage Equality Act. New York is the largest US state to legalize gay marriage and it became the seventh state to do so behind Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and the Washington capital district.
The Family Fairness Act 2007 recognised domestic partnerships for same-sex couples and became law on 1st January 2008. Marriage licenses here are organised by counties not the state itself. When you have decided upon your location you must contact the local county clerk’s office to obtain a licence. Only marriage between one man and one woman is valid and legally recognized in Oregon.
In May 2011 a bill was approved to legalize Civil Unions in the state of Rhose Island. This bill emerged as a compromise following a contentious debate about legalizing same-sex marriage.
Gay Marriage is Legal. The first U.S. state to offer same sex civil unions since 2000. In September 2009 Vermont became the fourth US state behind Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa to allow same-sex marriage although it is the first state to do so with a legislature's vote. Gay couples are not guaranteed federal benefits however they are granted access to Social Security.
Gay Marriage is Legal. In July 2007, Washington State’s legislature passed a domestic partnership bill. In 2008 the legislature added an additional 160 of the rights and responsibilities of marriage to domestic partnerships. In 2009, the legislature expanded domestic partnerships once again in the “everything but marriage” bill, which provides the same state rights, responsibilities, and obligations as married spouses, while specifying that domestic partnerships are not marriages.
Governor Christine Gregoire signed the expanded domestic partnership bill into law on May 18, 2009. However, the law did not go into effect as scheduled because of Referendum 71, an attempt to overturn the law. Referendum 71 qualified for the November 2009 ballot and asked voters to approve or reject the law that the legislature passed. Washington State voters made history by approving Referendum 71 by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent, becoming the first state to vote in favour of equality.
In August 2009 Wisconsin became the first Midwestern state to allow domestic partnerships. Gay couples are entitled to far fewer of the legal rights available to married straight couples. Some of the benefits gay couples are entitled to include hospital visitation, inheritance and medical leave rights.
Gay Marriage Legalities by Country
Andorra, Principality of
Andorra recognizes civil union legislation for ‘stable couples’ regardless of gender. Resident couples who have been together for at least six months can register in a registry of Stable Unions. At least one partner must be a resident of Andorra or an Andorran national.
In July 2010 Argentina became the first Latin American nation to legalise same-sex marriage thus giving gay couples all of the same rights, responsibilities and protections that heterosexual married couples receive.
In November 2009 The Australian Capital Territory became the first region in Australia to legalise civil partnership ceremonies for same-sex couples. New South Wales, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Victoria, and Western Australia all have some legal recognition of same-sex couples at state level although they currently do not offer the same rights as unmarried opposite sex couples.
The Australian state of Tasmania recognizes civil unions between same-sex couples (2004). However it does not recognize same-sex marriage although the Relationships Act 2003 provides for recognition and registration of a type of domestic partnership.
In 2003 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that cohabiting same sex partners should be entitled to the same rights as cohabiting mixed sex couples. Civil Unions for same sex couples are not yet supported by the Austrian government however it is very likely that they will be legalised in 2008.
Same sex marriage in Barbados is currently illegal.
Same-sex relationships are legal in the Bahamas but they are not eligible for legal protections as with heterosexual married couples. Gay marriage and civil unions are not legal in the Bahamas as the marriage act defines marriage as that between man and woman.
Gay & lesbian couples have the same rights and responsibilities as opposite sex married partners. This is recognised through same sex and mixed sex civil unions. Neither partner needs to be a Belgium citizen.
Anti-discrimination laws and court rulings in Brazil give same-sex couples who can show they are in a "stable union" the same rights as mixed-sex couples who are living together.
British Virgin Islands
A draft constitution is in place which prohibits discrimination against people based on sexual orientation however The British Virgin Islands are extremely religious and homophobic. Same-sex marriage is not permitted here.
In 2005 Canada became the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide with the approval of the Civil Marriage Act. Same-sex marriages or civil partnerships registered outside Canada are not recognised for emigration purposes to Canada.
Civil partnerships for same-sex couples have been granted in Croatia since 2003. The act specifies only two rights for same-sex couples: the right to joint property and the right to be supported by a partner. Partners must have been together for at least three years.
Homosexuality is legal in Cyprus however same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Since Cyprus joined the EU it has updated its human rights legislation in relation to sexual orientation and gender identity but homosexuality is still widely considered as immoral. The law in Cyprus does not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions although the Cypriot government will soon examine the issue of making same-sex marriages legal in Cyprus.
Same sex partnerships have been legally recognised in the Czech Republic since 2006. At least one partner must be a citizen of the Czech Republic. Registered partners are entitled to several rights including inheritance, hospital and spousal privileges but do not allow adoption, widow’s pension or joint property rights.
Legal civil unions have been allowed in Denmark since 1989. All legislation referring to ‘marriage’ includes registered same sex partners. Only citizens of countries that recognise same-sex marriages can enter a registered partnership in Denmark.
Gay marriage is not legally recognized in the Dominican Republic but male and female homosexuality is legal.
Domestic partners can register under the Civil Partnership Act giving registered same-sex couples all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of married heterosexual couples.
Finland has offered registered partnership benefits since September 2001. It grants similar rights and responsibilities as married partners in the form of same sex civil unions.
Gay marriage is legal. In April 2013 France became the 14th country to legalise same-sex marriage. Parliament voted 331 votes for and 225 votes against. The vote made France the ninth country in Europe to allow gay marriage.
A pacte civil de solidarité ("civil pact of solidarity") commonly known as a PACS is a form of civil union between two adults (same-sex or opposite-sex) for organising their joint life. Individuals who have registered a PACS are still considered "single" with regard to family status for some purposes, while they are increasingly considered in the same way as married couples are for other purposes.
Germany introduced a registered partnership for same sex couples in 2001. Gay couples can register a "Life Partnership" although this grants lesser financial and pension benefits than traditional marriage.
Currently same-sex marriage in Greece is not legal. There is a legal battle continuing as in 2008 several same-sex couples where married by a local Mayor under heavy criticism from clergymen of the Church. These marriages were later deemed “invalid” which led to demonstrations and protests from the LGBT community. In January 2011 the couples involved in the case appealed the decision and took the matter to the Supreme Court.
Greenland recognises same-sex civil unions as equivalent to a civil partnership. Only citizens of countries that recognise same-sex marriages can enter a registered partnership in Greenland.
Gay couples have been protected under common-law marriages since 1995; however they are not eligible for legal marriage. The law gives some specified rights and benefits to two persons living together. However Civil Partnerships will be recognised in Hungary from January 2009.
Since 1996 gay Icelanders have been protected under the Registered Partnership Act which grants a full range of responsibilities and benefits. Same sex civil unions were recognised between 2002 and 2010. In June 2010 Iceland's openly gay Prime Minister legalised gay marriage which gives married same-sex couples the same rights and benefits as married heterosexual couples.
Israel has granted unregistered cohabitation for same-sex couples since 1994, in the form of common law marriage. The city of Tel Aviv recognises unmarried couples, including gays and lesbians, as family units and grants them discounts for municipal services.
Italy debates a possibility of a civil union scheme for same-sex and opposite sex partners. There are however several regions that currently recognize a form of domestic partnership known as coppie di fatto (2004). These regions are: Abruzzo, Campania, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Marche, Puglia, Tuscany, Umbria, and Veneto.
Same sex marriage in Jamaica is currently illegal.
Same sex marriage in Lapland is currently illegal.
Civil partnership legislation modelled after France's PACS were introduced in Luxembourg in 2004. Same sex civil unions offer the same rights as mixed sex married couples in relation to access to welfare benefits.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Maldives. The Maldives does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions
Currently same sex marriage is illegal in Malta however a number of same-sex union bills will soon be introduced.
In December 2009 Mexico City became the first capital city to legalise same-sex marriage in North America. They became only the seventh country to permit gay marriage plus a handful of US states. Previously same-sex domestic partnerships were legalized in Mexico in 2007 (Civil Solidarity Union). Same-sex marriage is also legal in the Mexican Caribbean resort towns of Cancun and Cozumel.
In November 2008 Nepal's Supreme Court voted in favour of laws to guarantee full rights to LGBT people. Under this law all gender minorities must be defined as "natural persons" - this includes the right to marry. Same sex unions are permitted but will not receive official approval until further notice. A government committee has been asked to study same sex partnership laws and asked that the new law does not discriminate against sexual minorities in other countries.
Civil Unions for same-sex and opposite sex partners were introduced here in 2001. This provides all the same rights and responsibilities as married partners.
Gay Marriage is Legal. In April 2013, 77 out of 121 parliament members voted to allow gay couples to wed. New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to allow same-sex marriage. In December 2004, New Zealand enacted legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions. Couples from other countries that have legal same-sex marriages can have their marriages recognized in New Zealand.
Since 1996, gay Norwegians have been protected under registered partnerships which grants the full range of protections, responsibilities and benefits as marriage.
Same sex marriage became legal in Norway on January 1st 2009, when a gender neutral marriage bill was enacted after being passed by the Norwegian legislature in June 2008. Norway became the sixth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
A registered partnership bill was approved by upper house parliament in December 2004 giving same sex couples the right to legal partnership.
In January 2010 Portugal's parliament voted to legalise same-sex marriage. Portugal became the sixth country in Europe to grant gay and lesbian couples the right to wed.
In the Seychelles male homosexuality is illegal whereas lesbian relationships are legally permissible. The Seychelles does not recognize same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Domestic Partnership for same sex couples is currently recognised in Slovenia however the government are considering new legislation to offer a form of civil union for gay couples.
South Africa is the first African nation to welcome civil marriage for same sex couples. Same sex couples can now enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as mixed sex couples.
Since June 2005 Same-sex married partners have enjoyed all the rights and responsibilities of mixed-sex married couples as Civil Marriage in Spain is open to both homosexual and heterosexual couples.
From May 2009 Sweden has allowed gay couples to be legally married. The law enables same sex couples to wed in either a civil or religious ceremony, though church ceremonies are not yet legal.
Same-sex couples have been able to register a civil union since 2007 however are given limited legal benefits with civil recognition.
Same sex marriage in Turkey is currently illegal.
Same-sex marriage in England and Wales was legalized in July 2013 and the first gay marriages took place on 13 March 2014. Previously domestic partners could register under the Civil Partnership Act. This legislation took effect in December 2005 giving registered same-sex couples all of the rights, privileges and responsibilities of married heterosexual couples. The Civil Partnership Act applied across all of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
With a diverse range of laws across the states of America gay marriage is not yet legal throughout the whole country. GayWeddingDestinations.com has provided you with a destination overview on the states that currently allow gay marriage.
For more information on specific regions please select individual states.
Gay Marriage is Legal. Uruguay became the 12th country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage when it passed a bill in April 2013 to enable gay and lesbian couples to legally wed. Uruguay is only the third country in Americas to allow gay marriage.
Other Useful Articles:
Gay Marriage Legalities Worldwide
Gay Marriage Abroad FACTS!
Organising your Gay Honeymoon
Top Tips for Gay Marriage Abroad