Getting Married in Toronto:Making it Legal while Keeping it Simple

One of things I enjoy most about my job is being able to meet happy couples in search of gay-friendly resources and the gay-friendly vendors who seek me out in hopes of connecting with those same couples.
Not long ago, I received an email from Phil Connell of Hudson Nuptials. He and I had a great conversation about the gay wedding industry and about the kind of weddings GLBT couples are looking for. I found much of the information I learned about his business to be interesting enough that I asked him to submit a blog entry that might help answer some of the common questions we receive from couples who are interested in getting legally married and are willing to travel.
Without further ado, then, are his pearls of wisdom for those of you interested in a destination wedding where same-sex marriages are legal.
Phil Connell:
With so much confusion about same-sex marriage’s legality, recognition and residency requirements, it’s no wonder my inbox sees a steady stream of emails from same-sex couples around the world seeking clarification. As the President of Hudson Nuptials, a Toronto-based wedding consultancy exclusively serving same-sex couples, I am fortunately in a good position to provide answers.
We want to get married, but we can’t do it at home. Where can we go?
Frankly, you just can’t get ‘married’ in most places if you are in a same-sex relationship (‘civil unions’ if you’re lucky, but ‘marriage’? No). Canada is, in fact, the only country that marries non-resident, same-sex couples. Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, has issued thousands of marriage licenses to same-sex couples from around the world since it legalized same-sex marriage in 2003.
How do we organize a wedding away from home?
One solution is to have a “destination wedding” -a wedding that take place in a location away from home. Destination weddings are arranged by professionals who know the city well, and want to make your wedding a unique and hassle-free out-of-town experience. Destination weddings are certainly becoming more popular for a variety of couples, for a number of good reasons:
Meaning. When partners are from different places, they often prefer ‘neutral territory’ for their nuptials. Or if a particular location has some kind of mutual meaning for a couple (“Toronto is a very gay friendly city”), a destination wedding may be a favoured choice.
Convenience. Since you probably don’t know the ins and outs of ceremony locations, officiates, and florists in a foreign city, engaging a destination wedding professional to arrange the whole thing saves you from having to contend with the help (read: constant interference!) of two sets of families. Destination weddings can involve very intimate ceremonies, a small group of friends and relatives, or even a full-blown wedding party.
No Stress. Sometimes the fact of the physical distance from home and all its mundane worries makes all the difference between stress and utter serenity. Couples tend to be far more relaxed when they show up from out of town and everything has been perfectly arranged on their behalf (with their input of course!), than at home where all the worries are their own. A recent Hudson client described their destination experience as “memorable, relaxed, fun and stress-free.”
What can I expect from a destination wedding experience?
I can’t speak for other destination providers, but I do know that at Hudson your experience can be as jam-packed with theatre tickets, professional sporting events, museums, art galleries, spa packages, wine tours – you name it – as you like. OR it can be as simple as “I want to leave my days free to wander the city and have nothing planned.” Similarly, your ceremony can happen on a custom-designed yacht tour, a romantic roof-top overlooking a cityscape, or in a rural country setting. If you simply want a tasteful and cost-effective ceremony at Toronto’s City Hall, we can help with that too.
It’s also about flexibility. Recently, a Hudson client couple decided to be married at City Hall after learning that their budget had been reduced. Initially disappointed that the ceremony wasn’t going to be as they imagined, they were pleasantly surprised by the expertly-conducted, sensitive and romantic ceremony performed by a local Justice of the Peace at Toronto City Hall.
Regardless of how you choose to do it, your needs, tastes and desires can be accommodated –this is your wedding we’re talking about!
What role does religion play in same-sex wedding ceremonies?
The answer is whatever role you choose. You can be married by one of Canada’s public servants, but you may also be surprised to know that there are Buddhist priests, rabbis and Christian ministers in Toronto who also officiate at same-sex ceremonies. Perhaps even more interesting, Canada’s largest Protestant denomination—the United Church of Canada —not only supports same-sex marriage, it has been recognizing same-sex unions for over twenty years and ordaining gay and lesbian ministers since 1988. In Toronto, you can be assured there will be a variety of both religious and secular ceremony options.
Why would I want to get married in Toronto?
Toronto is the most ethnically diverse city in the world (according to the United Nations) and the 5th-largest city in North America (after Mexico City, New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago). With over 5,000 restaurants, 125 museums, six opera companies, four professional sports teams (covering all seasons) and the third largest theatre centre in the English-speaking world, this cosmopolitan Canadian city has lots to offer. Perhaps most importantly, Toronto is arguably the most gay-friendly city in the world and a place where same-sex marriages are not just tolerated, they are celebrated. But if you are the type who prefers something a little more tranquil, the city is close to several beautiful countryside getaways, including the famous Niagara wine region.
What about cost? Is one of these destination weddings going to break the bank?
Well, budget is always a tough question. Certainly if you want to spend lavishly on your wedding, you can. Staying in the most luxurious hotels, eating at the finest restaurants, and having a full-day spa experience is undoubtedly one way to spend your wedding weekend – but there are certainly ways to economize, while still having the time of your life. Remember the client I mentioned earlier – the one who had to re-consider their budget? – well, when their budget was reduced, they decided to cut down on the ceremony expenses but keep the fancy restaurants, the limousine tour and the Niagara Falls winery visit. So you could say they economized – but they still lived it up: “Our trip and wedding [were] even more than we ever thought it could be.” You’d be surprised what can be done with your budget. Many people find that they can pass on all the work to someone who does this for a living, without it costing a cent more than if they’d arranged it all themselves.
So, we’ve covered why, how, where and how much. Hopefully you feel a little more informed about the prospect of arranging a wedding in Toronto. And maybe you even feel that Toronto is the right place for you to consider. Destination weddings are certainly a sensible and attractive option and their popularity is on the rise — with good reason.
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Thanks, Phil!
I encourage you to contact Phil with any questions you might have about weddings in Canada. Let him arrange the details and then allow us to do your invitations and announcements!
One note of caution for those of you living in the U.S. and seeking a legal partnerhip (civil union or marriage) somewhere other than where you live: we recommend that you seek legal advice about your current situation to make sure that the step that you are taking is one that will serve your interests. With legal privileges come legal responsibilities and it’s important to know where you stand given the state of legal recognition in our country these days.

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