14 Stories
2013-09-28 20.52.57.jpg

Weddings Redefined

LGBTQ Destination Weddings in Puerto Rico

My partner, Heather, and I just returned from a wonderful stay at La Concha Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. We were excited to check out this resort because one of their employees, Nidymar Boscano, recently became Equality Institute certified and we knew that San Juan specifically and Puerto Rico, in general, need tourism support. We wanted to give back to an island that we feel is being neglected by our government.

This trip was my first time truly exploring San Juan. La Concha is located in Condado, an area of San Juan with beautiful warm, soft sandy beaches and wonderful restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. But truly, there’s no need to leave the hotel to dine, because the restaurants and pools on the property are spectacular, with locally sourced, fresh cuisine. We simply loved staying here. We stayed in in Ocean Tower Suite with a beautiful balcony overlooking the Caribbean (and the adult-only pool) and a generous, well appointed kitchen. From the moment we arrived at La Concha, the service was outstanding. And most importantly, we always felt comfortable being open holding hands and being ourselves on the property and throughout San Juan.

La Concha has some beautiful spots for weddings of all sizes, and their weddings team is very experienced with destination weddings in general and same-sex weddings specifically. We know that their experience, coupled with our training, will ensure that all LGBTQ couples have an amazing time at this resort.

Because Puerto Rico in a U.S. territory and thus does not require passports for Americans, and is a direct flight away from many U.S. cities, it’s an outstanding choice for LGBTQ couples seeking a super LGBTQ-friendly beach destination and affordable destination wedding venue. In San Juan and at La Concha, you can have it all - and we did. We explored Old San Juan and the history of the fort, La Morra. We visited the local beach / gay beach and we ate (and drank!) our way through the city. The live music is fantastic. The piña coladas are abundant and the people are kind and joyful. Here are some of the beautiful photos of La Concha.

LGBT Weddings in Puerto Vallarta

This month, my partner and I visited the Almar Luxury Suite Resort in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We knew that PV was a very popular gay destination, but neither of us had been before despite having traveled to many other parts of Mexico. We didn't quite know what to expect but we were greeted at the airport and brought to this spectacular property with an amazing view of the Pacific Ocean from every suite. Almar is a straight-friendly LGBT resort, and this was also our first time staying at such a place. As an LGBT resort we were greeted with rainbow cookies and guava juice at check-in. The rainbow cookies were an adorable touch. 

We stayed in a one-bedroom jacuzzi suite with two balconies featuring incredible sunset view views. The suites are all new as the property is technically still under construction with about 40 rooms currently available and another 50 available in the coming few months. Everything is brand-new in the space. The kitchen is high-end. There is plenty of space in the suite for entertaining and there are even two bathrooms with L'Occitane amenities.

After we explored our suite, we made our way down to the Mantamar Beach Club which is owned by Almar. Because Almar is tucked up in the hill you either have to walk downstairs to the beach club or take their shuttle bus. The beach club is extraordinary. First of all, the food and beverages are great. Many of the chairs on the sand have umbrellas and there are tons of beautiful cabanas for reservation at both the beach and pool areas. The service is wonderful, full of kind and lovely servers who really enjoy serving the LGBT guest. The infinity pool has a swim up bar and three Jacuzzi tubs. Mantamar is available to Almar guests and it's also available to the general public with a day pass. 

While we were there, we saw a wedding ceremony wedding reception set up in the restaurant. This reception had 49 guests who took over half of the restaurant which was set up in a semi-private way. We spoke to a number of the staff who informed us that weddings can be set up as a full buyout, on the beach, in the restaurant and any number of configurations. We think this is a great option for gay destination weddings.

Almar and Mantamar are amazing destinations for a luxury wedding for the gay traveler. The sunset from this particular part of the world is absolutely breathtaking. The shades of color that the sky turns are out of this world and something we won't soon forget. 

A Wedding at the Red Inn

Steven and Richard, who live in Los Angeles, hired us to plan four days of parties in Provincetown, Massachusetts as part of their wedding celebration. The 100 guests joined us from all over the world beginning on Thursday for welcome reception at the Harbor Lounge, followed by a clambake at Crown and Anchor on Friday, and then the wedding itself on Saturday at The Red Inn, and finally a closing brunch at Victor's on Sunday. 

These four parties were full of great details and lots of laughter. Most of these guests had never been in Provincetown before so it was an extra special treat for them to explore this tiny arts community at the edge of the continent. Steven and Richard chose a nautical theme for their wedding. The design was carried through on their aisle runner which then became a sign-in board for their guests and will be framed in their home as artwork. The design was also on their wedding invitations and stationery, on the artwork in their flip-flop station, and all other printed materials. 

The Red Inn is a very special place and one of our favorite venues in which to work. Its unparalleled views and exquisite food make it a really spectacular wedding option. We held the ceremony on the west deck and brought in these amazing battery operated chandeliers provided by SocialLight. As the night wore on we danced under the tent and brought out surprise guests: two aerial acrobat performers dressed as sailors who put on a very special show for the guests. The groom's and their guests had an awesome time concluding with the bouquet toss at the end of the night. 

Enjoy the beautiful photos by Kate McElwee

Bernadette Smith
A Wedding in the Pines

Chris and Jeff live in Manhattan but hired us to plan a three day wedding celebration at one of their favorite places in the world: the Fire Island Pines. Planning a wedding in Fire Island is no easy feat, especially considering that there are no roads and no cars! Every rental item, every guest and every vendor had to come over to the island by ferry or freight. Planning a wedding in the Pines truly requires having a great team and knowing all the right people to call, but is so worth it. The views, nature elements and sense of community are unrivaled.

After a spectacular welcome reception on Friday evening, complete with a surprise fireworks display (a gift from Jeff to Chris), we were so exited for Saturday. The ceremony was held on the beach at Coast Guard Walk. As the guests approached the ceremony space, they were offered flip-flops to change into, then greeted with champagne and a fun handkerchief featuring a quote from the Jess Glynne song "Hold My Hand" (the recessional song). The ceremony itself was beautiful and we were blessed with perfect weather. 

Immediately after the ceremony, the grooms walked the beach and the guests walked back up the boardwalk to Whyte Hall, the theater space that was transformed into a beautiful reception area. Chris and Jeff are casual, fun guys and they wanted a wedding that reflected that. We brought in Cocktail Caterers who created an extended cocktail party menu, starting with hors d'oeuvres and followed by a wide variety of small plates. We had plenty of seating and plenty of activity and entertainment for the evening but made sure to keep guests moving and out of their seats. We wanted Whyte Hall to feel intimate and warm and brought in beautiful lighting to create this coziness. We also incorporated the groom's favorite colors, orange and purple, throughout the printed materials and decor. 

Chris and Jeff's dear friend, Sam Griffin designed all of the stationery materials you see here as well as officiated the very meaningful and moving ceremony. He really was an amazing addition to the celebration. Congratulations to Chris and Jeff for an extraordinary wedding weekend in the Fire Island Pines and thank you so much for having us be your planner. Check out the beautiful photos below by Thompson Photography Group.

Bernadette Smith
Travel Guide: The Ritz-Carlton Naples, Florida

In January we were invited by the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Naples, Florida to train their staff on same-sex weddings. While we were down there doing the training we were also treated to a stay at the hotel and were able to experience the finest of what the Ritz-Carlton has to offer, including their exceptional spa, pool, beach, restaurants and club level. 

The aesthetic of the hotel is classic Ritz Carlton, very chic, warm and inviting. And of course the Ritz-Carlton service experience is as extraordinary as you would come to expect. People remembered our names and requests and treated us with complete respect and care throughout our stay. Additionally we felt very comfortable at the property as a same-sex couple and there were no issues being publicly out at any time during our stay.

This property is an extraordinary location for your same-sex wedding. Ceremonies can be held on the beach or they can be held by the pool. The restaurants on the premises are exceptional. The sunset from the property overlooking the Gulf Coast is amazing. I highly recommend this property especially now that the entire sales and events team is really prepared to serve you well, understand same-sex wedding traditions and trends, and being an amazing advocate for you throughout your wedding planning process.

14 Stories plans weddings throughout the world and can take you to the Ritz-Carlton Naples for a beautiful gay destination wedding. We also know great teams of wedding professionals in nearby Tampa who will be the perfect creative partners for your wedding. We love this place and know you'll love it, too.

Bernadette Smith