Get Married Where You Want to Celebrate Your Love – Do the Paperwork Where You Have To

Written by scott on March 8th, 2012

Hi there!

As I watch all the updates on gay marriage legislation fly by on Facebook (thank you Purple Unions for the constant updates), I can’t help but hope that all the gay couples who decide to get married legally in states that have legalized their union realize that they don’t have to celebrate their wedding ceremony in the same place they file the paperwork. Vieques Island is a very, very gay friendly place to visit and to get married, and I’d hate to see a little thing like a Puerto Rican marriage license be the non-starter for what would otherwise be an absolutely fantastic destination wedding trip.

Lots of my clients – both gay and straight – opt to celebrate their love with a gorgeous wedding ceremony on Vieques or Culebra Island. But almost half of them don’t actually get legally married in Puerto Rico because they don’t want to deal with the paperwork, or in the case of gay marriage, it’s not legal on the island. It doesn’t change a single thing about the wedding other than the marriage license part of it, and for most of my clients, that doesn’t matter a bit. What’s important to them is that everything goes very, very smoothly and that their guests have a fabulous time.

Destination weddings can be an excellent way to keep the wedding budget in a reasonable zone because you are able to invite fewer guests and you’ll have a higher rate of RSVPs that say “no.” That doesn’t mean you can’t have everybody at your wedding that you’ve always imagined, it just means that you have to pay for fewer people. I actually have clients who jump up and down in excitement with every declining response they get because they’re well aware that they have blown their budgets to pieces if everybody who was invited decided to come.

Interestingly, not everybody who can get legally married chooses to do so. That goes for gay and straight clients. I have planned and executed a number of weddings that aren’t for legal reasons, strictly ceremonial. All of those clients are still together as couples, and nobody who attended their wedding knows the status of their paperwork. That’s between the clients, God and the wedding planner. Truthfully, it’s nobody else’s business but yours. But the people who don’t do the legal paperwork thing all have good reasons for their choice. I asked a friend whose lavish wedding to his husband I helped plan a few years ago why they hadn’t legalized it yet in DC, now that they can. His answer: Legalizing marriage did nothing to change their circumstances and would just cause messy and expensive legal problems to tackle now. When my friends exchanged vows, they had a lawyer participate in the actual ceremony, and they signed a million pieces of paperwork. At the time, I remember being a little miffed because it was a longgggg ceremony already and my buzz, from the New Orleans-style cocktail hour before the ceremony, was starting to wear off. I learned later that what they did was sign every legal document that was required to give them the exact same rights (and liabilities) of a couple who gets married with a real marriage license. Very serious stuff considering that both grooms had significant assets to merge. Which is why they chose to do things they way they did them at their wedding ceremony, and which is why they aren’t likely to do anything to change their legal status even though they can.

Most of the gay couples I’ve worked with go get legally married as fast as possible after their destination wedding weekend someplace that permits it because they want to take advantage of the benefits that legal marriage provides to the couple. Some clients have gotten married ahead of their arrival to expedite things when they get home. For example, health and dental coverage, as well as life insurance and other long term things always has a 30 day window in which newly married couples may register spouses in their plans.. While newly married straight couples tend to drag their feet about changing names and put off dealing with social security numbers and new driver’s licenses, my gay clients have been the exact opposite. Those guys practically trip over each other to get the paperwork done to finalize things. All I can determine is that after years and years of inequality and being told they couldn’t marry the person they loved legally, gay couples are so freaking excited to put a label on it that they jump on it as soon as their marriage license actually arrives. Good for them!

Nobody has a right to tell you where you can choose to demonstrate your love and celebrate your wedding vows. You might not be able to legally marry (yet) in some of the less progressive places, but the trade off in the case of Vieques and Culebra is that we have the most amazingly beautiful islands in the Caribbean. A little extra paperwork is worth it for the experience you’re going to give your guests in the Spanish Virgin Islands.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!


Sandy Malone, a guest blogger with Purple Unions, is the owner of Weddings in Vieques, a full-service destination wedding planning company based on Vieques Island, seven miles off the coast of Puerto Rico. She and her team (including her husband Bill, a retired SWAT team commander) have planned and executed almost 400 weddings and commitment ceremonies in the Spanish Virgin Islands. Sandy is a veteran event planner from Washington, DC, with years of experience planning large and small weddings, press conference, and corporate and political events. She has planned countless events on Vieques Island, beginning with her own wedding back in 2004. Since that time, her professional staff has executed large and small weddings of all styles, including elopements, vow renewals and fabulously posh events at multi-million dollar waterfront villas. She has also planned family reunions, destination baby showers, corporate retreats and a variety of other events for clients from all over the United States and Canada. Sandy is also the owner of Weddings in Culebra (wedding planning on Vieques’ little sister island) and Flowers in Vieques (a full service floral and décor firm). Visit her at


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