By now you all probably know that same-sex weddings may begin in California as early as June 17, 2008. (Update on 6/18/08: yes, indeed they have!)
Congratulations all you couples considering or who have already tied the legal knot.
There are, of course, a couple things you should know before taking that step.
1) Voters of California may overturn the California Supreme Court's decision, making your marriages invalid AGAIN.
2) If you got married in Canada, you cannot get married again in California. BUMMER.
Having gotten that out of the way, there's one other thing you now have to consider. WHERE TO GET MARRIED! That's where this blog comes in. There's a ton of places in California to get married, and I've profiled many of those places the past couple of years. Feel free to consider all these wonderful places, and consider some of the following, which are actively marketing their services to same-sex couples. Many have offered commitment ceremonies and are also able to offer legal wedding services.
San Francisco was the first city in California to offer legal, same-sex weddings before the California State Supreme Court declared them invalid in 2004. It only makes sense to spend your wedding dollars in the city that started it all! And, what better place than in the building that hosted all those 2004 gay weddings: San Francisco City Hall.
San Francisco City Hall is where you can go for a license, as well as a wedding ceremony. And, what a splendid place it is! With a wide, winding staircase (great for photos) and intimate nooks and crannies (also great for photos) San Francisco City Hall is a very elegant and cost effective place for a wedding ceremony. It'll cost you $89 for the license and $67 for a ceremony. Ceremonies are available Monday through Friday at 10AM, 10:30AM, and from 12:00 noon through 3PM every half hour. There is also an additional 11AM and 11:30AM ceremony on Thursdays and Fridays only. You can get more info at www.sfgov.org/countyclerk . If you've got more bucks to spend and you have up to 200 guests, you can also rent the City Hall Rotunda on Saturdays before 3PM with a special wedding package for $4,000. For more info on this package you can go to http://www.sfgov.org/site/cityhallevents_index.asp?id=26609
Other venues of note include the Palace of Fine Arts, which is located at the edge of Presidio Park. The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Expo, and is perfect for larger-scale weddings, providing a classic Roman rotunda, and a lake complete with swans. You might also want to consider the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, a very popular place for weddings, as well as some spots in Golden Gate Park: Queen Wilhelmina's Garden, Fuchsia Garden, and the Chinese Pavilion. You can find out more about renting these sites at http://www.sfgov.org/site/uploadedfiles/recpark/Permits_and_Reservations/wedding_sites.pdf
The Lakefront Wedding Chapel in Lake Tahoe has been hosting commitment ceremonies for awhile, and now they're pleased to offer same-sex weddings when the licenses become available by the state. They say this is the only wedding chapel in Lake Tahoe that's right on the water. Their packages start at $375 for a Sunday through Friday wedding up to 6 guests, on up to a $3,000 package for a Saturday wedding for 1-10 guests, with $20 per additional guest. You can find more info at: http://www.commitmentceremonies.net/.
San Diego County:
If you're in the northern San Diego county area you might want to check out Pala Mesa Resort for your wedding ceremony and/or reception. Pala Mesa is close to the wine region of Temecula, with spectacular mountain views and rated one of the Top Ten Courses in San Diego County by Golf Digest and Zagat. It also has many different wedding packages available, including small, intimate ceremony packages starting at $500 on up to Saturday evening ceremonies at $3,000, with receptions from $80 to $110 per person. You can contact them at 800-722-4700.
You can also choose to have your ceremony at one of San Diego County or LA County beaches and parks and hire a wedding officiant to perform the ceremony. Our recommendation is Minister Deb, who performs wedding ceremonies in the San Diego and Southern California region. According to her website "Minister Deb has performed over 150 gay weddings and commitment ceremonies in San Diego and Southern California. She is the only wedding officiant in the nation catering exclusively to the gay and lesbian community." Her wedding packages start at $175, more for premium packages. You can reach Minister Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org
Remember, if you wish to have your wedding at a public beach or park you may need a permit, so do check with your local government offices.
Los Angeles Area:
One of my favorite wedding spots is the Queen Mary in Long Beach. I checked their website and they have offered commitment ceremonies in the past, so they should probably be a great place for your wedding as well. They have many different wedding packages to choose from, including chapel ceremonies as well as ceremonies on the Verandah Deck and Deck Gazebo. You can get more info by going to queenmary.com.
Calamigos Ranch in the mountains of Malibu is yet another Southern California venue that has hosted gay commitment ceremonies in the past. Reward them by hosting your wedding there! You'll be treated to lush greenery, waterfalls and lakes on this 130-acre Malibu retreat. They offer both indoor and outdoor ceremony sites, accommodating from 75 to 500 guests. They can be reached at email@example.com
A gay wedding officiant in the Los Angeles area you might want to consider is Rev. Ogannes John Agayan, a minister out of Granada Hills. His number is (818) 772-4552.
Orange County (Yes, Orange County!)
THIS JUST ADDED: Just read on gaytravel.about.com that the Wyndham Orange County in Costa Mesa "is offering a '50% discount to the next 50 same-sex couples to book weddings at the hotel.' (The ceremonies must take place by Dec. 31, 2008.)" Their phone number is 714-751-5100 or or 877-999-3223.
These are just a few places to get you started. Please browse through this blog and check out other locations as well. Also, I have a Squidoo page on Gay Weddings that I am going to continually add new content. I have some information on where to get your license and other venues not mentioned on this post. You can go there by clicking on Gay Weddings.
Oh, by the way: I just added a page on wedding cake toppers, where I list some that would work out well for same-sex weddings: http://www.squidoo.com/wedding_cake_toppers Just scroll down a little for the page contents and you'll see a link to "same-sex wedding cake toppers."
There's also some monogram toppers, and a wedding photo frame topper that would also work really well.