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America’s Best Cities for Same-Sex Weddings

To celebrate the Supreme Court's landmark decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, we're ranking the best cities in the U.S. to tie the knot with your partner.

David Cross

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As Californians, the Movoto team had a difficult time working earlier this week as we waited for the Supreme Court to rule on Proposition 8 and DOMA. We aren’t ashamed to say that we were more than happy with the highest court’s ruling. In fact, some of our LGBT co-workers are already planning their weddings. With that in mind, we figured there’s never been a better time for us to discover which cities in the country are best for gay weddings.

What did we find?

The best cities for same-sex weddings, according to our criteria, are:

  1. San Francisco, CA
  2. Seattle, WA
  3. Boston, MA
  4. Minneapolis, MN
  5. Riverside, CA
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. San Diego, CA
  8. Rochester, NY
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. San Jose, CA

We should make some clarifications to this list. This list of 10 cities counted only cities in states in which same-sex marriage is legal. To be clear, these are the 13 states with full marriage equality, and the District of Columbia; this excludes states with equivalent rights. If we looked at other large gay-friendly cities, excluding this important criteria, the list would look vastly different. In fact, Orlando and Atlanta, which are nowhere to be found on our list, would have placed second and third, respectively.

How Did We Pick Our Cities?

To pick the cities on our list, we relied on this 2006 study from the Williams Institute. The study estimated the number of same-sex couples and number of gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals within the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the United States and the largest city in each area. For our purposes, we researched only the largest city in 45 of the metropolitan areas, excluding those where same-sex marriage isn’t yet legal from consideration.

Once we had our cities, we turned our attention to criteria we felt would benefit same-sex couples looking to tie the knot.

Picking Our Criteria

To come up with our ranking, we looked at 12 pieces of criteria. These criteria, which were close to what anyone, gay or straight, interested in marriage might want, were:

  • HRC Equality Index rank
  • Percent of gay population
  • Gay bars per capita
  • Florists per capita
  • Bridal shops per capita
  • Formal wear (tuxedos)
  • Hotels per capita
  • Wedding planners per capita
  • DJs per capita
  • Catering companies per capita
  • Bakeries per capita
  • Photographers per capita

For an explanation of each criteria and to see which cities ranked highest in these areas, grab a wedding registry and continue on.

HRC Equality Index

The HRC is the largest LGBT rights organization in the country with more than 1.5 million members. When we wanted to know which cities were the most LGBT friendly, we went right to the authority. Their index ranks cities from 1 to 100 based upon the municipal laws affecting the LGBT community, specifically the inclusivity under the law of the LGBT people that live and work there. Essentially, they use real science to understand cities LGBT friendliness instead of our “Saturday Night” science. Nine cities on our list scored a perfect 100, including San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston.

Gay Population

Our thought on including this criteria was that a large gay population would equate to more gay-friendly environment. It should come as no surprise that San Francisco took the top spot in this category with a gay population of 15.4 percent. Seattle came in second with 12.9 percent, just edging out Minneapolis with 12.5 percent gay population.

Gay Bars

Gay Bar

Source: Flickr user Ed and Eddie

We chose to include this criterion for several reasons. You’ll want your friends and family to have have a good time before or after the wedding, while also feeling comfortable. It also doesn’t hurt that if you are planning a destination wedding you’ll want a plethora of places for a potential bachelor/bachelorette party. We found that San Francisco has the most gay bars per capita. The cities waiting for their shot (sorry!) at being No. 1 are Washington, D.C. and Boston.

Florists

If you’re thinking about getting married, you’ll need flowers. Here’s a list of just a couple of the multitude of sweet-smelling flora you’ll need: boutonnieres, corsages, centerpieces, and bouquets. You can imaging that the list goes on (and on and on).

After we crunched the numbers, we found that Boston had the most florists on a per capita basis. Trailing behind like permanent bridesmaids were Buffalo and Riverside.

Bridal Shops

If you’re going to get married to your special lady, one (or both) of you might want a wedding gown. Regardless of whether you decide to don the traditional white gown, having more options is better than none. We found that Riverside has the most bridal shops per capita followed by Seattle and Rochester.

Men’s Formal Wear

It’s not all about wedding gowns. Grooms (male or female) and members of wedding parties are in need of tuxedos, complete with those fancy cummerbunds. The city with the most penguin suits per capita was Riverside, and the next two dapper cities were Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

Hotels

Hotel Room

Source: Flickr user Ilya Katsnelson

It’s traditional that a wedding party reserve a block of rooms for out-of-town wedding guests. Let’s also not forget that many newlyweds are looking forward to some time in the honeymoon suite. For this criterion we looked for TAG Approved accommodations in each city, which are gay-friendly hotels. The city with the most starched sheets per capita was Washington, D.C.. Waiting in the wings are Seattle and Baltimore in second and third place, respectively.

Wedding Planners


Planning a wedding is a monumental task. There are dates, times, itineraries, matching colors, food. You won’t know how involved it’ll be until you start trying to make seating arrangements. This is where wedding planners come into play. They can make your life a little simpler—after all, it’s their job to set up these shindigs. The city with the most note-taking, itinerary-waving generals was San Francisco. Lining up behind like good wedding soldiers were Riverside and San Jose.

Disc Jockeys


Remember this is a joyous occasion, so bust out the “Chicken Dance”! Seriously though, a DJ is a must-have for a good reception. Hopefully, your all-star DJ will have the “Casper Slide”, “Single Ladies”, and other classics on the playlist. The city with the most vinyl spinners/iTunes maestros was Riverside. Lagging behind were San Francisco and San Jose.

Catering Companies

If you want your guests wide awake into the wee hours of the morning, you’ll need to feed them—hopefully something delicious. For this criterion, we looked at the number of catering companies on a per capita basis. We found that Rochester as the most foodies willing to sate your hungry wedding party. If you don’t live there, no fear. San Francisco placed second followed by Riverside.

Bakeries

Wedding Cake

Source: Flickr user Alpha

Another must-have tradition, the wedding cake needs to be perfect. For this criterion we found that Seattle has the most bakeries per capita. Right behind—piping bags in hand—were Riverside and San Francisco.

Photographers

While you might be tempted to hand out disposable cameras, at least get a professional photographer to capture your wedding party. If you really want to get your friends and family involved, leave a camera on the wedding table—just don’t be surprised at some of the ridiculous pictures you’ll get back. The city with the most photographers with itchy trigger fingers was San Francisco. The next cities were Riverside and San Jose.

Wedding Bells

The good news for the Movoto employees looking to get hitched is that San Francisco is right up the road from our office, and thankfully it won’t matter if they are gay or straight. But if you are looking for same-sex wedding elsewhere, you can use our list as a starting point. Just remember that what really matters is the commitment you make; the wedding is for everyone else.

Same Sex Wedding Big Deal list

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Who is Movoto Real Estate, you might ask? Movoto is a national online real estate brokerage. Our blog has been recognized for its unique approach to city-based research by major news organizations around the world such as Forbes, CBS News, and The New York Times.

posted on: June 28, 2013
1,976 views, 6 comments

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6 Comments

  1. Dub

    Why was Portland OR banned for being intolerant? I’m curious what criteria defined “intolerant”?

    • Chris Kolmar in response to Dub

      It doesn’t allow gay marriage. Only cities that have legal gay marriage were eligible for our list. Portland would have ranked well had it allowed gay people to marry.

  2. deedrdo

    you will have to look long and hard for a more gay friendly place than Palm Springs, CA, where i live. we throw fabulous weddings. our gay mayor and city council make themselves to officiate weddings.

  3. Tom

    Wow, am I happy that I was able to marry in Boston in 2004. Waaay back then, the city was welcoming and my partner and I are looking forward to celebrating our tenth anniversary next year. Boston (and Massachusetts) rule. It took courage to do what the state did back then. ‘nuf said.

  4. Yvonne Ahearn

    Ummm…. missing Honolulu…

  5. Joanna

    St. Louis is wonderfully progressive but it’s the rest of the state (see puppy mill/meth country) that blows it. It’s depressing.

 

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