Making a lifelong commitment to someone is a very personal and special decision, no matter if the couple is straight or gay. It is also an event to be celebrated and shared with family and friends. Although unconventional, gay weddings and commitment ceremonies are becoming more popular, especially with the growing number of states passing legislation allowing legal civil unions and gay marriage. Although Florida does not recognize gay weddings or commitment ceremonies yet, holding that special event on white sandy beaches in tropical destinations such as Miami is very popular. If you're a gay couple and you've been thinking about having your own ceremony, there's no better time than Miami Romance Month throughout the month of June.
June is traditionally the month for weddings and it makes perfect sense that Miami would be the backdrop for many gay weddings and commitment ceremonies. To assist with the details of the event, many gay couples opt for the service of professionals and hire event planners and officiators. One popular local celebrant is Peggy M. Lewis, owner of Florida Ceremonies, who has been officiating such ceremonies for more than eight years. Lewis says about half of her clients are gay and are looking for a ceremony that isn't necessarily religious, but more spiritual and meaningful. Lewis says that beach ceremonies are the most popular, especially with couples coming from out of state. One concern couples from out-of-town might have is how other people might react if the event is held in the same vicinity. "If I am walking with two women or two men to a spot where we will do the ceremony, we most often get cheers and congratulations from bystanders", Peggy says. "So people do not need to have any anxiety about that", she assured.
There are a myriad of locations to hold that special ceremony in the Miami area. The gorgeous beaches are one location but there are many hotels that also have wedding packages that can be tailored to the desires of same-sex couples. The Marriott Biscayne Bay and Marriott South Beach both market their services to gay couples and offer "wedding" packages. Other popular locations in our area are Vizcaya Museum, The Ancient Spanish Monastery and Venetian Pool. With the Atlantic Ocean so close, you could even charter a yacht from Gay Miami Yacht Charters to hold your ceremony. For those wishing a more traditional and religious ceremony, you might choose the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami or the Temple Israel of Greater Miami with Rabbis Jody Cohen and Mitchel Chefitz.
Although it doesn't make the union legal, couples can register as domestic partners in many of our local cities. Many same-sex couples feel it is important to be acknowledged and the certificate issued to them gives the couple a tangible representation of their love. Registering entitles domestic partners with legally-protected rights within the local jurisdiction including visitation of one's partner should he or she becomes hospitalized. Geoffrey Swetz, a Miami Beach local, says he and his partner Carlos Leo registered about three years ago because at that time, Florida elections were again deciding on gay rights. "I felt that although they were limited rights, it was important to be counted", he says of the Miami Beach Domestic Partner Registry. Although he and Carlos haven't yet had a commitment ceremony, Swetz says they plan to in the near future.
Prominent Miami attorney, Jerry Chasen and his partner Mark Kirby actually had two ceremonies; a commitment ceremony in 2006 at the Miami City Club and then later a legal wedding in Washington, D.C. in 2011. Chasen says, "The commitment ceremony was very much spiritual." To make it even more romantic, Chasen, who spent nearly a year preparing for the event, also wrote the ceremony's script and "it's in rhymed verse", he says.
While some choose not to have a religious ceremony, for others, faith is an important part of their lives. In 2010 Miami Herald reporter Steve Rothaus reported in his blog that Dr. Mark Goldberg and J. David Rigg of Miami Shores chose to have a traditional Jewish wedding at Temple Israel of Greater Miami. Like Chasen, they too later went to Washington, D.C. to have a civil marriage ceremony.
Permits and fees also need to be considered if a couple wishes to hold a ceremony on public land. "For those wishing to have a ceremony on the beach, a park, or other public area, it requires a permit", says Raul J. Gonzalez, Field Monitor of the Office of Tourism and Cultural Development in Miami Beach. According to Gonzalez, the cost is "$125.00 plus some simple paperwork". However anything other than a standard ceremony (chairs, runner, dÃ©cor, arch/chuppah, table, battery power sound equipment or acoustical musicians) would require a different special events permit.
In addition to planning the ceremony, one can't forget the invitations, cake, and photographers. All are within easy reach and in abundance here in Miami. Many couples like to go to the cozy Coral Gables or Miracle Mile for those extras. Need a photographer? Miami has some of the best, including very talented locals Dale Stine, and Lynette's Photography whose work in the gay community is well-noted.
Throughout the year, Miami and the Beaches plays host to thousands of gay and lesbian visitors from all over the globe. Many visit during one of the LGBT events including Winter Party Festival held in March, Gay Pride in April, Aqua Girl in May and White Party in November. Some of those visitors have met their lifelong partners and return to our area annually to celebrate their love where they first met.
June and Miami Romance Month fit together nicely as the perfect time to hold that special gay soiree. Whether it is as simple as having a lovely romantic dinner at one of Miami's award-winning restaurants or making a life-long commitment in front of family and friends in the sands on South Beach, Miami exudes romance and is the perfect location to celebrate love.