From the time the state legalized civil unions in April 2000, allowing same-sex couples to enter into a partnership much like marriage, Vermont held the corner on gay weddings. As the years went on, more and more states began permitting same-sex couples to get married, but Vermont retained its status as a destination for same-sex couples.
Then, last year, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry in all 50 states. Since that decision, Willie Docto, president of the Vermont Gay Tourism Association, said he has seen a decrease in the number of gay and lesbian couples tying the knot in Vermont. But Docto and other members of the Vermont Gay Tourism Association want people to know that Vermont is still a unique destination for same-sex weddings.
Vermont is a socially progressive state and thus, as a whole, is a welcoming place for same-sex couples.
“They don’t feel the prejudice they do in other places,” he said. “We know how to handle gay weddings.”
And Vermont weddings don’t require a blood test or witnesses, so an intimate wedding with just you and your partner is an option.
Here’s a spotlight on a few destinations around Vermont that are known for their same-sex hospitality. These are only a few of the Vermont Gay Tourism vendors. For a complete list, visit vermontgaytourism.com.
Nestled among the trees on Crossett Hill in the small town of Duxbury, Moose Meadow Lodge offers its patrons a rustic hideaway with a classy hunting lodge feel — complete with stuffed and mounted animals.
Docto and his partner Greg Trulson run Moose Meadow Lodge as a bed and breakfast. They do weddings, too.
The Adirondack-style lodge offers an all-inclusive package for small wedding parties. Docto says same-sex weddings tend to be small. Many of the couples have been together for a long time, and “they don’t want the hoopla.”
Moose Meadow Lodge is ideal for up to 35 people, but can work with guests to accommodate a bit more. Wedding packages start at about $1,000 to $1,800 — for the elopement package — and go up to about $3,000 to $3,400 for 30 or so guests.
The basic package includes a two-night stay at the lodge, along with breakfast, flowers, and a wedding gift. In addition, Trulson and Docto take care of the necessary paperwork for a marriage license, and Trulson, who is a justice of the peace, can officiate the ceremony.
Couples can update to the deluxe package, which includes a cake, some champagne, and a dinner for two at Michael’s on the Hill in Waterbury Center. And be sure to check out the treehouse!
A picturesque farmhouse-style bed and breakfast just south of Sugarbush Resort in Warren, West Hill House offers a scenic view of the Mad River Valley and the intimate environment of a B&B.
Susan and Peter MacLaren moved to the charming town of Warren from Texas about 10 years ago to take over the bed and breakfast. As a newcomer to the area, Susan said, “Vermonters are very accepting of everyone.”
The inn sits on a quiet country road, less than a mile from Route 100. And although it has the look and feel of a traditional country inn, complete with cozy indoor spaces and home-cooked breakfasts, the bed and breakfast is a certified Green Hotel and 100 percent solar-powered.
Weddings at West Hill House are generally small, although MacLaren said they have the capacity for larger weddings.
The basic elopement package costs $1,049 plus tax, and includes a two-night stay, the services of a justice of the peace, a wedding cake, a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider, champagne flutes, and photographs. The diamond package, which includes an upgraded room, is an extra $200.
For couples looking for a larger venue with access to ski-resort amenities, Topnotch Resort, a luxury boutique resort in the ski town of Stowe, might be a good choice.
Topnotch caters to weddings with up to 300 guests, said Kim Levering-Fisher, director of catering and events at Topnotch. However, most of the same-sex weddings at the resort tend to be smaller, with roughly 50 to 120 guests, she said.
Flexibility is what makes Topnotch stand out amongst other venues, Levering-Fisher said. Gay couples tend to opt for non-traditional ceremonies, she said. For example, rather than having one partner walk down the aisle, as is often the case in traditional weddings, same-sex partners may choose to walk in from opposite directions.
“We have the space and the creativity to make any of these non-traditional requests a beautiful reality,” Levering-Fisher said.
Topnotch doesn’t offer wedding packages, in order to encourage couples to craft custom experiences for their big day. Because of that, Levering-Fisher said the cost per wedding varies depending on the size and details. A couple can expect to pay between $2,000 and $6,000 for the venue — including tables, chairs, linens, china, and glassware.
Food can range between $150 to $200 per person. And after-wedding skiing is extra!
Closer to the hip university town of Burlington, The Essex Culinary Resort and Spa offers all of the amenities you’d expect in a high-end resort — with a strong culinary focus.
Shana Farer-Feld, the wedding and event stylist at the resort, said The Essex has many nooks and crannies where guests can tie the knot, and plenty of fun things to do, from cooking workshops to live demonstrations.
The Inn typically hosts three to five same-sex weddings per year, she said, although she hasn’t seen any since the Supreme Court ruling last year.
Weddings of all sizes are held at the Inn, from intimate gatherings with as few as 20 people to large ceremonies with up to 175 people.
Wedding packages, which start at $36 per person, are all inclusive, and Farer-Feld said she or someone else at the resort works with couples every step of the way. A typical wedding runs about $20,000.
Cost of the venue depends on where at the 18-acre resort the couple wants to hold their event. Weddings are also held at the Ponds at Bolton Valley, a sister property of The Essex that sits on 5,000 acres about 20 miles away.