In the past year or two, the country has been legalizing gay marriage, region by region, at breakneck speed. But in Massachusetts, the first state to pass a same-sex marriage law, LGBT weddings have been taking place here for more than a decade, since the law went into effect in 2004. And sure enough, the charming resort community of Provincetown has been at the forefront. This picturesque seaside community at the very tip of Cape Cod, just a 2.5-hour drive or 90-minute high-speed ferry ride from Boston, has been a mecca for gay travelers for decades - dating back to the 1920s, when it became a fashionable summer destination for artists and creative spirits.
Getting married in Provincetown is understandably a dream for many, especially those in the LGBT community. The one caveat is that the summer high season, from around mid-June through Labor Day, can be exceptionally busy - many inns here have three-, four-, and even seven-day minimum-night stays in summer, rates are steep, and the community's narrow streets can be packed with visitors. It's a festive time, to be sure, but it might be daunting if you're planning anything but a very small destination wedding. On the other hand, September and October are stunning on Cape Cod, as are April and May (although there's more of a chance of rain during these months), so you might think about planning your wedding for these less-busy and still enchanting shoulder seasons.
Also keep in mind that all of Cape Cod is lovely, and there are many other areas on the Cape - as well as on the nearby islands of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, that are all superb for planning gay weddings.
You'll find a number of helpful resources related to planning a wedding on Provincetown, starting with the helpful weddings resource page produced by the Provincetown Chamber of Commerce, which includes links to caterers, photographers, officiants, and others, and the Massachusetts State Tourism Office's LGBT Massachusetts site, which has a section specifically on planning same-sex weddings. You can also obtain information about obtaining a marriage license at the Provincetown Town Clerk website. Another terrific resource is the GLBT-oriented Provincetown Business Guild, which lists all sorts of relevant businesses on its site, including hotels, caters, and more. There are also a number of full-service planners on Cape Cod, including Brewster-based (Cape Cod) Weddings by Design (508-896-8121), which is a member of the Provincetown Business Guild, Cape Cod Celebrations (508-737-6645), and Gay Weddings on Cape Cod, whose website is packed with useful links and advice.
Here's a list, in alphabetical order, of some of Provincetown's most memorable and popular venues for exchanging vows.
Cape Cod National Seashore: Race Point and Herring Cove beaches
Race Point and Herring Cove beaches, at Cape Cod National Seashore (off Province Lands and Race Point Rds., 508-771-2144 for permitting from the national park service office) are among the most alluring natural settings in coastal New England. Backed by gorgeous dunes and offers expansive, breezy stretches of sand, both beaches are incredibly romantic. At Race Point, many couples choose to wed in view of the historic Race Point Lighthouse. There's a bit more logistical work involved in planning a wedding here, and you do need to obtain a special permit from the park service, but this is a truly spectacular spot. The most practical approach is having your ceremony at either beach, and then choosing a more practical venue in town for the reception.
With a sparkling setting overlooking where the Herring River empties into Wellfleet Harbor, Chequessett Yacht & Country Club (680 Chequesset Neck Rd., Wellfleet, 508-349-3704) is a great wedding option if you'd rather avoid but still be close to Provincetown - it's just 15 miles away (and closer that much closer to the mainland) via U.S. 6. This friendly, laid-back club - it's not at all stuffy, despite the swanky name - has a few lovely locations for weddings, including a light-filled clubhouse overlooking the 9th hole of the golf course as well as the water, and the old-world rustic boathouse, which pitched beam ceilings, wood floors, a large deck with mesmerizing harbor views. The club also has direct beachfront, and many couples do exchange vows directly on the sand.
There are few more recognizable buildings on Cape Cod than the soaring Pilgrim Monument & Provincetown Museum (1 High Pole Rd., 508-487-1310), which stands 252 over town. And while you probably don't want to climb to the tower in your formal wedding garb, the grassy lawn surrounding this iconic monument is a great spot for a ceremony and reception. It's available from May through October, and tenting can accommodate a wedding of up to 100 guests. You can choose either the East or West lawn - either is beautiful. Daytime and evening receptions are available. At night, the party just has to shut down by 11 pm, which still leaves your guests a couple of hours to stumble over to one of P-town's many invited gay bars.
The prestigious, beautifully designed Provincetown Art Association and Museum (460 Commercial St., 508-487-1750) may look like it can only accommodate smaller events, but because it contains five different galleries available for parties, it PAAM can actually handle anything from a tiny group of several to a 450-person blowout. Some of the galleries have partial harbor views and look out over the Provincetown's historic East End. The Patrons and Ned Jalbert Gallery is a favorite because it has a floor-to-ceiling windowed door that opens to the sculpture garden. The Hans Hoffman Gallery has a grand piano, and the cozier Ross Moffett Gallery is a nice choice if your gathering has fewer than 50 guests. For an arty couple, PAAM is a memorable place for a wedding - all of these event spaces have walls lined with paintings from the impressive collection.
One of the most romantic restaurants and small lodgings in Provincetown, the Red Inn (15 Commercial St., 508-487-7334) occupies a crimson early 19th-century house on the water in the town's West End, and it's been open as an inn for a century, welcoming all sorts of dignitaries, from heads of state to prominent writers and actors. Outside of the high summer season, the Red Inn can be fully booked (and closed to the public) if you have a reception with at least 60 guests (the maximum is 200). Other options for smaller weddings, during which the restaurant itself would remain open to the public, include staging your even on the West Deck (40 to 100 people) or in the smaller Captains Rooms (25 to 40 guests). Food and drink options include sit-down dinners, cocktail parties, tray-pass dining, and buffets.As a wedding venue, one big plus is that the couple can enjoy their wedding night in one of the suites or even one of the tri-level Delft Haven Residence, which has its own private entrance, kitchen, and lots of living space - it's a wonderful place to honeymoon.