7 Things you need to know when planning a wedding in Banff

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The Canadian Rockies are a hot spot for destination weddings.

If you haven't been here before, not only can the thought of planning a wedding in an area you've never been feel overwhelming, but somewhere that's known for being the epitome of "wild & free" can also add to your stress levels.

What do the locals know that you don’t? Well, we’re here to tell you the T. We are sharing our best kept secrets for planning a wedding in Banff, Canmore and Lake Louise. Here they are…

Yes – You need a suitable weather alternative for your outdoor ceremony. Even in August!

Notice how we didn’t call it a “rain backup”, and instead a little more encompassing of a term? That’s because it’s a real thing, although rare – snow can happen in the middle of the summer around here. The weather changes in a heart beat, and you have to be prepared for all 4 seasons, sometimes all in the same day.

We recommend having a backup plan that you’re confident with and that is easy to implement within 2-3 hours of the ceremony. If your venue comes with a backup plan, then hallelujah. However if you’re somewhere more remote or in a place like Tunnel Mountain, finding a suitable indoor backup might be tricky depending on the guest list size. It can be an option to wait out the rain (with smaller weddings for example) or ask guests to bring an umbrella, if you’re more the “rain or shine” type. However, even if that’s the case, you’ll still need a backup in case of sideways rain (yes, you read correctly) or snow, especially in shoulder months like May and October.

Your vendors need to have a license to work in the Town of Banff. 

This is a fun fact for any vendors that you’re bringing in from even Calgary, or outside the country/province – All vendors working in Banff are required to have a permit (aka temporary non-resident business license) to work in the Town of Banff. This is particularly important for photographers (Side note – always good to make sure said photographers are legally able to work in Canada so as to avoid any issues at the border…) so ask your vendors if they’re licensed. If not, if a Parks Official were to show up at your wedding, and the vendor isn’t able to provide their license, they can be asked to stop… Which we’d say is under the “big deal” category & something to be avoided. More information on Town of Banff licenses can be found here.

Yes, there are large bears here, and elk and cougars too!

Wildlife is one of the most beautiful parts of our beautiful & untamed Banff National Park, and so please – Obey all signs, and don’t feed the wildlife. It’s nothing to live in fear of of course, however if your wedding or photo session is somewhere remote, consider bringing bear spray. If you see “bear in area” signs along any trails, keep your heads up, travel together and make noise. Read up on what to do in case of a wildlife encounter so that you are prepared. It’s extremely rare to have an incident, but it is something to be aware of.

Highway delays, Traffic & Parking is a consideration. 

With the area becoming increasingly popular for tourism, congestion on the roads is becoming a thing around the Town of Banff (on long weekends in particular) and towards major attractions like Lake Louise / Moraine Lake. We recommend purchasing a Parks Pass before your trip, so that you can skip the line on the highway and drive right into the park without needing to stop at the toll house. Parks Passes can also be purchased in the Town of Banff. Especially in the summer, give yourself a little extra time getting to & from popular locations (ie. Surprise corner, Moraine Lake, Lake Minnewanka) and carpooling or using the amazing public transit system (Roam) as much as you can is a good idea.

If you’re planning on going to Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, plan on using the bus system to get to the lake, and go early if you can. This past summer, the parking lot for Moraine Lake was filling up by 6:00am… So busses were the best way in & out. Of course, staying at the Chateau Lake Louise is also a great way to rid yourself of parking issues & having a beautiful place to enjoy the views.

For winter weddings in this area, just be careful around days with ice & snow, and expect traffic to be slower. Highway closures from Calgary do happen on heavy snowfall days, so for that reason we recommend giving yourself a little time before & after the wedding in case of a road closure. Don’t plan on arriving the day before the wedding, just to be safe.

Hotel Room Costs & Room Blocks should be considered

Hotel rooms come at a premium in the area, and this is something to be aware of. Generally summer is high season (June – September) so expect that hotels will be on the pricier side. We recommend getting a block of rooms for your guests if you can. There are very limited options for things like AirBnB in the National Park, however this is popular in Canmore. If you are travelling between Canmore & Banff or Banff & Lake Louise on the wedding day, again, consider group transportation and allow lots of time for traffic. It is about 20 mins from Canmore to Banff, and about 45 mins from Banff to Lake Louise, so as much as you can – Try have the guest accommodations in the same town as the wedding.

Outdoor Dinner Receptions are not really a thing here. 

It’s true – Although we wish that we had beautiful California weather and could dine as the sun sets, it’s usually just not that steady here. So unfortunately, most weddings although the ceremony can be outside, the dinner is usually safer in an indoor space. Also, once the sun goes down in the mountains, it can definitely feel chilly for guests. For that reason & a few logistical challenges too, not many venues allow an outdoor reception for weddings.

Look at what time the sunsets on your wedding day, because it might surprise you!

We have the most beautiful, long summer days around here, and in June, sunsets can be as late as 10:00pm. This is important if you want to start dancing at 8:00pm, and your venue has huge windows – It’s something to factor in & consider. On the flip side, sunsets are very early throughout winter, and we have much shorter hours of daylight.

 

We hope this breakdown has been helpful for you as you plan what will be an amazing mountain wedding in Banff. If you need a little more help or want to chat about any of this, please don’t be shy! Feel free to reach out for a consult with our team, and we’d be pleased to help answer any other questions you may have.

 

Cover Image: Corrina Walker Photography

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