The Ultimate Guide on How to Elope in Banff

FROM A BANFF ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER

Its no wonder that Banff National Park is one of Canada’s most popular elopement locations. It’s breathtaking landscapes and stunning scenery, make it a no-brainer decision for couples looking to have an intimate elopement. Choosing to elope in Banff has become a very popular option for couples who seek an adventure of a lifetime and beautiful photographs to remember it all!

Why Elope in Banff?

The Canadian Rockies are no doubt a beautiful and scenic location for any wedding. The breathtaking landscapes and stunning views make for a truly memorable and special occasion. In addition to the natural beauty of the area, Banff is host to a variety of venues and services for elopements, from outdoor ceremonies to luxurious hotels. The region is also home to many experienced wedding planners and vendors who can help make your special day perfect. 

 

7 step
guide to
help you plan your elopement in Banff:

7 step guide to
help you plan your elopement in Banff:

Step 1:
When and Where

Seasons & Weather

Check the weather and seasonal conditions to choose the best time of the year for your elopement.

Summer – June July August

The most popular time of year. The lakes are crisp blue, and foliage is green and lush, the animals are out and wandering. All the popular attractions and view points are open. Of course this means it can be very busy and you will want to take into consideration the crowds of tourists, the higher prices for accommodations, and the overall challenges that come with visiting this magical place that sees over 3million visitors per year!

Fall – September October November

Early fall is still a very busy season in Banff. The fall colors in September are in full swing and made extra magical by the beautiful Larch trees turning golden yellow. It’s not until the end of September and early October that the crowds begin to thin out. October is my favorite month as the lakes are still thawed and the leaves are still golden and perhaps there is a little dusting of snow! By November the temperature will begin to drop and the lakes will begin to freeze and lose their “brilliant blue”

Winter – December, January, February

There is no doubt that winter is truly a magical time in the Mountains of Banff. Crisp white snow is like a blank canvas for photos and really showcases an element of elegance. While the temperatures can be rather chilly – you do get the added benefit of privacy. If you choose to elope in the winter you wont be disappointed!


Spring – March April May

Very much our shoulder “shoulder season”. While it can still snow, it may come and go all in one day. We experience a lot of melting and mud during this time, and as our temperatures bounce from freezing to thawing all in one day. If you are looking to do any hiking this is probably not the best season to choose.

When it comes to choosing a season its important to prioritize your vision! If you are seeking some quiet privacy perhaps a winter elopement would be best. If you want that stunning blue water than Banff is known for then you want to choose a summer date – although be prepared to manage the crowds of tourists! If you want to come in the summer and yet avoid the crowds of tourists then we will want to discuss sunrise/sunset and hiking! If you are looking for vibrant colors and dont mind cooler temperatures then a fall elopement is what you are looking for!

Locations 

There are so many magical Locations in Banff for an elopement. For many couples they choose one location for their ceremony and another for the portraits (sometimes more than one!)

Some of the more popular drive-up locations near the town of Banff and in Banff National Park are:

Lake Minnewanka
Two Jack Lake
Cascade Ponds
Bow Falls
Sulphur Mountain (gondola ride)
Lake Louise (40min drive)
Moraine Lake (40min drive / must book a shuttle bus for access)
Bow Lake (60min drive)
Peyto Lake (80min drive and short 10min walk/hike)

If you are looking to venture outside of Banff some popular drive-up locations are:

Rundle Forebay (Canmore)
Three Sisters View Point (Canmore)
Spray Lakes (Kananaskis)
Kananaskis Lakes (Kananaskis)
Wedge Pond (Kananaskis)
Barrier Lake (Kananaskis)

If you are willing to hike for your views some popular hikes in Banff and surrounding area are:

Tunnel Mountain (Banff – 40min Hike)
Sunshine Meadows (Gondola Ride + Hike)
Big Beehive (Lake Louise – 3 Hour Hike)
East End of Rundle (Canmore – 3 Hour Hike)
West Wind Pass (Kananaskis – 2.5 Hour Hike)
Yates Mountain (Kananaskis – 2.5 Hour Hike)
Tent Ridge (Kananaskis – 4 Hour Hike)

Its always good to come up with a backup location (or 2) in case the weather isnt cooperating or logistics like traffic jams or forest fires prevent access to your first choice!

TimE OF DAY

Sunrise or Sunset?
Being a Banff Elopement Photographer, I can help you find out when and where you have to be to get the best light – and let me tell you NOTHING beats sunrise. The light is beautifully gentle in the morning, and if you are really lucky sometimes the clouds light up bright pink for just 10 minutes as the sun hits them. Sunrise is the best time of day for more privacy – although the really popular locations will still have some keen tourists out and about.
Second best to Sunrise is Sunset – which for most couples is more appealing as it doesnt require an early wake up call and is easy to plan for dinner afterwards.


You might think that Sunrise and Sunset are pretty obvious times of day to figure out. But let me tell you its not as simple as you think! The season, the mountains, and the weather all play a huge part in bringing out the best of those times of day. I utilize some great apps that show me were the sun will be at certain times of day and certain times of year – it even shows me where the shadows of the mountains will be!

Elopement Couple in Banff

Step 2:
Permits

If you plan to have your elopement ceremony in Banff National Park, you will need at minimum two things:

1 – Banff National Park Pass

There are 2 types of passes available: Discovery Passes and Day Passes.

Day Passes

For short visits to Banff National Park.

  • Does not include entry to national historic sites.
  • Expires 4:00 p.m. on day of departure.
  • Adult, Senior and Family/Group options.

Discovery Passes

Annual passes for over 80 Parks Canada destinations.

  • Valid for 12 full months from date of purchase
  • Adult, Senior and Family/Group options.
  • A physical pass will be delivered by mail to the address provided. Allow up to 30 days for shipping.

All passes (day passes, temporary discovery passes and free passes) 

must be printed and displayed on the dash of your vehicle

 while traveling in the national park.

2. Ceremony Permit / Venue

For elopements under 20 guests you can have your ceremony anywhere in the park and the permit is free and easily obtained. The permit application can be found by visiting the parks Canada website for the  Application Form

For elopements with over 20 guests (more of an intimate wedding) you will need to book an allocated public ceremony venue or a private venue to host your ceremony.

Banff town has some beautiful outdoor public ceremony venues: 

Tunnel Mountain Reservoir
The Fenlands
Banff Gazebo

These venues can be booked here: https://banff.ca/666/Weddings

You may also want to book a private wedding venue with an outdoor ceremony space:

Rimrock Hotel
Mount Norquay
Banff Gondola
Fairmont Banff Springs
Banff Springs Golf Club
The Fenlands 

Step 3:
Marriage License

To be legally married in Banff, you’ll need to obtain 3 things:

1 – a marriage license from the Alberta Government, 

2 – a legally appointed officiant (whether you have a civil or religious marriage your officiant must be appointed by the government of Alberta.

You may also have a friend or family member officiate for you but they must apply to become a temporary marriage officiant  by the government of Alberta and it takes some time to get appointed so be sure to do well in advance!

3 – Two witnesses. Your witnesses must be over the age of 18. If you have no guests I am happy to be one of your witnesses and if you need another we can ask another vendor or I can help you find one!

Instructions to obtain a Marriage License for ALBERTAN COUPLES:

Any registry will do it – but they are privately owned so you may want to shop around for the best price. A license will typically cost between $100-$150.

We highly recommend going to AMA – They print your license on the spot and shorter line-ups

IMPORTANT: BOTH partners MUST go to the registry for the license TOGETHER.

Make sure you PROOFREAD your license. All names must be spelled correctly for it to be Valid.

Marriage Licenses are valid for 90 days. We recommend you get yours about 1 Month before your elopement date.

Instructions to obtain a Marriage License for OUT OF PROVINCE AND INTERNATIONAL COUPLES:

All couples must get a Marriage license for the Province in which they are getting married (so if you are getting legally married in BC  this process is just a little different)

The registries in Banff and Canmore allow you to pre-order your Marriage License so all you need to do is go pick it up once you are in town! Please contact the registry to make an appointment.

Canmore Registry: http://www.canmoreregistry.com/

Banff Registry: http://www.thebanffregistry.com/

Step 4:
Book Accommodation and Vendors

ACCOMODATIONS

Reserve accommodation for your stay in Banff during your time in Banff! Banff offers a range of hotels, lodges, and cabins to suit your preferences and budget. Canmore is also an option that might have more budget friendly accommodations. AirBnBs are lovely for the extra space (Canmore only).

Budget Friendly Accomodations $-$$

Camping is the cheapest option – although you need to book your camp spots well in advance as it is a popular way to visit Banff! Campsites range anywhere from $15 – 50 per night and you can stay right in Banff or find camping closer to Canmore or as far as Kananaskis! Consider renting an RV for a more comfortable camping experience.

Glamping in Banff is known as an O-ten-tik. They are located near Two Jack Lake and book up very quickly. They are around $150 per night.

Standard Accomodations $$$ -$$$$

Hotels in Banff are a plenty! Some of my favorite “less expensive” hotels are: Banff Ptarmigan Inn, Buffalo Mountain Lodge, Banff Rocky Mountain Resorts, Tunnel Mountain Resorts, Fox Hotel and Suites, Inns of Banff, Moose Hotel and Suites, Banff Aspen Lodge, and Lake Louise Inn (Lake Louise).

If the prices in Banff are making your eyes water then perhaps Canmore is a better fit. Some of my favorite hotels in Canmore are: The Solara, The Malcolm, Grande Rockies Resort, and Stoneridge Resort, and Basecamp resorts. There are also some amazing Airbnbs and VRBOs (which are not legal in Banff). Spring Creek Vacations and The Mercer have some great options for suites with full kitchens and living spaces.

Luxury Accomodations $$$$-$$$$$

If there was ever a time to spluge – this could be it! For those of you who want experience the best Banff has to offer the Fairmont Banff Springs, Rimrock Resort, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and the Post Hotel are among the best hotels in Western Canada.

VENDORS

I strongly urge you to consider hiring local vendors who are familiar with Banff, and have all the necessary permits and licenses.

Photographer

I would recommend booking your photographer at least 6 months in advance. If you leave it too late you may not have your choice of date or location as the local banff photographers tend to book up quickly!

Videographer

Much like photo videography wants to be booked in advance. I regularly work with some amazing local videographers. Check out Ryan with RD3 Productions!


Elopement Planner

If after reading this page you feel overwhelmed then perhaps you would benefit from a full planner. Someone to take over all the details so you can simply turn up and enjoy the day is really beneficial for those who dont enjoy planning. 


Officiant

Arguably the most important vendor for your day (yes even photographer!) because lets face it – you cant be truly married without making it legal (unless you are choosing to do a symbolic ceremony). Local officiants will be able to walk you through getting your marriage license and writing your vows! Really good officiants will custom create a ceremony for you!


Florists

There are some lovely florists in Banff and Canmore! They are all incredibly talented and work within different budgets. Some even have “elopement packages” which include a simple bouquet and boutonierre. Easy peasy!

Hair & Makeup

Choosing a local Hair and Makeup team is your best option in Banff. You want to know your hair and makeup team knows where they are going and will arrive on time! You never know how long it will take to get you looking and feeling your absolute best so be sure to shop carefully!

Step 5:
Plan your activities

Consider some fun things to do!

Hiking 

Looking to hike to that iconic Banff mountain top view for your vows or portraits? Let’s chat about the various options and make plans for the time of day and what equipment we might need.

Helicopter

Wanting to skip the hike and take a helicopter to that mountain top? I can help you find the right helicopter company to make it happen!

Canoes

Canoes are available to rent at: Lake Louise, Moraine Lake, Emerald Lake, and Vermillion Lakes. They are first come first serve and sometimes the line can be quite long! If you are feeling like going the extra mile you can always rent one from a sports outfitter and bring it with you in a large rental vehicle

Dog Sledding

Dog sledding is really a unique experience! There is one dog sledding company in Lake Louise and two in Canmore. Id recommend booking a longer tour if you want to get some privacy while dogsledding!

Ice Skating

With so many amazing lakes in Banff it’s a very common hobby to enjoy a little “wild ice”. The conditions for iceskating on the lakes is not always ideal – so it would have to be something you hope for and not count on! The only lake that is cleared of snow for ice skating is Lake Louise.

Dining and Celebrations

Where do you want to celebrate after all the activities and photos? Whether its just the you two or a group of guests, you will most likely need to find a great spot for dinner. Banff and Canmore both have thriving dining scenes and I have been to every single one. Let me help you choose somewhere yummy to celebrate!

The Bison
BlueBird
1888
Eden
Maple Leaf Grille
Chucks Steakhouse
Brazen
Sky Bistro

Step 6:
LOGISTICS

Build your Timeline 

Questions to ask yourself

➵ How many hours of photography did you book?

➵ Will you both be getting ready at the same location?

➵ Are you planning on having a “first look”?

➵ Do you have any activities planned? Where are they and how long do they take?

➵ Is your ceremony location the same location you would like to do portraits?

➵ What is the method of transportation for the day?

➵ Are we hiking anywhere? How long is the hike? Will you need to change in and out of your wedding attire?

➵ How long will your ceremony be?

➵ How many guests will you have? Do we need to assign time for family portraits?

Transportation

Consider transportation options for getting to your ceremony location and any other activities you have planned. Parking in Banff during the busy season can be rather stressful – you will want to make sure you have transportation that can drop you off and pick you up to avoid the extra hassle. Some locations like Moraine Lake are only accessible via shuttle service and therefore need to be booked in advance.

My favorite local transportation company is Patagonia Chauffeur! Anywhere from 2 – 24 passengers can be accommodated by Cesar and his fleet of vehicles and drivers. 

Step 7:
Enjoy Your Elopement

The easiest step of them all – enjoy the beauty of Banff and cherish these moments with your partner.

While Eloping in Banff does require careful planning, especially when it comes to permits, logistics and vendors – it doesnt have to be a daunting task. As a Banff Elopement Expert I would be thrilled to guide you through the planning process and help bring your dream Elopement in Banff to life!

4 Hour Simple Elopement Timeline

 2:00 pm – Getting Ready Photos
Begin preparations for the day.
Hair and makeup for the couple.

3:30 pm – First Look
First look between the couple.

3:45 pm – Departure to Ceremony Location
Travel to the chosen ceremony location.

4:00 pm – Ceremony
Hold the ceremony at the chosen location.

4:30 pm – Couple’s portraits
Focus on capturing portraits of the couple in various locations.

6:00 pm – Conclusion of Photography
Wrap up the formal photography session.
Head out to dinner to celebrate!

8 Hour ADventure Elopement Timeline

12:00 pm – Getting Ready Photos
Hair and Makeup and Pack up for the Hike

1:30 pm – Departure to Hiking Trail
Travel together to the starting point of the hike.

2:00 pm – Start Hike
Document the journey as we trek towards the summit.

4:00 pm – Arrival at Destination
Scout locations and plan shots for the ceremony.
Change into Wedding Attire

4:30 pm – Elopement Ceremony
Photograph Vow and Ring Exchange

5:00 pm – Couple’s Portraits
Utilize the stunning backdrop for creative and romantic portraits.

6:00 pm – Picnic Break
Find a scenic spot to photograph the couple enjoying their picnic.

7:00 pm – Couple’s Sunset Portraits
Take advantage of Sunset for additional Portaits

7:30 pm – Descend Hike
Capture moments as we make our way back down the trail.

9:00 pm – Wrap Up
Reach the trailhead and conclude the formal photography session.

HELICOPTER ELOPEMENT TIMELINE

11:00 am – Getting Ready Photos
Begin preparations for the day.
Hair and makeup for the couple.

12:30 pm – Meet Up
Gather at the helipad or designated meeting point.
Receive a safety briefing from the pilot.

1:00 pm – Helicopter Tour
Board the helicopter and begin the scenic flight.

1:30 pm – Mid-Tour Landing
Capture intimate moments and elopement ceremony.
Couples Portraits

2:30 pm – Helicopter Return
Board the helicopter for the return flight.

3:00 pm – Conclusion
Arrive back at the helipad.
Wrap up the photography session with final photos and farewells.

SPLIT-DAY ELOPEMENT TIMELINE: SUNRISE & SUNSET

3:00 am – Meet Up and Start Hike
Meet at the trailhead with the photographer.
Begin the sunrise hike to reach a scenic viewpoint.

5:00 am – Sunrise Portraits
Arrive at the viewpoint just before sunrise.
Capture breathtaking sunrise portraits of the couple.

6:00 am – Private Vows
Find a secluded spot with a beautiful backdrop.
Exchange private vows and share intimate moments.

7:00 am – Descend from Hike
Begin descending the trail back to the trailhead.
Take a Break and Freshen up and prepare for the next part of the day.

4:00 pm – Meet Up with Family
Arrive at the designated ceremony location.
Greet family members and finalize ceremony setup.

4:30 pm – Elopement Ceremony
Officiate the ceremony with family present.

5:00 pm – Family Portraits
Take formal family portraits after the ceremony.

5:30 pm – Champagne Toast and Celebration
Set up a small champagne toast or celebratory gathering.
Enjoy a relaxed and joyful moment with family.

6:00 pm – Conclusion
Wrap up the formal celebrations and photography.
Share final well-wishes and head off for dinner reservations.