Picture it: you get married and kick off an exciting, joyous, wonderful new adventure with your partner against the backdrop of Canada’s very first national park. Sweeping mountains, crystalline blue lakes, and tons of possibilities for outdoor adventure make this a place you absolutely have to consider as the setting for your elopement!! And if you’re thinking “Claudia, I already know I want a Banff elopement!” Well, then you’re definitely in the right place.
I’m going to talk about all the things you’ll need in order to plan your Banff elopement in this blog — permits, travel, where to stay, as well as ceremony locations for you to consider and additional activities to do in the park. I can’t wait for you to plan the perfect day!
Let’s talk about getting married the official way for a Banff elopement first, because I know this can be especially confusing for any US-based couples considering this for their ceremony!
First things first, you don’t need to be a Canadian citizen or a resident of Alberta to elope in Banff! Yay!! However, you will need to get your marriage license in the Alberta province, which you can read about here. The marriage license will be valid as soon as the registry agent hands you the forms, and is good for up to three months before it needs to be turned back in with full signatures. It will cost you a fee as well, but it’s relatively small. Make sure you check out all the other requirements linked above for your Alberta marriage license.
There are two types of valid ceremonies in Canada that count as official marriage ceremonies, a religious or civil proceeding. A religious ceremony must be performed by a religious clergy member, where a civil one can be officiated by a marriage commissioner. Both have slightly different things that will need to happen during the ceremony, but both are valid! You can find someone to officiate your Banff elopement in either a religious or civil ceremony here. If you’d rather have a friend officiate for you, they can get a temporary marriage commissioner license here to perform a civil ceremony.
Just like national parks here in the US (where I’m based and serve as an elopement photographer most often), you will need a permit to elope in Banff National Park. The cool part is, you can hold your ceremony absolutely anywhere in the park with your permit, which means the sky’s the limit! It also means that you can’t have a fully private ceremony in Banff. Since it’s a public place, you won’t have exclusive access to anywhere in particular.
You can have 20 or fewer people total at your elopement in Banff. To get your permit, apply here! You can apply for this up to 18 months in advance. I recommend getting it at least 30 days before you plan to elope. The best part? Your permit is free! That’s right — there is no cost to be approved for a Banff elopement.
*Note: if you aren’t officially holding a ceremony in Banff, but are just taking wedding or elopement portraits, you won’t need any permits!
I mentioned in the permits section that a Banff elopement permit gives you permission to have your ceremony literally anywhere in the park. But with so many possibilities, where do you even begin with choosing your ceremony location?! I’m going to give a little detail on just a few of what I think are the best spots to elope in Banff, but keep in mind that the whole park is open to you if you’re envisioning something specific!
If you’ve ever seen a picture of a gorgeous blue lake in Banff National Park, there’s a chance it was this one! Moraine Lake has the Valley of the Ten Peaks behind it, so you get the glacier-fed water and mountains as your elopement backdrop. It’s also easy access, which makes it very popular — if you’re going to elope here (especially in the summer), it’s best to elope on a weekday at sunrise to beat the crowds.
Another popular, often-photographed glacial lake elopement location! The Victoria Glacier is here, so again you’ll get beautiful waters and the best mountain scenery at Lake Louise. There’s also hotel or mountain lodge stays close by to make your trip hassle free, and a ton of summer and winter activities in the area. A sunset ceremony or portraits here would be absolutely dreamy!
This spot is so fun — you can take a gondola ride to the peak of the mountain, which takes about eight minutes! At the summit there’s boardwalks, hiking trails to explore, restaurants, and observation decks. Anywhere on the peak would make for an incredible place to elope! There are also hot springs up here.
This is a lesser-known day hike (10 miles) in Banff that will really immerse you in the wilds of Canada! You’ll find views of the North Saskatchewan River here (which is what this hike is known for). An elopement on Sunset Pass will feel much more private than some of these other locations!
A turquoise lake, glaciers, and wildflower fields in the summer make Helen Lake a must-see if you’re headed to Banff! This is a 9.9 mile out-and-back hike that’s considered “challenging,” but if you’re up for it, then June-September is the best time for it!
This is just one of many waterfalls in Banff National Park, but it’s a great one if you’re wanting an epic waterfall backdrop! This is a 5.5 mile out-and-back trail, and again, the summer will be best so that you’re not fighting against the cold snowy weather!
You probably know this already, but Canada has harsh winters! This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t have a Banff elopement in the winter, but you do need to be aware of exactly what kind of cold you can expect, and some of the other challenges you might encounter in all seasons.
Banff, like most other parks in Canada and the US, has exploded in popularity over the last few years. This means it’s going to be much busier no matter when you go, though of course the winter will be much less crowded. Summer is the busiest tourist season in Banff, but it’s also going to get you the best access to most of the locations I mentioned earlier. It will be easier to travel, easier to walk around and explore, and you won’t freeze your toes off while you elope! To beat the summertime crowds, consider a Banff elopement on a weekday. If you’re down for a sunrise ceremony, it will be even more private!
In the winter, here’s what you should expect: the average high temperature is about 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and that’s pretty optimistic. PHEW, that’s cold!! Nearly all locations and areas in the park are either restricted or fully closed in the winter months (though some stay open year-round). Restaurants may not be open, as well as public bathrooms. In all reality, unless you are taking portraits outside, the majority of a Banff elopement in the winter will take place indoors, just to keep you warm and safe from the elements.
Spring and fall are also both great options for a Banff elopement! In the spring, there will still be some snow from the previous year. You may not be able to do a lot of hiking, but everything will just be starting to bloom. In the fall, you get to experience the changing colors of the leaves against the glacier-blue lakes. It’s a lot less crowded than the summer and you’ll be able to go almost anywhere you like!
You have lots of choices for where to stay when you have a Banff elopement, whether you stay in the park or nearby in the town of Banff. In the peak summer season, places to stay when you travel here are going to be much harder to find and a bit more expensive, but it’s all worth it for your dream elopement experience! Here’s a few options.
If you feel like 100% adventuring, you can book a campsite for a few nights instead. You can even rent a motorhome if you don’t feel like tent camping! This is such a cute way to take a road trip and elope in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
This is a 4-star resort with views of Lake Louise and the Victoria Glacier for a truly luxurious experience.
This resort stay overlooks the town of Banff, and features rooms with full kitchens and living spaces for a more homey feel. You can spread out and stay cozy at this cabin-like stay!
The Lake Louise Inn has amazing views of the Canadian Rockies. There are lounges, pools, and fire pits here for you to make the most of your stay.
Okay, now let’s talk about some exciting things you can do in Banff National Park to make your elopement experience that much better. Of course, your ceremony is already going to be amazing, but you can turn your elopement into your honeymoon, or make it a weekend adventure, by adding in some fun you’ll only get to experience here.
There is so much to do and see in Banff National Park, and in the town of Banff nearby. I encourage you to cater your elopement experience to include these fun activities as a way for you and your partner to really take advantage of quality time together as you kick off married life!
Lastly, here’s a few more tips as you dive into planning your Banff elopement. The most important thing to remember is that this experience is fully yours, and can be created any way you want!
And there you have it! A full, in-depth resource to help you plan an epic, perfect Banff elopement. If you have more questions about where to begin, I recommend checking out my “How to Plan an Elopement” guide. It has a checklist at the end to help you stay organized as you plan.
When you’re ready to book your elopement photographer in Banff, reach out to me here! I can’t wait to hear from you.