Known for its rocky mountain peaks, towering glaciers, and turquoise blue lakes, Banff National Park is the oldest, and most visited, national park in Canada. With over 6,600 square kilometers to explore, it’s easy to see why Banff is a popular elopement destination for couples hoping for an epic adventure and amazing scenery on their wedding day. If you’ve decided to elope and you’re considering Banff National Park, keep reading this Banff elopement guide for all my tips and tricks to help you plan your day!
When it comes to choosing a date for your Banff elopement, you’ll need to consider a few things, like weather, crowds, and whether or not you have guests! The national park gets pretty snowy, and its beauty draws a lot of visitors each day.
When to elope in Banff will depend on what you want to do and experience on your elopement day! The best time for hiking is July through September, as the roads are open and most trails will be clear. If you want to see the gorgeous lakes and scenery at Banff, eloping in the summer is your best bet.
If you don’t mind the cold and you want a snowy winter wonderland for your elopement day, eloping in the winter can be a lot of fun. December through March is perfect for skiing, so if you want to hit the slopes after your ceremony, this is for you! Keep in mind that most of the roads to Banff’s popular attractions will be closed, and most trails will be buried in the snow.
Both spring and fall are a little unpredictable in Banff. You might get sunshine, or you could get a blizzard – so if you want to elope during these months, you’ll be rewarded with less crowds, but the weather will be hard to predict.
Spring and fall are the least busy in Banff, as ski and hiking seasons come to an end. But as I mentioned, the weather is pretty unpredictable. If you elope during the busier months, you can still avoid the crowds!
I always recommend that couples schedule their elopement day for a weekday. Since most people are off work on weekends, national parks and outdoor spaces get more crowded. Weekdays, especially Monday through Thursday, are much less popular.
Another great way to avoid crowds and get some privacy to say your vows is to elope at sunrise. Even if the thought of waking up before the sun isn’t appealing, hear me out! Very few people are willing to get out and about that early, so you’re almost guaranteed to get the place to yourselves. Plus, you’ll get to watch the sun fill the sky with gorgeous colors that will look amazing in photos!
There’s a misconception that eloping means you can’t invite anyone along – but that’s not true! If you have friends or family members who support you and who you can’t imagine your day without, having them at your elopement can make it even more meaningful. At Banff National Park, you can have up to 20 people at your ceremony – this includes the couple, the officiant, the photographer, and any other vendors too! You can even bring your dog along! Pets are welcome at Banff, as long as they’re on a leash, so you don’t have to leave Fido behind.
There are so many insanely beautiful places for your Banff elopement – narrowing it down might just be the hardest part! There are plenty of off the beaten path locations and unique places for your ceremony, but here are just a few of my favorite spots to get you inspired.
This is one of Banff’s most iconic spots – you’ve probably seen it in a few Instagram posts, which means that while it’s incredibly beautiful, it’s also busy! You’ll need to get there very early, because Moraine Lake is Banff’s most popular attraction, and even at sunrise, parking can be hard to find. Luckily, the Moraine Lake Lodge is located right by the lake, which means you can have a luxurious, romantic home base to come back to after a day of exploring, and you won’t have to worry about parking!
Another one of Banff’s iconic turquoise blue lakes, Lake Louise is a beautiful spot to elope. There are several trails that start here, with everything from short walks like the Riverside Loop to longer treks like the Beehive Circuit Trail, for those who want a little more adventure. You can even rent a canoe for $125 per hour and explore the lake up close!
This elopement location is actually on top of a mountain! But the best part is that you can book a helicopter and get this incredible view without climbing the mountain. A helicopter tour with Alpine Helicopters is a unique way to have an adventure on your elopement day, and you’ll get the summit of Mt Charles all to yourself!
Paperwork and legalities might not be the most exciting part of your Banff elopement, but it’s important that you know what to expect so that your marriage is legal, and you don’t get stopped by any park rangers (that would really be a bummer on your elopement day).
To get a marriage license in Alberta, Canada, you’ll need to go to a Registry Agent in Alberta. This needs to be done no earlier than three months before your ceremony date, because the license will expire after 90 days. You can visit any agent in Alberta, but the town of Banff has an office just 15 minutes from the national park! A license costs $40, and registry agents will also charge a service fee, which varies depending on where you go, but the average service fee is around $30. You can check your eligibility and find out what documents you need ahead of time here.
An officiant is required to sign your marriage license. You can hire an elopement officiant who is up for whatever adventure you have planned, but make sure they’re authorized to perform marriage ceremonies in Alberta! A religious representative such as a pastor or priest can officiate wedding ceremonies, or a marriage commissioner who has been approved by the Vital Statistics office in Canada. Unfortunately, in Canada it is difficult to become an ordained officiant – so you won’t be able to have a friend or family member perform your ceremony like they do in the movies!
You will need two witnesses to sign your marriage license as well, but don’t worry if you weren’t planning to invite guests! Your photographer or any other vendors can serve as witnesses, and you can even find two people on the trail or at your ceremony location! The only requirement is that they are over 18, and most people are stoked to help out.
To have a ceremony in Banff National Park, even if it’s just the two of you, you will need to fill out a wedding registration form, which you can find here. This helps the park ensure that all rules are being followed, and that the park stays beautiful! The permit is free, but ceremonies are limited to 20 people – which includes your officiant, photographer, and any other vendors as well. There are no restrictions for where you can have your ceremony, as long as you are not blocking off an area to other visitors and are complying with park rules (such as staying on trails, not picking wildflowers, and not disturbing wildlife)! Because this permit is just to let the park know that you agree to follow all regulations, it does not need to get approved. That means you can apply any time – however, it needs to be mailed to the park (unless you deliver it to the Administration Building in person), so make sure that you fill out this form early enough to leave time for mailing! There is also a business license required for any photographers and videographers working in Banff National Park. A one day license costs $223, so make sure your vendors are aware!
If you are planning a backcountry adventure and want to do a multi-day hike for your elopement, you will also need a backcountry permit. This can be done online here, and has a nightly cost of $10.02 per person, along with an $11.50 reservation fee. Keep in mind that for backcountry permits, the maximum group size is 10 people!
To enter Banff National Park, you will also need a pass. This can be done online ahead of time, or at the entrance as you drive in. Passes cost $20 for a group of up to 7 people, and you’ll need one for each car entering the park.
LNT stands for Leave No Trace – and it’s a set of principles that explain how to recreate responsibly and ensure that national parks like Banff stay clean and beautiful. You can read more about LNT here, because when it comes to elopements, it’s important to be aware. Some guidelines include staying on the trail as to not damage the plant life or wildflowers, not throwing confetti or rice, and packing out anything you bring in – including trash, flowers, and anything else you have on your elopement day. Wildflower meadows are especially fragile, so while it can be tempting to walk through blooming flowers for photos, it can be really harmful. By following Leave No Trace guidelines, you ensure that Banff National Park will continue to allow elopement ceremonies, and that others can enjoy the park’s natural beauty!
There have, unfortunately, been so many horror stories in Banff National Park with bear encounters and other wildlife. With all animals, it’s important to never approach them, and to keep your distance if you encounter them. Elk and bighorn sheep are common in the park, but are typically not aggressive. Still, make sure they are comfortable by giving them plenty of space. Animals with babies are usually more alert and more protective, so it’s especially important to make sure they know you aren’t a threat.
Bears, while they usually stay away from people, can be very dangerous. The best way to prevent a disastrous run in on your wedding day is to be prepared, and be alert. To prevent bear encounters, make sure never to leave food out. If you see a bear, stay calm and walk away. They typically do not want to hurt you, but they do want to be left alone. If a bear is getting aggressive or approaching you, speak calmly and back away. Wave your arms slowly to make yourself look larger. It’s also important to carry bear spray, and have it in an easily accessible place. Bear spray isn’t a deterrent, but it can be used in emergencies to incapacitate an aggressive bear.
Eloping is all about the experience. Gone are the days when an elopement was just a quick ceremony in a Vegas chapel. Plan some things to do on your elopement day that will make it the best day ever!
In Banff, you can take a helicopter tour, rent a kayak and explore one of the lakes, go for a hike, ski, rock climb, or even soak in some nearby hot springs! Whether you use your elopement day to do something you two love to do together, or you try out something new, this day is all about you! The entire experience of your elopement day should be something you’ll look back on and want to relive forever and ever.
Are you sold on eloping at Banff National Park? Planning even a small ceremony can be a lot of pressure, especially if you’re not sure where to start. But luckily, that’s what I’m here for! As an elopement photographer, my job isn’t just to take photos (that part is great too, though). I also help guide couples like you to plan the elopement day of their dreams! I love helping out with everything from location recommendations, to getting the right permits, to building a timeline for the day. So, if you’re ready to get started, contact me!
I’m your elopement hype girl and a photographer for the goofball lovers + those who want to make their wedding day an adventure. I’m also the owner of a converted camper van and love exploring the outdoors. You’ll find my heart on this blog. Whether it’s documenting my real life couples or giving my brides + grooms the tips + tricks they need to plan their best elopement, I’ve poured my heart out for you here.
"Liv is extremely talented and great to work with! She gave us enough direction in our shoots to know what to do but still left tons of room for candid, genuine moments. Nothing beats seeing real smiles and laughter in your photos! She was more than willing to collaborate and go for some sillier ideas, and was always super encouraging. She's an incredibly sweet person and we felt very comfortable to be ourselves around her. Liv's talent is beyond just the technical knowledge, she really has an artist eye for beautiful photos. Her editing style is perfect, not too dark or light but still brings personality with the warm tones she adds. I HIGHLY recommend working with Liv!!"