Adventurous Elopement in BanffWords by Jessie Allen
Photos courtesy of Dawnpoint Studios
While Van and Kevin didn’t initially hit it off, it was on a trip with mutual friends to Iceland and Paris that the two became close. Thanks to moments like watching the Northern Lights dance across the night sky together and wandering the art museums of Paris, this couple’s story began.
“Traveling was– and continues to be– an important form of connection for us,” the couple says.
Originally, Van and Kevin made plans to run in a half marathon in Banff, AB. While that event was canceled due to the pandemic, the couple saw the opportunity to make light of the situation and say “I do” in what’s considered to be one of the prettiest places on earth: Banff National Park.
“We chose to exchange our vows on Little Beehive in Lake Louise because it was known to be a beautiful spot for sunrise overlooking the gorgeous lake with a moderate hike,” the groom says. “Lake Agnes Teahouse has also been a place that Van has always wanted to visit. The idea of a rustic teahouse next to a serene lake in the mountains was too magical to not experience.”
Knowing they wouldn’t have the park to themselves, Kevin and Van came up with a workaround.
“We chose to do a sunrise hike because we knew that the park could get crowded throughout the day and we wanted to ensure that we had privacy to do our rituals and vows. Van is also big on symbolism and thought a rising sun signifies new beginnings in our relationship,” the couple says.
Since the bride, groom and their handful of guests would have to hike, they went minimalist when it came to details. However, they did create a small gift bag for each of their friends who are willing to join them on the adventure. The bags included personalized Cotopaxi travel packing cubes, socks, a s’mores kit, Plain of Six Glaciers tea and personal letters.
“On top of sharing our commitment to each other, we also wanted our friends to know how precious they are to us and that our love extends to the relationships that care for and nurture us outside of our marriage,” the bride says.
The wedding day was a chronicle of adventures, starting out with one of Van's best friends from college, Jessica, officiating the mountaintop ceremony. Just as planned, at sunrise the crew gathered around the Little Beehive lookout over Lake Louise after everyone changed out of their hiking clothes. Each moment that followed was carefully tailored just for the couple.
“Jessica started the ceremony off with a hybrid tea ceremony, combining a tradition she learned about while traveling in Peru with the tea ceremony from our Chinese and Vietnamese cultural roots,” Van says. “We first shared the tea with Mama Pacha (Mother Earth) and shared gratitude with all of our loved ones who could not be with us that day. She then asked us to pay attention to the nature surrounding us and share the tea with all those present, reminding us that we are all connected to each other. She asked us to share our personal vows and recited the poem ‘Not Anyone Who Says’ by Mary Oliver followed by a ring exchange.”
While it may not look like it in the beautiful photos, everyone shivered at the cold air on the mountain peak. So, once the brief, yet thoughtful ceremony concluded, the newlyweds and their loved ones happily hiked down to Lake Agnes Teahouse to warm up with hot beverages and freshly baked snacks before continuing to Mirror Lake, where the couple had their first dance.
“We completed the hike back down and had a quick banh mi lunch (brought from Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarines in Calgary, thanks to our forward-thinking friends) before paddling out onto Lake Louise on canoes,” the couple says.
The day finished off with a luxury outdoor grazing experience at Storm Mountain Lodge, coordinated by Banff Graze Co. Further personalizing the day, the couple opted for Chicago-made s’mores around the campfire in lieu of a cake cutting.
After having an unforgettably unique wedding day, Van and Kevin share this piece of advice with other couples:“Everyone's ideal day will look different depending on what you choose to prioritize. Sustainability was an important consideration for us, and our vendors and photographer, Angelica, really exemplified that value. Another important thing for us was to have very good friends who supported us in all of our ideas and helped us when plans went awry. If you do a destination wedding, please remember small details and make a packing list. Plan what you can and embrace any fiascos that may arise.”
Vendors: Photographer: Dawnpoint Studios; Ceremony Site: Little Beehive; Reception Venue: Storm Mountain Lodge; Florist: Oasis Flower Shop; Stationery: Of The Earth; Gown Designer: Still White; Groom’s Clothing Designer: Suit Supply & East Meets Dress; Dinner: Banff Graze Co.; Canoeing: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise; Rings: VRAI & Wedgewood Rings; Lunch: Thi Thi Vietnamese Submarines; Bridesmaid Dresses: Rent the Runway; Dessert: XO Marshmallow
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