Planning Your Vancouver Island Elopement
So, you've chosen to elope on Vancouver Island! You have chosen well my friend! Get ready to let the smell of saltwater and evergreens tease your senses as you say "I Do" on this beautiful island.
Let's admit it, sometimes organizing all of the logistics as you plan your elopement day can be overwhelming! I totally get it. As a local Vancouver Island photographer specializing in helping people plan their Vancouver Island travels, I'm here to help. I've got you!
I've outlined all of the steps you need to follow in order to bring your day to life with details and links that will get you well on your way to planning your dream Vancouver Island Elopement.
Are you ready? Let's plan your Vancouver Island Elopement!
Step 1: Get a Marriage License
If you want you marriage ceremony to be legal, you have to have one! The form will cost you $100 and can be purchased from a marriage license issuer in BC found here. You should plan to get your license 1-3 months before your wedding ceremony. Only one of you needs to be present to get the license, however you will need to bring identification for both partners to the issuing office. Identification can include a birth certificate, a permanent resident card, a citizenship card or an immigration form. A passport or drivers license may be accepted in some circumstances. This is the license that is required to be signed by both you and your partner, a marriage officiant and two witnesses on your wedding day, so don't forget to bring it with you!
Step 2: Book an Officiant
Although some couples choose to have a commitment ceremony as part of their elopement day, if you want to get legally married you will need to have a marriage officiant who is registered with the Vital Statistics Agency marry you. This can be a pastor or religious leader or a marriage commissioner registered with the province. To find a marriage commissioner in the region of Vancouver Island where you plan to elope, look here.
Reach out to your pastor or marriage commissioner to make sure they are available for your date and to discuss the details of your ceremony. You want to make sure that you choose a commissioner who you feel comfortable with as they will walk you through the process of writing or selecting your vows and the details you want included in your ceremony.
Alternatively, a common option for many couples is to have a commitment ceremony on their wedding day instead. A commitment ceremony is a very real ceremony where you commit your lives to each other by saying your vows and exchanging rings but is not legally binding. It can be performed by a friend or family member or just the two of you! You can then have a simple meeting with a marriage officiant to sign the marriage certificate and make it legal either before or after your elopement day. This is often helpful if you choose to have your ceremony in a remote location or you want to have a friend or family member involved in your ceremony. It is totally up to you!
Step 3: Two Witnesses
The last piece needed to make your marriage legal is to have two witnesses who are 19 years or older sign your marriage license. It doesn't even have to be anyone that you know personally! It can be your photographer and a hiker you see on the trail or your helicopter pilot if you are booking a heli-elopement. It's as simple as that! Signatures are all you need.
Step 4: Pick a Date
Now this might sound silly and obvious to mention, but this date will forever be your anniversary! So, if there is a specific date that you want to get married on, start with that date and plan everything else around it. If not, then start by choosing a season. Vancouver Island is a year round destination, however each season has a different vibe.
Definitely the most popular time of year for people to get married as the weather is warm and sunny, the days are long and every location is accessible. However, this is the busiest time of year, so you can expect more crowds and for vendors to get booked up early. Especially in Tofino and Ucluelet on the west coast! Plan and book ahead if you want to get married in July and August.
This is personally my favourite time of year for elopements! September and October still have warm days followed by cool nights and the island is much quieter. For alpine locations like Strathcona Park, fall is actually preferable to spring as snow doesn't usually come until mid-October and the alpine is blanketed in beautiful warm fall colours.
For that quintessential west coast vibe, winter is where it is at! Storm watching, crashing waves, moss soaked rainforest trails and rushing waterfalls are all at their finest this time of year. As long as you are prepared for rain, this time of year can be magic. Think empty beaches and moody rainforest vibes. I certainly wouldn't dismiss winter as an option!
Vancouver Island truly comes alive in the spring! And it generally comes early on the coast. March, April and May are lovely months for exploring the island. The alpine trails are still covered in snow, but this time of year is beautiful if you are considering a heli-elopement. You will find snow on the mountain peaks but warmer weather and depending on the month, wildflowers in bloom.
One last tip for choosing your wedding date is to consider getting married on a weekday rather than a weekend. You will generally find fewer crowds and vendor availability during the peak season will be higher.
Step 5: Book a Vancouver Island Elopement Photographer
Your elopement photos are one of the only things you truly take home from the big day. Your photos and the story they tell are how you will relive your day not only with each other, but with your friends and family back home. So, choose a photographer whose style you LOVE! You want photos that take your breath away and make you suddenly need to grab that tissue...I'm not crying, you're crying!!
You also need to make sure that you and your photographer "click" because most likely they will be the only person you and your partner share your wedding day with! And that's a big deal!
Your photographer is also a valuable resource throughout the entire elopement planning process providing location advice, vendor recommendations and logistical support. They will even be the one passing you the tissue! I highly recommend reaching out to a local photographer early in your planning process so that you can draw on their local knowledge and expertise to help you plan your special day.
If you feel like I might be someone that you will "click" with, then I would be so honoured to be there for you! I would love to hear from you and learn all about your love story and how I can help you plan your elopement day.
Step 6: Pick a Location
One of the reasons Vancouver Island is such an ideal destination for elopements is that there are so many beautiful locations to choose from! With coastlines literally surrounding you and beaches that vary from sandy and expansive to rugged and and windswept, there is a beach location to meet every need. But if mountains are more your scene, there are soaring alpine peaks and fern lined rainforest trails ready to be your wedding aisle.
With so many options to choose from, it can almost feel overwhelming! To help you narrow down your choice, I recommend working through these questions with your partner:
- Is there a location that has sentimental significance for you or your partner? A place where you met or where you have a special connection?
- Where do you feel like you are most at home or comfortable? Is that in the mountains, by the sea or lake or in the forest? Do waterfalls bring you joy?
- Do you want the location to be somewhere new that you have never been to before to create a new memory and capture a sense of adventure?
Other things to consider when choosing your location are how crowded it typically tends to be as well as accessibility. Some of the popular beaches around the island tend to get quite busy during the peak summer months. If having a quiet, crowd-free ceremony is important to you, you want to consider not only the popularity of the location but also the time of year and time of day you have your ceremony. Even a popular beach will usually be empty in the early morning!
You might also be considering a remote location (which is awesome!) but make sure you consider the accessibility during different seasons of the year. For high alpine locations, trail access may be limited in spring or logging access roads may be closed. Factor in the amount of time needed to hike in to your destination and determine what works best for you!
Choosing a location is where hiring a local photographer can really be helpful! Most Vancouver Island based elopement photographers will have local knowledge to help you not only find unique locations that you may not have known about, but will also help you work through the logistics for each location.
Step 7: Connect With Other Wedding Vendors
Just because you are eloping, it doesn't mean that the little details don't matter! Even simple elopements can have decor and extra small details to make it reflect your personality and style.
You can add a touch of special to your day by working with a hair or make-up stylist or you can focus on adding a beautiful bouquet.
Florals and greenery add so much colour, texture and personality to your elopement day and are an excellent way to accentuate a colour pallette into your ceremony so think about what makes you happy and add that little flare!
Other small details you might consider adding are stationary items like personalized calligraphy vow books or commemorative cards.
You can also add fun elements to your elopement by incorporating a picnic with a simple, yet elegant charcuterie board and a bottle of champagne. There are local companies that can set up a beautiful picnic on the beach for you or can pack a picnic basket for you to take along with you.
The sky really is the limit! Keep it as simple or as elegant as you want!
Here is a link of preferred local vendors that I would recommend:
Petal and Kettle serving central Vancouver Island
Sweet and Dandy Florals serving all of Vancouver Island
Little Bee Blooms serving Southern Vancouver Island
Stationary & Calligraphy:
Picnics and Charcuterie:
The Local Picnic serving southern Vancouver Island
Jam & Co Luxury Picnics serving central Vancouver Island and beyond
The Noble Grazer serving all of Vancouver Island
Step 8: Decide on the Experience You Want
The beauty of an elopement is that you can literally make your day anything you want it to be! So, dream big and go all in on this one!
To start planning, I recommend to think about and picture your most idyllic Vancouver Island day. What would you do together if you could do anything you wanted on the island. Now make that your WEDDING DAY! Remember, it's a day where no one else's opinion gets a seat at the table. It's just you and your love and your vows to each other.
Want some ideas?
- Frolick on the beach in the golden sun with salty, sandy wedding dresses followed by pizza at sunset (Click here for inspiration)
- Hop on a helicopter to say "I Do" on top of a mountain peak with a view of the island dotted ocean
- Dance to your favourite songs along rocky bluffs overlooking the sea (Click here for inspiration!)
- Go for a rainforest hike with a beautiful picnic in the forest on a blanket of moss under a canopy of cedar
- Say your vows on the bow of a sailboat while you cruise the Gulf Islands off the coast of Vancouver Island. (Click here for a full guide on how to make this a reality!)
- Hike to a hidden waterfall and say your vows amidst the mist
Let your imagination run wild and plan a "Just Us" wedding experience that truly reflects YOU! It's just you and your person and this incredible moment. No stress. No drama. Just your love story unfolding before you.
Ready to Start Planning Your Elopement?
Let me help you create and capture a beautiful adventure right here on Vancouver Island.