Real Brides Elope: Banff Edition

Thinking about eloping in Banff (or anywhere in the world) and looking for a photographer? If my work resonates with you, feel free to get in touch! You can contact me here. I would love to hear everything you’re dreaming up!

Terrie & Keith’s Elopement in Banff: Fast Facts

Location: Banff National Park – Alberta, Canada (Lake Minnewanka & Morraine Lake)

Photographer: Kristyn Harder Photography

Officiant: Tamara Jones

Florist: Flowers by Janie

Wedding Gown: Ivory & Main

Groom’s Suit: Custom Suit from Samuelsohn Philadelphia 

Hair & Makeup: Mountain Beauties

Hotel: Elk & Ave

Introduction

This is the Run Away Together podcast. You’re listening to episode number 16 of Real Brides Elope: Banff. I’m your host, Katie Doherty. I’m an elopement and intimate wedding photographer based in Los Angeles. I created this podcast as a resource for couples who are considering an elopement. If you’d like more information and some inspiration about eloping, you can visit runawaytogether.co

If my voice is sounding a little different than usual, it’s because I just got adult braces. Woo hoo! I’m still getting used to how to talk with this retainer and rubber bands in my mouth, so I might be talking kind of funny. Nonetheless, I want to mention that I have corresponding blog posts for each of these episodes. So, you can easily find all of the links that we’ve mentioned there. 

In this episode, I’m chatting with Terrie Alfieri, a wedding photographer based in New York. She shares her firsthand experience of eloping in Banff, which is a national park located in Alberta, Canada. We discuss how Terrie put together an awesome vendor team, all about the hotel that she stayed at with her fiance (now husband), and a little bit about the confusing legal process for getting married in another country. 

Thanks for being here, and enjoy our conversation!

Katie: Today I have Terrie Alfieri joining me from out in Long Island. She has a really cool perspective in that she is a wedding photographer and also eloped. I’m really excited to hear from Terrie about why she decided on eloping in Banff and all of the fun details. So, first of all, thanks, Terrie, for chatting with me. 

Terrie: Thank you so much for asking me to be here. This is so cool. I was so excited when you reached out because I loved eloping in Banff. It’s got to be the best decision I’ve made, aside from marrying my hubby. It was so special, and I’d love to share more about it. 

Katie: This was last year, correct? 

Terrie: Yes.

Katie: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself, your love story, and your background in photography?

Inseparable at First Sight

“We love traveling, we love adventuring, and we really just connected.”

Terrie: My name is Terrie, and I’m a wedding and lifestyle photographer in New York. I’ve been photographing weddings for over ten years now. When my husband and I were discussing how we wanted to get married, having a big wedding wasn’t really our vision. We’re a little shy about our love, even though I’m not a shy person. We just found somewhere along the line that our relationship was very private. I don’t really like posting things on social media like kissing or things that are more intimate, you know? That was one of the main reasons why we wanted to elope.

A little bit more about me and Keith… My husband and I met in 2009 on Match.com. This was pre-app, before swiping. We actually had to write emails to each other. I definitely came off as a weirdo to him. I wrote him a whole crazy paragraph, and he somehow still wanted to talk to me.

So, we met, and I can’t say it was love at first sight, but we were inseparable from that moment on. We have the same messed-up sense of humor. We love traveling, we love adventuring, and we really just connected. That was eleven years ago.

Making the Decision to Tie the Knot

We wanted to make sure we were a million percent sure that this was going to be our future.

Katie: I’m curious when the idea of eloping in Banff came up. Was this something you knew you two would always do, or did you toy around with the idea of having a bigger wedding? 

Terrie: Well, it’s funny because he told me he didn’t want to get married and didn’t want to have kids at first, which was huge for me because I’m the oldest of five kids. I’ve always wanted to have them since I was young, and I really wanted to get married. So, it took time for that to grow on him. Marriage was a scary topic because both of our parents are divorced, and they hate each other. So, how were we going to do this and make sure that we don’t subject our kids to “the Sunday.” We wanted to make sure we were a million percent sure that this was going to be our future.

I always wanted to have a big wedding, but the cost was daunting. Especially being a wedding photographer for so long, you see these big weddings… The people on Long Island don’t mess around. They go big or go home. The weddings I’ve photographed, sometimes people spent $100,000 or $200,000 on one day. That’s amazing for them. They put on these beautiful, elegant affairs. I’ve always wanted something like that. I love throwing parties. I love having my family around me, but I just couldn’t imagine going into a measurable amount of debt over our wedding celebration. So, eloping sounded like a great idea.

Katie: So, it sounds like the money was definitely a factor. I remember you mentioning that you’re not big on PDA, so I think your personality type sounds like it fits eloping as well.

Terrie: Yeah, having our intimacy be just between us was really important to us. He’s shy about that kind of stuff, too. So, a combination of both of those things. 

I’ve always felt like, if you’re going to have a wedding, it better be good. Why would I spend all this money just to have some not-so-great food or flowers I don’t really like just to say I had a wedding? We did end up having a big celebration after we eloped that was on par with a wedding, but there was no ceremony. So, that was a huge relief. We just got to enjoy being with our families, which was very cool.

Katie: Cool. I think that’s a great alternative. If you still want to include your family and friends, you totally can that way. 

I don’t think I’ve even mentioned where you went yet. Can you tell me how you decided on Banff and maybe a little bit about Banff for those who have never been or heard of it?

Eloping in Banff

“It has snow-capped mountains behind it, and the lake is a color of blue that you’ve never seen in real life.”

Terrie: Keith and I both love traveling, and we dream of seeing the world one day. I love going on Instagram and looking at nature photography. I was browsing, and I started to see a lot of pictures of Banff, and I was like, what is this place? It’s amazing. Banff, for anyone who doesn’t know, is a national park in Canada on the West coast. It’s near Calgary in the province of Alberta. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to.

Katie: What month you were there? Was it winter or summer?

Terrie: It was quote-unquote “summer.” So, the planning process was very interesting. We decided on eloping in Banff in March of 2018 that we were going to do this. I started looking at the best time to go. The first thing I find out is that it snows from September all the way until May. So, I’m talking to a few people that are in the area, and they’re saying, “Listen, you could come in May, but it still sometimes snows in May. If you wait until September, the lakes might be frozen by then.” I couldn’t believe that. Plus, being a wedding photographer, there’s only a small window where I could go away because it’s only busy over the summer and fall here. 

So, we picked the first week of June, and we got up there on May 31st. We went to this beautiful lake called Moraine Lake, which I think is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. It has snow-capped mountains behind it, and the lake is a color of blue that you’ve never seen in real life.

When we got there, we had just started location scouting, and the lake was frozen. I was like, no, this isn’t happening… But we went back there on our wedding day, and it had thawed two days later.

Katie: That’s amazing. I can’t believe it was still frozen almost to June! 

Terrie: Yeah. It was insane. It was so peaceful. The air is so much cleaner in Canada. No offense to the US, but every time I’ve been to Canada, you step off the plane or get out of your car, and the air is so crisp.

Katie: Absolutely. So, this spot that you scoped out, was that where you took portraits, or did you have your actual ceremony there?

Terrie: That’s where we took our portraits. We wanted to be there around sunset. We took our portraits there, but we had our ceremony at Lake Minnewanka, which is about an hour away. It had more variety of locations for us to shoot. We wanted to check off all our boxes: mountains, lake, forest… We even got photos where we’re climbing up on the rocks.

Katie: That’s a really great tip–plan out your whole day depending on the sunset time. I would imagine up in Canada in June the sun doesn’t go down until pretty late in the day.

Terrie: Yeah. That was another challenge, actually, because the sun didn’t set until nine o’clock at night. All the restaurants were closed. We had this whole plan of eloping in Banff and then going out to dinner and having this beautiful celebration together, but we couldn’t because there were only one or two places open. It was either this Mexican place with saloon-themed décor or the Fairmont Chateau at Lake Louise. Luckily, that was open and right next door, so we ended up going there.

Katie: I would love to hear a little bit about how you spent the whole day, if you remember the timeline, where you stayed, and how you mapped out the timing of the day.

Working Out the Logistics of Eloping in Banff

Everything came from the heart; nothing was manufactured.

Terrie: We woke up at our hotel, which was about a five-minute drive from where we were going to have our ceremony. The hotel was called Elk and Avenue. Most of the hotels in that area are very cabin-themed. You know that you’re staying in the mountains. I just didn’t picture what was basically going to be our honeymoon being in a cabin with antlers above the bed. So, I found this hotel, which was much more modern. It was like a modern hotel in a rustic, mountain setting.

Katie: Awesome. Would you recommend the place?

Terrie: Definitely. The only thing I will say is that, when you’re used to the luxury of Long Island–and I’m not really a luxurious kind of person–but when you’re used to things being to a certain standard, you have to understand that the places you’re traveling to are not going to be up to the same standard you’re used to.

For example, we had coordinated getting my dress steamed when we got there, but there was only one dry cleaner in town, and they had closed for the week on a whim. The people at the hotel had someone go back to her house, and she got a steamer and helped me. It’s a small town; it’s not New York City. So, there were little hiccups here and there. But I loved the hotel. They were super nice.

So, we woke up together, had breakfast. I kicked him out of our hotel room so I could get my hair and makeup done. We both wrote our vows that morning, which was kind of cute.

Katie: Cute. Did you feel anxious doing it so last-minute, or was it easier for you that way?

Terrie: I really work well under pressure, so that was the way for me. But we had talked about doing it for months before, and I think we were both stumped. I really had to be under the gun to do it. We both did it that morning, and it was really special because they reflected the setting where we were. We were away from work and in this peaceful setting. Everything came from the heart; nothing was manufactured. He used this one quote in our vows that I was so touched by that I cried. Then I found out that he took it from Winnie the Pooh. But I forgive him. It was really special.

Katie: Winnie the Pooh can be pretty touching, I will say. So, what time do you remember you started doing hair and makeup and getting ready?

Terrie: I usually count back when I’m doing a timeline. We were planning on ending at 7:30 or 8:00, and if it was an amazing sunset, we’d stay longer. So, I kind of tracked backward. If eight o’clock was the sunset, we’d need an hour to shoot at this location. Then we’d need an hour to drive there. Then we’d need about an hour and a half before that to do our vows and have our pictures taken at the other location. So, if you count that back, that’s about four o’clock. 

I probably started hair and makeup at like two. There were two women who came and did my hair and makeup, and they did them both around the same time. I was fully pampered, just sitting there while two ladies did me up. We wanted the morning to be peaceful. 

I’m so thankful that we had the most amazing vendors because, first of all, picking out a photographer was really difficult for me because I’m anxious, and I wanted it to be perfect.

Of course, I inevitably forgot the marriage license at the hotel. How many weddings have I shot? Like 200 weddings at that point. Everyone was like, “Don’t forget the marriage license!” Still forget the marriage license. We got to the lake, and I was like, “Where’s the marriage license?” I started crying. I was freaking out. But my photographer calmed me down, and we figured it out.

Katie: I mean, it’s understandably a pretty emotional day, and you obviously want things to run smoothly. I’m glad you brought up the vendors. I was curious–did you find a photographer local to the area?

Eloping in Banff with the Perfect Team

They were the best team to have with us that day.

Terrie: Yes, we did find someone local to the area. At first, I found an amazing photographer that I loved in California, and I was like, that’s it. You’re going to be my girl. Then she brought up that Banff and Canada, in general, are very specific about having foreigners shooting in their parks or their public areas. In addition to that, the parks require an annual permit fee from the photographer. So, the photographer was like, “I’d really love to shoot it, but what happens if we’re there and we get in trouble?” 

So, I ended up finding this absolutely amazing photographer in Canada who lives in Calgary. Her business name is Kristyn Harder Photography, and she is just a doll as a human being. She’s sweet and caring and understanding. She was so awesome throughout the whole process. She listened to all my concerns and answered all my questions and guided me through the process. Also, she took some of our pictures in film, which was cool.

On the day of, she hit it out of the park. The pictures were insanely beautiful, and she was very calm and reassuring. Like, “Don’t worry about that… We’re going to carry this for you…” She was everything I could have wanted. And she had this awesome assistant with her, McKenzie, who is super sweet as well. She carried my dress and my flowers. They were the best team to have with us that day.

Katie: I think that that’s a really good thing to consider. Obviously, when you’re hiring your photographer, you want to connect with their work and their pictures, but since it’s such an intimate day, I’m so happy to hear that they were helpful and sweet. Those are all things you really want to consider when you’re hiring someone. So, that sounds amazing.

Terrie: That’s sometimes more important than the pictures and the quality of their work, even though that’s also very important. That’s how I am as a vendor. It’s very important to me that my clients have an amazing, incredible experience with me and that I take care of them. The pictures are almost secondary at that point. The way they feel is so important to me. 

Our officiant was also amazing. She was just supposed to be there for the half-hour that she was doing the ceremony. Not only did she stay for a half-hour for the ceremony, she let us take pictures for a half-hour. And I was like, “Are you sure? Are you a hundred percent sure?” And she was like, “Yes, I have nowhere to be and I’m here for you.” Her name was Tamara Jones

I just think that they’re the best people I could have had.

Sorting Out the Legal Side

It is not easy to find the resources you need for this topic.

Katie: Since you went out of the country, how difficult or easy was it to figure out the legal side of things? Were you legally married in Canada, and does that reflect back to the US or did you have to do something special in New York?

Terrie: Yeah, that’s a good question. It is not easy to find the resources you need for this topic. I called my town to ask them because that’s where your marriage is made legal. And the lady was horrible! She said, “You can have a marriage license here, and you can have the pretend wedding wherever you want.”

I looked all over the internet. It was so confusing. Eventually, I talked to somebody that sounded like they knew what they were talking about. They told me the US recognizes Canadian marriages, even if it’s not by Canadian people. The officiant helped, too. She said that I would get the marriage license in the US, she would marry us, then she would send it to Alberta, and we’d get a certificate from Alberta saying we’re married.

After eloping in Banff, I went to my town with that certificate, and they said, well, you’re going to have to have some kind of small wedding at the justice of the peace to make it official here. But later, she called me back and said, no, it seems that you’re just married. Even to this day, we haven’t done anything official. I haven’t officially changed my name yet, and we haven’t filed our taxes together yet. I can’t advise anyone who’s listening. This is my disclaimer. I did a lot of research, and I still don’t totally know if we got it right.

Katie: This is a confusing topic. And it is kind of a bummer that it’s not more clearly laid out online. But talking to your officiant could be a really good place to start because they’re familiar with their area, the protocol, and people coming from other countries. 

Terrie: They asked to go through some kind of training, right? There is a legal process that they go through to become an officiant. There are also people that specialize in this, like a travel agent or event planner or people that specialize in elopements. I hope to be one of those people someday that knows all of the regulations.

My sister-in-law got married in Italy, and she had to get remarried when she moved back because they didn’t recognize her marriage. I think it just depends. Some websites I saw said that if you get married there, the US recognizes it. If you get married here, they don’t. Also, I think elopements are going to become more popular now that big weddings are a lot more difficult to have. 

I love celebrating and parties. I also feel that a lot of people do it because they feel pressured by their families, or their mom’s paying for it, or they want to do it to be up and up with their friends or social media or whatever reason. But that loses the meaning behind why we are doing it. I wanted to do it for the right reasons. We just always do things because we feel passionate about them and because it aligns with our values.

Eloping in Banff: Closing Remarks

Katie: Well, that was a nice way to wrap it up. Terrie, if you want to share how people can find you online, you can now, or maybe they have questions about eloping in Banff they want to ask you.

Terrie: I love talking about eloping in Banff if you couldn’t tell, so, please, if anybody wants to email me or reach out in any way, I have my portfolio and contact information online at terriealfieri.com. I love photographing elopements and traveling. So, if anyone’s looking for a resource or a photographer or just a friend, I’d love to be involved in any way. 

Katie: I think this is going to be helpful to a lot of people who are considering eloping in Banff. Thanks for sharing all the good and the bad and the confusing and the beautiful. It was nice.

Thank you so much for listening, and as always, you can visit runawaytogether.co/resources for the archives of all of the previous podcast episodes. If you want to say hi on Instagram, I’m also on there @runawaytogether.co. Feel free to reach out with any questions. See you next time!

WORK WITH ME

Katie photographs elopements and intimate weddings. She is located in Los Angeles and is available for travel worldwide.