Imagine taking wedding photos on the beach, the sound of ocean waves breaking and an endless sky stretching into the horizon
Or imagine serving local, organic tea at your reception alongside honey that was harvested just around the corner. This and more is possible on Vancouver Island, where a committed army of on-island wedding industry professionals is ready to help you plan your West Coast island destination wedding.
“Whether you’re arriving by ferry, plane or Helijet, Vancouver Island is the perfect wedding destination,” says Melissa Latter, sales and catering coordinator at The Parkside Hotel & Spa in Victoria. As a certified consultant with the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada, Latter sees Vancouver Island as the ultimate, versatile wedding destination. “Whether you’re looking for the urban feel of Victoria or the rustic beaches of Tofino, there’s something for everyone,” says Latter. The Parkside Hotel & Spa offers the best of both worlds, situated in downtown Victoria, but with event spaces that take a lead from nature. “From our three-storey glass atrium with koi pond to our Urban Ballroom’s floor-to-ceiling windows to our Rooftop Gardens, many couples are shocked to find these natural elements right downtown.”
Photo courtesy of Erin Wallis Photography
With so many options on Vancouver Island, Cheryl Williams, conference services manager at Oak Bay Beach Hotel, encourages prospective couples not to rush their destination decision. “Take the time to visit the Island in advance to tour your venues of choice,” she says. Learn about the area and the amenities, suggests Williams. “Staying an extra day before or after the wedding—especially at a luxury property like Oak Bay Beach Hotel—leads to a less rushed, more enjoyable time to connect with family and guests.”
But if your schedule simply doesn’t allow for a site visit, Fairmont Empress has royal precedence for hosting formal gatherings organized from afar. For a destination wedding, Allan Nichols, manager of catering sales at Fairmont Empress, recommends making the most of a site visit by lining up as many back-to-back interviews, tastings and tours as possible to maximize efficiency. “We can bring in local decorators, photographers and other vendors during a site visit,” advises Nichols. And if in-person follow-up meetings aren’t possible, Nichols says the team will conduct them via Skype or phone. With a backdrop as stunning as Fairmont Empress, couples have nothing to worry about; every detail and photo will be masterfully designed.
Photo courtesy of Taylor Roades Photography
Regardless of where you live or the number of site visits you plan on making, all industry professionals stress the importance of booking early. With Vancouver Island becoming an increasingly popular wedding destination, large parties should consider making queries 18 months in advance, while something more intimate should be planned with six months notice.
This is where the help of a local coordinator is crucial. Barb Walker, founder and director of Heyday Events in Victoria, not only offers day-of coordinator services but also maintains a curated vendor list featuring a wide variety of local Vancouver Island services and products.
“There are many caterers on the island who partner with local farmers to make their menus as farm-to-table as possible,” says Walker. “We also work with local flower growers, chocolatiers, honey suppliers and breweries,” she says. “These are all fun things to incorporate into your day to give your guests an authentic taste [of Vancouver Island].”
For any destination wedding, you’ll have to consider your guests. A hotel wedding that can accommodate all of your functions under one roof makes the destination easier to manage for your guests; they won’t need to worry about finding a place to stay or navigate a new city. “Hotel Grand Pacific overlooks Victoria’s Inner Harbour and offers two luxurious venues, so couples can host both the ceremony and reception [in a single location],” says Leanne Weflen, marketing coordinator at Hotel Grand Pacific.
No matter where you hold your wedding, Nicole MacKinnon, director of sales and marketing at the Delta Hotels Victoria Ocean Pointe Resort, urges you to keep your wedding authentic. “Make sure your wedding screams, ‘This is us!’” she says. “It will make planning so much more enjoyable for you and the event more memorable for your guests. We can even welcome your four-legged family in [our] pet-friendly environment.”
Photo courtesy of Landon Sveinson Photography
If staying true to you means choosing a more remote and rugged destination, Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet offers a magnificent property nestled between the pristine temperate rainforest and breathtaking ocean. “Our resort is popular among those with a strong connection for the area—like surfers, hikers or kayakers—but also those looking for a romantic and relaxing destination,” says Danielle Stothers, sales and marketing manager at Black Rock Oceanfront Resort. “It’s not too far [from Victoria], but far enough that it feels like a getaway. There’s simply no where else like it in Canada.”
So go ahead, plan a destination wedding. Just keep Vancouver Island’s beaches and top-notch venues in mind.
CREATED BY REAL WEDDINGS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH FAIRMONT EMPRESS, THE PARKSIDE HOTEL & SPA, DELTA HOTELS VICTORIA OCEAN POINTE RESORT, HEYDAY EVENTS, HOTEL GRAND PACIFIC, BLACK ROCK RESORT, AND OAK BAY BEACH HOTEL