Why more and more couples are choosing the Okanagan Valley for their wedding destination
Sixteen steps from the car and she knows. Aislin McIntyre and Steven Laschowski are standing in Lake Country’s Kaloya Park above the sand and the two weeping willow trees, as tall, it seems, as the mountain on the other side of the bay.
The weeping willow trees. What is it about the willow trees?
Aislin already knows. This is it.
She sees it all?—?the rows of white chairs and the faces of her Irish uncles, flush with the Okanagan heat; and then she sees, where the curtains of leaves part, the spot on the sand where they will say their vows. Aislin feels she could get married right now.
Butterflies, cousins of those that danced in her stomach the Sunday morning when he asked, they’re stirring.
Aislin steps toward him. Steven has been standing behind her, beside the bench, watching it all unfold in her eyes.
He grins. “So?”
Aislin’s eyes tear.
He reaches for her hand, for the ring. “Is this it?”
“Yeah. This is it.”
In fact, this is the second time the Edmonton couple has decided that this is the spot where they will marry in August 2015. The first was when they looked at a photograph of Kaloya Park online, taken sometime in summer because the weeping willow leaves were green and draping down to the sand. And it must have been sunset because there was just a whisper of pink in the bay, otherwise a perfect turquoise on the side of the Oyama island where their toes would sink in the white mud.
“The minute I saw that willow tree, that was just it for me,” says Aislin, of her online glimpse of the park. She says they knew it then, as they zoomed in and out of the image on a laptop screen in their Edmonton home, but she wanted to stand there and see it for herself. A few months later, she and her fiancé had the same feeling all over again when they visited the park in person for the first time.
“It’s just beautiful,” says Aislin. “It’s breathtaking.”
Everything and more
The trees, the views, the vineyards, the water, the weather—all reasons more and more brides like Aislin, from Alberta or the Coast, are choosing to have their destination wedding in the Okanagan.
Vernon-based wedding photographer Renée Leveille, who owns Wedded Bliss Photography, says 70 per cent of her brides each summer are from Alberta, and it’s been that way for the last five years.
“A lot of people have really nice memories from trips they’ve taken here before. Maybe they visited as a couple and now they think, ‘Let’s make this place a part of our wedding,’” says Renée.
According to Vital Statistics, in 2011, nearly 1,200 Alberta couples came to BC to get married.
“It’s definitely a trend,” says Renée. Her work made headlines when she captured the engagement photos of ABC’s The Bachelorette stars Jillian Harris and Ed Swiderski at three completely different Valley locations: Gellatly Nut Farm, The Cove Lakeside Resort and a junkyard for cars.
This is one of the draws of saying “I do” here in the Valley: within minutes you can go from a vineyard of Cabernet grapes to barefoot on the boardwalk.
“That’s the beauty of the Okanagan,” says Renée, adding that most brides want the water in the background. “We take it for granted, but to them, it’s a postcard. They’re always saying, ‘You live here?’”
After shooting more than 100 newly engaged and newlywed couples, Renée says those bare, lakeside or hilly backdrops, lit by the sun, narrow the focus for the eye—to the universe, holding a couple up for all to see.
“You see the emotional connection. It draws you to them, it hones in on their relationship and what’s special about them.”