Photo by Jessica Zais.
Meet you by the water
Brides are drawn to the Okanagan because of the water and the views, but there’s another reason why the area is becoming home to more and more destination weddings every year: it’s a pretty convenient location for couples with family spread between the Coast and the Prairies.
“It’s a reasonable place for everyone to come for brides who have family all over Canada,” says Laura Lebbon, a Kelowna wedding planner and owner of English Rose Weddings. The majority of her brides are also Albertans, drawn to this place that promises an outdoor wedding without rain at a vineyard or by the lake.
“I’ve never had a wedding rained off,” says Laura, “And the wine tends to be pretty good.”
For Lisa Radetic and Troy Michaud, who married in June on the rooftop of The Hotel Eldorado, Kelowna ticked all the boxes. Lisa and her fiancé met on Vancouver Island as teenagers, but they now live Fort McMurray, Alberta. They thought about getting married near the ocean, but they didn’t want to risk the rain. Where else could get they celebrate their special day near the water that wouldn’t be too far for the Islanders or the Albertans?
The couple recalled falling in love with Kelowna on a drive through BC a few years back. Lisa says they remembered “the scenery, the weather, the wine. Oh, the wine is so good. And it was such a young, vibrant culture: the organic food, the grassroots feeling; the vineyards owned by regular families; fruit stands everywhere; music by the water.”
The water. What is it about the water?
“We really wanted to be by the water, and there were so many options to do that in Kelowna,” says Lisa.
Kelowna gave them the lake and the sun and a few days with 120 family members and friends from across Western Canada as well as Italy, Germany, Australia and Nova Scotia.
“It’s all about bringing people together. That’s a big part of why the Okanagan was ideal for us. Every single person was coming from out of town and no one has been here, or at least not since childhood.”
To help everyone get a taste of the Kelowna they love, the day before the wedding Lisa and Troy organized a hand-picked tour of their favourite wineries, then headed to Gyro beach for Frisbee, pizza and fruit.
“I wanted them to feel that laid-back vibe,” says Lisa. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about, making your guests happy.”
Aislin feels the same. She wants her Lake Country wedding to be about her 300 guests, some from as far away as Italy and Ireland?. It’s their reunion, their holiday.
“We’re excited about showing my dad’s family from Ireland the beauty in Canada, spending time on the water and at the wineries, and even driving through the mountains to BC. That’s going to be a really lovely part.”
Anywhere an aisle
Okanagan wedding brides can have it all, including the date they want, and a setting that evokes their theme, whether it’s rustic country or Victorian vintage.
Vernon wedding planner Sara Knol, owner of Top Knot Events, says the Okanagan landscape, with its rolling hills, farm fields, golf courses, orchards, vineyards and lakes, gives brides more options to find the perfect fit.
“It’s almost like anything can be a venue here,” says Sara, who is planning weddings to be held in unique places such as Bible camps and a reception at UBC Okanagan.
“It doesn’t matter what your aesthetic is. You can’t dream a wedding we can’t satisfy.”
Plus, says Sara, with so many more locations, brides can get married sooner.
“There (in Alberta), the venues are booked for years in advance. Here, it’s also way more affordable and the vendors will go the extra mile for their business.”
In the end, once all the boxes have been ticked — the date, the lake, the space — it comes down to just knowing — with the body that will stand there in that dress in a few months, and the one that will look back on it in 12 years with goosebumps — that it’s the right place.
Aislin says it’s kind of like finding a home for your wedding.
“There are those traditional places where people get married, like a church where your parents got married, and people have that feeling of, this is where we should get married. We found that feeling in the park.”