Alfresco Ceremony with Stunning Views + Elegant Reception in Banff

Michelle and Nick

Photographed by: ENV PhotographyLocation: Cochrane, Alberta, Canada

After a chance meeting in Las Vegas, Michelle Gowan didn’t think she’d ever see Nick Smith again. They lived across the country from each other and didn’t exchange phone numbers. But a couple weeks later, Michelle got a message on Facebook. Nick found her and would be visiting Toronto, where she was currently living. A long-distance relationship followed, and once Michelle finished her studies, she joined Nick in Edmonton, Alberta. Almost four years into their relationship, the pair decided they were ready to get married. 

At first they planned on hosting their nuptials in the city that brought them together, Las Vegas. However, some important members of the guest list wouldn’t have been able to make it, so the couple decided to hold the celebration at a national park in their home province of Alberta. “Our venue was so beautiful, and I am really glad we got married in the mountains,” the bride affirms.

To take advantage of the location, the vow exchange was held outdoors, in full view of the stunning mountains. In honor of the father of the groom’s culture, the lovebirds took part in a Mangal Sutra – or tying of the knot – ceremony. Nick’s grandmother presented Michelle with a special necklace from the family’s native South Africa, and the groom placed it around the bride’s neck while the officiant spoke about the ritual. “It is meant to signify our connection as husband and wife and is as symbolic in their culture as a wedding ring is in ours,” Michelle explains. Throughout the vow exchange, the clouds grew darker and loomed overheard. Thunder even clapped while the bride and groom made their promises to one another, but rain held off, starting to fall as soon as everyone was inside. 

“I felt the room was very elegant and I didn’t want to take away from its beauty with a lot of color, so I kept it neutral with black and gold,” Michelle says of the reception space. The bridesmaid bouquets, composed of white hydrangeas, added to the design of the head table, while guests sat at round tables decorated with low arrangements of coral and cream florals encircled by floating candles. A small cake for cutting was displayed along with dozens of gourmet cupcakes for revelers to enjoy between dancing. 


Keeping the memory of their day alive, the guestbook hangs in the newlyweds’ living room. One of Michelle’s bridesmaids is a talented artist and painted a tree with enough leaves for everyone to sign. “She lives in Abu Dhabi, so it is a lovely daily reminder of her presence,” muses the bride.

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