A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

February 1 | offbeatbride  
Photos by: Pale Green Star
A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)
Ceremony photos by Pale Green Star | Reception photos by friends and family

The Offbeat Bride: Brianne, Librarian

Her offbeat partner: Dale, Teacher

Date and location of wedding: Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba, Canada — February 20, 2016

Our offbeat wedding at a glance:

We had a whirlwind winter elopement at Riding Mountain National Park, followed by a reception a few months later. Manitoba in February isn't when most people would plan an outdoor wedding, but then they wouldn't get to have snow-covered bison as their special guests!

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

It was all planned in a month, so fast decisions were key. We got rings from Etsy (Dale's was from an old viking horde!), and I designed and hand-dyed my cape and dress. We solved the photographer issue by asking our close friend Chad, a filmmaker, and he jumped in enthusiastically.

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

The day of, we drove with our immediate family up to chalets in the park (with an unplanned stop at Tim Hortons, because Canada) to get ready together. The warm (for February) day turned cold and blizzard-y by the time we got to the middle of nowhere, but hearty Manitobans don't let that stop them. Our families were troopers, and went along with the plan to have our ceremony "wherever the bison are." We found 'em (so any large snow-covered rocks in our photos are actually bovine), pulled over, and hiked out to the field.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)
Bison!

After the ceremony and a brief sojourn in a ditch (because what is a winter wedding without tow trucks?), we headed back to the cabins to thaw. My dad cooked up some sirloin outside on the BBQ, and my mom made tasty cakes.

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

Tell us about the ceremony:

We had a great, fun ceremony presided over by my Norwegian brother-in-law in the "bison patch." Dale got frostbite on his ears (when we got our photos back, we spent half the time laughing at the telltale progression of the colour of his ears from red to white).

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

Dale had officiated a couple of friends' weddings recently, and had a good flow for a secular ceremony. We made an outline and our officiant added to it. We liked the idea of a ring warming ceremony since it was so damn cold. In retrospect, we were pretty lucky the rings didn’t fall, because in the foot-deep snow we would have had quite a search!

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

Our reading was from The Little Prince, where the fox explains to the prince what being tamed means: to establish ties, to be unique to each other in all the world. A favourite of both of ours, that was definitely when the tears started.

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian national park elopement (with bison!)

We wrote our vows, too, and they included more references to things from The Little Prince, and Phantom of the Opera, and Propagandhi, and being pooped on by wildlife, as well as promises to each other for our marriage.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

One of the best parts of working on the ceremony was discovering that our Norwegian officiant did not know He-Man, and all laughing hysterically as we tried to teach him the right intonation for "By the power of Greyskull!" Pro tip: EVERYTHING sounds better with a Norwegian accent.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

Tell us about your reception:

We had a reception in October, because we were expecting our child and wanted to give out-of-town family a 2-4-1. Not everyone has the ability to plan a big party while pregnant/with a newborn. But it happened, pretty much 100% due to the awesome efforts of friends and family. We had about 200 guests (we have HUGE extended families) in a community hall. Dale is a strident environmentalist, so planning a party that didn’t feel wasteful, but also felt fun, was our main challenge.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

My aunt donated stone paper (industrial waste repurposed for beautiful, thick paper) that we used to make over 500 feet of leaf garland. We asked everyone to bring their own drinking vessels, and there were some pretty funny ones. A friend owns local brewery PEG Beer Co., so she hooked us up with a keg of their brand new ISA.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

Our tables had painted beach rocks, wildlife fact cards, and some of our favourite photos from the elopement. So everyone could get a photo (and a dance!) with us, we made giant cut-outs of our heads. We did cheese plates, and my mom and I made gourmet Rice Krispie treats (flavours like citrus hops and browned butter) with personalized wax chocolate seals.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

Friends did trivia, and we had a craft table for the introverts. We got another most excellent friend to help do a voiceover for a slideshow of the elopement. Think Henry Rollins doing a nature documentary. With 200 people, there were only two garbage cans of waste at the end, and the bartender was amazed.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

What was your most important lesson learned?

Our elopement (even with questionable legality) was the best choice for us. We were so happy that we did the small and intimate ceremony with family, and were able to still have a larger party without being overly wasteful. People were completely understanding of our different approach, and I think we still managed to include our community and share the love with all the touches at the reception.

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

A frostbitten Canadian park elopement (with bison!)

Vendors

* Ceremony photography: Pale Green Star
* Reception photography: friends and family
* Dress/cape: handmade by House of Kim
* Flowers: Fache Florals
* Pi tie: Spiecher Bow Ties
* Stone Paper: Heart Stone Paper
* Bri’s ring: Swank Metalsmithing
* Dale’s ring: Ancient Adornment
* Chalets: Elkhorn Resort

Gallery

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  1. Thanks! It makes me genuinely happy that other people appreciate the vibe! I remember at the time being bummed that we probably wouldn't have traditional formal wedding photos (because truthfully there was no way either of us could pull it off!), but by the time I saw these I just loved them so much. Who cares if I don't have a beautiful, pensive portrait photo of us at golden hour – goofing around is what we do best!

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