This Couple Crossed an Epic Hike Off Their Bucket List Before Tying the Knot in a Nature-Filled Wedding in Canada
Katie Ernst had recently moved to a new city, when on her third swipe on a new dating app, she landed on Nicholas Frank, an engineer. In April of 2018, two years after their first date at a local restaurant, the couple became engaged—but it didn't happen with a knee drop or a ring. "Wait a second. So, are we engaged?" they asked each other after a lengthy, but fruitful conversation about their future together. The two agreed that they were, in fact, engaged.
Since they both share a great love for the outdoors, Katie and Nicholas chose Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, for their wedding locale; the hiking scene there was actually on both of their bucket lists. But since neither of them had actually been to Banff National Park, they enlisted Julianne Young Weddings to help them navigate all planning points—including choosing a venue. They needed a space that could accommodate 145 guests, felt formal enough for Katie's taste, and offered a terrace for their "killer outdoor ceremony;" they also wanted the venue to speak to their overarching romantic theme (including a candlelit reception). Being so far away, this was not easy, Katie says—and explains that her planning team was essential to both finding Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel, a space that manifested all of their wants and needs (and one she didn't see until five months before the wedding), and managing the finer points of their celebration.
Their elegant event came together better than they could have expected: After front-country camping and hiking the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park, on August 9, 2019, Katie and Nicholas gathered in front of their family and friends to tie the knot—which was, of course, the best part of it all.
A DIY Touch
Katie loves a good DIY project, but with her schedule, taking on one during the wedding-planning process felt overwhelming. So, she outsourced: The invitation suite was designed by one of her friends, Lauren Howerter and printed by Laughing Owl Press. The smoky rose, champagne, slate, and rose quartz on the invitation envelopes offered a nod to the wedding's color palette.
The bride did, however, have a small hand in the save-the-dates. The post card-inspired notes were "filled to all the corners with personal messages, cartoons, and drawings."
The couple's wedding bands were particularly meaningful: Nicholas' once belonged to his late grandfather, while Katie's was her grandmother's (she slipped the traditional gold band over her Montana sapphire engagement ring from Earth's Treasury on the big day). "Our parents and grandparents have wonderful examples of strong marriages," explain the couple. "We wanted to not only honor that example but carry it with us."
A Warm Start to Marriage
Those heirloom wedding bands played a special role before the ceremony began. As guests walked onto the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel's terrace, two of the duo's friends stood at a table where the rings—and portraits of their late grandparents—were stationed; attendees were invited to take the rings into their own hands and give the couple "a silent prayer or intention for us," says the duo.
The Perfect Dress
As Katie stood in this Monique Lhuillier wedding dress for the first time while shopping at La Jeune Mariee, she dropped an earring. She quickly bent down to pick it up—and forgot she was wearing the floor-length silk gown, complete with a sweep train: It was that comfortable. She knew right then and there that she'd found the one. On the big day, she completed her ensemble with custom moonstone earrings by Petra Class Design (they were comprised of rocks that she had been collecting for years), a Pronovias veil (which comically flew away during the ceremony!), and her grandmother's monogrammed handkerchief.
Nicholas wore a black J. Crew suit with a gray vest. His tie was a gift from his bride—she presented it to him on his birthday, the first they'd spend together. In his pocket, he carried two coins from his late grandfather, who was an avid collector.
Shortly before their wedding, Katie broke her ankle as she finished one of her hikes—so she needed a sturdy pair of (low) heels to keep her comfortable. These chunky white leather sandals from Barneys New York did the trick.
An Artful Bouquet
Flower Artistry created the bride's colorful bouquet, which was filled with toffee, cappuccino, and amnesia roses, cafe au lait dahlias, astrantia, ranunculus, and complementary greenery, like ninebark and parvifolia.
As Katie waited for Nicholas at their first look location, Mount Stephen Hall, she felt more nervous than she expected to. "I was gripping my bouquet trying to be the cool, calm, collected bride I had thought I'd be," she reflects. Once she saw Nick, however, everything shifted—she was instantly comforted. The happy couple then shared a private civil ceremony with the city commissioner before moving on to their formal ceremony—and what they call "the best day ever."
A Golden Ceremony
The ceremony space featured a cream aisle runner lined with a wild, overgrown arrangements. The couple met at the altar, which was marked by a custom structure, inspired by a cathedral arch, covered in florals and greenery. The piece framed the the majestic valleys and mountains just beyond the terrace.
Joanna and Nora, Katie's two nieces, were the honorary flower girls. They happily showed off their embroidered white dresses on the aisle—and stole the show with their charm and blown kisses.
Hiking Into Marriage
Katie's father walked her down the aisle to "Canon in D," after their pre-ceremony playlist, featuring "Oh Danny Boy" and "All I Ask of You" was through. During the service, she and Nicholas exchanged vows they had written them together, in a "repeat-after-me" style.
Though there were no quotes or special anecdotes, Hannah, one of the co-officiants, told stories of a backcountry hiking trip that they all had taken together—and connected it beautifully to marriage.
Jazzy Cocktail Hour
After they recessed back up the aisle to "What a Wonderful World," the couple and their guests headed on to cocktail hour. They were met with an open bar and plenty of passed appetizers—plus music by Side One Jazz Trio.
Like something out of an Old-World celebration, the reception was full of romantic details, including tall crystal candelabras, draped with greenery.
Tables of Lush and Love
Each table was topped champagne linens, lush floral centerpieces, and sand-toned pillar candles, strategically placed in groups. Elegant, gold-rimmed dinnerware added a touch of glamour to the tablescapes, as did brushed gold and white-dipped cutlery. On each plate rested a menu by Pink Umbrella Designs, which was personalized with a vellum name wrap.
Music to Match the Scenery
To nod to the ethereal vibe of the mountain location, the couple's first dance was set to the classic, soothing Van Morrison song, "Into the Mystic." "After spending a week in Banff National Park, you sort of feel like you're in another world," Katie reflects.
Later in the evening, as everyone danced, Katie saw a little girl peering into the ballroom. The girl's mother was close behind her, and eventually told Katie that the little one "loves brides." She remembered being that little girl once and gave her a hug—she says this was one of the best moments of the night.
Taste of Nature
The couple served an asymmetrical, tiered lemon cake with raspberry frosting and chocolate cake with salted caramel frosting made by Kake by Darci with white, greenery frosting to their guests.
Katie and Nicholas say that there celebration was perfect to them, despite the stress they felt while planning. "You are bound to get stressed—but don't let it ruin your day," she says. The Franks opted out of a post-wedding honeymoon, since they had spent the week prior hiking.
Photography, Justine Milton
Venue and Catering, Fairmont Banff Springs
Event Planning, Julianne Young Weddings
Flowers, Flower Artistry
Officiant, Robin White
Stationery, The Laughing Owl Press Company; Pink Umbrella Invitations
Calligraphy, Lauren Howerter of LOH Studio
Cake, Kake by Darci
Music, Harp Angel; Ensemble Cascade; Side One Band
Bride's Gown, Monique Lhuillier
Bride's Accessories, Pronovias; Petra Class; Barneys New York
Hair and Makeup, Top Knot Brides
Groom's Suit, J. Crew
Rentals, Modern Luxe Rental
Lighting, Orange Frog Productions
Transportation, Highland Executive Chauffeur
Monogram Design, Acetate la Boite