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Hilary & Melissa

Hilary & Melissa

Brina Debalinhard Photography Alberta Canada lesbian gay couple elopement wedding Dancing With Her
Tell us a little bit about yourselves?

M: Hilary and I met at university in Alberta, Canada, and have been together for nine years. From the first time we met, we have been pretty much inseparable ever since. After graduating from university, we both ended up working for our alma mater. I am a web developer who works in marketing, and Hilary works in fund development for the Office of Advancement. 

We love traveling. We have been all over Europe, Asia, and North America to twenty-five different countries, and I don’t even know how many cities. We also love to run together. We’ve done many races in the past few years, and training together has always been something we love to do. 

Your proposal didn’t quite go to plan, what happened?

Our proposal story did not go as planned at all! 

We had just returned home from a trip to Florida, and before we left, I ordered Hilary a new phone case because she had broken hers. When we got to the house from the airport, there was a little box on our front porch, and I assumed it was the phone case – well, it turns out it was an engagement ring! So the surprise of it all was ruined!!

We did manage to celebrate in our way and share the news with family and friends, and it was still very special, but totally not what Hilary had planned.

What inspired the vibe of your wedding?

We love the mountains! Living in Alberta, we try to get out to the mountains a few times a year, and it has been a tradition for our anniversary. I have always wanted a fall wedding, but I was a bit fearful since the autumn season in Canada is so short that you never know if you’re going to get snowed in. Once we decided to get married close to our anniversary, we had a good feeling about the fall vibe working out for us in early October. 

We knew pretty early on into our relationship that we were in it for the long haul. We had spent a long time thinking about what our wedding would look like. We are both reserved, introverted people and knew that a big wedding would probably not be very comfortable for us. Though there are many people in our lives who we love, we knew in our hearts that an elopement was what we truly wanted so we could spend this special moment in our lives alone together. 

The most significant stress for us was telling our close family and friends about our plans to elope. Many people felt hurt by not being part of our big day, and we definitely didn’t want anyone to feel that way. 

That being said, we had planned for a large reception this spring to celebrate, but unfortunately, it canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis… but that’s another story!

Talk to us about the wedding day.

Our wedding day – actually the whole weekend – was truly magical. It was the weekend of Canadian Thanksgiving in the Alberta Rocky Mountains. It was rainy and windy, but the autumn dew was so cozy and beautiful. Before our wedding, we spent the day being pampered at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge with a couples spa treatment that included a mineral scrub, steam shower, face masks, and side-by-side massages with soothing essential oils in front of a crackling fireplace.

Our photographer Brina met us early the next morning with our two close friends and witnesses. While getting ready, we snapped a few photos in our hotel cabin and ate a delicious breakfast spread with champagne. 

Our original plan was to have our ceremony outdoors on a little porch overlooking the main lake at Jasper Park Lodge. Unfortunately, it was too rainy for an outdoor ceremony, so we opted to use an empty restaurant in the lodge. Hilary was elated with this because the rustic interior, along with the giant Bison taxidermy head, made her feel like we were having some kind of medieval, Game of Thrones-esque wedding. And honestly, I’m just happy we were able to fulfill her fantasy!

Our ceremony was quick and fun. Our officiant was lovely and prepared such thoughtful words to share with us during the ceremony. We wrote our own vows together, and it was extraordinary to be able to share them intimately in such a private setting. There is something so beautiful about breaking tradition and making your day about you.

After the ceremony, we took photos around Jasper National Park – specifically Pyramid Island. Brina was such a champion, and our photos turned out amazing despite the rain and the cold. 

When we were done with photos, we got to come back to our hotel cabin and have a few drinks before going for a walk around the resort. Eloping is fantastic because you can immediately take off your wedding clothes and enjoy some time in comfy sweatpants, and no one will ever know!

Our wedding day ended with being served a delicious, five-course meal in our room’s comfort while we lounged in plushy robes. 

It was truly a dream come true, and everything we ever wanted for our special day. We enjoyed a couple of days in the mountains after our wedding. We then left for a month-long honeymoon to Southeast Asia the following month, where we visited Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Do you have a stand out vendor?

Brina Debalinhard Photography! Brina did our engagement and wedding photos, and we loved them all so, so much! I have never liked having my picture taken- and neither has my wife- but she made us feel comfortable and look beautiful in the shots- despite our discomfort behind the camera!

Not only is she an incredibly talented photographer, but she is also so kind and pleasant to work with. I can’t wait to have her capture more moments for us in the future. I will cherish her beautiful photos for the rest of my life.

What does marriage mean to you?

M: Marriage, for us, meant being a family. For LGBTQ people, marriage is not a natural right that is universal around the world. I am a dual citizen from Canada and Italy. In Italy, our marriage would not be legal, nor would we ever be allowed to grow our family legally. Being able to be married is something I am so grateful for. Also – I love getting to say “my wife” every single day.

And lastly, advice for other couples planning a wedding?

Don’t give in to external pressure! We told a few close family members and friends about our elopement in advance, and there were some strong feelings for us to change our plans and have a more traditional wedding celebration. I’m so glad we stuck to our guns on eloping because it was exactly what we dreamed of and wanted. You need to do what’s best for you. It’s your day.

Photographer & Videographer Brina Debalinhard Photography

Attire BHLDN
Caterer & Dessert Orso Trattoria
Location Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge
Officiant Laura Klotz

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