My Top 4 Wedding Venues in Vancouver (and Victoria)
I have to admit that when I’m browsing Youtube and Facebook, I find myself drawn to those “Top 5” lists. There’s an appeal to knowing what’s considered to be the best of the best (although I may not necessarily agree with their choices… for example: how can Chrono Trigger NOT be the number one Role Play Video Game of all time?… but I digress).
Having photographed at many different locations and wedding venues, I thought I’d share my favourite locations to photograph.
As a documentary wedding photographer, I’m focused on creating intimate, honest and authentic photographs of people and stories. Most of the time, I’m not concerned with where we are as my focus would be on interactions and the documentary moment. But, over the years of photographing many weddings, I’ve found that the venue can really set the mood for a wedding (and the resulting photographs) and that with some venues I find myself wanting to go back to document more weddings. Hopefully, through some of my observations and example photographs for each venue, you will be able to get a glimpse into what these venues will look like on a wedding day, gather some ideas and perhaps even have your own wedding at one of these venues!
With that said, here are my favourites.
#1 - Brix and Mortar
Located in the heart of Yaletown, this little venue boasts an amazing courtyard lit through a huge skylight and also includes a main dining area. The lighting in the courtyard is amazing, even on an overcast day. The dark wood doors in the courtyard and the light-colored walls with green vines create an interesting contrast and surprisingly good balance with the natural light coming from above. When the light drops low, the interior lights create this glow around the darkened courtyard.
Because Brix and Mortar is close to Yaletown’s Roundhouse, you’ll have access to Yaletown’s stores and streets. The brick walls and quaint Yaletown feeling makes for great backdrops for photographs.
Unique courtyard area, featuring fabulous natural light
Great food and good service (they offer a cocktail hour right after the ceremony)
Mirrors on the walls of the restaurant make for some great opportunities for interesting photographs.
Parking in Yaletown can be challenging and expensive, with street parking limited to a few hours at most. Your best bet will be the parkades located a few blocks away.
Brix and Mortar’s courtyard area can get crowded; well-attended ceremonies mean some guests will have to stand at the back.
Brix and Mortar can accommodate 95 guests for sit down dinners and 120 for stand-up or cocktail receptions.
No bridal room.
Why Brix is a Favourite
I’m a huge fan of that courtyard as you can probably tell. It’s beautiful and the lighting and the walls are bright and soft, meaning people tend to be more evenly lit. In the winter, it’s a bit more challenging as the primary light may come from the interior lighting only (especially with an evening winter wedding) but this can also create opportunity for some unique evening photos. The mix of brick at the entrance and in the dining area combined with the vine-covered walls in the courtyard makes for a rustic-yet-elegant-feeling location.
The dining area is very intimate and casual. It can be tight but friends and family are close by so it’s easy to turn around to say hi. The dance floor (which is actually the main foyer area next to the bar) is small but quaint and still big enough to have a party. Alternatively, dancing could take place in the courtyard as well.
In other words, this beautiful space is well suited to an intimate wedding.
#2 - Westwood Plateau Golf Course
I’ve attended and photographed many weddings at Westwood Plateau—in fact, my own wedding was here a number of years back. Located in the mountains of Coquitlam, Westwood Plateau Golf Course boasts a large hall and a small ceremony room on the upper level and a secondary hall on the lower floor for smaller gatherings. The wooden pillars and wood roof in the main hall give the room its warm, welcoming tone. Westwood also offers a lawn outside in the forested area for a small outdoor ceremony.
Large dining area (main hall)
Balcony and amazing views from the main hall
Flexible setup options, due to size
Windows in all the halls allow light in from outside
The food! (I love the gravlax salmon and the shrimp)
Oh yeah, there’s a fireplace in the main hall!
Lots of parking available
Large banquet-hall feel (this may be a pro for some)
The areas dedicated for ceremonies are usually the outdoor garden or the small ceremony room on the upper level (connected by a bridge to the large main hall). These ceremony locations can be small depending on how many people will be attending your ceremony. Most couples that I photographed that had large ceremony attendance tended to go with a different venue for the ceremony and then have the reception at Westwood Plateau Golf Course.
For posed portraits in the mountain-view areas, you’ll need a golf cart (or be prepared for a long walk). However, Westwood Plateau usually provides a driver and transportation to those areas. Otherwise, there is quick access to the first tee and the forest garden.
Little or no access to public transit. While the Evergreen Line Skytrain extends to Coquitlam, a bus ride is required from the Skytrain to the venue and I do not believe that it is a very frequent bus.
Why Westwood Plateau is a Favourite
While Westwood’s mountain view is stunning, it’s the natural side light, which illuminates the halls, that I love. In combination with the large wooden columns, it creates sense of grandeur and allows for some dynamic photographs. The bridge that connects the smaller upper hall to the large main hall allows opportunities for unusual back-lit or side-lit photographs, thanks to the large window next to it that lets in light. Most guests will hang out on the patio to take in the spectacular views.
Overall, I just like the feel of the place with its wooden pillars and huge dance floor (I love trying to dance! lol). It is spacious and can accommodate moderately large groups quite easily. I’ve seen the main hall have a variety of arrangements from having the wedding party table at the front to having it in the middle and also having it close to the fireplace on the side.
And for me it also holds many memories of friends getting married… as well as tying the knot with my wife there.
#3 - Fairmont Empress Hotel and Hatley Castle (Victoria):
Step into Hatley Castle and you may think you’ve stepped onto a movie set. In fact, you may recognize it from the X-Men movies from the early 2000s (I think it also made an appearance in the Deadpool movie?). A combination of wooden accents and stained glass windows give this venue an elegant, vintage feel.
Victoria’s Fairmont Empress Hotel has welcomed guests since its opening in 1908. Situated in the heart of the city, this famous tourist destination boasts a world-renowned high-tea experience and a variety of shops and areas to explore.
Both venues offer amazing old-feel vibes. Hatley Castle has a castle-like exterior and beautiful wooden interior, while the Empress gleams with elegance and class inside and out.
The Empress Hotel is located in the heart of Victoria’s waterfront area, meaning there’s lots to see and explore in the immediate area.
Hatley Castle is a bit further outside the main city but offers a variety of garden areas to explore.
Victoria has quite a number of beautiful beaches close to the city. Some may be in close proximity on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. Beacon Hill Park is close to the Fairmont Empress Hotel.
If you’re based in Vancouver, it’s a ferry ride away, which adds additional travel cost.
Hatley Castle and Empress Hotel are far away from each other so if you have one of the ceremony and one for the reception, you and your guests will need to find transportation to each. Googlemaps is currently showing approximately 24 minutes drive to get from one location to the other.
The Empress Hotel can be busy during peak-tourist season.
Not all areas of Hatley Castle may be accessible at the time you use it.
Why Hatley Castle and the Empress Hotel are Favourites
Both of these venues are great for that classic, elegant look.
The Empress Hotel is located close to Victoria’s Harbour Waterfront and to the Parliament Buildings. I love the idea of taking couples through that area to interact with the surroundings (especially the market that pops up in the summer) and have people congratulate you on your wedding. Some tourists may even want to take a photo with you!
Hatley Castle’s old interior lends itself to a very classical look that appeals to me on a personal level. Elegant is the word that comes to mind. It boasts a large estate to walk around and a large garden area used for outdoor ceremonies. (Did I mention the wood interior?)
Heritage Hall Vancouver
This Hall is located on the long stretch of Main Street road in Vancouver and sits on a street corner next to a Burgoo restaurant (mmmm….). The hall boasts white walls and columns that echo a bygone era, yet it maintains a modern feel.
A classic venue located in the heart of Vancouver
Beautiful pillars and walls, as well as a decorated ceiling
Close to a variety of shops and restaurants on Main Street
String lights really perk this venue up!
Parking is difficult. You may have to park a couple of blocks away in a nearby neighbourhood or public parking area (please obey posted signs!)
Larger weddings may find themselves crammed into the space depending on how it is utilized. One wedding I photographed there had the ceremony on the right side and the reception pre-setup on the left, which made for a crammed ceremony setup.
Why Heritage Hall is a Favourite
Remember the high school prom scene in Back to the Future, where Marty McFly has to get his Dad to ask his Mom out so that he doesn’t disappear from the timeline? Being at Heritage Hall always reminds me of that (maybe it’s because I attended a 1950’s-themed party at Vancouver Heritage Hall). This venue provides that feel but in an elegant and classical manner and is a nice quaint venue for a small to medium setup. It’s always fun to walk around Main Street right after the ceremony and relax while I, your documentary wedding photographer, follow you around…maybe even to JJ Bean. :)
So these are my Top 4! There are many beautiful and amazing venue locations in Vancouver and Victoria at which I also really enjoy photographing weddings but these particular four have a special place in my heart.