Inside Calgary’s top 5 wedding venues

After two years of ever-changing health restrictions, Albertans with plans to wed this summer will be able to do so without provincially-enforced gathering limits.

However, as thousands of people prepare to tie the knot at summer ceremonies, thousands of others are just getting started on their wedding planning journey.

For those who haven’t yet chosen a venue, Calgary wedding planner Ashley-Dawn Brochu is giving her picks for the greatest spots the city has to offer.

Brochu is the owner and lead consultant for Fiore Fine Events, which launched in January 2019.

“So we had about one normal season, and then we’ve obviously been trying to work through all of the fun of COVID-19 since then,” she said.

As a professional event planner, Brochu has insider knowledge of the different venues where couples can get married in Calgary and the surrounding area, and chosen the following as her five favourites:

THE GATHERED

The Gathered is a family-run venue just outside of Calgary, but Brochu says it primarily attracts clients from within Calgary and the surrounding areas.

“Such a fantastic venue,” she said. “It’s a completely outdoor property. They’re only available from June to September, just because it’s all outside.”

She says the venue offers one of the only clear tents available within a 20 to 30 minute drive of the city. “And they do all of their catering in house, which is a huge appeal, because then you know that everything is being made right there. It’s hot, it’s fresh, and they have that farm-to-table aspect to them.”

Another feature of the venue is that it’s essentially an all-inclusive space, as it comes with tables, chairs and on-site catering, so all you have to bring is your décor.

“And they’re one of the very, very few venues that they will allow you to bring in your own alcohol with no corkage fee, which is a huge money saver,” she added.

THE LAKE HOUSE

The Lake House is a restaurant in the southeast Calgary community of Bonavista that is perched directly above the lake itself.

“The view is definitely one of a kind in the city,” said Pamela Goldfeldt, marketing manager for Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts, which represents the venue. “It’s really nice to be able to experience that kind of stunning view without having to leave the city limits. You’re 15-20 minutes from downtown.”

“While the Lake House is a restaurant, it is also a very busy and bustling function venue, both for weddings, but also other types of corporate and social events,” she added.

The venue has a rustic interior with features including a grand fireplace, elk-antler chandeliers and a 130 square-foot glass-encased wine cellar – and is available for booking year-round.

“I think what makes the Lake House so well known throughout the city is its culinary program, as well as the wine program at this property,” Goldfeldt said.

“Their food is absolutely phenomenal,” Brochu agreed. “And their staff is great, their communication is really good.”

Brochu says one of the reasons she recommends the venue is that it’s pretty much all-inclusive, and you have the option of having your reception and your ceremony all in the same setting.

The venue can seat up to 180 guests, or 130 if you wish to have both your ceremony and reception there.

“Because the ceremony location is indoors, everything is inside, you’re not at the mercy of the weather, which truthfully, even in the summer here, can be a huge advantage,” Goldfeldt said.

VENUE 308

Venue 308, located in the 300 block of 11th Avenue S.E, bills itself as a unique, versatile and multi-faceted space.

“They have a very diverse space that has got a lot of character, but you can really personalize it,” said Brochu.

“And because they don’t do in-house catering, then you can actually select a catering company that is specifically what you’re looking for, which can be a really nice option, because some clients maybe want a particular catering style, or maybe they want a particular type of cuisine that the catering company specializes in.

“The bar is already built in there, they’ve got tables and chairs that are available for you, but it’s all fully customizable if you want to. So if you’re like ‘we don’t like your tables, we don’t like your chairs,’ and you want to bring in your own, you totally can.

“They have a fantastic team, their staff are wonderful and so easy to work with.”

The venue’s sister space is The Brownstone, located in the 200 block of 10th Avenue S.E.

THE PIONEER

The Pioneer, located in the 100 block of Eighth Avenue S.W., is an event venue that truly sits in the heart of Calgary.

Situated on Calgary’s historic Stephen Avenue, The Pioneer first opened in 2018 but the building it sits in dates back to 1901.

“I would say one thing that really makes us stand out is just the history of the building,” said sales and events coordinator Heather Croke. “All the masonry in our building – the brick, the sandstone – all of that is actually still the original.”

“It’s not just a venue, it’s not just a space, like you’re really stepping foot into Calgary history.”

Brochu says one of the features of the building she likes the most is that there are three floors clients can utilize.

“So you can have your bar on like the upper level, if you want, have the reception on the main level, and then they also have a downstairs.

“Some people have even had their first dance or the actual like dance party downstairs, so it kind of separates everything. And they’re really taking advantage of the different levels.”

The Pioneer also has a sister venue, The Garret, which is located just a few doors down.

“So that gives you some options if you’re wanting to split up where your cocktail hour is happening,” Brochu said.

“Their staff and their team is amazing and communication is really good,” she added. “You can tell that they want to make the day amazing for the couple, for the wedding planner, for everybody involved.”

Another feature the year-round venue offers is complete accessibility.

“Our space is fully accessible. Accessible washrooms, elevator, all of that. We do also have a loading dock in our back alley with a large garage door for unloading. So our space is extremely accessible.”

Croke says while she wouldn’t recommend a guest list any smaller than 50 in the space, they can host upward of 285.

AZURIDGE ESTATE HOTEL

Located just outside of Calgary, Azuridge Estate Hotel is a luxury hotel nestled in the foothills.

“It used to actually be a private residence that, several years ago, was bought out and turned into a company and now it’s this gorgeous wedding venue,” said Brochu.

The venue, which is surrounded by 13 acres of forests, is available for weddings year-round.

“You can either host your reception and your ceremony indoors or, if you get married in the warmer months, you can have the ceremony outside. There’s so many different options with the property,” said Brochu.

The maximum number of guests allowed at the different event spaces at Azuridge varies, but there is an overnight capacity of 56 guests.

“I think what clients are drawn to the most is the privacy and exclusivity that Azuridge Estate can provide,” said wedding director Michaelle LeManne Lamb. “The estate itself is architecturally beautiful and unlike any other venue.”

“Our hands-on approach is also something we are known for,” Lamb added. “Ensuring every client feels incredibly well cared for during and prior to arrival at the estate.”

TIPS FOR CHOSING A VENUE

While it might seem obvious, Brochu suggests couples chat about what they’re hoping to budget for a venue before getting too far into their wedding planning.

She also suggests discussing what time of year you want to get married, as that impacts which venues you will have access to.

“If you’re looking at maybe getting married in January or February, a place like The Gathered wouldn’t be an option. However, a place like the Lake House – budget-wise, that might be a really good option to look at for January or February, because they have different pricing for the low season.”

Brochu says couples should discuss the non-negotiables before picking a venue.

“If you’re like, ‘I’ve always had my heart set on having a summer wedding,’ then you need to work within that.”

MOST IMPORTANTLY: WHY ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?

Brochu’s most important piece of advice is to sit down with your partner and determine what the purpose of the wedding is.

“Yes, I understand, you’re getting married because you want to celebrate your love and you want all of your loved ones to be there, but what is this day to you, actually? What do you want it to be about?

“I find that it helps if you have a better understanding of what your deeper purpose is for the wedding day, and to be able to communicate that with each other. It ends up becoming a really good filter for all of your decisions.”

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