I have seen it snow every month of the year in the Canadian Rockies. Every month :) I once photographed a wedding in a blizzard in August and while that is not at all typical it can happen.
The weather is totally unpredictable in the mountains and there is no such thing as a "typical" weather pattern every year. It varies a LOT from year to year. While it only happened once in 15 years I have witnessed it rain in February and snow in August both of which are not typically what we see.
Every day I get questions about the weather with regards to planning a wedding and they are truly impossible to answer. But since the questions persist I am going to make a foolish attempt to give some general direction as to our wildly unpredictable weather in the mountains. :)
But instead of "normally" or "typically" I'm going to use the words "often" and "sometimes" because to be honest you simply can't predict the weather in the mountains.
If you plan to get married in the mountains then you need to be up for the adventure and come prepared for whatever your day may bring. Whatever the weather... weddings in the mountains are sure to be gorgeous!
January is a winter wonderland. Winter at it's finest can be found at Emerald Lake & Lake Louise. Banff and Canmore are also very much winter but tend to have less snow than if you travel further West. After the busyness of the holidays is over you'll find January to be gloriously peaceful and beautiful for those who love winter. With lots of options like horse drawn sleigh rides, hikes to frozen waterfalls and dog sledding January is a beautiful way to start the year in the mountains for those who love all things winter. I love the cozy and romantic feeling of winter weddings.
February is impossible to predict. We sometimes get a cold month that preserves our snow or it warms up with blue skies and we lose some of the heavy snow from our trees. Definitely winter still.
March either brings with it a bunch of snow for spring skiing or it lessens it's winter hold enough for an outdoor winter ceremony. It varies a LOT every year.
The photo above and the photo below were taken within days of each other. The snowy winter wonderland was at Emerald Lake at the very end of March which tends to keep it's winter magic longer. The photo below was taken in Canmore which felt and looked very much like spring at the beginning of April. Location matters in terms of weather. We can have an entirely different day just an hour drive away.
April is considered a transition month where it's not quite winter and not quite spring. The lakes are only just starting to thaw. April is a wildcard, you might get snow or you might get spring. The joys of April is that is typically beautifully quiet and you can get great deals on accommodation since it's considered shoulder season.
May is starting to feel like spring. The lakes are too thin to stand on and you'll get some beautiful sunny days. Typically the lakes don't start to truly thaw until sometime between the 3rd week of May through to the first weeks of June depending on their location. If you want to be out on a canoe don't expect to do so until the end of May or even the beginning of June at Lake Louise. Emerald Lake often has the goal of putting out the canoes over the May Long Week-end but it's up to Mother Nature as to when that actually happens.
Lake Louise is one of the last lakes to thaw. It very often doesn't thaw until June. This mid-May wedding meant we got to have snow and some of the gem coloured water peeking through.
June is often called "June Monsoon" because of it's reputation for rain but that varies every year and some years it's one of the most beautiful months because of the warm sunny days, the prolific wildlife sightings and it's still a tiny bit ahead of the crush of tourists due to arrive in July so you can enjoy things being a little less crowded. June is often too early to do any hikes with elevation due to lingering snow but the canoes are out. Some big dates happen in June like the opening of the roads to Moraine Lake and Takkakaw Falls.
July & August are the BUSIEST months in the mountains by far. Thousands of tourists travel to take advantage of the incredible hiking, canoeing and camping opportunities. There is so much to do with all access roads being open. Summer is brief and stunning in the mountains. You'll find the highest rates for hotels and the biggest crowds and tour buses but if you can get up early or linger over our gorgeous long summer nights you'll be able to find quiet moments to yourself with some effort. Worth it! Bring umbrellas just in case and always dress in layers as the mountain weather changes often.
A fast moving rainstorm moved in just before the ceremony so this couple quickly moved to their indoor back up location and then after the ceremony it wasn't long before the storm moved through and we were given a gorgeous afternoon for photos in the mountains.
Hiking trails are in great shape, canoeing and camping are at their finest. Long summer evenings are lovely. Locals often refer to August as "Angry August" due to the INSANE amount of crowds of tour buses, RVs and tourists but it's easy to understand why. Outdoor ceremonies often go off without a hitch but bring umbrellas because rain or snow can be expected in every month of the year here. I have photographed a ceremony in August with a surprise snow blizzard.
If you have your heart set on an outdoor ceremony then make sure you bring enough umbrellas to cover all of your guests. NO venue has enough umbrellas to cover your guests. It's your responsibility to bring umbrellas if needed.
September is considered our fall here. We don't get the big showy reds and oranges seen elsewhere but getting to see the larch trees turn their golden yellow is a sight to see. September used to quieten down after kids returned to school but tourists have recently figured out it's a beautiful month and less busy than July & August so it's gotten much busier than it was in the past. September is a favourite month for many. In recent years we've had snow in early September earning it the affectionate name "Snowtember" for it's brief appearance.
October brings with it cooler winds and snow in the mountain peaks. Canadian Thanksgiving is an important date to note because MANY attractions close after Canadian Thanksgiving. The road to Moraine Lake and Takkakaw falls closes and the canoes are typically tucked away for their winter hiberation. Hiking is often put to rest due to snow at higher elevations. October also brings with it a glorious return to quiet so you'll get a peaceful experience. Layer up for warmth.
November is considered a transition month like April. It's not quite winter yet but you'll see snow in the mountains and perhaps lower. It's beautifully quiet and you'll find great deals on accommodation. But also note that many places choose to close for November to do renovations or to give their staff a break. There is a magical time in November that I love when the lakes have not yet frozen but there is snow all around the lakeshore. It doesn't always happen that way but when it does it is beautiful. The lakes freeze in November. The lakes often freeze at the end of November but as I type this in the first week of November Lake Louise has already frozen so it varies a LOT from year to year.
This couple planned for a November winter wedding but were given a stunning warm day instead.
The day before this November wedding we had green grass on the ground. The couple was thrilled with the winter wedding that showed up for their big day.
December is a magical month in the mountains. It varies greatly every year so it's totally unpredictable. Some Decembers start off with a bang and we are suddenly transformed into a winter wonderland and other years we don't get the really big snowfalls until just before Christmas. Christmas here is magical. You'll find the week in-between Christmas and New Years to be busy for good reason as it's a really special place to spend the holidays. Keep in mind that the sun sets early in the winter months. In December it can set around 4:30pm but I find the sun dips behind the mountains MUCH earlier so you'll want to plan your outdoor ceremony and outdoor portraits for before 3pm for best results.
Here are some more of my Winter Wedding Tips for you.
IMPORTANT DATES TO CONSIDER
CANOE/If it's important to you to be able to canoe and see the lakes thawed then you'll want to consider the end of May/beginning of June. Emerald Lake often thaws around May Long Week-end (the 3rd week of May) to the last week of May. Lake Louise thaws later sometime in early June.
MORAINE LAKE/If Moraine Lake is on your list to visit then you'll need to check on when the road to access Moraine Lake opens and closes. It changes every year AND can change based on snow fall and avalanche conditions. Depending on the conditions, the road opens sometime between the third week of May and the first week of June and closes in October after the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend (the second Monday in October). You can visit this Parks Canada page for updates on the Moraine Lake closure.