When the sun strikes the sand of a West Coast beach, that’s amore.
Valentine’s Day preparations have breathed a hearty romance into a West Coast air that’s already chock-full of enchantment.
“People come to Tofino for all sorts of reasons, but it’s known as one of the best places to kiss in Canada,” said Tourism Tofino chair JJ Belanger. “It’s got that cache to it as a very romantic place and I don’t think Valentine’s Day is exclusive to it; it’s 365 [days a year]…It’s a special place.”
Tofino hosted 305 weddings in 2018, according to B.C.’s marriage statistics, and Rare Earth Weddings and Events is hosting a Tofino Wedding Weekend on Feb. 23 to help couples plan their perfect day in the perfect setting.
“This isn’t your typical bridal show,” reads the event’s description on Tourism Tofino’s website. “Join guided tours, where you will meet Tofino’s talented collective of event planners, wedding photographers, floral designers, cake artists, beauty specialists and more.”
READ MORE: Tofino Wedding Fair returns this weekend
As the general manager of Tofino’s Crystal Cove Beach Resort, Belanger has witnessed many engagements and weddings and recalled playing a uniquely important role in one guest’s proposal about four years ago.
“He said, ‘I need you to stash what looks like a message in a bottle on the rocks down on the beach at 6:30 a.m. because we’re going to go for a sunrise beach walk,’” Belanger said adding he fulfilled his romantic duty and then hid in some nearby bushes to make sure no one else scooped up the bottle before the intended couple showed up.
“They found the bottle. She opened it. She burst into tears and he got down on one knee and proposed,” he said. “That’s what we do for our guests when it comes to proposals, weddings and all that kind of stuff. We make sure they’re special day is spectacular…People come here because they feel it’s a special place. It’s about a oneness with the ocean, the land, the community, everything and it’s become that place where people want to come to say ‘I do.’”
READ MORE: Tofino scores at Business Excellence Awards
Belanger’s own proposal story is set on Cox Bay as he popped the question to his then-girlfriend Laurell during a visit to Tofino in 2004.
“We were staying at Pacific Sands [Resort] and, at sunset, we went down to the beach. I had a bottle of champagne in a carrying case and two glasses and got down on one knee at sunset and proposed to Laurell,” he said. “She said ‘Yes’ and we popped the champagne.”
He said he was living in Vancouver at the time, but had been visiting Tofino annually for roughly 20 years and knew it was the right place to ask the most important question of his life.
“We love it. It’s a magical place to us,” he said adding he’d bought the ring about six months prior in the Caribbean and had held onto it until their Tofino vacation that February.
The couple decided to make Tofino their permanent home seven years ago.
Ucluelet hosted 146 weddings in 2018, including one impromptu celebration where Robin Simcoe and Justin Wagner of Malakwa B.C. were so enamoured with the West Coast’s scenery that they decided to get married at Amphitrite Point during their visit.
“On Saturday, we got rings. On Sunday, we got a dress and flowers. On Monday, as soon as Westland Insurance opened, we got a marriage license and it all came together,” Justin told the Westerly a day after the big event. “The community is fantastic, but also just the whole area is fantastic. There is so much going on at once, yet it is so calm and relaxed and laid back…I can’t really describe the feeling you get out here, but it’s one of a kind.”
Ucluelet photographer Jen McLeod volunteered to take photos of the couple’s big day and recalled being delighted with the opportunity.
McLeod moved to Ucluelet in 2017 and frequently captures couples’ big moments through her business Jen McLeod Photography.
“This is truly a perfect spot for proposals, and for gorgeous weddings. The West Coast is a place of raw beauty. It is wild and untouched in so many ways. It’s a place that can both humble you and can elate you,” she told the Westerly.
“People come here and they’re just struck by the beauty that surrounds them. The places just gives you this incredible feeling of having reached a destination that you didn’t know you were journeying toward. It inspires love and it inspires joy, and I think that’s the way people really want to mark their relationships and their marriages. It’s a perfect start to a beautiful life.”