Banff Couples Conference History

Building Relationships Since 1968

Couples come to the Banff Couple Conference for many reasons. For some, it is a time of recommitment, for others, a welcome getaway where couples can spend much needed time focusing on each other. The Conference’s facilitated learning environment, and its fun and relaxing format, help couples gain insights into their relationship and eases the flow of communication.

Planning began in 1968 for the first conference that was held in 1969 at the Banff Centre. A small group of people decided to get together and hold a weekend during which an experienced facilitator would act as a resource to help couples enrich their relationships. The United Church was contacted, and with the help of the Pastoral Institute, couples from a variety of churches and other organizations in the city were provided information about the planned weekend. While the conference was initiated with the support of religious organizations, its content was designed to appeal to all couples, regardless of religious affiliation.

The founding group crafted Vision and Mission statements to clarify their intent, and help their successors maintain that original direction.

The VISION of the Banff Couples Conference is: ‘To help enrich the relationships of all couples, thus making life a most joyful experience.’

The MISSION of the Banff Couples Conference is: ‘To achieve that vision of enriching relationships by holding an annual conference focused on being together as a couple and learning about ourselves, our partners and the joys of a growing, caring, productive relationships through all stages of life. The Conference should be affordable, promote friendships with others, be fun, and continue in the retreat setting to minimize outside distractions.’

The first couples’ weekend was held on the weekend of February 28 to March 2, 1969. There were 120 couples in attendance. The resource leader was Dr. Richard Hey, a professor of family studies at the University of Minnesota. As a facilitator, Dr. Hey led the group through exercises to promote conversation and to confront people’s ideas.

One of the couples on the first organizing committee was Dr. Bob and Pat Hatfield. After the first conference Pat said, “We were all so excited about what happened, we were just buzzing. We kept in contact with each other and the committee volunteered en masse for the second year.”

That first conference set the stage for years to come. Over the decades, the successful formula of helping couples enrich already sound relationships has worked very well. Many couples return year after year to renew their commitment to making their relationship the best it can be.

The Banff Couples Conference was named for the location chosen for the original weekend sessions. Over the years, the weekend has been held in Banff, Kananaskis, and Lake Louise. Since the first conference, the group has become independent from any affiliation with the United Church, the Pastoral Institute, or any other body. The Banff Couples Conference Society is a self-sufficient, registered non-profit society entirely run by volunteer couples.

The Banff Couples Conference does not propose to solve marital problems. Rather, it is meant for ‘happily connected couples’ whose relationships are healthy. The focus is always on togetherness and provides an opportunity to explore the couple’s relationship. The sessions are valid for any age group. Every stage of life brings new issues that need to be resolved. Living together is a series of negotiations. The conferences give people both the time and the skills to negotiate the things that matter to them. Couples take home experiences, advice and techniques that last long after the weekend is over.

The facilitators are as diverse as the participants who attend. Overall themes revolve around building a stronger partnership. Themes which have been used include: Ages and Stages in Love Relationships, Intimacy and Romance, Harmony through Communication, Opening the Heart, You, Me and Us, and Celebrate your Relationship.

The Banff Couples Conference has a rich history as a wonderful, helpful experience for couples. There is much to celebrate. The work of the first committee who had the vision, the work of all of the volunteer couples who have supported the weekend sessions over the years, the skill and expertise of the many facilitators who have provided the leadership for the weekend, and the couples who attended the Conferences throughout the past years are all part of what has made the Banff Couples Conference so worthwhile.