Castle weddings certainly fall into the “extreme wedding venue” category, among the likes of a hot air balloon wedding, safari wedding, or underwater wedding. Why? Castles present several unique challenges for weddings, like less availability, higher prices, and restrictions on party size, decor, and access for setup.
But since nothing says “once upon a time…” like a castle wedding, here’s everything you need to know about planning your dream wedding in a castle.
A castle wedding is perfect for couples seeking a setting with a backstory and dramatic ambiance. “My clients are often looking for a venue with personality and history,” says Alison Semmler of NYC-based Lifestyle Maven Events. “A castle gives them the feel of a European wedding without having to worry about getting on a plane, navigating language barriers, or cutting down guest lists.”
But the big selling point of a castle wedding comes down to one thing: aesthetic. Many couples choose castles because of the grandeur that comes with these massive structures, according to Sojourner Auguste, founder of Erganic Design in New York. “The right castle creates an otherworldly feel, like transporting guests to another country or era. This opens up opportunities for creative design elements to add to the overall experience for guests.”
Castles have always been popular as wedding venues, according to Meena Lee of New York’s 5th Avenue Weddings & Events, but “now more than ever castles have been restored to their original beauty, so there are choices that weren’t always available before.” Travel has also become more affordable, making cross-continental castle weddings more attainable, she adds.
Castles present several unique challenges that must be properly considered to ensure your fairytale wedding has a happy ending. Since historic castles and villas are not very abundant (at least in the U.S.), you’ll have to contend with a higher price tag and less calendar availability. Plan to book your dream castle venue at least 12 months out, since they are seasonal and have limited availability. Furthermore, some historic homes and castles are public property—such as the Belvedere Castle in New York or the Gillette Castle in Connecticut—and often come with a long list of restrictions or exclusive vendors, which may pose a challenge to the planning process.
Another challenge with castles comes with their size. While beautiful, some may not have areas large enough to accommodate your grand wedding. And if there is room, a large castle wedding venue, with its many halls and spaces, requires thoughtful event flow. It’s imperative to consider how guests will move in and around the spaces and grounds. Creating good flow for the wedding ceremony takes time and impeccable attention to detail.
The interiors of castles of historic significance are typically off-limits to guests. If the use of interior space is a priority, find a wedding venue that has fewer restrictions. If a tent wedding doesn’t appeal to you, consider only castle venues that have a ballroom or interior reception space for your big day.
Many castles may be a little dated, given their architectural history. (But this is also the reason why some castles are so gorgeous—they were built during an era of opulence.) Older buildings that have not had any recent updates may have some interior design elements that a couple may choose to cover up. “We completely covered up the carpet of a castle ballroom with a flooring that worked better with the wedding design,” says Auguste. Also, some of the facilities (such as the bathroom and kitchen) may be smaller or unusual in their layout, given they were built long ago.
Any landmark building (or building with historical significance) will likely have restrictions on how and where décor production can occur. The venue may not allow certain components (hanging elements, for example) or may have finite restrictions for access to the venue (e.g. a narrower window of time for production), which may impact the overall design and vision for the wedding. Finding out all restrictions or parameters before booking a venue is imperative so that you can achieve the exact wedding you want.
That said, castles can still be significantly transformed. Trust the experts to create your perfect vision. “We always go to see the spaces for or with our clients to make sure the location is not only everything you’ve dreamed of but also to make sure it’s practical for your needs,” says Lee.
A castle venue that has overnight accommodations for guests is a plus. If they don’t, ask the venue to recommend nearby accommodations that other couples have used for their wedding party and guests.
Here are the best castle wedding venues, as recommended by top wedding planners:
Wave Hill (New York) may not be labeled a castle, but if you’re looking for a space with history, unique decorative details, tall ceilings, and epic views, this venue is for you. Even better, it’s located in New York City, making it very convenient for you and your guests.
Castle Hotel (New York) is an amazing four-star luxury hotel that was built in the late 1800s. It was modeled after Scottish and Welsh castles and is perfect for couples who want the dramatic aesthetic of a historic castle, plus the convenience of a luxury hotel and restaurant.
Whitby Castle (New York) was built in the mid-1800s using stones from a 13th-century English ruin. If you’re looking to get married in front of an epic facade, this location is perfect. Much of the interior has been modernized for contemporary weddings, making the planning process straightforward and accessible for many couples.
Luttrellstown Castle Resort (Ireland) is perfect for your smaller wedding getaway. You and your guests have the whole property to yourselves and can enjoy that famous Irish hospitality.
Burg Hohenzollern (Germany): A prince still lives in the castle, so you must get permission ahead of time, but once you do, the beauty and view from the inside are well worth it.
Ashford Castle (Ireland) is so perfect for any size wedding. The best part is you can rent and stay in the entire castle. Enjoy everything from popcorn in the movie theater to taking a lesson in falconry.
Biltmore Estate (North Carolina) has all the grandeur of any castle abroad with all the modern-day luxuries of today.
Oheka Castle (New York) has been the backdrop for many weddings. This iconic location can be so many different styles for different couples, from a masquerade-themed wedding for 200 to a traditional fairytale-Esque castle wedding for 150 to a multiday Indian wedding celebration for 300.
You’ll likely need to rent restrooms, flooring, tenting, and other comforts and necessities. Likewise, many castle venues do not have on-site catering. And don’t forget to confirm that the electrical needs of a wedding can be met. Couples should keep all of this in mind when working out their wedding budget. Think about whether you have the budget and time to select rentals and caterers.
As with any venue, confirm who is responsible for the setup. In some cases, the venue will set up simple things like chairs for the ceremony and tables and chairs for the dinner reception, but you have to be clear about when this happens. Always verify who is responsible for what, and if you prefer to have your design team handle setting up of all chairs and tables, make sure the venue permits to do so. You’ll also want to find out if there’s a limit to the access given to couples and their vendors for setup.
Always maintain communication with the castle about what is and is not allowed for your event. Proper communication is always essential to a smooth event.
Know that most castles have been restored—and with that comes an extra set of rules that must be followed. There must always be extra care taken when vendors come to set up. “Everyone should be respectful and conscious that sometimes you are celebrating in spaces that are thousands of years old,” says Lee. “We want to maintain them for others to enjoy for a thousand more.”