Castles of the WorldWords by Jennifer Stein
The story is familiar to us all. The beautiful princess falls in love with the handsome prince, their storybook wedding takes place in a charming castle, and they live happily ever after. Many little girls dream of being a princess for a day and envision a fairytale castle wedding. These childhood dreams can come true with a destination wedding in a far away place -- or closer to home than you may think.
Our castle tour begins at Belvoir Castle in the United Kingdom, about 110 miles from London. The setting is simply magical with views of four counties. Belvoir Castle is the residence of a duke and duchess, their five children and two dogs and since it is their home, it is not unusual to have their graces drop by to welcome the bride and groom to offer them their best wishes. Belvoir Castlewas the setting for Nick and Michelle Phillip's romantic wedding. History was all around them. The room that the bridal party dressed in had Queen Victoria's marriage bed in it and a wonderful secret bathroom, described Michelle. She descended a long stone staircase with floral garlands winding down the banisters to the ceremony in the Guard Room filled with 18th century armory. We had a fairytale wedding in a fairytale setting. We couldn't have had a better day. www.belvoircastle.com
Camilla Borell and Fredrik Malmgren from Linkoping, Sweden chose Gamla Slottet Bjarka Saby, a castle built in 1632 for the site of their wedding reception. In keeping with Swedish customs, the ceremony took place in a nearby small church. When they arrived at the castle for their reception they were greeted by their guests who toasted them with champagne. Their traditional three course Swedish dinner lasted from 7 pm to 10:30 pm followed by dancing till the wee hours of the morning and many of their guests stayed overnight in the castle. Camilla reflects, "I wish I could rewind to experience the day once more."
Dating back to the 13th century, Ashford Castle on the West Coast of Ireland was originally built as a monastery. Situated on 350 acres, it offers beautiful backdrops of woodlands, a lake, river, and mountains. Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness (of the famous brewing dynasty) purchased the estate in 1855 as the family's country home. It was purchased and converted into one of the most luxurious castles of the world and has hosted many world leaders and celebrities. Pierce Brosnan chose Ashford Castle for his wedding in 2001. With 83 guest rooms, six staterooms and five suites, Ashford Castle can easily accommodate a larger destination wedding.
No tour of castle wedding venues would be complete without stops in Scotland. We discovered Myres Castle, set on a 44 acre estate in the Kingdom of Fife, about 45 minutes from Edinburgh. Myres Castle is perfect for a small intimate wedding of 6-18 guests and they arrange everything from the flowers to the traditional kilt for the groom. It is also the perfect choice for golf enthusiasts with more than 100 courses within a 1-hour drive. The world famous St. Andrews course is only a 20-minute drive from the castle. www.myres.co.uk
On the east coast of Scotland, Hospitalfield has enjoyed a unique place in Scotland's history for more than 200 years. Hospitalfield derived its name from fact that the present house is on the site of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist. Dramatically remodeled starting near 1850, Hospitalfield hosts a variety of events and is an ideal location for destination weddings. http://www.hospitalfield.org.uk
IlBorgia Castle in the Umbria region of Italy was the magical setting for the wedding of Greg and Kelly Merrill from Seattle Washington. "Nothing prepared us for the moment we turned up the tree lined drive that leads to the majestic IlBorgia Castle. Driving through the renaissance-like gate we viewed the castle and our breath was taken away. Every step we took our eyes widened with disbelief that we were actually present and getting married in such a beautiful place," Kelly describes. After the ceremony Kelly and Greg's guests enjoyed a reception in the woods with a quartet and buffet of appetizers to allow them time with their photographer. The festivities then moved to the castle where the four-hour, 12-course dinner was served in the beautifully decorated courtyard with tables and umbrellas. "There was no need for decorations, Umbria and the castle were our decorations." http://www.il-borgia.it
Europe offers an unlimited array of castle settings, but if traveling across the "pond" is not feasible, there are more options than you might imagine closer to home. Alicia and Ashley Campbell of Washington, D.C. were able to combine the charm of a winery wedding with a castle like setting at Ledson Winery in northern California. The locals refer to the winery as Ledson "castle" because it emerges from the countryside like a gothic blast from the past with its French-Normandy architecture. How did they choose Ledson Winery for their destination wedding? "I feel like it chose us," says Alicia. Ashley asked for Alicia's hand in marriage at the winery exactly one year prior to their wedding day at the winery. "My favorite thing about our wedding was that it was a destination wedding. It allowed us to spend all weekend with our guests." http://www.ledson.com
Cherokee Ranch and Castle in Sedalia, Colorado combines the ambiance of a Scottish castle with a spectacular view of Pikes Peak. Leigh and Keenan Gates exchanged vows at this unique mountain location and couldn't have been more delighted with their choice. Leigh told us, "As soon as we saw the castle, we knew it was the right place for our wedding. The castle allowed us to have a more formal event with a unique twist --having the entire celebration both inside and outside. The castle also allowed our guests to explore a landmark that most native Coloradoans didn't even know was there; we hope that it made the wedding more interesting for them as well. It really was the perfect place for our wedding. It turned out to be pretty magical thanks to the beautiful setting. http://www.cherokeeranch.org
Picture an elegant horse drawn carriage driven by a groomsman in top hat and tails, and a medieval French balcony overlooking a beautifully maintained courtyard. If this is what you envision for your destination wedding, you might want to consider Saint Clements Castle in central Connecticut. An undiscovered treasure, Saint Clements Castle provides a magical setting in an unexpected location.
For the bride and groom who want a more "whimsical" setting, the Sleeping Beauty Castle in Disneyland may be the perfect choice. Cinderella's crystal coach transports the bride to the ceremony and Mickey Mouse has been known to make a guest appearance at the wedding reception. Providing a "fairy God planner," Disney's fairytale wedding services also make the planning a breeze.
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