Royal Dundonald Castle is a popular venue for couples looking for an extra special wedding. Ceremonies have been held in the Great Hall for more than 10 years and enquiries are increasing, due to the romantic, highly individual atmosphere of the Castle and the wonderful service from staff.
We interviewed Visitor Manager and Wedding Co-ordinator, Tricia Bell, and asked her to share her experiences and some special memories.
How long have you been organising weddings at Dundonald Castle?
This is my eighth year helping couples to organise their wedding at the Castle. When I started, it was up to them to supply everything they needed for their big day. We simply provided the venue and helped with organisation and logistics. Over the last 3 years, I’ve taken on a lot more responsibility and have developed different packages. Couples can now do as little, or as much, as they want.
Why is the Castle so popular for ceremonies?
I think it’s because it’s such an intimate venue. It’s a scheduled ancient monument and an integral part of our nation’s heritage. You really get a sense of that. When it’s decorated for weddings, it can send shivers down your spine! Dundonald is also served well by major roads and is easy for most guests to travel to. The people who choose to get married in the Castle are looking for a well-located, small and very individual ceremony, with lots of excellent reception venues nearby.
What sort of feedback do you get from guests?
Guests are surprised at how much we do for them, from the day of our first meeting and as we approach the wedding date. They really have to do very little. I’ll spend about an hour and a half over tea and cakes at an initial discussion and then about 4-5 hours afterwards, making sure we get it just right.
On their wedding day, they have the opportunity to get married in a very special place, but we take care of everything. All our feedback tells us that couples appreciate our personal touch and the friendliness of such a small, local organisation.
What happens if the weather is against you?
There’s no doubt about it, as an ancient monument, Dundonald Castle has its quirks! It can be wet, but we can deal with that. We provide 4×4 transport up the hill for anyone who needs it and umbrellas for anyone who wants to walk. We even have special blankets for older guests if they need one!
Our weddings are very well co-ordinated and there’s nothing that’s too much trouble.
What facilities are there at the Castle?
Our toilets are at the Visitor Centre. We have electricity in the Castle and an excellent sound system, which works amazingly well with the acoustics of our 14th century barrel-vaulted ceiling! We can provide 60 plus chairs and covers, complete with co-ordinating sashes, decorations, red carpets, archways, candles, candelabras, tables…or even a throne! The Great Hall really comes alive with flowers and lighting – it’s just beautiful.
What are your most popular months?
As you would expect, the summer months are very popular. April to September is our busiest time, but there’s no reason why we can’t hold weddings in the winter.
What local companies do you work with?
We work with lots of great local companies – photographers, florists, cake designers and events managers. The wedding industry in Ayrshire is strong and well-established and there are lots of talented people to choose from!
We recently worked with a wonderful florist from Kilmarnock – Karen Lindsay and her company, ‘Flowers by Karen’. Her team was great and she worked wonders with the Great Hall. Jackie from ‘YSL Events’ in Glasgow is amazing, if a couple want a professional wedding planner. We also work with some lovely local ministers, priests, humanist ministers and celebrants. We highly recommend Alan and Michelle Campbell from ‘Barefoot Photography’ in Dundonald for some fantastic shots of your wedding party and Ashley Gwynne of ‘Castle Cakes’ is a very talented cake designer.
These people live locally and are used to the Castle and its logistics, but we work with lots of other talented professionals too.
Where do people go for their reception?
Dundonald Castle is well located for some great venues. It’s literally 5 miles from everywhere! The most popular destinations are Lochgreen House, Piersland House and the Marine Hotel in Troon, but there are so many to choose from.
Can you share some special or funny memories with us?
Every wedding is special! The great thing about the castle is there are very few barriers to what we can do – and are willing to try. People can really let their imaginations run wild!
Our biggest wedding had 120 guests – we organised a marquee outside with video links to the Great Hall. However, my favourite was with just 4 people. The bride and groom and their two daughters. Kirsteen Croll and I were witnesses at the ceremony and it was very special.
American weddings are lovely – we’ve had a Braveheart theme and an Outlander style wedding in Gaelic, complete with symbolic hand-tying and a traditional Scottish quaiche.
We held a wedding for a Royal Marine and an NHS nurse where many of the guests, on both sides, wore their uniforms. We provided a creche for younger children at the Visitor Centre, during a champagne toast. It was so nice to be such a big part of everyone’s day.
We’ve had every kind of wedding, from Roman Catholic and Church of Scotland, to humanist ceremonies and civil partnerships. We welcome absolutely everyone and want to make their day as special as possible – no matter what type of ceremony!
What’s been your most unusual request?
My most unusual wedding was definitely when a couple got married at the same time as their two dogs! That was great. There really are no limits at Dundonald Castle!
Find out more…
If you would like to find out more about Dundonald Castle as a venue for your wedding, please contact Tricia on 01563 851489, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s hosting an open day in May (more details to follow) and is currently running a special offer, with 10% off the cost of your wedding and a gift of some personally inscribed champagne flutes.