Fairytale weddings for tourists on rise



photos by fermin desouza/metro toronto


Melville Castle, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, is a popular venue for weddings in Scotland.


Blame it on Madonna. When the Material Girl decided to marry Guy Ritchie at Skibo Castle in the Scottish Highlands, she created what the Scots gleefully call the Madonna Effect — alerting celebrities and lesser mortals to the charms of a wedding in Scotland.

A growing list of stars followed Madonna’s choice of Skibo Castle in Dornoch for her multi-million dollar wedding, including actress Ashley Judd and race car driver Dario Franchitti, and fashion designer Stella McCartney — who created Madonna’s strapless ivory silk dress.

“You can pretty much get married anywhere in Scotland,” says Kristy Innes of VisitScotland, the domestic tourist board. “The registrar is willing to go to the top of the mountain for you.”

About a third of all weddings that took place in Scotland last year were tourist weddings, where neither the bride nor groom were residents. Scotland’s scenery, the romantic settings that make for picture-postcard wedding snapshots, the ability to marry in interesting locations such as real castles and on the water, and the renowned Scottish hospitality are strong attractions.

Melville Castle, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, rates high on a bride’s wish-list for a fairytale wedding (studies show the bride and her mother are the ones who decide the wedding venue). Melville, which opened as a four-star hotel in June 2003, is not really a castle but an 18th-century Scottish estate home built like a castle that was once the lodgings of Mary Queen of Scots’ Italian secretary and close companion David Rizzio.

And the building comes with its own resident ghost, a shrouded and featureless but unmistakably female form first spotted by workmen renovating the Library Bar in the 1990s.

Stories of the apparition haven’t kept wedding planners away and Melville Castle is among some of the most sought-after locations for ceremonies.

Gretna Green, with its romantic history of young runaway brides tying the knot over the anvil at blacksmith’s shops, is still the most popular destination, drawing about 4,000 couples every year.

Dalhousie Castle, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, offers a typical castle wedding. The authentic 13th century former fortress, now a hotel, claims not just an idyllic setting for a wedding but also a unique feature — wedding rings delivered in a velvet pouch by an owl in the charming chapel. The trained owls are part of the castle’s falconry birds of prey.

Further away, about an hour out of Glasgow, is the enchanting Lodge on Loch Lomond, a Scandinavian-style log cabin lodge that has attracted two U.S. presidents (Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton).

Loch Lomond is the second largest loch in Scotland.

Loch Lomond may not be as internationally known as its more famous sibling, Loch Ness, and its resident monster Nessie, but it is the second largest loch in Scotland and has its own place in history as the stomping grounds of Scotland’s Robin Hood, Rob Roy, whose hideout cave is on the loch. Cruise boat operators can turn their vessels into wedding venues for ceremonies in the middle of the loch.

Loch Lomond has another claim. It has been the setting for some popular movies including The Last King Of Scotland and Rob Roy.

The Scottish tourist board says a Scottish castle wedding can make a bride feel like a princess. But if your tastes lean toward the darker side, there’s one place no one has ever picked, for obvious reasons — Edinburgh’s underground city, a series of vaults linked by a maze of tunnels that were lost for 200 years. Local ghost tours companies regularly include these vaults in their programs.

And what could have been one of the most romantic of all venues — the now decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia, tied up at Edinburgh’s historic port of Leith — is out of bounds.

some helpful websites

money talks

  • Be prepared to spend about £14,000 (about $30,000) on a wedding in Scotland — the cost estimated by Scotland’s tourist board for 62 guests, two-thirds of whom typically stay overnight.