At the center of the romance: the lovers. Vying for equal attention these days: the castle.
Castles in the United States and abroad have become popular wedding sites, in part because they show up in living rooms and movie theaters on a regular basis.
Inspired, perhaps, by the fantasy castles in shows like “Game of Thrones,” couples have been planning their weddings in real ones. Highclere Castle, west of London, made famous as the backdrop for the PBS series “Downton Abbey,” is a sought-after site for weddings. Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School, actually Alnwick Castle in northern England, is another favorite.
Castle wedding costs can be very high, but some couples find that for less money than it would cost to wed in Manhattan at, say, the Mandarin Oriental or TriBeCa Loft, they can have a smaller celebration in Ireland, Spain, France or England.
“I think every girl wants the fairy tale, every girl wants the Cinderella story, and what better place to have it than a beautiful castle?” said the distinctly modern Lady Carnarvon, a proprietor of Highclere Castle and the host of numerous weddings over the years. Weddings at Highclere begin at $25,000; the library seats 100 people for dinner, and afternoon tea can be served for 150.
Britain’s exit from the European Union could mean better deals for American couples, as the dollar is much stronger than the pound now and will buy more.
“I believe Brexit will open the gates for an influx of destination weddings into the British Isles because they will be more affordable,” said David Beahm of David Beahm Design in New York. He recently visited what he called “a mind-blowingly authentic” Scottish castle and wedding site, Mount Stuart. “The British will be hungry for business,” Mr. Beahm said.
Ana Christine Turner, 27, a graduate student in architecture, and Jenson Turner, 25, an investor, saw the wedding they were planning in 2014 in Carmel, Calif., grow to 300 guests, so they decided to downsize.
“It was always a dream of mine to get married in Europe,” said Mrs. Turner, who lives with her husband in Incline Village, Nev. They paid $2,800 for the ceremony in Majorca at Son Marroig, once the residence of an archduke. They held their reception for 25 guests at La Residencia Hotel nearby.
The castle rental is the smallest expense of a castle wedding, said Michael Cerbelli of Cerbelli Creative in New York, who has handled many high-end events, including the entertainment for the wedding of Paul McCartney and Heather Mills in 2002 at Castle Leslie in Ireland.
“A normal rental for a castle will be $15,000 to $25,000,” he said. “But it’s not like you’re walking into a catering hall. Is the space level? Will elderly people in wheelchairs be able to navigate? What about dust? And most castles were built as forts. Can you get a bus onto the property? Low ceilings, narrow doorways, is there air-conditioning in the summertime? This is why they hire us.” (Mr. Cerbelli’s rates vary depending on the job.)
Couples also hire wedding planners if they are struggling to find an appropriate, affordable venue, although “affordable” is a matter of perspective.
Ida Rae Zapanta, 36, a restaurant consultant who lives in Manhattan with her Parisian husband, Pierre Bornot, 29, the bar manager at Jolie Cantina in Brooklyn, had been fruitlessly searching the internet for a chateau or castle in France for her wedding on June 18.
Then a friend suggested Château de Môh, standing sentry over the Loire River. The chateau, a castlelike structure three hours from Paris by car, is holding weddings for the first time this summer. It can sleep 70 people in private apartments and in small houses, said Monique Pignet, who owns it with her husband, Didier Pignet.
“Part of the reason we decided on France was that if we had the wedding in New York, it would be more expensive,” Ms. Zapanta said. Their costs for Château de Môh: about $45,000 for 100 guests, with the wedding on the terrace and the reception indoors in what the chateau calls the wine room. For that price, they also housed their families in the eight rooms in the chateau.
Although they both work in the restaurant business, France was out of their milieu. They worked with the chateau manager to find local vendors, and “it wasn’t super easy,” Ms. Zapanta said. The language barrier was a challenge, she said, “and it takes a lot of time management.”
The couple had a civil ceremony at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau on Jan. 14, ensuring that their marriage was legal. The travel aspects of their destination wedding were another issue altogether.
“When my mother, who is in her 70s, first heard where we were getting married, she said, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I have to go to France,’” but later was excited, Ms. Zapanta said. “Even if I had a wedding in New York, my California relatives would have to fly here.” Ms. Zapanta also checked with friends beforehand; most said they would attend.
Natalie Anise, 28, and Andrew Fitzsimons, 36, don’t mind traveling half the world for their wedding in September. Their destination, Larnach Castle in New Zealand, is straight out of “Lord of the Rings.” The region’s sheer cliffs overlook the wild Otago Peninsula.
Ms. Anise is originally from California and Mr. Fitzsimons grew up in New Zealand; they live in Brooklyn. She works as a digital marketer, he as an actor and boxing coach.
“I was afraid people wouldn’t want to travel the distance, but everybody loves the idea,” Ms. Anise said. The couple is renting eight bedrooms for her family; Mr. Fitzsimons’s two sisters, who live in New Zealand, will accommodate his family and parts of hers. Total cost: about $70,000, including $3,000 to reserve the castle. Air fare is extra.
Lorrie Yasso, 59, and Kurt Sutter, 60, chose the Hotel Burg Deutschlandsberg in Deutschlandsberg, Austria, for their wedding in July. Mr. Sutter lives in nearby Graz, Austria; Ms. Yasso, a Delta Air Lines flight attendant, lives in Tampa, Fla. The couple had befriended the owners of the castle, Jasmin and Karl Kollmann. If you have friends who run an Austrian castle and adeptly host weddings, well, why not?
The Kollmanns charge $563 to rent the castle. They also do all the cooking and supply wines and aperitifs, and offer more than two dozen guest rooms from about $70 to $140 a night. Ms. Yasso said the cost of her wedding reception, including aperitifs, drinks, appetizers, dinner, dessert and a midnight snack, will be approximately $125 for each of her 75 guests.
Americans who would like to stay closer to home could consider the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate, in Asheville, N.C., built by George Vanderbilt, a grandson of the industrialist Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Weddings cannot be held in the house, but the estate has nine designated areas for them. A wedding and reception for 100 people would average about $40,000, said LeeAnn Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the estate.
Then there’s Boldt Castle, much closer to home for New Yorkers, on Heart Island, one of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River.
The castle has a poignant history: Its owner, George Boldt, a hotel magnate, so adored his wife, Louise, that he began building the castle in 1900 as a testament to his devotion. But she died before the castle was completed, taking Mr. Boldt’s enthusiasm for the project with her. Seventy years later, the castle made a comeback under the guidance of the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority.
Couples may marry there, but the reception must take place in another location. It is a popular site, attracting about 60 weddings so far for this year’s high season, which runs from the third weekend in June through Labor Day. Couples must pay $200 to reserve it and buy a minimum of 50 entry tickets for their guests, which brings the total to $650, a small price to pay to be married in a castle.