A relaxed family wedding at Winton Castle
Fiona Ralph and Craig Shiells from Edinburgh held their relaxed family wedding at Winton Castle earlier this year. The couple celebrated with 70 family and friends and have kindly shared their story with us to bring to life the possibilities of hosting an event at this truly unique Edinburgh venue.
This is their lovely story, generously told by Fiona:
“When thinking about possible ideas for our wedding venue, we kept coming back to the idea of having somewhere that we could escape with our family and friends for a weekend and have the whole place to ourselves.We had seen Winton online and made initial contact to visit the venue. Rae immediately made us feel at home when we visited and as soon as we stepped through the door with the roaring fire and stunning surroundings, we began to get really excited!
“The Castle itself completely took our breath away with its stunning architecture and exquisite gardens. The interior of the Castle was so elegant yet had so much character and historical importance that we just couldn’t see ourselves having our wedding anywhere else!
“The rooms all flow into each other and there were plenty of comfy seats by the fire where people could sit and chat if they wanted a break from dancing. It was lovely to pass by at various points and see people chatting away with other guests who they didn’t know before the wedding. After our wedding we loved hearing that people have stayed in touch and made new friends.”
How did you choose Winton Castle, did you view any other venues?
We viewed four wedding venues, most of which were in East Lothian. We loved one of the other venues but once we viewed Winton, all other options didn’t seem anywhere near as perfect for us!
We loved the fact that we didn’t need a marquee and that we could have our whole reception in the Castle itself. It rained quite a bit on our wedding day but it just didn’t matter! We knew that having chosen Winton, we could take advantage of the stunning gardens if the weather was nice, but if the rain came, it wouldn’t be a problem.
What was the format of your wedding?
We stayed two nights in the Castle which gave us Friday to Sunday so it really felt like a wedding weekend. We arrived on Friday evening and after unpacking and settling into our rooms, we kick off the weekend with some Champagne in the garden with our family and bridal party. Then had a relaxed dinner and a lovely evening looking forward to the wedding the next day.
The wedding ceremony itself took place at Duddingston Kirk, then we travelled back to Winton for the reception. Guests were greeted with drinks and canapes carefully made by Appetite. Andy Lucas played the piano for guests while they chatted at the drinks reception, and we had our photos taken in the gardens. Not even the pouring rain stopped us getting our photos taken outside in the gardens – I don’t think you can really tell from the photos.
After the drinks reception, we were brought through for the speeches which were followed by a three-course wedding breakfast. The level of detail that Winton go to in terms of setting the tables with candelabras, silver cutlery and crystal glassware was so beautiful to see when you walked into the room! The meal was absolutely wonderful and went down a treat with our guests.
After cutting the cake, it was time for the band to start! They were incredible and our guests were raving about them for weeks after the wedding. We had the best time dancing the night away with our family and friends. It was such a joy to see everyone dancing, laughing and enjoying themselves.
How was Winton’s food, drink and hospitality?
Simply outstanding. We heard nothing but compliments about the food provided by Appetite Events and the hospitality of Winton staff. We gave our guests a choice for their meal and the organisation of this was absolutely seamless. Staff knew exactly which meal was going to who and it seemed so effortless.
Winton and Appetite were so flexible and approachable in terms of building our wedding menu. We couldn’t have asked for more than the help and guidance given by Winton and Appetite and their expertise was so valuable. The service of Winton’s staff throughout the evening was wonderful. Staff were even kind enough to go round and ask our older relatives who were sitting chatting by the fire if they could get them a glass of something.
What were your most memorable and romantic moments?
Our guests absolutely loved being at Winton. We received so many compliments on the day from friends and family, and several months later, people are still raving about the venue. It was so lovely to see our friends and family enjoying the day and everyone felt really relaxed in the venue itself.
The most memorable moment was meeting Craig at the altar in the church. It was a really emotional moment for both of us having been together for 10 years, since we were 16. To be surrounded by all our closest family and friends as we tied the knot was really special. We were so happy to have Craig’s grandfather say a few words at the ceremony on behalf of our grandparents, many of whom are no longer with us, and that certainly brought a tear to the eye.
Were there any moments when things didn’t completely go to plan?!
I can honestly say that the staff at Winton are really ready for anything. The first was that the fire alarm went off the night before so two or three fire engines turned up almost immediately. After it was confirmed that there was no fire, encouraged by the fire brigade and my bridesmaids, I ended up in the fire engine with the fireman’s helmet on.
The second funny incident was the extra guests that arrived! On the morning of the wedding, a couple of jackdaws managed to sneak their way into our Bridal Suite to join in with the wedding preparations. Between the extremely professional staff at Winton and one of my bridesmaids, the birds were set free – it’s is one of those brilliant stories we’ll have for years to come!
How would you describe the venue’s ambience?
When we made the initial appointment to view Winton, we knew it was going to be a beautiful venue but one thing that we didn’t expect was that we would feel so instantly at home and relaxed in the Castle. This is one thing that Winton does better than everywhere else – we were truly made to feel like we were at home each time we visited.
We were made to feel so welcome and were truly spoilt by the hospitality of Winton staff the whole time we were there. For such a grand building, Winton is so relaxed and flexible, and has a feeling of warmth and friendliness that made our experience so wonderful
Do you have any ideas or suggestions on how Winton could improve its hospitality?
I genuinely don’t think you could top it. We already knew that the staff at Winton were wonderful but the warmth, friendliness, helpfulness and professionalism of all staff was absolutely outstanding. We couldn’t have been more impressed and are so grateful to all at Winton for everything. In particular, Rae is truly one of a kind and we owe a lot to her.
Photographers: Craig & Eva Sanders
Dress: Suzanne Neville at Rachel Scott Couture
Florist: Whitehouse Flowers