From Henry VIII’s former home to a seat of American royalty, here are three castles, complete with sprawling gardens and super-luxe accommodations ideal for hosting your big day.
Castello di Solfagnano, Italy
Photo courtesy of Castello di Solfagnano
This hilltop gem in the Umbrian countryside exudes beauty and warmth, while showcasing diverse location options for nuptial events. Boasting design elements from the medieval, Renaissance and 17th-century periods, the property, which can host up to 800 guests, offers an on-site chapel. Both ceremonies and receptions can occur in the valley-view terrace, central piazza, wine cellar, antique-filled main house, pine tree-lined drive and beautiful walled gardens. Upgrade with helicopter or antique car transfers, and keep guests entertained with weekend fun like truffle hunts, horseback rides, wine tastings, and spa treatments. Couples can bring in the chef of their choice, but the Castello can hook you up with a notable pro who’s worked with the Queen of England, as well as top sommeliers and pastry chefs. Eight airy, comfortable guest rooms are currently available for overnights, with 16 more in the works. The presidential suite opens onto two terraces that frame the spectacular setting (exclusive-use rental starts at about $16,050 a night; plated menus start at about $235 per person).
Thornbury Castle, England
Photo courtesy of Thornbury Castle
Set on the edge of England’s scenic Cotswolds region (about a two-hour drive from London), this castle’s roots go all the way back to the 16th century, when it belonged first to a duke and then, briefly, to the day’s ultimate power couple, King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Now the only Tudor castle in England to operate as a hotel, the 27-guest room Thornbury Castle features details like carved ceilings, antique furnishings and views of lush gardens and the River Severn. Celebrate in the Tudor Hall, Library, Summerhouse or walled Goodly Garden; most locations can accommodate 70 seated guests, up to 120 for a reception or 200 under a marquee tent. The history of the castle will come through with touches, such as having an owl “ring bearer,” and weekend activities like archery, croquet, clay shooting and duck herding. Savor dishes crafted by the award-winning chef and sommelier-paired wines, then retire to your honeymoon chamber in the main castle; the Duke’s Bedchamber was where the King and Queen slept, while the Tower Suite — set at the top of a stone spiral staircase—boasts 24-carat gilding and the largest four-poster bed in the UK (wedding packages start at about $3,700 and include flowers and some decor; location fees start at about $930; buffet menus start at about $190 per person).
Photo courtesy of Thornbury Castle
The Biltmore Estate, United States
Photo courtesy of The Biltmore Company
While we don’t have kings and queens in the U.S., we do have domestic versions of royal families. One such dynasty was helmed by Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose grandson George built his own castle getaway in Asheville, N.C., in 1895. Modeled after a 16th-century French chateau, the Biltmore Estate now features the historic 250-room main house, plus a working winery, gardens and the Inn on Biltmore Estate. Vows can be exchanged almost anywhere on the property, with popular spots ranging from scenic hilltop and lawns to the rustic-chic Antler Hill Barn and the elegant Lioncrest Grand Ballroom. Ceremonies and receptions can include luxe add-ons like carriage rides and fireworks. Wedding weekend activities may include tastings at the winery, river floats, horseback riding or lessons at the on-site Land Rover driving school. All meals are prepared by the Estate’s chefs, who work their magic using farm-fresh ingredients. The Inn’s Cecil Suite, housed in the turret and boasting sweeping Blue Ridge Mountain views, is a wedding- night favorite (wedding packages start at $4,000 and include a cake, four-hour open bar, champagne toast and wedding-night accommodations for the couple, chairs, linens, tableware and more; menus start at $180 per person).
Photo Credit: Mozingo Photography
All three locations require licenses to marry. In North Carolina, couples must apply in person and present proof of age and identity. There is a $60 fee; licenses are valid for 60 days. Italy requires couples present valid passports, birth certificates and, if applicable, a divorce decree or death certificate. All items must be translated and apostillized. Catholics are required to furnish confirmation certificates. A notice of 28 days of intent to marry is required in England. Proof of age, nationality and permanent address are necessary for the application, which costs about $70. A separate passport photo of each is also required.