Summer might be traditional wedding season, but there’s a real romance about tying the knot once the nights draw in, says Natasha Radmehr
A few years ago, I went to my very first off-season wedding. A chic faux-fur wrap hugged the bride’s shoulders, and the venue, bathed in candlelight, felt intimate and warm. It had a totally different mood to that of a summertime soiree – more sophisticated, somehow – and it completely won me over to the romance of a winter celebration.
Getting married at this time of year has many benefits – not least of which is financial: it can very often be a more budget-friendly option, with many places offering discounted winter packages. And then there are the themes that just feel so right in winter, whether you love rich, glamorous palettes or the crispness of a snow-white wonderland. Fancy sprinkling an extra dose of joy on your festive season? Here are ten venues that do winter weddings with style.
Maryculter House Hotel, Aberdeenshire
Nothing warms the soul quite like a hot toddy on a crisp winter’s day, and this Aberdeenshire venue is famous for its special blend. “Our Maryculter hot toddies are a firm favourite, with many happy couples opting for this over the traditional glass of fizz on arrival,” says wedding co-ordinator Jocelyn Reid. Of course, Maryculter is renowned for far more than dreamy drams. A characterful mansion on the banks of the River Dee, it can trace its origins to the 13th century and has been welcoming guests for hundreds of years. “The roaring log fires create a warm and cosy atmosphere, and everyone who visits loves to hear the history of the hotel and see its period features,” adds Jocelyn.
Most weddings take place in the outdoor courtyard space (capacity 120 guests) or Templar suite (capacity 160 during the day; 200 at night), which can be dressed in rich colours and lit with storm lanterns and flickering candles. It’s so enchanting at this time of year that the venue has even created a Twixmas wedding package for celebrations taking place between Christmas and Hogmanay.
The Merchants’ Hall, Edinburgh
“One of my favourite Merchants’ Hall weddings was held in winter,” reveals Erin Gardiner, the Edinburgh venue’s events and marketing co-ordinator. “The couple lit 150 candles, brought lots of pine cones and served hot Pimm’s, and the place just looked so beautiful – the photographs were breathtaking.” In all honesty, it doesn’t take much to capture a spectacular photo at this historic venue – its main function space, the Hall (capacity 150 guests), has a magnificent domed ceiling, slender pillars and ornate plasterwork friezes, so it’s a vision even without adding any bells and whistles.
“Our Court Room, where drinks receptions take place, is delightfully cosy,” adds Erin. “It has a fireplace, crimson walls and mahogany panelling, so it feels very festive.” And because the venue is right in the heart of the city centre, you have Princes Street Gardens and the Christmas market on your doorstep for even more photo ops.
Ardoe House Hotel & Spa, Aberdeen
A sweeping driveway sets the tone for this baronial mansion, the design of which was partly inspired by Balmoral Castle (yup, it even has turrets!). One of Aberdeen’s most luxurious venues, Ardoe blends 19th-century period features – wood carvings, mosaic floors and stained-glass windows – with modern facilities, and it’s looking spectacular following a recent refurbishment. As soon as you step inside, you’re cocooned in warmth as the comforting aroma of a log fire filters through the reception.
There are six function spaces to choose from, all the way from the Whisky Bar (capacity 12) for the intimacy of a wee winter wedding, to a rip-roaring ceilidh in the Ballroom Suite, which has space for up to 500 evening guests. “Lots of our couples get married outside, but if the weather isn’t as hoped for, we can quickly set up the Drawing Room (capacity 70) so they’ve got a back-up place inside,” says sales manager Lynnel Farrow. This regal space has doors leading to the Ogston Suite (capacity 120 during the day; 180 at night), allowing a seamless transition from the ceremony to the reception.
Skeabost, Isle of Skye
“If it snows in Skye at this time of year, which is highly likely, this place turns into a winter wonderland,” smiles Oskar Gilchrist-Grodnicki, group wedding sales manager for Sonas Hospitality, which counts Skeabost – near Skye’s capital, Portree – among its gorgeous venues. But even if the grounds aren’t blanketed in snow, Skeabost is exactly the kind of snug spot you’d want for a winter celebration.
The former Victorian hunting lodge is blessed with period details throughout, from the imposing staircase and wood panelling to the stained-glass windows and feature fireplaces. You can hire it exclusively (there’s room for 80 day-guests and 120 in the evening, plus plenty of outdoor space for a marquee or tipi) and newlyweds often remark that it feels like hosting a grand but homely house party. Even if the weather’s chilly, you should brave the elements for photos outside: Skeabost sits on the edge of Loch Snizort by a pier, and the backdrop is a sight to behold.
The Cow Shed Crail, Fife
If you’re seeking a rustic barn venue, The Cow Shed Crail near St Andrews is likely on your radar already; it’s one of Scotland’s most stylish spots for a laid-back, blank-canvas celebration. Its proximity to the sea could fool you into thinking this is more of a summertime setting, but it is truly a year-round venue with seriously cosy vibes in the colder months.
“Winter weddings are magical at The Cow Shed,” beams the venue’s Jo Trust. “Candles and fairylights make the interiors twinkle, and the fire in the Roundal is the perfect backdrop for the ceremony.” This circular space is all exposed beams and earthy stone walls with neat stacks of logs and soft throws. It can seat 100 for the vows or be used as a chill-out area if you’d prefer to marry in the barn (capacity 150), which basks in a golden glow when the winter sun sets. Cow Shed couples tend to get creative –festive celebrations here have featured wintry scented candles and hot-chocolate stations.
Cameron House, Loch Lomond
Surrounded by heathery glens and snow-capped hills overlooking Loch Lomond, Cameron House is the setting for you if your Pinterest boards are all about the luxe look. All of its wedding spaces offer refined glamour: the Loch Lomond Suite (capacity 400 guests) has a private entrance and floor-to-ceiling windows framing the views to the water; the recently refurbished Loch Fyne Suite (capacity 200) ; and the Loch Katrine Suite (capacity 100) is an elegant room for a more intimate do.
“During the winter season, brides have the opportunity to decorate these spaces with extra sparkle – it is a totally magical time,” says wedding and special events executive Laura McAulay. Expect a seasonal menu that celebrates Scotland’s larder, with the option to include a personal chef experience as part of your drinks reception. “Your guests will be wowed as our talented cooks whip up festive culinary masterpieces in front of their eyes,” adds Laura.
Cornhill Castle, South Lanarkshire
“Is there anything more magical than a castle in winter?” wonders Susan Spence, group wedding and events manager at this Biggar beauty. Built in the French Renaissance chateau style in 1851, Cornhill Castle is the place to wed if your aesthetic is less holly jolly, more chic winter wonderland.
The Grand Ballroom has a classic palette that works with virtually any theme, but Susan has some tips for couples who want to mirror the venue’s own style. “We find that candelabras create a beautiful soft glow in the room, which we love. Adding some sprigs of eucalyptus to centrepieces and chair backs also looks romantic and pretty festive.”
Consider a colour scheme of icy silver and powder blue; this palette is found in the castle’s three-floor Balmoral honeymoon suite, which is hidden away in one of the turrets. Cute fact: Cornhill couples are encouraged to pick an empty wine bottle, write a love letter, roll it up and place it in the bottle and then add it to the wall. “It’s a unique feature of our venue,” smiles Susan.
Balmule House, Dunfermline
Balmule House, just to the north of Dunfermline, is the wedding venue equivalent of your beautiful pal who looks great without makeup. “It has so many incredible features, from a 14-foot-high fireplace to a statement chandelier fashioned from antlers, that people really don’t have to spend a fortune on decor for it to look good,” says the venue’s Franc Jeffrey.
The 500-year-old boutique venue is styled impeccably but has a chilled-out vibe – winter brides have even been known to head out into the grounds for a snowball fight. “We have 30 acres of grounds and there are so many lovely spots for photos,” adds Franc. “There’s a waterfall and Highland cows, and out to the west of the house there are views to Loch Fitty.”
The house, which can be hired exclusively, has space for 50 day-guests and an additional 70 in the evening, and Franc is keen to stress that every wedding gets the bespoke treatment. If you want mulled wine rather than a glass of fizz for your drinks reception, or you fancy serving guests Christmas dinner instead of a bland chicken fillet, all you have to do is ask.
Bowfield Hotel & Country Club, Renfrewshire
An inviting log fire welcomes guests into this charming countryside venue, just a 20-minute drive from Glasgow. Marry here and you get to take over an exclusive section of the Bowfield (capacity 80 for daytime guests and 120 in the evening), which formerly served as a stable block and has the exposed brickwork and high ceiling beams to show for it. “The timber beams are beautifully decorated with twinkling lights, and the reception room looks stunning with whimsical floral arrangements and simple, rustic decor choices such as hessian ribbon and lace chair backs,” says Susan Spence, group wedding and events manager.
A neutral palette means you can go for any colour scheme you like, whether that’s forest green with accents of gold, or a seasonal shot of burgundy. You can easily make a weekend of the celebrations too: cosy up by the fire in the Stables bar the night before, then head to the heated outdoor hydrotherapy pool the day after for a wedding debrief overlooking the frost-dusted hills.
The National Piping Centre, Glasgow
A ceilidh is an essential ingredient for any wedding taking place at this time of year – and where better to hold it than in this unique venue in the heart of Glasgow? Each wedding at the National Piping Centre begins in style with a world-class piper and a red-carpet arrival, then culminates in a knees-up in the spacious auditorium (capacity 150 guests for your reception; 120 for a ceremony and sit-down meal).
Because the building was formerly a church, this function space comes alive with vibrant hues on a bright winter’s day. “It has beautiful south-facing stained-glass windows that really bring in different colours when the sun shines through,” says senior manager Emily Nelson. During the festive period, the venue is festooned with holly, berries and miniature Christmas trees, and even the food can tie in with the theme: think homemade lentil soup, a turkey dinner and cranachan in a brandy snap basket. Delish.