Turn your big day into a weekend-long celebration at an exclusive-use venue

Extending the fun needn’t cost a fortune or be a nightmare to arrange – you just need the right strategy and some insider tips

Achnagairn Castle

Like all newlyweds, you will be the victim of a cruel irony: planning a wedding is a long, arduous task, but the day itself is over in a flash. That’s why booking a venue for several days rather than just one is such a brilliant idea. But if you’ve been stressing about how to keep your guests occupied during that little gap when you’re off being photographed, how will you manage to fill 48 hours? It’s a challenge, but it’s far from being mission impossible.

The argument for a wedding weekend is a blisteringly strong one. “It’s a wonderful way to spread your celebrations out over several days,” says Kate Brewer at MacLeod House & Lodge in Aberdeen­shire. “Friends and family have more time together to share this special occasion and the couple are able to relax and spend quality time with each of their guests.”

At Achnagairn Castle near Inverness, multi-day weddings are pretty much the norm. “We encourage people to take a full weekend or two days midweek,” says owner Gillian Lacey-Solymar. “This philosophy came from the fact that when my husband and I got married, we felt it was such a shame that we hadn’t really been able to see guests who’d come from all over the world.”

Surely more days equals more dollars? Well, your budget might not take as big a hit as you fear. “In winter, our prices are almost half of what they are in summer, and midweek is also much cheaper than weekends,” notes Gillian. “For example, you could hire the whole castle in January next year in midweek, with two nights’ accommodation for 55 people, for £6,240. That works out at £57 a head per night. As many couples ask their guests to contribute to the cost of the accommodation, it could end up being quite reasonable.”

MacLeod House and Lodge

Before signing on the dotted line, find out exactly what your venue can offer for an extended stay. Map it out carefully. Who’s staying at the venue with you? Where will everyone else stay? Which areas (indoor and out) are yours for the duration? Are they varied enough to keep things interesting? Are they so vast that you’ll be overwhelmed decorating the place?

Orchestrating a wedding weekend is a bit like planning a festival – plot a few important ‘acts’ to see and allow the majority of the socialising and revelry to revolve around eating, drinking and dancing. You certainly don’t need to treat it like a summer camp: your guests are not (all) children and don’t need to be occupied every minute of the day and night.

“Activities are not required but lots of guests enjoy interacting and participating,” considers Gillian. “Tours of Loch Ness, whisky-tasting sessions and mini Highland Games are all options here. That said, many people just enjoy a relaxing walk and catching up.” She suggests creating a website to keep guests informed of what’s on offer.

Blairquhan Castle

Try focusing your efforts on a simple timeline, centred around meals. “Many couples welcome guests with a laid-back dinner or drinks on the first night to kick off in style,” says Kate. “After the wedding, a leisurely brunch the next day is a lovely way to share memories before heading home.” Another benefit, of course, is that your reception needn’t come to an abrupt end: “You can party into the early hours,” smiles Gillian. “This is a real advantage over most venues, which often have a midnight or 1am curfew.”

If children are invited to the weekend, you’ll need to think about entertainment – and possibly lay on some extra help. Gillian has a few suggestions: “Some of our couples have arranged bouncy castles, garden games and clowns. We also provide a cinema room and can arrange childminding services.”

With the kids and the grownups happy, and quality time to spend together, you can relax. In fact, you might never want to go home…