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A GRAND ENTRANCE: ROMANTIC CASTLES & CHATEAUS

Castles and châteaus are so much more than gorgeous works of architecture. They’re shadows of the past—past romances, triumphs and tribulations—and stand as relative time capsules that today’s couples have the privilege of beholding. With Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s royal wedding being viewed by billions of people worldwide, this couldn’t be a better year for revisiting the classic, fairy tale-like romance of castle weddings.

As the country of Beauty and the Beast, France offers an incredible selection of châteaus steeped in history. Located in the Île-de-France region, Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque masterpiece designed by Louis Le Vau during the 17th century and restored by Alfred Sommier after he purchased the property in 1875. The château is characterized by an ovoid-shaped central dome overlooking 1,235 acres of manicured gardens.

Rather than feeling like tourists, brides and grooms can entertain guests as if they’re in their own home, serving drinks in one of the château’s many ceremonial rooms, followed by a lavish dinner and an unforgettable experience.

A little over an hour away, the Château de Chantilly—part of the Domaine de Chantilly property—is a treasured symbol of French culture and heritage. While the original mansion was destroyed during the French Revolution, the entire château was rebuilt during the 1800s by Henri d’Orléans, duc d’Aumale. Henri, the son of the last King of France, was known as the greatest collector of his time and turned the château into a home for his beloved artworks and manuscripts. Today, the property’s art gallery contains France’s second largest collection of antique paintings, rivaled only by the Louvre Museum. Not only do sprawling gardens, mirrors of water and the surrounding Chantilly Forest provide an ethereal ambiance for a destination wedding, but the château’s interiors allow couples and their guests to step into the world of Henri d’Orléans and truly experience the luxury of princely living.

For a taste of authentic British aristocracy, venture to England’s iconic countryside and consider a wedding celebration at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Baroque structures and gilded details grace what was once the home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, as well as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill. Imagine an intimate evening ceremony in the palace Orangery, cocktails in the Great Hall, a reception dinner served on banquet tables in the Long Library and an after party on the water terrace. A marquee can even be set up on the lawn to accommodate a blowout reception of 2,000 guests.

Up north, history lovers can delve deeper into England’s past through Leeds Castle—an incredible monument dating back to the 11th century. The castle, originally used as a Norman stronghold, was once home to countless monarchs including King Edward I, Queen Isabella and King Henry VIII. Beautifully refurbished and preserved rooms are available for ceremonies, champagne receptions, dinners and the quintessentially British tradition of wedding breakfasts with views of the castle moat.

Across the North Channel, in the mystical land of the Cong, Ashford Castle is one of Ireland’s most stunning wedding destinations. Nearly 800 years old and now operating as a five-star hotel, 83 sumptuous rooms and suites are an ideal setup for an exclusive wedding week filled with fine dining, horseback riding, kayaking, zip-lining and spa treatments. Cozy spaces in the castle’s 16th-century underground wine cellars and tunnels are also available for private dinners and wine tastings.

Castles and estates are enough to evoke feelings of tradition and grandeur, but the surrounding area can play into the tone of a wedding as well. In the medieval city of Limerick, Adare Manor is the crown jewel of a charming town teeming with bustling pubs, antique shops and thatched-roof cottages. The 2nd Earl’s decision to build the manor provided work for local villagers during the mid-19th-century potato famine and became, quite literally, a labor of love for all involved. With elegant rooms, suites and cottages available to visitors, Adare Manor still boasts that same aura of liveliness, kinship and hospitality, making it the perfect setting for a modern-day “happily ever after.”

> Written by Lauren Malamala



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