COVID 19: BONNIE BANKS WEDDINGS TAKE HUGE HIT

Boturich CastleBoturich Castle at Balloch on Loch Lomondside. Picture by Laura Peat

The couples rethinking their dream Scottish wedding

By Mary McCool
on the BBC Scotland news website

The loss of one of Loch Lomondside’s “fairy tale” venues has left brides and grooms-to-be grappling with an unlikely question – how can you plan a dream wedding during a pandemic?

Owners of Boturich Castle Venue – a private house on the bank of Loch Lomond – announced permanent closure earlier this week due to “uncertainty” caused by Covid.

Built in 1832, the venue was taken over by Laura Peat and Ruairidh Roome 10 years ago and was on course for its most successful year to date with 53 weddings planned for 2020.

However Ruairidh told BBC Scotland they decided to shut down while they were still in a position to refund their customers.

“We wouldn’t have slept right if people hadn’t got their money back,” he said. “We’ll have to figure out some other way for the house to make money.”

‘We’ll downscale – for now’

Ryan O’Donnell and Scott Kelso from Falkirk had known each other for over a decade before a fix-up brought them together.

They admit tears were shed when Scott proposed during a quiet walk in the park in 2018.

Ryan O'Donnell and Scott Kelso
Ryan (left) and Scott (right) were due to be married in June this year

They planned a lavish £35,000 wedding at Boturich Castle for 220 guests, with 100 booked to stay in nearby accommodation for a weekend of festivities.

The two know they will receive money back for the venue – but are still waiting to hear about refunds for other suppliers who were paid upfront.

“We’ll need to downscale, we don’t really have an option,” said Ryan. “We got in touch with nearby cottages to see if we could have the wedding there but they’re not insured for it.

“We’re a bit apprehensive about paying out another deposit.”

With two attempted stag dos foiled by Covid restrictions, Ryan and Scott are now planning their wedding a second time with a conservative approach.

Ryan said: “We’ve both said to our mums we just need to forget about the castle, there’s nothing else on the market like it.

“We’re discussing booking something for 50 people with an option to increase – then we’re not tied into paying a huge deposit and can make changes as the time gets closer.”

‘We might go to Gretna Green’

Michelle Norman and Robert Nichol from Corby, Northamptonshire, were regular visitors to Loch Lomond before Robert proposed on its banks.

Having booked Boturich Castle for the ceremony this summer, they rescheduled for July 2021 in the hopes of a restriction-free wedding.

Now they say they would rather scrap the idea altogether and begin married life as soon as possible – particularly when weddings of up to 20 guests may be allowed in Scotland after 27 October.

Michelle Norman and Robert Nichol

Michelle and Robert are thinking of changing plans entirely.

“We were devastated to hear news of the closure,” Michelle said. “It was the place we’d dreamed of. We considered a different venue on Loch Lomond but we thought anything else would feel a bit tainted.

“We’re now talking about doing something small with our immediate family – maybe going to Gretna Green.

“A wedding day is lovely but the important part is we want to be married – we’d rather do that sooner rather than later. You just don’t know when things will be back to normal.”

The couple are also concerned about travel-related risks for their wedding guests, including their baby girl Sophia who was born in January.

“When border restrictions first happened we were worried as it wasn’t essential travel,” said Michelle, who is a nurse. “We have a few family members who are vulnerable – the risk of them travelling wouldn’t be fair.

“We’ll get our deposit back from Boturich Castle but it’s crazy to think we what could do with that money having a young baby.”

‘A small ceremony now, a big reception later’

Deborah Gibson and Greg Cranston, who live in Edinburgh, had fallen in love with the idea of Loch Lomond as their picturesque wedding backdrop.

But they knew they would need a safety net with guests flying in from all over the world for their April 2021 ceremony.

“We were fortunate as we had wedding insurance, which was the best £100 I’ve ever spent,” said Deborah.

“I was disappointed when I found out Boturich was closing but it’s the nature of the beast right now.”

Deborah Gibson and Greg Cranston
Deborah and Greg are optimistic about their reception going ahead in a different venue

Primary teacher Deborah takes pride in her organisational skills and immediately began contacting suppliers to move venues when she heard news of the closure.

The couple are now aiming to host their wedding in two parts – a small ceremony before Christmas at their local church followed by the April reception at a venue sourced by a friend who works in the industry.

“She was like our guardian angel swooping in to save us,” said Deborah. “Our wedding won’t be as we envisioned – Boturich Castle is a fairy tale venue and there’s only one Loch Lomond.”

“But we will have the big party – we want to celebrate with all our friends.”

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