Wedding Photography at Castell Coch: A Venue Near Taff’s Well, South Wales
The large castle doors give a good indication of what’s to come and make for an impressive entrance for the bride and groom. I took this portrait after their wedding on the way out.
The beautiful Castell Coch (meaning ‘Red Castle’) really is like something out of a fairytale. Germanic in appearance and set in a swathe of beech woods, it can be seen in the hillside for miles around. The castle is located just off the A470 north of Cardiff near Taff’s Well, and above the small village of Tongwynlais. It isn’t really a castle at all, but a fine example of 19th Century Gothic Revival architecture. However the site has Norman military origins (see history below).
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The bride’s arrival : Laura is pretty as a picture as she arrives in the car park. Fforest Fawr provides the greenery in the background.
Bride and step-father pose in front of the ‘drawbridge’. The castle makes an imposing backdrop at the beginning of the day.
Castell Coch as a Wedding Venue
Designed to look imposing in silhouette with contrasting ornate Victorian interiors, it presents as a striking and most unusual wedding venue. The main drawback is that it is only suitable for the smaller wedding parties as the maximum amount of seated guests is 26 (30 including the registrars and bride and groom). If you’re having a larger wedding ceremony, then you may have to look elsewhere… Hello Caerphilly Castle!
There is unfortunately no option for a reception or post-wedding ceremony function. However, it is an amazing venue and if it appeals to you, why not have a small ceremony there with close friends and family, moving on to one of the Cardiff area’s many larger wedding venues for your reception, evening meal and entertainment.
A religious touch: The Madonna and child look down upon all that enter Castell Coch. As she entered the building, I asked Laura to turn and went wide to take this photograph.
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I nipped ahead as they enter through the doors of the of the gatehouse. You can see the faux-portcullis hanging above.
This image completes the sequence of the bride’s procession into Castell Coch to be wed. It’s important to try to capture this and I always advise couples’ to take their time to allow for the photography.
This is the sort of shot that your wedding photographer should strive to capture: Julie and Tony arrived together and as they wait to enter the drawing room, I frame them through two sets of doors looking out into the entrance hall.
The Drawing Room
Wedding Ceremonies are held in the cosy octagonal Drawing Room of which there is much to take in. The fireplace and panelled walls are festooned with murals and imagery including scenes from Aesop’s Fables, statues of the Three Fates and Butterflies and Birds seemingly flying up through the apex of the vaulted ceiling. Bench seating is provided in a theatre style with a central aisle. After the wedding ceremony, the couple and guests exit through the Banqueting Hall and into the courtyard for congratulations and photographs.
From the groom’s perspective: Generally, the groom is already waiting in the Drawing Room to be joined by his bride. Jason looks strangely relaxed here. Not many bridegrooms are!
Your Wedding Ceremony at Castell Coch
Below is a sequence of must have wedding ceremony shots. Every moment needs to be carefully captured. Because of the diminutive size of the room and the green/yellow colour of the Drawing Room, photography can be tricky. So the photographer has to be at the top of their game and think on their feet to capture a striking collection of images that fully tell the story of the day:
The entrance of the bride: Laura was walked up the aisle by her step-father.
I love the look that Laura gives the camera here as she approaches her waiting groom.
A loving look between the couple on the bride’s arrival at the ‘altar’ provides an emotive photograph.
A photograph from the back of the Drawing Room: I try to take lots of different angles and variations to give as varied a selection of photographs as possible.
One of the Cardiff registrars gives the first reading. The mural on the wall in the background depicts some of Aesop’s Fables.
Nice and wide, this portrait orientated shot shows off some of the ornate vaulted ceiling and chandelier.
It goes without saying that the rings sequence is one of the most important parts of the day to photograph.
A moment later and the ring’s on her finger: This and the previous photo are largely the same, but demonstrate the different feel that colour gives as opposed to black and white. Most couples that book me as their wedding photographer like both.
This photograph facing the front of the Drawing Room shows the Three Fates looking down on the marriage ceremony.
Again, similar photo but this time thrown wide to show the bigger picture – quite literally!
And sealed with a first kiss. Again it’s good for the couple to take their time here to allow their photographer to take a few shots. They rarely need much encouragement!
Signing the Register – Cardiff Registrar Rules
Every marriage licensing authority have different rules and regulations regarding the signing. Some are happy for photography unhindered, whilst others are more strict. Cardiff, don’t allow the actually signing to be photographed but provide a ‘dummy‘ register for posed shots.
The newly-weds pose with the register. Not the official signing, but the next best thing when photography of the signing isn’t allowed.
Wedding Bookings at Castell Coch
Useful to Know When Booking Your Wedding:
- Weddings are booked up to 13 months in advance.
The custodian can be contacted on 02920 810101 to discuss.
- Bookings cost £695 (Mon-Fri) & £820 (Sat-Sun).
- This includes the entrance fee for up to 28 people (including bride and groom).
- A conditional refundable bond may be charged on booking.
30 minutes is allowed for the ceremony and 30 minutes for photography time in the courtyard.
- Castell Coch is closed throughout January.
- The venue requires proof of Public Liability Insurance on booking.
- The venue takes up to two weddings a day (depending on timings) – presumably you’d only need the one!
Always ensure that a registrar is available on your proposed date before booking Castell Coch as your venue. Contact the Cardiff Register Office to arrange on : 02920 871680.
The staff at Castell Coch are generous with time. On the way out they allow the taking of portraits in the Banquet Hall if required.
The ornate windows embrasures and seats in the Banqueting Hall are ideal for post-ceremony shots such as this.
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Stepping outside into the fresh Welsh woodland air: The light changes again from inside to outside and I ask the couple to pause for a few seconds before exiting the building to enable me to set up the camera for daylight.
Descending down the staircase: Lots of lead in lines in the scene make for another dynamic sequence of images.
Congratulations, Bubbles and Group Shots
One of the most lovely times of the wedding day is when the newly-wedded couple are greeting by their guests wanting to give their congratulations. This is the time that shows the true relationship between the guests as with the selection of photos below.
Castell Coch does not allow confetti but bubbles are a popular alternative. It’s up to the couple and photographer how to use the remaining time at the venue. I tend to photograph congratulations, bubbles (if used) and then finish with the group and couples portraits.
The love between the groom and his brother is very obvious in this image. The wide-angle shows the bride looking on as well as some of the courtyard’s architecture.
An exuberant guest hugs the groom. This seemed to work better in black and white although I’m not quite sure why!
Whereas this definitely worked best in colour. The bride’s sister is all smiles as they hug. A beautifully emotive shot to capture.
The groom with his father… There are many different combinations of shots that couples may ask for. The fantastic courtyard light is perfect for them all.
It’s nice o photograph some individuals too. I spotted Laura standing alone and took advantage of the situation.
The silly shots are often the most memorable. Laura’s step-father gave her a funny kiss. I used the unusual composition to emphasise the silliness!
Now, this wide portrait shows the stairway up to the Banqueting Hall and Drawing Room. You can just see the door to the hall at the top of the stairs.
A waving shot of the whole wedding party taken from Castell Coch’s balustrade.
From the other side and in portrait orientation, this group photograph shows some of the architecture and scale of the building. Happily the scaffolding is now gone.
Confetti is not allowed at Castell Coch, but blowing bubbles has become a popular alternative. The superb directional light highlights the bubbles well and makes for an excellent sequence in the finished album.
Back outside the castle, this time together as husband and wife…
And After Your Wedding?
You and your guests will normally move on to the wedding venue. Castell Coch doesn’t provide catering due to ‘Health and safety reasons…’ but Cardiff provides an enormous amount of choice for your wedding breakfast venue.
If you’ve booked a shorter photography package (up to 2 hours), there is loads of scope for couples portraits in the deep woods of Fforest Fawr and around the back of the castle to fill the time. The following portraits are an example of this…
This is around the side of the venue where the light is generally good. I sometimes ask the couple to dance. Here I caught them mid-dance in a loving embrace.
A natural shot as they were preparing to dance. I exaggerated the amazingly vibrant colours in the edit to give a striking portrait..
Deeper in Fforest Fawr I went wide. The black and white highlights the textures and light well.
This one is of them entering the forest. The light behind them is from the car park outside Castell Coch…
Castell Coch – A Potted History:
C1081 – the Normans built the a castle on the site to protect their new acquisition, the Cardiff and the Taff Gorge route. This was soon abandoned.
Gilbert de Clare (Lord of Glamorgan – also responsible for building Caerphilly Castle) subsequently built a stone fort on the site in around 1267 to control his Welsh lands.
- The castle thought to be destroyed in the Welsh rebellion of 1314.
1760 – Castell Coch was inherited by the 3rd Earl of Bute – John Stuart as part of a marriage settlement.
- In 1848, John Crichton-Stuart the 3rd Marquess of Bute inherited the castle and employed architect William Burges (the ‘eccentric genius’) to reconstruct it to be used as a country residence for the summer.
- Work on the castle was completed in 1891, and apart from planting a vineyard, Crichton-Stuart had little use for it. Wine was made on the site until the First World War.
- In 1950, the 5th Marquess of Bute placed Castell Coch under care of the state (along with Caerphilly Castle) and the conservation is now managed by heritage trust Cadw.
Descending the drawbridge – the splendour of the castle towering above them.
Castell Coch is One of South Wales’ Top Small Wedding Photography Venues.