Wedding Photography at Castell Coch Near Cardiff in South Wales
Their happiness is evident as the newly-weds pose with Castell Coch in the background just before their departure.
The large castle doors give a good indication of what’s to come and make an impressive entrance for the bride and groom. I took this portrait after their wedding on the way out.
I have a particular fondness for Castell Coch. Not least because the Welsh heritage organisation, Cadw liked my photography enough to feature it on their site to advertise weddings at the venue.
See how here the photo below was featured here (the top ‘header’ image is mine too!):
Weddings at Castell Coch featuring Guy Milnes Photography.
I have been the photographer for several weddings at Castell Coch to date, and this page features a selection from some of them.
The newly-weds pose in the courtyard: I went wide to show off the neo-Gothic architecture.
I photographed this around the side of the venue where the light is generally good. Sometimes I ask the couple to dance, and here I caught the newlyweds mid-dance in a loving embrace. Their expressions encapsulate all that a wedding day should be about, and your photographer should strive to capture this natural happiness.
The beautiful Castell Coch (meaning ‘Red Castle’) is like something out of a fairy tale. Germanic in appearance and set in a swathe of beech woods, you can see it 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.
What superb timing: Just before Kris and Chell’s departure, I took this portrait of their wedding party as the sun was disappearing around the back of Castell Coch.
It isn’t a castle at all, but a fine example of 19th Century Gothic Revival architecture. However, the site has Norman military origins (see history below).
A Castell Coch marriage ceremony would make for an excellent start to your day before going elsewhere for your wedding reception meal.
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1.5 hours + beautifully edited photos uploaded in a mixture of colour and black and white.
Pricing includes some arrivals shots, the ceremony, congratulations/confetti and posed shots in the courtyard and the forest.
For 2 hours and above, please visit my Wedding Photography Prices page.
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.
As the bride Libby makes her way across the drawbridge, her father takes time to admire his daughter.
Castell Coch as a Wedding Venue
Designed to look imposing in silhouette with contrasting ornate Victorian interiors, it presents as a unique 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!
I took this wide photo of the marriage ceremony: It shows the width of Castell Coch’s Drawing Room to the back, where the couple makes their entrance.
When I took this festive portrait of Sam and Neil with their daughter, it was Christmastime… obviously!
The few minutes before the ceremony is the perfect time for intimate family shots of loved ones interacting. The love between young and old in this portrait is very apparent.
A natural shot as I capture someone else taking the photos – I embrace guest photography, and couple’s daughter adds to this one’s fun.
There is, unfortunately, no option for a reception or post-wedding ceremony function.
However, it is a fantastic venue. 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 gatehouse. You can see the faux-portcullis hanging above.
This image completes the sequence of the bride’s procession into Castell Coch to wed her groom. I need to try to capture this, and I always advise couples’ to take their time to allow for photography.
The sort of shot that your wedding photographer should strive to capture: Julie and Tony arrived together, and as they waited to enter the drawing-room, I frame them through two sets of doors looking out into the entrance hall.
The Drawing Room
Wedding Ceremonies take place in the cosy octagonal Drawing Room of which there is much to take in.
The fireplace and panelled walls are adorned with murals and imagery, including scenes from Aesop’s Fables and the Three Fates statues. Butterflies and Birds seemingly fly up through the apex of the vaulted ceiling.
Socially-distanced, but no less lovely an occasion: This wide overview shot shows the detail around the room’s back.
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, into the courtyard for congratulations and photographs.
From the groom’s perspective: Generally, the groom already waits in the Drawing Room for his bride to join him. 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 composed and captured.
Because of the room’s diminutive size and the green/yellow colour and dim lighting of the Drawing Room, photography can be tricky. So your photographer has to be at the top of their game and think on their feet to capture a striking collection of images that tell the story of the day:
Chell had her wedding under COVID-19 restrictions – hence her masked father escorting her into the Drawing Room!
In similar circumstances, Libby makes her entrance.
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 expressive photograph.
A photograph from the back of the Drawing Room: I try to take lots of different angles and variations to vary the selection of photographs.
One of the Cardiff registrars gives the first reading. The mural on the wall in the background depicts some of Aesop’s Fables.
At Sam and Neil’s wedding, their daughter gave a reading to make the ceremony even more special.
Nice and wide, this portrait orientated shot shows off some of the ornate vaulted ceiling and chandelier.
An old tradition is upheld as the bride’s father gives her away.
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 instead of black and white. Most couples that book me as their wedding photographer like both.
This photograph facing the Drawing Room’s front shows the Three Fates looking down on the marriage ceremony.
I threw this wide to include a masked registrar writing at the side.
The fireplace provided a stunning background for their first kiss.
Signing the Marriage Schedule – Cardiff Registrar Rules
As of May 2021, the signing of the wedding register is no more, to be replaced by the signing of a marriage schedule. The marriage certificate is gone from the ceremony too, as everything has been moved online. I have mixed feelings about these changes.
At Castell Coch, photographers’ were never allowed to photograph the signing (a rule of Cardiff Register Office), instead opting for a ‘dummy’ register for a photo opp. afterwards. This was a major bugbear of mine and I’m not sorry to see the back of this bemusing ritual.
My very first signing of the schedule was of Ashlinn and Chris at Castell Coch, taken just 2 days after the register went online.
With the marriage schedule, there are no data protection issues and therefore no restriction on photography. I’m allowed to photograph discreetly throughout.
I shall miss the presentation of the wedding certificate though. The certificate was something tangible that the couple could take away with them on the day. Many register offices made a show of handing it to the couple, which again, was a lovely wedding photo moment.
The newlyweds pose with the now defunct ‘dummy’ register. Not the official signing, but the next best thing when photography of the signing wasn’t allowed.
Wedding Bookings at Castell Coch
Useful to Know When Booking Your Wedding:
- You can book your wedding up to 13 months in advance.
- You can contact the custodian on 02920 810101 to discuss.
- The venue hire price includes an 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!
The aisle at Castell Coch is only short, so do take your time when walking back down it as husband and wife.
Top Wedding Venue Booking Tip:
Always ensure that a registrar is available on your proposed date before booking Castell Coch as your venue. Do this before looking at booking your ceremony venue to avoid disappointment.
Contact the Cardiff Register Office to arrange on 02920 871680.
I take sequences of photographs at various points throughout the day. Their exit from the Drawing Room is an ideal time to do this…
…and as they walk through the Banqueting Hall
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.
The directional light is impressive in the courtyard and illuminates the couple’s descent down the stone staircase well.
Congratulations, Bubbles and Group Shots
One of the most lovely times of the wedding day is when the newly-wedded couple greet their guests, all wanting to give their congratulations. It’s the time that shows the true relationship between the guests as with the selection of photos below.
A natural loving shot post-ceremony.
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 the congratulations (as everyone is keen to wish the couple well), bubbles (if used) and then finish with the group and couples portraits.
The love between the groom and his brother is undeniable 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: It seemed to work better in black and white although I’m not sure why!
This natural moment worked best in colour. The bride’s sister is all smiles as they hug — a beautifully emotive shot to capture.
Nothing is off-limits as I use the time to capture everything that is going on – including selfie shots.
Libby didn’t throw her bouquet but handed it to a friend, which seemed to concern her boyfriend in the background somewhat.
I try to make the posed group shots fun and end up with a selection of shots that says a lot about those present.
This one was their idea, not mine!
It’s lovely to photograph some individual portraits too. I spotted Laura standing alone and took advantage of the situation.
Castell Coch Wedding FAQs
Q. WHY GET MARRIED AT CASTELL COCH?
A. This is a mock-medieval wedding venue like no other. Exquisitely decorated, the octagonal drawing room will play host to your small wedding day. The circular courtyard has terrific light for photography and your posed group and couples photos. On top of that, it’s situated high up in the magical Fforest Fawr and is just a short journey from Cardiff. To see numerous wedding photos I have taken at the venue, have a look through this page.
Q. HOW LONG BEFORE THE WEDDING CEREMONY CAN WE GAIN ACCESS TO THE ROOM FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
A. Castell Coch is open to the public most days throughout the year and doesn’t close for weddings. This means that you can access the drawing-room early, but will be sharing it with curious tourists until it is closed a few minutes before your ceremony.
Q. IS PHOTOGRAPHY ALLOWED OF OUR MARRIAGE CEREMONY AND VOWS?
A. Yes – the Cardiff registrars are very helpful and welcoming to photographers. They also allow the photographer to move around the room to capture different angles. The only part of the ceremony where photos are not allowed is the register signing. A ‘dummy’ register is set up afterwards for posed photos.
Q. IS CONFETTI ALLOWED AFTERWARDS FOR A NICE PHOTOGRAPHIC SEQUENCE?
A. Unfortunately confetti is not allowed due to the venue being open to the public. However, blowing bubbles has become a popular alternative and is permitted in the courtyard of Castell Coch.
Q. WHAT IS THE LIGHT LIKE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY INSIDE CASTELL COCH?
A. The light in the Drawing Room where wedding ceremonies take place is exceptionally dim. There is some artificial wall light, but this is poor. Your photographer will be tested and will have to use bounced or diffused flash. However, the room is gorgeous, and the lighting should pose no problem for a professional photographer. Have a look at how I dealt with Castell Coch’s lighting on this page.
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 see the door to the hall at the top of the stairs.
The alcoves here provide interest to this otherwise straight group portrait.
A waving shot of the whole wedding party taken from Castell Coch’s balustrade.
Another spot for a shot of the whole wedding party also shows a broader view of Castell Coch.
From the other side and in portrait orientation, this group photograph shows some of the building’s architecture and scale. Happily, the scaffolding is now gone.
Up on the balustrade there is some lovely muted directional light, so I used it to take this portrait of the whole wedding party.
Confetti is not allowed at Castell Coch, but blowing bubbles has become a popular alternative. The great directional light highlights the bubbles well and makes for an excellent sequence in the finished album.
I took this photo shooting upwards from the courtyard. The Christmas decorations added a nice touch.
Black and white gives a timeless quality to wedding portraits.
Back outside the castle, this time together as husband and wife.
Careful now! The gaps in the wood on the drawbridge can be tricky for those wearing heels to negotiate.
There’s no finer place for a group wedding portrait than with Castell Coch’s imposing presence in the background.
And After Your Wedding?
You and your guests will generally move on to the wedding venue. Castell Coch doesn’t provide catering due to ‘Health and Safety reasons…’ but Cardiff delivers 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 photographs are an example of this:
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 the newly wedded couple entering the forest. The light behind the couple is from the car park outside Castell Coch.
Descending the drawbridge – the splendour of the castle towering above them.
And Finally… I’ve no idea who the pointing lady on the right was, but I included her to this portrait for a bit of fun!
Castell Coch is One of South Wales’ Top Small Wedding Photography Venues.