The Balmoral Hotel
1 Prince’s Street
Edinburgh EH2 2EQ
0131 556 2414
40-260 guest, ceremony and reception
The Balmoral Hotel, with it’s prime Edinburgh city centre location is one of the most famous and grand locations for a wedding celebration in the country. It’s proved a popular choice with it’s top levels of service and ability to adapt to both large and small weddings with a number of public rooms of varying size. I’ve photographed many weddings at the Balmoral and was even asked to photograph their 100 year anniversary in 1992 complete with celebrity guests, owner Rocco Forte and the biggest Champagne fountain built since the 1930′s.
The Balmoral can host both ceremony and reception and has smaller, more intimate public rooms upstairs on the first floor right up to the very grand Sir Walter Scott suite on the ground floor with views to Edinburgh Castle and decorated with classic murals and high ceiling….one of the largest city ballrooms available.
If you’re staying at the Balmoral you have a choice of many rooms and suites (many previously occupied by film stars visiting the city and even one where JK Rowling completed the writing of the Harry Potter series). You can have plenty of room for you and your Bridesmaids to get ready with chilled Champagne and lunch delivered to your room. From there you can make your way to a ceremony in the hotel or at a nearby church and have the red carpet and doormen awaiting your return with glasses of Champagne on silver trays once you step inside.
A big selling point for me is the services of the best MC you are likely to come across; Maurice, who is expert at ensuring you feel at ease and ensure your day runs like clockwork. He can discretely gather guests for photographs, manage movement between rooms, make sure you need for nothing and announce speeches and other key events of the day with a style and class that I’ve not seen elsewhere. He’s a huge bonus to your day and adds the kind of classy management that allows you to get the most from your day without a hint of stress. If you thought that you didn’t need an official Master of Ceremonies, or have been disappointed by the stiffness of MC’s at other venues, this will change your mind and make you see why a good MC is a must for classy occasions.
The wedding ceremonies I’ve photographed at The Balmoral have been limited to smaller parties in one of the first floor public rooms but you can expect to be collected from your suite and escorted on the short trip downstairs to a bright, clean and classic room, that is neutral enough to sow off your colour scheme with any flowers you’ve chosen to decorate with. Views to Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument are standard and whichever room you have chosen for your reception guests are directed there afterwards for the drinks reception.
When it comes to the reception there are again plenty of rooms on offer. What would be considered a large wedding party elsewhere can be accommodated in one of two public rooms that are actually the smaller options at The Balmoral. Accessed through the Palm Court, often to the sound of live harp music, there are two rooms to the rear of the hotel: one ideal for the drinks reception of around 100 guests and the other set for dinner next door.
For the largest of wedding parties up to 240 guests can be catered for in the Sir Walter Scott Suit on the ground floor. Guests are directed to a reception room off the suite for drinks often accompanied by a string quartet. This is a bright room with pillars and views to both Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle where you can mingle with your guests before the grandeur of the Sir Walter Scott Suite is revealed before dinner.
One slightly disappointing aspect of the Balmoral Hotel is the lack of a huge number of locations to take portrait photographs and to a certain extent group shots. Obvious places are the balcony overlooking the main reception and a staircase with stained glass windows and piano, both of which are nice but don’t offer the kind of variety I’d consider ideal. The hotel often suggests the staircase as a location for group shots and modest numbers can be accommodated here but from a photographers point of view the lighting is not ideal. Guests face away from the light and so artificial flash light must be added to illuminate groups properly. This can be made to work but as I rule I prefer to work without flash to retain the natural ambience. But this is a tricky technical problem for your photographer to worry about and it shouldn’t put you off. A better location for summer weddings when there is plenty of natural daylight is the Sir Walter Scott suite. With it’s neutral coloured wall mural and the option of bring in a chaise long it can be a nicer alternative.
When it comes to Bride and Groom portrait photography it’s a popular choice to add to the interior options with an exterior location. Unfortunately being in the centre of the busy shopping district there are few locations in the very immediate vicinity so often other locations are useful to consider. The old town at the Royal Mile is a five minute walk or two minutes by car and is a good choice with plenty of options. Another regular addition is a visit to Calton Hill: the steep steps make a car a big bonus here and the views of the city are probably the best available but don’t forget new rules mean you must contact Edinburgh Council and obtain a licence for photography (with a small fee of around £50) as wedding photography is considered commercial work (click here for details).
Once you’re ready for your wedding breakfast you can rest assured you are dealing with a premium kitchen. Executive Chef Jeff Bland has a Michelin star so you can be sure the menu he creates will be of the best quality and with service to match. In the Sir Walter Scott suite, at your request, the top table is often raised to give you a good view of your guests as you enjoy dinner and there is plenty of room meaning the bar at one end and dance floor at the other can remain in place meaning little set up time when the room is turned around for the evening.
A stage can be erected for your band and after a brief comfort break where guests are temporarily moved to the adjoining reception room the room will be turned round with tables cleared and repositioned to make the most of the space for the evening entertainment. A wooden dance floor is revealed and the lighting dimmed to create a new atmosphere as guests return to watch your first dance and then join in themselves. In traditional Scottish style a ceilidh is a popular choice and this is one of the few locations where there is ample room for the most exuberant of traditional dances to take place without the usual bumping into each other.
All in all the Balmoral Hotel is a great wedding venue with top class service in a traditional, well kept, city centre location that tick just about every box when it comes to size and style. If you’re looking to splash out on something special, this could be the best choice for your wedding in Edinburgh.