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Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council set to charge newlyweds for snaps in its parks

By Joanne Sweeney and Nevin Farrell

Published 30/05/2015

Stewart and Alex Brown on their wedding day in the grounds of Antrim Castle
Stewart and Alex Brown on their wedding day in the grounds of Antrim Castle
The grounds of Antrim Castle

Time is running out on brides and grooms to use beautiful council-owned properties for their wedding photographs for free.

Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council has become the latest authority to consider introducing charges to prospective couples for what is one of the biggest days in their lives.

The council's operations committee will consider a proposal on Monday night to charge a £50 fee for couples who want to use Castle Gardens in Antrim for wedding photography.

It already charges this for couples who use Sentry Hill in Newtownabbey under the auspices of the former Newtownabbey Borough Council.

If passed by the committee, it will go to the full council for approval at the end of June.

However, it's not the only organisation that charges couples for the privilege of using gardens funded by ratepayers' money.

Belfast City Council - which charges from £19 for Victoria Park and £115 for Belfast Castle and Malone House - has been charging for the past eight years.

Other organisations such as the National Trust and Forest Service Northern Ireland also charge for wedding photograph sessions in parks and open spaces.

Alex and Stewart Brown from Dundonald used Castle Gardens to have their wedding photography taken there on July 5, 2014.

She says that the intended £50 fee was the most that she would have been willing to pay for the experience.

"My wedding photographs were absolutely beautiful and the gardens were stunning," the 24-year-old said.

"I would have paid £50 as I know my friend paid more than that recently for her pictures to be taken at Galgorm Castle, so it's not too bad.

"However, if the council charges I think that there would need to be more structure so that there's some privacy for the bridal groups, and there's not too many at the one time."

Wedding photographer John Taggart said that owners of some private gardens can charge considerably more.

"I know of some gardens along the Co Antrim coastline that charge as much as £125 and £150.

"I did a wedding at Victoria Park, Belfast, recently and the couple paid £50," he said.

"An extra £50 to have a beautiful backdrop for their wedding photography is a small drop in the ocean, with what it takes to get married these days."

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