Searles Castle in Windham, NH

One of my biggest frustrations when we picked Searles Castle as our choice venue was the absolute lack of information online to answer ANY of my plethora of questions.  While of course writing to the vendor is always your best option to get your questions answered with the most accuracy, I also know that it is incredibly helpful to find information online before you decide if the vendor is remotely able to accommodate your event!

Because of the lack of information out there for anyone to find, I've decided to put together a much more detailed account of my experience with Searles, in the hopes that other brides in need of information can find something to help them!  Of course, if you are in need of more information, I am absolutely happy to answer them for you in my capacity as a customer of theirs, just get in touch with me through my contact page.  However, if you are interested in straight-forward answers about the venue, I do strongly recommend writing to the coordinators themselves.  They have always been very prompt to respond to our emails!

For more pictures, scroll to the end of this page!

Questions we had for Searles staff, with answers, are as follows.  Please note that all answers are up-to-date as of early Fall 2010, and things may change after this point!

Basic Logistics

In case of bad weather, where is the ceremony held?  Ceremonies are conducted outdoors, but in bad weather they may be held inside the castle (seating room 50 plus standing room up to 75) or in the reception tent.  Site coordinators leave this decision up to the bride and groom, and only need 30 minutes notice to set everything up.

What is the parking situation like? 
The parking lot is not very close to the castle - HOWEVER, the site coordinators have their own limousine which they use to shuttle all of your guests from the parking lot to the ceremony or reception; elderly and disabled guests are able to drive all the way up to the castle and receive valet service.

What is the restroom situation like?  One bathroom is located on the first floor of the castle.  There is also an outbuilding with both men's and women's restrooms that contain two stalls each.


Where do the bride & groom stay before the ceremony? 
The master suite (with attached restroom) is open to the bridal party half an hour before the ceremony, with a separate room available for the groom & groomsmen; these are included in the ceremony fee, and the bridal party may get dressed in the master suite. The site coordinators will ensure the groom and groomsmen make it to their pre-ceremony stations without seeing the bride (if the bride and groom so wish), and will then escort the bride and attendants to their pre-ceremony stations.

Do you typically find ceremony proceedings need to be broadcast by sound system to be heard?  No, ceremony proceedings are typically heard by guests just fine.  The bride and groom may opt to ask their DJ to set up a sound system if they still have concerns.


Where does the cocktail hour take place? 
Guests have free roam of the first floor and courtyard of the castle during the cocktail hour, and hors d'oeurves are served inside.  The bride and groom may choose to allow their guests to stay in the reception tent during the cocktail hour as well.

How do you ensure the bride and groom get food if they choose a buffet meal? 
The bride and groom may opt to be served a plated meal at no extra cost.  Specially-prepared plated meals are also served to guests with allergies or other special accommodations (e.g. kosher).

Who is considered a child vs. adult for guest count?  Children are considered to be age 13 and under.  They are offered meals at half-price, and have their own menu to choose from.

Is the tent at all climate-controlled?
  The tent itself is not insulated, however there are heating and cooling systems in place if necessary.

What do you provide for reception/tent decor?  Searles provides some accent decorations, linen, and fabric hanging from the ceiling of the tent - as well as rather lovely chandeliers that hang from the tent for lighting! - but they do not provide a whole lot of specifics as each bride and groom have different tastes.

Other important (and some random) questions

Do you allow fireworks?
  Fireworks are unfortunately not permitted on the premises; this was actually written into the lease between the site coordinators and the Sisters of Mercy!

How far in advance do you typically book dates?
  Reservations are typically made 12-18 months in advance.  Specialty dates (e.g. 10/10/10) may be booked much further in advance.  Saturdays are often the first dates to be booked.

Do you carry liability insurance?
  Searles Castle and its coordinators carry all appropriate insurances for all events.  The bride and groom are not required to get any insurance of their own, but they are welcome to if they so choose.

When are deposits and remaining balances due?
  The first deposit is due at the time of reservation.  The second deposit is due nine (9) months before your event.  The third deposit is due 60 days before your event, and comprises 50% of your estimated invoice.  The remaining balance is due approximately fourteen (14) days before your event.

May we see a blank or sample contract?  While Scott was not able to send us a file with the contract, he did take a picture of one of their blank contracts to send to us.  The service was fantastic, and I am very thankful to Scott for sending it to us!