Donald Trump’s resort hosts just 12 weddings in seven years

With its 15th century baronial mansion, opulent fixtures and furnishings, and sweeping views of the scenic Aberdeenshire coastline, it is billed as “one of Scotland’s finest luxury wedding venues.”
Donald Trump's loss making Aberdeenshire resort has hosted just 12 marriages in seven years. Picture: AP/ShutterstockDonald Trump's loss making Aberdeenshire resort has hosted just 12 marriages in seven years. Picture: AP/Shutterstock
Donald Trump's loss making Aberdeenshire resort has hosted just 12 marriages in seven years. Picture: AP/Shutterstock

But for couples looking for a memorable setting in which to tie the knot, it seems there is no love lost for Donald Trump.

The US president’s inaugural resort in Scotland has hosted just 12 marriages since it opened eight years ago, with a sharp downturn in the number of nuptials taking place after he came to office.

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Despite billing itself as the “perfect” place for an intimate ceremony and reception which is “guaranteed to impress,” Trump International Scotland is hosting an average of just one ceremony every six months, the records show.

Glossy pamphlets produced by the resort promise prospective newlyweds bespoke packages for their special day, including whisky tastings, clay pigeon shooting, and rounds of golf.

It even offers the exclusive use of the historic property Trump renamed in honour of his Hebridean-born mother, with sole occupancy fees for a Saturday ceremony starting at £6,500, based on a minimum two-night stay.

But while the resort’s website “promises priceless memories captured with elegance and style,” records obtained by Scotland on Sunday show only a dozen couples have opted to tie the knot there.

There have been just five religious or belief marriages and seven civil marriages held at Trump International Scotland since it began operating in July 2012, although the hotel accommodation, MacLeod House and Lodge, did not open until October 2013.

By way of contrast, the town of Gretna, one of the country’s best known wedding hotspots, hosted more than 3,200 marriages last year.

The records, maintained by local registrar offices and the National Records of Scotland, also show a downward trend in the number of civil marriages taking place at Trump’s Balmedie property since he became president.

While there were five such ceremonies between 2014 and 2016, only two have been held between the start of 2017 and October 2019.

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The statistics, obtained via a series of freedom of information requests to Aberdeenshire Council, show there were no civil marriages at all at Trump’s property throughout 2017 and 2018. There is no year by year breakdown of the religious marriages at the resort.

Data compiled by the National Records of Scotland shows that across all venues in Aberdeenshire, 8,729 marriages took place between 2012 and 2018.

Trump International Scotland’s website includes an extensive section devoted to weddings, noting how MacLeod House boasts secret stairways and traditional log fires, with its “spectacular” bridal suite featuring a deep set Italian marble bathtub.

It adds: “In a secluded and dramatic location with a beautiful dining and reception room, this is the ultimate venue for your intimate, private wedding.”

Emma Matthews, a director at Timeless White, a luxury Scottish wedding planners, said the fact Trump himself was a “Marmite” figure could have impacted on the popularity of the venue, which she described as a “niche” offering, best suited for smaller weddings.

But she questioned its strategy of using a semi-permanent marquee for wedding gatherings, noting: “If you’re paying Trump prices, you probably don’t want a marquee. The two things don’t necessarily align.”

She added: “The spaces they have within the building to seat people are quite small. As a traditional Scottish wedding venue, I wouldn’t say it’s somewhere that would be considered.

Matthews stressed that the statistics may have been “skewed” by overseas couples who were legally married in their own country, but chose to hold celebratory ceremonies at Trump’s property.

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“A lot of our American clients have legal weddings in the US, but come to Scotland to have the likes of a blessing, which looks just like a normal ceremony, but doesn’t have any of the admin or legal paperwork,” she explained.

Trump International Scotland, which remains reliant on interest free loans provided by the US president worth £40.6m, ran up an annual loss of £1.07m in 2018, bringing its cumulative losses to more than £9.4m.

The latest accounts do not detail the extent to which weddings or any other revenue streams contribute to its £2.7m annual turnover.

While the lucrative business of helping couples to tie the knot is proving brisker at Trump’s flagship Scottish resort at Turnberry, the numbers are still modest compared to likes of Gretna.

Between January 2016 and October 2019, it hosted 57 marriages, with the vast majority - some 44 - religious or belief ceremonies.

There were just six marriages in 2016, a year in which the resort was closed between January and June for refurbishments.

That increased to 12 in 2017, before spiking to 22 ceremonies the following year. The latest figures, which span the period from 1 January to 10 October 2019, show there were 17 marriages. Authorities in South Ayrshire said no figures prior to 2016 were available.

A spokeswoman for Trump Turnberry explained that once “wedding celebration” events were added to the number of marriages held at the resort, it had hosted a total of 110 ceremonies between 2015 and 2019, with 30 bookings so far for 2020.

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She added: “We have seen growth in the number of wedding celebrations at the resort since our refurbishment in 2016. So far we have 30 weddings booked to take place in 2020, with more in the pipeline.

“Many couples are looking for a destination wedding and choose to host their celebration with us over a whole weekend or more, resulting in a longer stay with us.”

Like Trump International Scotland, Turnberry has yet to turn a profit under Trump’s ownership. Its losses more than doubled to £10.7m in 2018, meaning that since he took over the historic property in 2014, it has lost nearly £43m. It is also reliant on interest loans from Trump totalling £115m.

The iconic resort is marketed as the “ultimate luxury wedding destination in Scotland,” and promotes its Donald J Trump ballroom - with its floor to ceiling windows and panoramic views - as the “perfect setting” for nuptials.

It offers couples a range of packages, from its £60 per person ‘From This Day Forward’ option to its premium ‘To Have and To Hold’ offering, with prices starting at £185 a head.

Matthews said that while Turnberry’s permanent on-site ballroom was a draw for couples, its focus on a “very high budget” market meant it faced stiff competition.

“Somewhere like Gleneagles is still the pinnacle of Scottish resorts in terms of golf and luxury, so they’re probably competing quite heavily,” she reasoned.

The data obtained by Scotland on Sunday also shows that there have been no civil partnerships at either of Trump’s Scottish properties.

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The president and his administration have been criticised for undermining the rights of the LGBT community.

In the US, Trump has attended weddings at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, and his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, posing for photos with newlyweds.

Trump International Scotland and the Trump Organisation did not respond to requests for comment.