A handy guide to help you plan your Scottish Elopement.
Is the idea of a big traditional wedding giving you the absolute fear? Are you thinking of bailing out from the must do’s and the fuss?
Would you rather hang out in Scotland together running and dancing and laughing into the wind with some epic scenery behind you?
Spending quality time together and focussing what matters most and throwing a bit of adventure into the mix?
Are you stoked on scenery, historic cities, rugged mountains, rushing rivers, waterfalls, serene coastlines, wild weather and a boatload of culture?
Maybe a Scottish elopement would be right for you both…
Scotland the Cool
Scotland is a pretty forward-thinking country and at the time of writing this, you can marry pretty much anywhere you wish as long as you have a registered celebrant officiating your ceremony.
Humanist marriages have been legally recognised in Scotland since 2005.
You can also marry with a local Registrar or Minister from the church and these ceremonies can be also be officiated outdoors.
But how and where do we start?
Well, it’s all personal to you and this is what makes elopements in Scotland so sweet. There are so many options open to you, but hopefully this list will see you right for the tough stuff.
1. Location Location Location.
This is the fun part, you are free to marry pretty much wherever you wish. We have an incredibly diverse landscape in Scotland, from rugged and ancient mountains, wild rivers and moorland to gentle sandy beaches, incredible woodland and cool cities.
Many of our couples pick somewhere close to their hearts, or as many come from overseas, perhaps an area they have studied online and just fell totally in love with.
From city streets in the Old town of Edinburgh to mountain summits in Glencoe, the list is endless.
I’m lucky enough to have wandered, climbed, run and biked all over Scotland from a young age so know a fair bit of what is around and I’m more than happy to help suggest where might be the best for your time here, depending on your preference.
2. When should we elope to Scotland?
The quick and easy answer is, whenever is good for you both!
I find the best months to be late March to May and September to early November but have shot during every month of the year and each holds its own special quality.
Spring and Autumn and early winter days can gift us with some beautiful low light and incredible colours and this is more preferable to the occasionally harsh lighting conditions during the Summer.
So for elopements during these months (June-August), it’s worth considering an earlier or later ceremony if you would like to try and capture a little bit of ‘Golden hour’
Weather: We are a small island with that swirling Atlantic Ocean just off our West coast and as such, particularly the West, it rains a fair bit. We do get glorious Sunny days but best be prepared.
Even in the worst conditions though, there is always a break in the weather around the corner and a lot of the time we just have to embrace the elements and enjoy the ride until it opens up.
With the weather like this, the ground can be a little bit heavy going at times so I always suggest being ready for this, good sturdy walking type boots/shoes and some handy waterproofs for in between the shots is the order of the day.
I spent a few years as a climbing instructor and this past experience seems to have stayed with me as I will always look after my couples when out on the hills, packing extra down jackets away for extra warmth, just in case.
If you are keen for an outdoor ceremony and the weather looks less than ideal though, I will always have a backup plan in mind, be it a dense wooded area or sheltered crag.
During Summer and especially on places like the Isle of Skye it can become quite busy so an earlier or later ceremony is always a good call just to avoid the crowds.
I have though, compiled a list of a potential ceremony spots which are unaffected by tourism but are also relatively straightforward to access and all with stunning backdrops.
Accommodation is plentiful in Scotland but during the Summer its always worth booking far in advance and especially for highland elopements. There are some beautiful old lodges, quaint hotels and quirky Air B’n’B’s to spend the night and do your preparations in the morning.
I love to shoot this part of the day, capturing the details and the build-up, a chance to create some quiet portraits and learn more about you as a couple.
A space with good natural light/big windows is perfect for preparation photography.
I love to shoot this part of the day, capturing the details and the build-up, a chance to create some beautiful portraits and learn more about you as a couple. A space with good natural light/big windows is perfect for preparation photography.
3. Decide on a date and book your celebrant
Once you have locked in your chosen location and potential date, its time to get in touch with a celebrant!
This is a personal choice and can be either a Registrar, Religious or Humanist.
For a registrar, you will have to contact the local office nearest to your chosen location.
A full list of Registry offices in Scotland here REGISTRY OFFICES SCOTLAND
Religious ceremonies can differ i.e Church of Scotland services can be held anywhere so long as your minister approves. Believers of other faiths are welcome too.
Roman Catholic ceremonies are slightly different and must be held in a place of worship in regular use. Either you or your partner has to have been baptised in the Catholic faith.
If you are looking at having a Humanist ceremony, many great celebrants can be found by using these sites, I have worked with many of them over the years and a few on a regular basis, each have their own personality and approach to elopements and some are more keen to hike to a wild mountain spot than others! :-).
I’m happy to put you in touch directly if that would be your preference.
4. The Legal Stuff
All you require to legally marry in Scotland is the couple, a marriage schedule/form, a celebrant and two witnesses over the age of 16.
I have been a witness to many elopements over the years so I’m more than happy to do this. I also work alongside my partner Justyna so we can have two witnesses for you if required.
People who are not from Scotland are free to marry here but this depends on where you are from and you may be subject to immigration control.
If you’re from a country outside the European Economic Area and you want to elope to Scotland you will require an entry clearance. As of just now, I have no idea how ‘Brexit’ will affect this, but stay tuned!
Further information is available on the GOV.UK website where you can apply for a marriage visitor visa. As of 2020, this costs 95 GBP
The Marriage Schedule is granted by the registrar local to your wedding location and can be collected in person up to seven days before the big day.
To be issued a marriage schedule you must each fill in a Marriage Notice form (M10 form).
The form must be submitted with a £70 processing fee no earlier than 12 weeks and no later than 29 days before the wedding day.
You will also need to submit your birth or adoption certificate, passport and proof of residence.
5. Travel in Scotland
The main international Airports are Edinburgh and Glasgow. There is a good train network and public transport is regular and well serviced but if you are considering a Highland elopement then it is best to hire a car if possible.
This way you can make the most of the most amazing ‘off- the beaten track’ areas and also do so at your own leisure both before and after your elopement.
During an elopement I tend to drive the couple from preparation to ceremony and to shoot locations as this makes it easier for logistics and parking and is also at least a little kinder to the environment.
I can also stop at short notice if I spot some awesome light appearing over the horizon!
Most couples really enjoy being able to just chill in the back and being chauffered whilst taking in the views. My taste in music is eclectic, so any requests most welcome!
Regardless of which method you choose, there will always be something to see along the way, the West Highland Railway line is well worth a trip even if you have a car.
For instance, the journey from Crianlarich to Fort William goes through some impressive scenery, deep into the hills and over to Corrour into a remote and often unseen part of the country
As you can see, there are many places to elope in Scotland, almost oo many to mention here.
I love the wild and remote parts though, I’ve spent a lot of time climbing and wandering these places from a really young age and I feel like they are a little part of me. I’m biased I guess but they really are some of the most special places on earth.
The Cairngorms, Wester Ross, Glencoe and Glen Etive, Isle of Skye, the far North West, Inverpolly and Assynt are all incredible and beautiful mountainous areas but I’m also lucky enough to have shot weddings in the Outer Hebrides and this year we have weddings on Harris, Jura and Rasaay.
These locations have some of the most stunning and pristine beaches you will ever see and on a clear, blue sky day they look more Caribbean that Northern European! There really is something for everyone.
When organising your Scottish elopement from abroad it can be a daunting task trying to find suitable suppliers in the area you have chosen.
Over the years I have built a strong network of superb suppliers who are on the same wavelength and I always send a nice list to any couple who feel the need for some help.
From Floristry to Hair, Makeup, Accommodation and Cake makers I can pass over some trusted names.
Videography. Some couples love to add a film of their adventure elopement in Scotland and I think its a great idea, the moving image can sometimes harness even more of the drama of the mountains than the still alone.
If this is something you are interested in I can certainly pass on the details of a few amazing film-makers in Scotland.
Alternatively, if you would like a low key approach, my partner Justyna and I have a Film + Photography venture for elopements only, Justyna shoots stills with myself creating short cinematic films of the adventure.
We are really excited to be offering this and some of our recent work from a Torrid Elopement has recently been published on the We Fell In Love Blog . Please also head over to our website and check us out… We Are Elopers
Glencoe is around 2.5 hours drive from Edinburgh and around 2 hours from Glasgow.
The Glen itself is steeped in history and is what remains of a massive volcanic Caldera, the dramatic cliff faces and gullies provide anyone driving through with some epic vistas.
The river rushes through the foot of the Glen and tumbles into waterfalls and rock pools, there are vast open areas with a beautiful milky Lochan as well as some enchanted native woodland nearby.
Glencoe is super accessible and roadside, which means it can get busy, but a short 5-10 minute hike up the hillside and you will feel like you are the only people on earth, with some stunning views to look down upon.
If you are keen to take things further and adventure further I’m always up to do some longer hikes during the photo session, for instance, the walk into the Lost Valley (1 hour-ish ) is a great wander through some stunning terrain.
Isle of Skye Elopement
The Isle of Skye is around 6 hours drive from Edinburgh/Glasgow.
Skye is one of the most magical places in the UK, maybe the World! The landscape is wild, complete with twisting volcanic rock spires, crystal clear waterfalls, quaint villages, dramatic cliff edges and incredible beaches. It has to be seen to be believed.
The Cuillin Hills on Skye are a true test for Hillwalkers and Mountaineers alike and this sharp and wonderful ridge line can be seen from various points on the island.
Accommodation can be tricky to book during Summer months so do look well in advance.
The main town is Portree and is a nice spot to grab a bite to eat and chill out on the cute little harbour area. For more info on what Skye has to offer, click this link .SKYE
The North West of Scotland is pretty special, the area around Torridon and Northwards to Gairloch is incredible. Carry on further to Ullapool and on to Assynt and it continues to amaze, we are so lucky to have such a diverse landscape.
In Torridon, Some of the oldest bedrock in the World iscapped by beautiful sandstone peaks that rise majestically in all manner of shapes from low-lying marshlands and rivers.
Its nothing short of spectacular and well worth visiting even if you plan to stay or are married elsewhere in Scotland.
I hope this wee guide has been of some help, if you need any more advice or would like to view more images from our recent elopements in Scotland, please do get in touch.