How to Elope to Scotland – A handy guide
Should you elope to Scotland?
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 together, dancing and laughing into the wind with some majestic Scottish 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 epic scenery, history, rugged mountains, rushing rivers, waterfalls, wild coastlines and a ton of culture?
Maybe a Scottish elopement would be right for you both…
Scotland the Cool
At the time of writing this you can marry pretty much anywhere 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, when you elope to Scotland it’s all personal to you and this is what it so sweet.
There are so many options open to you, but hopefully, this list will help you make a least a few decisions.
We have an incredibly diverse and beautiful landscape in Scotland and our major towns and cities are steeped in culture and history.
Many of our couples will pick somewhere close to their hearts or perhaps with a family connection.
Many also come from overseas and decide on an area they have studied online and 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.
Although Im still exploring and wandering the country, I’m more than happy to help suggest where might work for your time here, depending on your preference.
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 March to May or September through November but have shot during every month and each holds its own special quality.
Spring, Autumn and early Winter days can gift us with some beautiful low light and incredible colours.
This is generally more preferable than the often harsh lighting conditions during the Summer.
Fo 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’
We are a small island with the swirling Atlantic Ocean just off our West coast and as such, it rains a fair bit. We do get glorious Sunny days but best be prepared.
Even in the worst of conditions, there will always be a break in the weather around the corner. A lot of the time we just have to embrace the elements and enjoy the ride until it opens up.
With conditions like this, the ground can be a little bit heavy going at times so I always suggest being prepared.
What shall we wear?
Good sturdy walking type boots/shoes are best for a mix of terrain in the highlands.
If rain is forecast, some handy waterproofs/warm jacket or a blanket to wrap around for in between the shots.
In Summer it can get hot too, so don’t forget the Sunscreen.
I spent a few years as a climbing instructor and this past experience seems to have stayed with me.Im aware of the mountain environment and weather changes and will always look after my couples when out on the hills.
I often pack extra down jackets and rain gear for extra warmth and comfort, 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.
There are always options, be it a dense wooded area or sheltered crag.
Accommodation is plentiful but if you elope to Scotland during the Summer its always worth booking in advance and especially for highland elopements.
There are some beautiful old lodges, hotels and quirky Air B’n’B’s to spend the night and do your preparations in the morning.
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 quiet portraits and learn more about you as a couple.
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 when you elope to Scotland, many great celebrants can be found by using these sites.
I have worked with lots of them over the years.
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.
The Legal Stuff
All you require to legally marry in Scotland is the couple, a marriage schedule, a celebrant and two witnesses over the age of 16.
I have been a witness to many elopements over the years and always feel honoured 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.
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.
With a car 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. It 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
Scottish Elopement Hotspots
There are many places to choose from when you elope to Scotland, almost too many to mention.
Here are some favourites of this Scottish elopement photographer.
I love the wild and remote parts, I’ve spent a lot of time in between the Scottish hills from 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, Glen Etive, Isle of Skye, the far North West, Inverpolly and Assynt are all incredibly beautiful mountainous areas.
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 you elope to Scotland 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.
I always send a nice list to any couple who feel the need for some help.
From Wedding Planner’s to Musicians, Floristry to Hair, Makeup, Accommodation and Cake makers, I can pass over some trusted names.
Many couples love to add a film of their adventure when they elope to 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 Torridon Elopement has recently been published on the We Fell In Love Blog .
Please also head over to our website and check us out if you like the look of our work. We Are Elopers
A few choice locations
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 is also a vast open plain with a beautiful Loch at the base of steep soaring crags as well as some enchanted native woodland nearby.
The drive down the ‘James Bond’ road to Loch Etive is popular, it is a scenic route and herds of deer can often be spotted grazing by the roadside.
They are fairly tame and some will come say hello!
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.
Note: If you are keen to 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, possibly 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 is capped 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 will be adding a full list of elope to Scotland spots in my next post but I hope this guide has been of some help.
Please also check out the Scottish highland elopement of Isaac and Jess for some ideas. Scottish Highland Elopement
If you need any more advice or would like to view more images from our recent adventures, please do get in touch.