Getting married in Scotland

getting married in scotland

Thank you to member Sara Jane for writing this informative blog post on getting married in Scotland

Scotland is a country synonymous with ancient castles, rugged landscapes and quaint traditions.  The history, scenery and heritage combine to give it a strong sense of romance, that offers perhaps the closest thing to a fairy-tale that the modern-day bride and groom can hope to find.  Scotland is now the most popular marriage destination in the UK, with more than a quarter of all weddings involving couples from outside the country, including Madonna and Stella McCartney who really helped put Scotland on the map and launch it’s international reputation as a top wedding destination.

getting married in scotland

The Practicalities

In the mid 1800s, couples from England began crossing the border into Scotland to take advantage of the more “relaxed” legal requirements for marriage, and even now Scotland still offers much more flexibility for couples in choosing where and when and how to be married.  The five key practical advantages of a wedding in Scotland are:

  1. 1. There is no residency requirement 

Scotland is the only country in the UK where couples do not have to be in the area for a week before the wedding, this makes it much easier and more practical for couples travelling in for their nuptials.

  1. 2. Freedom to marry wherever and whenever you like 

Hankering after a midnight ceremony on the beach? In Scotland, the only legal requirement is that the person you expect to conduct the ceremony is an approved celebrant registered to conduct marriages. As long as that rule is observed, then you can get married in any location you like, at any time of day.  The only exception to this is that civil ceremonies can only take place during the business hours of the corresponding register office.

getting married in scotland

  1. 3. Religious ceremonies do not have to take place in church

Religious ceremonies in Scotland can take place at any time and in any place in the country, providing you have an authorised religious celebrant to officiate.  Therefore, whether you want to be married on a romantic clifftop, on the edge of a majestic loch or in an ancient castle, you can still choose a religious ceremony and many religious ministers are more than happy to work with you on this .

  1. 4. You do not need to show a link to the Parish to get married in a Church

The Church of Scotland does not have the same strict requirements as the Church of England, and as such you do not need to have any proven links to the parish in order to be married there which offers religious couples, for whom a church a wedding is vitally important, the flexibility to shape the celebration of their marriage in a way that reflects their beliefs and wishes without restrictions. 

weddings in scotland with sara jane

  1. 5. Humanist ceremonies are legal

Scotland is one of only 7 countries in the world who accept humanist wedding ceremonies as legal. This offers couples the chance to choose a non-secular and yet deeply personal celebration for their marriage.  This is particularly good news for same-sex couples, who would often only have the option of a civil ceremony.

“I love working with Humanist Society Scotland (HSS) as a celebrant here north of the border. We have a great marriage law (with no residency requirement) and people from across the world choose to get married in Scotland,  not only because of our scenery and venues , but because they can marry absolutely wherever and whenever they like…..and if, like most couples, you are not religious you can have a fully legal Humanist marriage which allows each couple to have a unique wedding ceremony that suits their personalities and their relationship”

Ross Wright – Humanist Celebrant

getting married outside in scotland

The Locations

Aside from the practical advantages, Scotland also offers the most dazzling array of options for wedding locations.  Weddings are performed anywhere and everywhere; from stately homes to ancient barns to castle estates and more.  Most venues also offer a wide variety of country pursuits and outdoor activities to immerse your guests in the full experience of Scotland; from whisky trails to clay pidgeon shooting.

For destination weddings, there is an obvious advantage to selecting a venue that comes equipped with bedrooms for your guests, and Scottish venues are adept at welcoming wedding groups for extended celebrations.  With this sort of exclusive use arrangement, you and your guests can enjoy a 2 – 3 day wedding experience with complete flexibility on how you want to run your day at prices that are affordable even for the average bride and groom.

getting married in scotland

The Dress

Whether you have Scottish heritage or not, embracing the kilt is a popular choice for couples.  My experience is that the men relish the opportunity to dress up in something a little bit different for the day and immerse themselves fully in the experience.  It’s also not unusual for guests to join in on the fun and don a kilt for the day!  Hiring Scottish dress is easy and straight forward, with a wealth of fantastic kilt hire companies all over Scotland.

getting married in scotland

getting married in scotland

The Entertainment

It goes without saying that it’s traditional in Scotland to include a bagpiper as part of your wedding ceremony.  A piper can dress in a simple kilt outfit, or in the more formal military dress, and he / she will be more than happy to pose for photos with guests.  As well as piping before and during the ceremony, many pipers offer traditional ceremonial acts for key moments, such as cutting the cake with their sword, sharing a ”wee dram” (drink of whisky!) with the Bride or leading guests to their next port of call in a procession.  A bagpiper is undoubtedly the most effective method of moving a crown of people from room to room in record time and most of them are also happy to act as a formal toastmaster.

During your evening reception, you might like to include a little bit of “ceilidh” (traditional Scottish dances) which all bands or DJs in Scotland will be happy to incorporate.  All Scottish weddings would usually feature at least a small bit of a “highland fling” in the proceedings, and after many years of experience I can safely say that guests from outside Scotland absolutely love giving this a try.  The band or DJ makes it incredibly easy for guests to join in, even if they have absolutely no idea what to do and will lead the dances and call out instructions.  The ceilidh element is something I really recommend all couples consider as it definitely adds something wonderfully unique and memorable to the wedding day.

Planning your wedding in Scotland

When planning your wedding anywhere, the key to success really lies in the research and planning.  At Weddings by Sara Jane, Susan and I specialise in assisting couples from all over the world with planning their dream wedding in Scotland.  We work closely with our couples to help them understand the options available to them, how to get the most from their wedding budget and how to create an all-round destination wedding experience that makes the most of Scotland and reflects who they are as people.  As we specialise in distance planning, everything about the way we work is geared towards bridging the distance and enabling our couples to feel really part of things.

getting married in scotland

Thank you to member Sara Jane for writing this informative blog post. Sara Jane and her team work with clients all over the world to produce creative, beautiful and truly unique wedding celebrations across Scotland. You can see Sara Jane via our directory 

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