Updated – 24/02/2022
A guide on how to elope in Scotland
Are you planning to elope in Scotland? Well Scotland is one of the most popular elopement hotspots in the world and it’s not hard to see why! A stone’s throw away from the city is some of the most, raw, rugged and romantic landscape you can find.
If you’re thinking about planning a Scottish elopement I’ve assembled a comprehensive guide on how to elope in Scotland.
STEP 1: Choose a location for your Scottish elopement
From epic mountains, to wild rivers, to luscious forests and quiet lochs, Scotland really has it all! And if you’re looking for a romantic city to elope in then look no further than Old Town Edinburgh. Recognised as one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, it’s bursting with history and culture.
One of the best things about Scotland is that you can pretty much legally tie the knot anywhere you want! Whether it be on a mountaintop, a forest or next to a quiet loch, anywhere is possible!
I’ve helped a lot of my couples plan their elopements over the years so if you’re still not sure where you’d like to have your wedding I’m more than happy to chip in any way I can!
STEP 2: Pick a season to elope in Scotland
Probably the No.1 asked question and there isn’t really 1 correct answer because pretty much any time of the year is ideal to elope in Scotland!
Over the last 9 years I’ve photographed elopements all throughout the year in Scotland and every month has it’s own visual characteristics and qualities that it brings with it.
Spring (March, April, May)
A great time of the year to elope in Scotland as the busy tourist season hasn’t quite kicked off yet so it can be easier to book some really nice accommodation and other suppliers. The days begin to get longer but you can still catch same beautiful golden light and colour in the afternoon. It can sometimes still be a bit cold (especially in March) so a warm layer (coat, cardigan, shawl, scarf) will do the trick.
You can view a small wedding from March here.
Summer (June, July, August)
Warm and long days! The landscape in the highlands is green and luscious however one important thing to keep in mind at this time of the year is the light. It’s generally a lot brighter and sunsets are much later in the evening so when deciding on a ceremony time (and portrait shoot time) it pays off to take this into account so there is a better chance of capturing some of that beautiful evening light for your elopement portrait shoot. At busy tourist hotspots like The Isle of Skye it is usually a lot quieter earlier in the morning and in the evening.
A beautiful marriage proposal story from summer here.
Fall (September, October, November)
The Scottish landscape transforms into a beautiful mixture of earthy tones (green, yellow, orange, brown) and if there’s one word I would use to describe this time of the year in Scotland it would be ‘painterly’. For locations such as the Isle of Skye, the tourist season begins to slow down so you have more of a chance of experiencing the landscape alone. The sun sets earlier in the day so some of the nicest light can be caught early in the afternoon if it’s a clear day. I would probably bring layers (a shawl, cardigan, coat) just in case!
You can see an elopement in Scotland I photographed in Fall here and here.
Fall (September, October, November)
If you fancy some cosy winter vibes and snow-covered mountaintops then winter might be the time of the year for your elopement wedding. Warm layers are a must at this time of the year and light is limited so a ceremony at noon or in the early afternoon is certainly the best way to go.
The tourist season in Scotland has slowed right down so all the usually busy areas (Isle of Skye, Cairngorms etc) are super quiet and you’ll most likely have the landscape to yourself.
If you’re lucky you’ll even meet a deer or two!
STEP 3: Find a celebrant
The next step in planning your Scottish elopement and depending on your preference you can choose either Religious, Registrar or Humanist.
You can contact the local registry office at the link below for a Registrar wedding. Church of Scotland ceremonies can usually be held in most places with approval from the church.
Humanist ceremony in Scotland
Humanist ceremonies can be one of the best ways to tie the knot as they can be personally tailored and offer many symbolic gestures such as hand-fasting, wedding band warming or drinking from a Quaich. If you’re eloping outdoors then a Humanist celebrant might be the way to go for you as they’re always ready for a hike and are really experienced in many types of outdoor weather conditions.
I’ve worked with a lot of amazing Humanist celebrants over the years, all around Scotland and I’d be more than happy to recommend some for you. Most celebrants will be happy to share their knowledge and experience on how to elope in Scotland as well.
STEP 4: Organise the marriage schedule
Now it’s time for a little bit of paperwork but don’t worry, it’s actually pretty straightforward. To acquire your marriage schedule you’ll both need to fill in the ‘Marriage Notice Form’, otherwise known as the ‘M10’.
A small fee must be submitted along with the form within the 3 month period before your wedding date and no later than 29 days before the wedding date.
You’ll also need to include your birth or adoptions certificate, passport and evidence of address/residence.
The marriage schedule can be collected in person up to 7 days before your wedding date from the register local to your wedding location.
You’ll need to be in touch with your celebrant during this process and celebrants have done this many times so they’ll usually be happy to assist you with this whole process.
After your wedding ceremony you have 3 days to submit your marriage schedule to the registrar office.
STEP 5: Find witnesses for your wedding ceremony
If you would like to legally marry in Scotland you’ll just need 2 witnesses over the age of 16. If you are travelling to be eloping in Scotland alone, I am always honoured to be a witness for my couples. I can recommend a list of celebrants that are able to bring a 2nd witness with them for a small fee. Too easy!
STEP 6: Find wedding suppliers and accommodation
The best advice is this… the earlier you can secure your celebrant, photographer, videographer, florist, hair / makeup artist and accommodation, the better!
Definitely prioritize mid-week dates when eloping too as you’ll have much better luck with supplier availability and it’s usually quieter.
I have a great little network of suppliers and artists that I’ve collaborated with over the years and I’d be happy to recommend them to you if it helps!
STEP 7: Decide what to wear
One of the exciting things about eloping in Scotland is you never know what you’re going to get when it comes to the weather! No matter what time of the year it is I’m constantly being surprised and the weather can completely transform the mood of the landscape.
I always say to my couples that the best thing to do to really enjoy the experience is embrace everything on your elopement day, including the weather.
For Spring, Fall and Winter (especially winter) I always suggest bringing an extra layer of clothing and if you’re eloping in the rugged Scottish highlands some leather boots for walking are a must as well.
One thing to take into consideration is while North Face raincoats are practical they don’t translate well visually in photos so I suggest looking for a shawl with earthy tones or perhaps a cardigan or fashionable (but warm) coat.
I’ve photographed in all kinds of weather of the years so I’m ready to roll with anything.
STEP 8: Apply for a marriage visa (how to elope in scotland from abroad)
If you’re eloping to Scotland from outside of the European Union you’ll need to apply for a marriage visa (if you want to have a legally recognized ceremony). You can find out more about the marriage visa and process below.
If travelling from within the EU, you currently don’t require a visa but as of July 2021 you will need to apply.
I hope this guide has helped and answered a few questions about planning a Scottish elopement. If you’re searching for a wedding photographer to document your elopement adventure, I’d love to find out about your plans so feel free to shoot a message below!
Check out our guide on ‘The Best Places To Elope In Scotland’: