SCOTLAND ELOPEMENT GUIDE
BY ‘THE OUTLOVERS’, YOUR SCOTLAND ELOPEMENT AND SMALL WEDDING TEAM
1 March 2021
A Scotland Elopement: everything you need to know to plan the Scotland elopement or small wedding of your wildest dreams.
Thinking you might like to elope in Scotland? We totally get why!
Scotland has to be one of the most beautiful spots on this entire planet. With its wild romance, complex history and spectacular landscapes, it has an irresistible allure for adventurous, madly-in-love couples.
What a spectacular place to share your wedding vows.
It can be hard to figure out the ins and outs of eloping in a foreign country and we know it can seem pretty overwhelming: this guide is going to break it all down for you.
Here’s everything you need to know for your Scotland elopement!
YOUR SCOTLAND ELOPEMENT TEAM
Hey! We’re Vanessa and Chad, ‘The Outlovers’ and we specialize in adventurous, outdoor elopements for travel-loving couples like YOU.
We offer planning assistance, photography and ceremony officiation for elopements and small weddings of up to 20 people.
We’ve got a ton of ‘insider secrets’ for you. Vanessa is originally from Scotland and we regularly go back to visit friends and family.
We can’t wait to show you around her homeland!
TRAVEL FOR YOUR SCOTLAND ELOPEMENT: getting to and around Bonnie Scotland
Flights from the US to Scotland
Scotland has two major airports: one in its capital city on the east coast, Edinburgh International (EDI), and one in its largest city on the west coast, Glasgow International (GLA).
There are also smaller airports at Aberdeen, Inverness and Prestwick which may make more sense for you, depending on the location you pick for your elopement.
From the US, if you opt for a fairly direct flight, you’re looking at a flight time of 7-11 hours. That’s just enough time to have a celebratory ‘We’re off to elope’ drink, get way over-excited about it all and then crash out for a few hours!
Flights are regular and affordable. Just as an example, we’re finding daily return flights from the east coast of the US into Edinburgh for as little as $500-700.
Obviously, flight costs will vary depending on the time of year, what connections you’re comfortable with and the level of comfort you want to fly in, but we think it’s pretty darned affordable for such an epic adventure!
We recommend using a meta search engine such as Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights. Even if you then prefer to book with the airline directly, it will give you a good sense of what routes and schedules are available.
Travel Around Scotland
Scotland is a small, accessible country and getting around is easy.
If you’re a confident driver, you could hire a car straight from the airport. Just remember we drive on the left and have a lot of narrow, winding roads in the more remote areas.
You could use public transport. Scotland has a regular, reliable network of buses, trains and ferries connecting even the remotest parts of the country. As long as you don’t mind figuring out timetables and routes, this is a really fun way to travel around the country and feel a bit more ‘local’ than ‘tourist’.
You can get great advice on using public transport via the Visit Scotland travel page.
If you’d rather let someone else do the driving so you can sit back and enjoy the views, a great option would be to hire a private driver.
We are regular international travelers and LOVE the planning aspect of it all, so if you need any advice figuring out this side of your elopement, we’d be happy to help!
PAPERWORK: the legalities of a Scotland elopement
Even the most exciting adventure of your life – getting MARRIED – has some boring, rather tedious admin to tackle.
In order to get legally married anywhere – and especially overseas – there are a few technical hoops you need to jump through.
Trust us, we’re talking from experience! We – a Brit and an American living in Fiji at the time – got legally married in South Africa and it was a pain in the b**t. Two years later we STILL don’t have our unabridged marriage certificate.
In the name of simplicity (and your sanity), we usually recommend that any of our couples eloping overseas do the LEGAL part of their marriage in their home country, either before or after their destination elopement day.
Please believe us when we say this will NOT detract from your Scottish elopement day AT ALL.
Signing a piece of paper, afterall, isn’t really what commits you to each other: sharing your vows as part of a meaningful experience is.
On your elopement day in Scotland, with the legal parts already done back home, we will focus on creating the perfect environment for you to share your vows. All of our Scotland elopement packages include an optional personalized ceremony written just for you. While we can’t legally marry you in Scotland ourselves, we believe it is this ceremony and the sharing of your vows that truly unites you.
How to Legally Marry In Scotland
Having said that, if you reeeeeally want to be legally wed in Scotland, of course we’re going to support you.
Here’s the basics of how it works. If you do take this route, we’ll share more details with you as part of the planning process.
- You can have either a religious ceremony (solemnized by an approved celebrant) or a civil ceremony (solemnized by an approved registrar).
- Typically, friends or family can NOT be ‘ordained’ to marry you. Whilst this is very common in the US it is not in the UK.
- You will need two witnesses present. We will gladly fill this role if you’re not bringing guests.
- You will need to apply and pay for a marriage visitor visa
- Once you have chosen your location, you will need to submit your marriage paperwork to the registrar in that region. You can find detailed info on that paperwork and timing of it here.
- When you arrive in Scotland, you will need to collect a ‘marriage schedule’ in person so be sure to factor in the time needed for this in your travel arrangements. You must then return this paperwork within 3 consecutive days of your wedding.
We know, CONFUSING. See why we’re saying maybe do the legal bits at home?!
That way, with the formalities covered, you can just relax and enjoy your elopement trip from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave.
If you DO decide to legally wed in Scotland, submit your paperwork WELL in advance. The deadline is 29 days before your wedding date, but it is highly recommended 10-12 weeks in advance to guarantee it is processed in time. So, no last minute, ‘spur of the moment’ weddings in Scotland!
WHERE TO GO FOR YOUR SCOTLAND ELOPEMENT: endless epic locations
Scotland may only be a small country (about the size of South Carolina to give you an idea!), but it has an impressive variety of landscapes and no end of gorgeous backdrops for your elopement.
And the cool thing is you’re allowed to get married anywhere in Scotland!
So, whether you visualize you and your love sharing your vows atop a rugged mountain, lost in a historical city, hanging with the locals in a tiny fishing village, nestled in a deep green forest or wandering peacefully on a long, white sandy beach (yes, white sandy beaches in SCOTLAND!), we can make it happen.
During the planning stage of your elopement, we’ll brainstorm with you extensively to pinpoint YOUR dream, unique location, but for now here’s just a few of our favorites to get your imagination flowing:
Isle of Skye
There’s a reason this gorgeous little island tops many of the ‘most beautiful places in Scotland’ lists.
With its rugged mountains, lush green glens and narrow lochs, it’s truly a nature-lover’s paradise.
You and your love could explore the Cuillin mountain range, dip your toes in the Fairy Pools, enjoy a pint in one of colorful Portree’s pubs and even check out Eilean Donan Castle on your journey back to the mainland.
Glen Coe and Glen Nevis
A dark history combined with often dramatic moody skies, gives Glen Coe an otherworldly feel.
Deep in the Scottish Highlands, at nearly 8 miles long and less than half a mile wide, the steep mountains dominate and tower over the rushing river below. We can’t imagine a more wild and romantic location to share your wedding vows!
Nearby, you’ll find Glen Nevis, home to the UK’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
Between the two, is the quaint town of Fort William, known as Britain’s ‘outdoor capital’.
If hiking, biking, skiing or kayaking is your jam, this is the place for you!
Equally, if you’re more a culture and history kind of couple, this region will tick your boxes, with multiple historic castles, forts, battle sites and other landmarks in the region.
Edinburgh for your Scotland elopement
Not everyone wants to run away to the great outdoors to get married.
Many couples prefer the buzz of an exciting, foreign city. Edinburgh would be perfect for your Scottish elopement.
Gorgeous architecture, fascinating history, a thriving social scene, top notch restaurants…. Oh, and a freaking castle right in the middle of the city! How awesome is that?!
Edinburgh combines the best of both worlds for those who love natural AND urban environments. The city is built around seven hills, and the verdant, volcanic Arthur’s Seat rises right up from the city center with views across the ocean, so you don’t even have to leave town to enjoy a good hike.
Shetland Isles and Lewis and Harris
Although we do love the Isle of Skye, it is super well-known and can be overcrowded in the summer months (thanks Instagram!).
If you enjoy the buzz of a tourist hot-spot this might not worry you. But if you’d prefer somewhere more peaceful, private and secluded, Scotland has plenty of other islands to choose from (over 900 in fact!).
If you’re game for a real exploratory adventure, a couple of our favorites are the Shetland isles way to the north of Scotland and Lewis and Harris far out to the west.
Both of these options are a little more remote, needing a ferry ride or a short flight to get there: as a result, fewer tourists get there.
Both are peaceful havens to enjoy nature, wildlife and relaxed community spirit.
Aaaaaand both have the most spectacular fine, white sandy beaches you’ve ever seen outside of the Caribbean! Crazy but true.
Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms are a spectacular mountain range in the eastern Highlands covering 1750 sq miles (that’s a lot of space in a country as small as Scotland!).
There are vast stretches of remote natural beauty with some amazing wildlife, including golden eagles and wildcats.
You can also find bustling local villages, historic castles, whisky distilleries and gorgeous boutique hotels within the park. This great variety makes the Cairngorms a fantastic choice for those who want a ‘little bit of everything’ from their Scottish elopement experience.
It can be pretty overwhelming trying to decide exactly where to elope. Narrowing it down to which country is a huge first step but even a teeny place like Scotland has a bazillion options!
We suggest you and your partner dedicate a date night to day-dreaming about the possibilities.
Chat about what kind of a backdrop you envision sharing your vows against (mountains, trees, ocean, city skyline etc.) and how you imagine celebrating after (do you want a campfire on the beach or a night in a fancy hotel?), for example.
It can help to think back to some of your favorite vacations together and try to pinpoint what made them so memorable.
All of this will help narrow it down and, remember, we’re here to help you, too: we have a lot of travel experience between us and love to research new and exciting places.
ACCOMMODATION: great places to stay for your Scotland elopement
There are some really cool, unique places to stay in Scotland: from romantic castles to historic crofter’s cottages, traditional Bed and Breakfasts, old-fashioned inns and modern luxury treehouses.
We feel your elopement is very much a time to treat yourselves to something special. Special doesn’t necessarily mean fancy and expensive; it means something memorable for YOU. The environment you wake up in on your wedding day (and the morning after!!) deserves to be somewhere you’ll remember fondly, a ‘once in a lifetime’ kind of place.
Here’s just a few of the cool ones we stumbled across in our research to give you an idea of the variety available:
A 400-year-old castle that’s now a luxury Bed & Breakfast on the edge of a loch… What’s not to love?! This place is all elegance and opulence: four poster beds, afternoon high tea, windows looking out to the mountains of Glen Coe… Sign us up!
We LOVE these quirky self-catering treehouses, with open plan living, floor to ceiling windows and gorgeous views from the patio hot tub. And they’re right on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park!
These old cottages on the isle of Lewis and Harris are perfect for those who want to embrace an authentic, historical experience. Built in the 1800s, they have been sympathetically modernized and now offer a super-cozy, relaxed experience.
The Scriptorium @ The Highlands Club
This building on the edge of Loch Lomond was once an abbey, and this particular spot was a secret writing room. Now it is on offer as a detached self-catering apartment, with access to all the facilities of the Club: huge grounds, steam room and sauna, tennis courts, gourmet restaurant etc. If a little elegant luxury is your vibe, this could be your dream!
Summer Howf @Craighead
If quaint is your thing, then this adorable glamping option nestled into rural farmland with chickens and goats might be right up your alley. Bright, cheery and HOMEY, we think it would make a lovely base for your elopement. Alternatively, they DO also have Hobbit homes….
Now, this is our total wild card option, definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s seriously ‘out there’ and we personally LOVE it for that! We reckon you would feel like medieval royalty staying in these ridiculously opulent rooms, situated right in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Just throwing this out there, remember your accommodation doesn’t NEED to be stationary! You could always rent a camper van for your Scottish elopement and tour the Highlands at your own pace, jumping from one gorgeous spot to another, camping right out in the heart of nature…
WHEN TO ELOPE IN SCOTLAND
So, let’s do some straight talking here: Scotland ain’t exactly known for its glorious, sunny weather!
In the words of our finest comedian, Billy Connolly, “there are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter”.
Scotland can often be a little ‘dreich’: that is, rainy with overcast, moody skies. BUT that’s why it’s so green and glorious in those atmospheric glens.
We do have a personal theory that Scotland has a mini heat-wave every time we bring a foreigner to visit (tried and tested many times). So, you might be in luck if we are guiding your Scottish elopement, but let’s not rely on that!
Depending on your personal appreciation of different types of weather, it’s really important to consider what time of year you’d like to elope in Scotland.
For some of you, it may be that cooler, wetter weather is actually your climate of choice: you folks can come to Scotland ANY time!
Others amongst you may prefer driER and warmER weather (it’s relative!): we’d suggest planning your visit maybe within the June-September time frame for the best chances.
Also consider your personal interests: if you’re hoping to incorporate seasonal activities – skiing, snow-shoeing, hiking, wildlife watching etc. – into your elopement day that may dictate when you should plan your trip.
Lastly, if you want to go somewhere super popular like the Isle of Skye have a think whether crowds are a problem to you: do you want to be sharing your vows totally privately or are you OK having other people around? If you want to avoid the crowds, we suggest either picking a less well known location OR visiting in ‘shoulder seasons’, so within the April/May or Oct/Nov timeframe.
If you want to get involved in the local social scene there are two epic times to visit Edinburgh for your Scotland elopement.
The first is Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) when the city hosts an incredible street party, some say the best in the world: what a way to celebrate your marriage!
The other – and our absolute favorite time to be in the capital – is throughout the month of August when the entire city comes ALIVE hosting the annual Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world.
ACTIVITIES: cool things to do when you elope in Scotland
There are endless fun ways to spend your time in Scotland!
Our eloping couples enjoy different levels and types of activity: some couples are happy to kick-back and relax, basking in their love, enjoying the scenery and just ‘being’ while others want to go, go, go, fitting in as many cool activities as they possibly can.
We’ll help to plan out an itinerary that suits YOU.
If you want to see and do as much as possible, we love the idea of setting off on an epic road trip. Scotland is a small country and you can see SO much of what it has to offer in just a few days.
Depending on your personal tastes, you might want to consider one or more of the following:
Outdoor activities for your Scotland elopement
Scotland has a massive outdoor scene, including hiking, biking, kayaking, skiing and – of course – golf!
If you get a buzz out of physical activity and being in the great outdoors, we can for sure plan an elopement day that involves your fave activity.
Toast to your future adventures…
Scotland is the home of whisky and it would be rude to not honor that fact during your visit…. Right?!
Seriously though, if you’re a whisky lover there are great distilleries all over the country: it’s highly likely we could factor in a wee tour and tasting to celebrate your new union. You might not know that Scotland also has a burgeoning craft gin scene that is WELL worth indulging in.
… And sample the traditional cuisine
Whether it’s a full Scottish breakfast at your B&B, takeaway fish and chips on the beach, or ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ at the local pub, if you’re a foodie it’s super fun to try out the local food for a full, authentic Scottish elopement experience.
For a long time, Scotland was known for its rather uninspired cuisine but, in recent years, it has undergone a gastronomic revolution and now you can find exciting new eateries across the country, often focusing on local, seasonal produce.
Enjoy the night skies
Thanks to its low population density, Scotland has world-class star-gazing opportunities IF you’re blessed with clear skies. Imagine sitting out together, the night before your elopement, contemplating your tiny place in the universe and the magnitude of the day to come… ROMANTIC or what?! In winter, if you’re really lucky, you might even get a glimpse of the Northern Lights….
Travel in style for your Scotland elopement
If you’d like to see a bit more of the country but would rather not be limited to driving yourself around, you could treat yourselves to a variety of alternative modes of transport.
We’re thinking a helicopter tour of the Highlands, a 4×4 tour to get you out into the wilds or a train journey along the West Highland Line (yup, you’ll cross the ‘Harry Potter Bridge’!).
And, just so you know, you could totally multitask and do a distillery helicopter tour, just sayin’…
Immerse yourselves in history
Scotland has a long and colorful past, romanticized by movies such as Braveheart.
If you and your partner are history buffs, you’ll be in your happy place exploring the country’s many impressive castles, sobering battlefields, engaging museums and centuries’ old city streets.
If you plan your Scottish elopement in summer, you must try and find yourselves at a ‘Highland Games’ celebration! These are amazing outdoor events celebrating Scottish culture: kilts, bagpipes, Highland dancing, ‘tossing the caber’… So. Much. Fun. If you get REALLY lucky, you might even find yourself at a ‘ceilidh’, a social gathering with traditional Gaelic folk music and dancing.
ATTIRE: what to wear for your Scotland elopement
One of the beauties of choosing to elope – and ditching all the pressure that comes with a big wedding – is that you can feel liberated to wear whatever the heck you want!
Having said that, there are a few things you’ll want to consider as you and your love plan your outfits.
First up, let’s factor in the weather!
You’ll for sure want LAYERS, as Scottish weather, especially up in the Highlands or out on the islands, can change quickly. So, even on a seemingly bright summer’s day, don’t be fooled! You’ll need both warm layers and waterproof layers.
We’re thinking cute wraps, leather jackets or embellished bridal capes to go with a dress, and a sharp-looking wool coat to go over a suit. Cozy blankets to wrap around you both are a great idea (snuggle time!). And, if it’s really cold, thermal layers underneath your outfits are a must.
Bring proper waterproof jackets to ward off the (highly possible!) drizzle: you can always whoop them off and hide out under one of our cute clear umbrellas for photos!
You’ll also want to think about COMFORT, especially if you’re planning a physical aspect to your elopement adventure. No bride wants to be hiking up a mountain in a stiff ballgown dress, trust us!
You’re going to be far more comfortable – and therefore happier – in lighter, more flowing styles and fabrics. Plus, these kinds of dresses look EPIC when the wind catches them!!
Lastly, consider footwear.
If you’re thinking an urban Edinburgh elopement is your vibe, for sure go for a pretty shoe… BUT be aware Edinburgh’s Old Town (the most beautiful area) is all cobbled, winding streets and maybe avoid high heels! A sprained ankle on your wedding day is not what we’re after.
If you’re planning an elopement out in the wilds, you’re more likely going to want a waterproof hiking boot or shoe. We personally love the juxtaposition of a pretty dress with a practical shoe. Also remember you won’t even see them under the dress unless you choose to lift it.
The best thing you can do to make sure your outfit is environment-appropriate is to try it out. Put on your dress/suit and shoes/boots: now march around your house! Take big steps, try going upstairs pretending like you’re hiking, swing your arms around. Is anything uncomfortable or restrictive? If so, make some changes. You don’t want minor irritations like that distracting you on your elopement day.
TRADITIONS: elements you may like to include in your Scotland elopement
Often our couples like to include a little bit of local tradition in their wedding ceremonies, something to connect them with the country they are sharing their vows in.
If this idea appeals to you, here’s a few things to incorporate into your Scotland elopement:
Tartan for your Scotland elopement
Quintessentially Scottish, a splash of tartan looks fabulous with any outfit.
Maybe a tartan shawl to keep you warm or a tartan ribbon around your bouquet/boutonniere? If you’re feeling bold, why not a kilt?
A sprig of white heather in the bride’s bouquet is a popular good luck token in some areas of Scotland.
There is nothing more hauntingly romantic than a lone piper playing at your ceremony as you prepare to share your vows. Gets us every time.
In the handfasting unity ritual, the couple holds hands and cords are then braided around their hands, giving rise to the expression ‘tying the knot’. It is a practice rooted in ancient Celtic tradition, and is thought to literally and figuratively bind two people together.
A whisky toast
What better way to celebrate your nuptials than with a ‘wee dram’ of Scotland’s finest beverage?
It’ll help warm you up, too!
We think it would be nice to indulge in a really nice bottle and then have a shot of it for every anniversary thereafter.
Many people around the world – Americans especially – have Scottish ancestry and may well be linked to a particular clan: with a bit of research you can find ‘your’ tartan. But don’t despair if not, you can still enjoy wearing tartan.
There are now many modern ‘neutral’ tartan designs that are not clan-based: anyone can wear them!
Or you could ditch the tartan altogether and go with an all-black kilt which makes for a very dashing groom, in our opinion.
YOUR SCOTLAND ELOPEMENT
So, there you have it!
Hopefully everything you might need to know and more about eloping in Scotland.
We truly can’t recommend a Scottish elopement enough: the romance, the history and the mind-blowing landscapes are incomparable.
And, with the huge range of activities and accommodation options, there’s something for everyone.
With a little bit of brainstorming and day-dreaming we can create the perfect elopement experience for YOU!
We would love to create an epic elopement experience for you! We provide planning assistance, photography and officiation for adventure-seeking couples across the US and worldwide. Get in touch to start brainstorming with us!
Chad & Vanessa, ‘The Outlovers’