Scotland has long been the place where young couples in love would run away, or elope, to tie the knot. Often out of necessity to escape their disapproving parents, Gretna Green would be the ideal spot to get married. Those coming from England could simply hop over the border and wed at age 16 or 17 without needing the consent of their guardians.
These days, eloping has taken on a slightly new meaning. It’s less about running away, and more about having a smaller, more intimate and usually outdoors wedding. Eloping couples will still often have wedding guests made up of their core group of friends and family, just without the need to invite their 3rd cousin twice removed who they’ve not spoken to for years!
Covid 19 has changed the wedding industry in a big way, and as it’s currently against the regulations to gather in large groups, traditional weddings are just not an option. This is where elopements and micro weddings come in extremely handy!
At the time of writing, weddings hosted outdoors and those hosted indoors at a registered events venue are restricted to a maximum of 20 people attending. This includes the couple, their guests, and any staff that are not employed by the venue (i.e. a photographer, musician, external catering staff etc). Luckily, the celebrant is not included in these numbers! Full information can be found on the ScotGov website.
choosing your celebrant
Getting down to the basics, the only things you need to make your marriage official are you two, a celebrant, two witnesses and (very important!) your marriage schedule. Your witnesses can be people you know, but if you’re eloping from abroad and not bringing friends or family along, then your witnesses can be two of your wedding vendors.
When choosing a celebrant, first you need to decide whether you want a civil wedding ceremony, or a religious or belief wedding ceremony.
1. Civil wedding ceremonies are performed by a registrar and are subject to fairly strict regulations on what can be said and done during the ceremony. They can’t contain religious wording or music, and there are often time and venue constraints. For this reason, the legal marriage can be carried out in a registrar’s office prior to your actual wedding day, and you are then able to have a separate celebrant who can personalise the ceremony and make the wording and music about whatever you’d like it to be!
2. Religious or belief wedding ceremonies are carried out by a licensed member of your faith such as a minister, priest or Imam. Belief ceremonies include Humanist ceremonies, which are legally binding in Scotland (perks of eloping here!). Scotland is the only country in the UK that currently allows legal Humanist weddings and they are very popular as they can be completely customised to you both and performed anywhere in Scotland – no venue required.
signed, sealed, delivered, you’re married!
When you’ve managed to narrow down your numbers and decided on a celebrant to officiate your day, you’ll need to ensure you’ve signed the relevant forms in order to make your marriage legal. Not the most exciting part, but definitely an essential part of your day!
To get married in Scotland there are a few legal documents you’ll need:
• Marriage Notice Form: You and your partner are each required to fill in and return a Marriage Notice (M10) form to the registrar of the area you wish to get married in at least 29 days prior to the big day. The form itself starts off with a few pages of very helpful notes on how you should fill it in and what is required. It asks for fairly basic information about yourself, your parents and your current marital status (ie single, divorced, in a civil partnership). It also asks for proof of identity and status documents such as a birth certificate, passport, proof of residency etc… a full list can be found here.
• A Marriage Schedule: This is your marriage certificate which you will sign during your wedding ceremony. Religious & Belief: This is available to collect by you or your partner from your local registrar’s office 7 days before the ceremony, and you must return it no more than 3 days later. – Civil: Your registrar will have this for you to sign at the ceremony and will return it on your behalf.
eloping from abroad
If you are travelling from overseas to marry in Scotland, first of all, great choice! With all the possible locations around the country, Scotland can provide some absolutely stunning backdrops to your ceremony. But whether you’re planning a beach, mountain or city elopement, you will still need to consider a few things:
• Firstly, what country are you coming from? You may need to fill in a Declaration of Immigration Status Form before you can marry in Scotland.
• You may also be required to get a Marriage Visitor Visa. Click here to check if you need a visa.
• If you are living abroad and are not a UK citizen, you are also required to obtain a certificate from your country of residence stating that there is no reason you should not be married. This should be submitted along with your Marriage Notice Form.
money, money, money!
All of these forms and applications take time to be processed and approved, and more often than not are required to be paid for. You can find a list of the most basic costs here.
Celebrants themselves come with fees pertaining to their time, travel and possible accommodation costs. For a Humanist ceremony (minus any travel costs) the price can vary from £350 to £600. Depending on the Humanist you choose, there may also be a joining fee to the society or association they’re part of.
important information for eloping in scotland
Eleanor Fyfe for Coorie
Images courtesy of Emma Lawson Photography unless otherwise specified