Plan a romantic wedding in Scotland

Because right now is the perfect time to dream of the future and plan your romantic wedding in Scotland!

The idea of a traditional Scottish Wedding at a typically Scottish Wedding Venue immediately conquers up imagery of men in kilts, a bridal bouquet of purple flowering heather, a misty loch, an old castle, a lone piper, and ancient Celtic traditions.

This is exactly the kind of wedding our eldest son and his lovely fiancee had in mind for their own special day to be held near Edinburgh in October 2020. Except there were (and at the time of writing there still are) strict Corona Virus restrictions in place in Scotland. But, despite these setbacks and compromises on the date and the venue, and the number of guests in attendance, happily the wedding did go ahead. Although in not quite the same way it was originally planned, the beautiful bride wore her traditional white lace wedding gown and the handsome groom wore his Scottish Highland kilt.

As with many weddings this year, the originally planned grand celebrations with family and friends have now been postponed until the end of 2021. When, the married couple will hope to receive a blessing on their marriage beside a beautiful misty Scottish loch, followed by a fabulous dinner, emotional speeches, a whisky and champagne-fuelled reception, and music and Ceilidh dancing long into the night.

Photos of the happy couple – our son and his beautiful bride – on their wedding day

So, while the backpacking husband and I are living back in our homeland of Scotland in 2020, and with wedding fever still very much in the Scottish air and The Scottish Tourism Alliance enthusiastically reporting a steady trend in overseas couples still very interested in choosing Scotland as a their future wedding destination, I wanted to write this post specifically for all of you who are living elsewhere in the world with big dreams of coming to Scotland to get married sometime in the new future.

Perhaps at the famous blacksmith’s ‘marriage’ anvil at Gretna Green? Or, maybe you’re looking to renew your wedding vows on a special anniversary in a wonderfully romantic and typically Scottish setting beside a loch? Or, have you already Saved The Date with family and friends while planning a romantic fairy tale wedding in a Scottish castle sometime in the new future?

If that’s the case then this is absolutely the right place for you. Because, while we are all paused, right now is the perfect time to dream and plan for the future and for your romantic wedding in Scotland!

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FIVE GREAT REASONS TO GET MARRIED IN SCOTLAND

Reason 1: It’s trending!

On average 20 per cent of weddings held in Scotland every year are between non-residents. Over 130,000 couples living outside the UK have chosen Scotland for their wedding over the last 20 years and wedding venues across the country are reporting an increase in enquiries from far flung places.” (Source: STA News)

Reason 2: In Scotland you can get married anywhere you please

“Over the years there has been a steady flow of couples from abroad choosing to get married in Scotland. Scotland provides the option of getting married anywhere you please, be that a mountaintop, a beach, a castle, or a zoo, and this is proving appealing to people both home and overseas.” (Source: VisitScotland)

Reason 3: Couples come to Scotland to marry as a nod to their Scottish roots

“Venues stated that American and Australian couples prefer traditional Scottish themes and touches like thistles, tartan, whisky and ceilidhs. Some grooms with no Scottish roots still choose to don a kilt when getting married here.” (Source: STA News)

Reason 4: Scotland can offer both history and ambiance

“Most people dream that the most important day of their lives will be matched by the most marvellous and memorable setting possible: in Scotland we can make that dream come true.” (Source: National Trust for Scotland)

Reason 5: A place to say ‘I do’ that will live with you forever

“Newly married couples will often spend their honeymoon in Scotland and it can be the beginning of another love affair, this time with our country.” (Source: National Trust for Scotland)

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YES! It’s absolutely true that Scotland is one of very few countries in the world were people from all over the world, of all faiths and sexualities, can be married either indoors or outdoors whenever and wherever they wish in Scotland.

This wonderful advantage and flexibility is the main reason that many couples from all over the world travel – or elope – to Scotland to be married and to have the kind of personalised and individual wedding they’ve always dreamed of for their special day.

Indeed, many couples from other parts of the United Kingdom, particularly England and Wales, wanting to create a unique wedding, will travel to get married in Scotland in a castle or on a mountain or a beach.

This is because, right now, Humanist weddings out with of a registered venue are not legally recognised in England and Wales but they are legally recognised and indeed regularly performed in Scotland.

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There are FOUR TYPES of legal wedding ceremonies in Scotland

Civil – Conducted by an official from the local government office, appointed to you by them.

Humanist – Conducted by a non-religious person, chosen by you.

Religious – Conducted by a person of a religion of your choosing, who practices in Scotland.

Multi-faith – Conducted by a person who has respect for all faiths, chosen by you.

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To be legally married in Scotland, you must meet the following marriage criteria:

You and your partner must both be single, divorced, widowed or have dissolved a previously legally recognised partnership. You must be over the age of sixteen. You must not be closely related to each other. You must be capable of understanding the commitment of marriage.

As a citizen of the UK, to marry in Scotland you will need to apply for a marriage licence locally. If you are not a citizen of the UK, to marry legally in Scotland, you do need a visitors marriage visa and a marriage licence (also known a marriage schedule) to comply with legislation.

You can find out more information about Humanist Weddings and Humanist Celebrants at the Humanist UK Website. Find current information on how to marry in Scotland on the Scottish Government Website and at Destination Weddings Scotland Website. Note currently Covid-19 restrictions may be in place.

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TOP TIPS for choosing the perfect Scottish wedding venue

Get Married at Gretna Green: Couples have been marrying here since 1754. Historically, runaway young couples eloped to get married over the blacksmith’s anvil from the age of 16 when the marriage age in England was 18. More recently, most couples who marry here come from outside the UK.

To seal the marriage the blacksmith ‘priest’ would bring his hammer down on the anvil. Legend has it that whomever touches the marriage anvil then good fortune in the affairs of heart will be yours. I must tell you that Gretna Green is actually not too far away from where I live in Scotland and so I have indeed had the opportunity to touch the old anvil for luck myself. And, so far so good, as Mr Backpacking Husband and I will be soon celebrating our 38th Wedding anniversary!

Originally, the matrimonial tradition was of ‘handfasting’, in which the couple’s hands would be bound together with a rope, ribbon, or cord, to symbolise their commitment to each other (and this was the origins of the phrase ‘tying the knot’) which then enabled couples to be ‘legally bound’ and to legally marry in front of just two witnesses. You can watch a ‘handfasting’ in the 1995 movie ‘Braveheart’ in the scene where William Wallace secretly marries his sweetheart in the woods!

These days, thousands of weddings and hundreds of marriage blessings take place every year within the famous Blacksmith’s Shop, which is still the original ‘marriage house’ built in 1713. And, you can still do a ‘handfasting’ ceremony at Gretna Green over the famous anvil as an informal gesture to celebrate a wedding anniversary or as part of your vows renewal or incorporate this special tradition into your Gretna Green wedding service from just £75. Find out more at Gretna Green Dotcom.

Tie the Celtic Knot in an Ancient Scottish Castle:

Imagine getting married in a Scottish castle? It really is the stuff of fairy tales and yet it is entirely possible. Imagine the wedding photographs and video with a backdrop of ancient stone walls, roundels and turrets, and a Scottish piper on the battlements playing the bagpipes. In Scotland, there are a huge variety of castles available as a wedding venue. Find out more at Visit Scotland.

You can even get married at Edinburgh Castle. What could be more romantic than saying ‘I do’ in St Margaret’s Chapel – within the most famous castle’s walls and in the oldest building in Edinburgh. Find out more at the Edinburgh Castle Website.

Marry in a Baronial Scottish Hunting Lodge or a Grand Stately Home – many have their own private chapel. Say your wedding vows in a Wild Scottish Landscape beside a humble stone bothy or an iconic loch or in a remote glen: all of this is possible in Scotland and you’d still be within walking distance of your wedding reception. Find out more at the National Trust for Scotland/weddings and also from Visit Scotland/weddings.

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EIGHT GREAT IDEAS FOR A MODERN SCOTTISH WEDDING

  1. An Outdoor wedding: if you choose a ‘wild’ outdoor Scottish wedding on the hills or in the glen then you might want to consider wearing ‘wedding wellies’ instead of heels.
  2. Tartan: The bride and the bridesmaids might also want to wear tartan for gowns, shoes, sashes, or a warm wool wrap or shawl.
  3. Thistle & Heather: Theme your contemporary Scottish wedding on the thistle and wild heather for your save the day notifications and invitations, venue and table decorations, cake decoration, buttonholes, corsages, and the bridal bouquet.
  4. Sweet Gifts: Scottish ‘tablet’ (a type of fudge) in a gauze bag with a tartan ribbon makes a sweet wedding favour.
  5. Wedding Bands: Celebrate your Scottish nuptials by exchanging Celtic style wedding rings.
  6. Entertainment: Hold your own version of the Highland Games to entertain your guests after the ceremony. Host a tug-of-war for the men and welly throwing for the ladies!
  7. Traditional Food: Serve Scottish faire to your guests: Serve Cullen Skink, a taste of haggis, or a clootie dumpling. For dessert serve creamy cranachan filled with Scottish raspberries.
  8. Honour your Best Man and Matron of Honour: With a gift of Celtic or Mackintosh inspired jewellery and the gift of a hipflask filled with a single malt whisky!

EIGHT GREAT OLD TRADITIONS FOR A SCOTTISH WEDDING

  1. The Wedding Sark: The sark is an old and unique wedding traditions because it is gifted from the bride to the groom. The sark itself is the shirt worn by the groom during the wedding and bought by the bride. In return, the groom will pay for the bride’s wedding dress. This tradition is simple enough to achieve, making a great starting point, if you want your day to feel as Scottish as possible.
  2. The Luckenbooth: This is a brooch gifted from groom to bride before the wedding as a show of love and dedication to the marriage. The brooch is traditionally made of silver and usually incorporates heart symbols or engravings. Another simple gift option to make your day feel inherently Scottish.
  3. The Men Wear Kilts: Men wearing kilts are one of the most iconic parts of a traditional Scottish formal occasion and no more so than at a Scottish wedding. Many families will wear their own clan tartan but it’s not essential to do so as many men will choose a popular tartan instead. Full Highland Kilt outfits can be hired. Popular tartans are the Modern Douglas, the Hunting Stewart, The Black Watch. The grey and heather coloured tartan worn at my eldest son’s recent wedding in Edinburgh was called ‘Scottish Spirit’.
  4. Bagpipes will be played: Nothing say’s Scottish wedding like hearing the sound of bagpipes being played by a piper in full highland attire. Traditional song choices can include Mairi’s Wedding, The Highland Wedding and Lochanside. It’s traditional at a Scottish Wedding for the bagpiper to toast the Bride and Groom to bestow good luck upon their marriage. The groom with then in return toast the piper.
  5. Toast to the Piper: Once the piper has played the bride and groom to the top table, the bride will offer him a dram, for the piper to then perform a toast to the newlyweds. The groom will then toast the piper before he pipes out of the room.
  6. Drinking whisky from the Quiach. The newly married couple will each sip whisky from the Quiach (pronounced kway-k) which is the ‘loving cup’ to toast each other and to symbolise their trust in each other.
  7. Heather in the Bridal Bouquet: In Scottish tradition, one of the most familiar features of the wedding bouquet is the presence of heather – a wild plant that grows all across Scotland. This link with the Scottish identity has made heather an essential addition to any Scottish wedding.
  8. There will be Ceilidh Dancing. This is traditional Scottish Ceilidh (pronounced Kei-lee) dancing. The most popular dances at weddings are The Flying Scotsman, Gay Gordon’s and Strip The Willow.  They involve a lot of stomping and spinning and skipping and are very energetic. Most live wedding bands will have someone willing and able to show you the moves and to get you up on your Ceilidh dancing feet.

I do hope, whether you are the new future bride and groom, or long-married and wanting to renew your vows, or planning to organise a special wedding anniversary blessing, that I’ve supplied you with wedding inspiration and lots of authentic Scottish wedding ideas. Haste ye back!

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