Logistics and Legalities of Eloping to Scotland
In a past life Martin and I were wedding photographers, specialising in Scottish elopements. We wrote the following post explaining how easy it is to elope to Scotland and it was surprisingly popular. Since we’ve taken our photography website down, we thought it might be an idea to repost the elopement info here, so that the resource isn’t lost forever!
You would not believe how long it took me to put this short post together! I’ve spent hour upon hour trawling through Government websites, Society/Association websites, wedding blogs, even Wikipedia, to gather information. I still had to make a phone call and send a couple of emails to clarify a few conflicts. The process of eloping to/getting married in Scotland is actually pretty simple, but you have to make your way through a virtual labyrinth for a basic wedding checklist! Anyway, here it is, in just three steps…
Step One – Find Your Backdrop
Stop your search immediately for ‘wedding venues Scotland’, and instead begin the search for a wedding ceremony location that is yours and yours alone. All you need is permission from the landowner and you’re away! You should find most folk willing to allow small weddings on their land, as long as you reassure them you will be vigilant about shutting gates and clearing up afterwards, e.g. confetti/champagne corks, etc. You may not even need to pay for the privilege! On the other hand, if you need extra peace of mind, there are many elopement packages available with estates and hotels in Scotland who can make every last arrangement for you. We booked a little holiday cottage in the middle of nowhere for a week, and were married on the Wednesday morning a few yards up the track by the side of the loch. On our third anniversary, we revisited the little old tree we stood under when we said our vows. It was that extra bit more special knowing that that particular spot was our own!
Step Two – Choose Your Celebrant
There are three types of legally recognised wedding ceremonies in Scotland – Civil, Religious and Belief…
Civil Ceremonies are strictly non-religious and performed by an employee of the government, in a Registrar’s Office or at a place agreed with the registration authority on an individual basis. You are given three or four wedding ceremony scripts to choose from and you should be able to mix and match exerts to personalise the wording. You have the option to include readings and music, and to write your own wedding vows in addition to the statutory vows. A registrar is appointed on your behalf, so if the district Registrar’s Office is in a large town or city, you are unlikely to have the opportunity to meet them beforehand. However if your ceremony location is more remote, there would be far less registrars serving the area, so you may well be given the chance to sit down with them. If you have any more questions, it might be an idea to call the Registrar General.
A Religious Ceremony can take place almost anywhere in Scotland, and of course vary greatly from one religion to the next, so I’ll leave you to do your own research in to this! You should be able to obtain a list of approved celebrants in the area where you wish to marry from any district registrar.
A Humanist Ceremony falls under the legal heading of a ‘Belief’ ceremony. Humanism advocates the philosophy that you can live your life morally and with meaning, without holding religious beliefs. A Humanist ceremony is legally recognised in Scotland and allows you complete freedom in how, where and by whom your ceremony is conducted. You can set the tone that’s right for you as a couple, write your own script and promises to each other and choose which, if any, rituals you might like to include, such as hand fasting, candle lighting, sand pouring or even create your own, that is completely individual to you. Everything you need to know about Humanist wedding ceremonies can be found on the Humanist Society website. To choose a Humanist Celebrant in Scotland see the Humanist Society Scotland’s listings.
An Interfaith Ceremony can fall under the legal heading of either ‘Religious’ or ‘Belief’ as it caters for couples of any religion, mixed religion, spiritual, atheist or anything in between. An Interfaith Minister allows you to choose readings, poems and music based on your own values, wishes and beliefs, religious or otherwise and can be conducted almost anywhere. This option is particularly ideal for couples of mixed religious and cultural backgrounds as you can represent different faiths with appropriate rituals and wording. More details can be found on the Interfaith Foundation website, who also provide a directory of Ministers.
Step Three – The Paperwork
Around 10 to 12 weeks (or a minimum of 29 days) before your wedding date, you will each need to submit a M10 form by post, to the Registrar’s Office for the area in which you are getting married. They will then provide you with an Extract of Schedule – available for collection in person, from the Registrar’s Office from 7 days before the wedding date – which you, your celebrant and your witnesses will sign on the day of the wedding and you will then return to the Registrar’s Office by post within three working days.
You are required by law to have two witnesses present at your wedding. You will need to submit a Witness Details form to the Registrar’s Office alongside your M10 forms.
For any other questions about the legalities of getting married in Scotland, try the National Records of Scotland website and Citizen’s Advice Scotland. Failing that, your celebrant should be able to advise you on everything you need to know.
An additional step for those who do not live in the UK…
If you and/or your partner are nationals of a country outside the European Economic Area and Switzerland, you will need to apply for a visa as well as making the arrangements detailed above. The National Records of Scotland website will talk you through this process.
I hope this post has been helpful. I know we could have done with something like this when we decided to elope to Scotland! Did you elope? I want to hear all about it!