Your dream Scotland elopement – the ultimate planning guide
UPDATED FOR 2024-2025
Scotland is the land of the brave, wilds and adventure lovers. It is the best destination for couples looking for an incredible, beautiful and peaceful adventure for their elopement. With ragged mountains, deep lakes, mystical forests, ancient castles and delicious food, Scotland has it all. To be honest, it has always been my favorite location for an adventure elopement.
If you’re thinking of Scotland for your elopement, you’re on the right page. In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know to elope in Scotland: venues, tips, places and everything in between, so you will be able to plan the most peaceful and amazing elopement.
Let’s dive in…
Welcome to the Adventure of a Lifetime
Hey there, my name is Amber! If you’re ready for a Scotland elopement, I’m ready to help you plan! As an experienced Scotland elopement photographer, I’ll be by your side as your guide and travel planner, helping you find the perfect place to exchange vows and tie the knot. Together, we’ll discover what an intimate, perfect wedding day means for you, and I’ll guide you through every step of the process!
I’ll get to know you and create your perfect adventure, and be there to document it so that you can relive every incredible moment for years to come! Contact me to learn more about Scotland elopement packages, and let’s start dreaming up your day.
First, let’s be sure we’re talking about the same thing:
What is an elopement?
Elopement is a way to get married that only involves a few people (or nobody at all) with the couple on the day of their wedding. Many years ago, an elopement was a way for a couple to get married in secret. However, it is intended more for couples looking for an amazing experience for their wedding day. Elopements avoid family drama, the stress of planning a big wedding and can take place pretty much anywhere.
If you want to make your elopement the official day of your marriage and you are not a UK citizen, you can legally get married in Scotland. You will both need to apply for a marriage visa and first contact the attorney general of the state you are planning on living in the USA to check if your marriage license will be valid there (which is the case in most states of the U.S.). Same-sex couples can also legally get married. Your ceremony must be performed by a recognized celebrant from the religion of your choice, or no religion at all, like a humanist celebrant.
Why you should plan an elopement in Scotland
If there is something that should truly move you when you visit Scotland, it is its natural beauty. The diversity is absolutely amazing, and the panoramas are gorgeous, especially when you go north of the city of Stirling. You may have heard of the Highlands, the Loch Ness Monster, or the Isle of Skye. However, Scotland is a very exciting place to visit. There are many things to see, aside from the well-known attractions. There are deep lakes, mysterious forests, tiny houses lost in the middle of amazing landscapes and dramatic cliffs. There is much to see and many places to celebrate your Scottish elopement!
When you’re not walking in beautiful, painting-like landscapes, you can discover the second reason why Scotland is famous throughout the world: its heritage. Scotland is has many ancient castles, some of which you can now visit. They are filled with folklore, tales and legends. The Lords of Scotland truly have an amazing history. You can discover it, while walking in the beautiful corridors of a 12th century castle. The northern part of Scotland also has a very rooted Nordic culture. If you’d like to know more about Vikings, visit the Shetland Islands and be a part of the Up Helly Aa festival in Lerwick, which takes place every January. It is amazing.
It is a little bit like the “nature” part of this chapter, but it is worth mentioning. The landscapes in Scotland are jaw-dropping. Anywhere you go will be a treat for your eyes. In the central part of Scotland, you will find beautiful, snowy mountains perfect for hikes and exchanging your vows at sunset with a view. This area also has lakes (the Loch Ness is not the most beautiful one). The western part is flatter, with beautiful little islands scattered off the coast. The Hebrides are worthwhile visiting. You can enjoy them after a short boat ride from the mainland. The eastern part has many castles and forests. Be sure to check them out. The northern part of Scotland is my favorite. It is flatter than the center and filled with dramatic cliffs, beautiful sandy beaches and sheep everywhere. You can also go to the northernmost post office in the UK, by visiting the Shetland Islands by boat. They truly are wonderful.
How to Legally Elope in Scotland
Getting legally married in Scotland, whether for a traditional wedding or a Scotland elopement, involves several steps. Here’s an overview of the process:
- Choose Your Location:
- Scotland offers a wide range of picturesque locations for your elopement, from historic castles to scenic landscapes. Choose your preferred location and check if it’s a registered venue for civil ceremonies or if it requires additional permissions for outdoor ceremonies.
- Give Notice of Marriage:
- Regardless of your nationality, you’ll need to give notice of your intent to marry at a Scottish registrar’s office. This notice can be submitted up to 3 months before your wedding date but no later than 29 days before.
- Attend the Registrar’s Office:
- Both you and your partner must appear in person at the registrar’s office to provide the necessary documents and information. You’ll need to bring proof of identity, nationality, and residence, as well as your birth certificates and any required divorce or death certificates if applicable.
- Complete the Marriage Schedule:
- After giving notice, you’ll receive a Marriage Schedule. This document is essential for your ceremony and must be given to the celebrant on your wedding day.
- Choose a Celebrant:
- For a civil or religious ceremony, you can choose a registered celebrant in Scotland to officiate your wedding. This could be a registrar, minister, priest, or humanist celebrant.
- Hold the Ceremony:
- On your chosen date, you’ll have your Scotland elopement ceremony. During the ceremony, you’ll sign the Marriage Schedule, and your chosen celebrant will lead the proceedings.
- Obtain the Marriage Certificate:
- After the ceremony, your Marriage Schedule will be sent to the registrar’s office to be officially recorded. You can then apply for a marriage certificate, which is the legal proof of your marriage.
- Optional Religious or Belief Ceremony:
- If you plan to have a religious or belief ceremony in addition to your civil ceremony, you must arrange this separately with the relevant religious or belief body.
It’s important to note that the specific requirements and details may vary based on your individual circumstances and the location you choose for your Scotland elopement. Therefore, it’s advisable to contact the registrar’s office in the area where you plan to marry for guidance on the exact process and any additional requirements.
For couples from the US:
In certain states, you can ask your county clerk the authorization to sign your wedding license abroad. If they agree, as a registered minister, my team and I will be able to legally marry you without the hassle of a legal wedding ceremony in Scotland.
How to Get to Scotland for Your Elopement
When it’s time to begin your adventure, you’ll need to get yourself to Scotland! The country is easy to get to, with several major airports, along with train, bus, and ferry options.
Get to Scotland by Plane
The first way to get to Scotland for your elopement is to hop on a flight. Scotland has a few international airports – in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, and Inverness. This means that it’s easy to fly to different locations all over Scotland, no matter where you’re coming from! The Edinburgh and Glasgow airports are the most popular for international travel, so you’ll find the most options landing here. Then, you can take a short domestic flight to one of the other airports, or take a train or bus to your final destination!
Get to Scotland by Train or Bus
The next option for getting to your elopement in Scotland is to take a train or a bus. This is a good option if you’re coming from a neighboring country in Europe, and it will be less expensive and often faster than taking a plane.
Get to Scotland by Ferry
If you want to get to Scotland from Northern Ireland, or from other seaports in Europe, a fun way to travel can be to take a ferry! This can be a good way to stop in multiple locations before you reach your final destination in Scotland, and you can start your adventure early.
Getting Around Scotland During Your Elopement
Like most countries in Europe, Scotland has a pretty well-connected system of trains and buses, which makes it possible to travel around the country without a car. But, a car gives you the most flexibility and allows you to visit more remote places – so when it comes to eloping, renting a car is typically the best option for getting around Scotland!
Trains are great for traveling between the major cities, while buses can take you to more rural areas. Either option can be good when you’re traveling if you want to go between towns, but I definitely recommend renting a car for at least part of your stay in Scotland to ensure that you’re able to easily reach your elopement location. If you’re traveling to one of the islands, there are ferries that will take you there! It’s typically better to rent a car once you’re on the island, then to bring one on the ferry with you.
Did you know?
As your trusted guide and photographer for unforgettable Scotland elopements, I’m here to add an extra dash of adventure and a lot of friendly reassurance. On your elopement adventure, I’ve got your transportation covered – it’s on the house! So, you can kick back, enjoy the ride, and fully soak in the thrill of your special day. And if the idea of driving on the “other” side of the road gives you a bit of excitement (or maybe jitters), fear not! I’ll handle all the logistics with a smile and expertise, leaving you free to create epic memories.
Lodging for Your Scotland elopement
During your Scotland elopement, you’ll need a place to stay! Whether you stay in one place the entire time, or you book a few different accommodations as you travel around the country, your lodging is a part of your elopement experience. You have plenty of options in Scotland, so here are a few ideas!
Hotels in Scotland
Hotels tend to be one of the most convenient options for booking accommodations when you travel, and Scotland has lots of unique stays to choose from. Check out this lodge that sits right on a sandy cove, this luxurious castle-esque hotel on the Isle of Skye, and this charming hotel in Cairngorms National Park!
Airbnbs in Scotland
Looking for an Airbnb is a really great way to find unique accommodations that are private and close to some local gems. In Scotland, you’ll find some unique stays, including castles, a submarine shaped tiny home, cottages in the countryside, and more!
Camping in Scotland
If you want to get a little off the beaten path and add some extra adventure into your elopement, you can camp in Scotland! You can find remote places to wild camp, which is allowed in some places around the country (always make sure to look up local ordinances before you set up camp), or you can also find established campsites that offer options for tent camping, camper vans, or even glamping accommodations.
Did you know?
When you book your elopement experience with me, I’ll give you access to my concierge service and recommend incredible hotels and talented local vendors.
Top 5 spots for your elopement in Scotland
Isle of Skye
Widely known for its beautiful landscapes mainly linked to fairies, the Isle of Skye is a mysterious island that you can reach by car via a little bridge from mainland. Once you set foot on the isle, it’s hard not to get lost in its little winding roads leading to beautiful peaks and secluded beaches. It is all lit by out-of-this-world sunlight.
For some places, what matters is not the destination, but the journey to get there. This is true for the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. The road to the peninsula is long, beautiful and full of amazing spots that you can definitely enjoy from the road. Lakes, mountains and forests are waiting for you. At the end of the road is an amazing lighthouse with a 180° view of the ocean. It is the perfect spot for your elopement in Scotland.
Isle of Harris and Lewis
Part of the Hebrides, the Isle of Harris and Lewis is a beautiful place for your wedding ceremony in Scotland. The Isle of Harris is full of scattered fishing houses with beautiful views of the ocean. You can drive around the whole island from south to north and enjoy secluded artsy cafés, ancient churches, amazingly beautiful beaches and a trip back in time with some thatched houses.
The Loch Lomond Area
This might be the most popular tourist location in Scotland. However,there are many secluded, secret places to visit that will allow you to avoid the crowds (which are pretty much always non-existent, especially if you’re not visiting in July or August). Try to visit the Loch Arklet for a very special treat!
It is hard to go to the Shetlands, if you only have a few days to visit Scotland. This is because the boat to get there takes half a day to reach it. However, the Shetland Islands might be my favorite place on earth. They are is a windy, barren landscape that is filled with amazing wildlife and dramatic, beautiful scenery. You will surely find peace there. It might even be possible to exchange your vows under the northern lights.
Did you know?
Scotland is a treasure trove of wonders, and there’s so much more to discover beyond the well-known attractions like Edinburgh or the Highlands. When you decide to entrust your elopement to me, I’ll craft a personalized list of 4 to 5 extraordinary off-the-beaten-path locations that match your unique style. Let’s embark on an adventure together, exploring the hidden gems of Scotland, far from the usual tourist spots.
The best time to elope in Scotland
Scotland is a cold area of the world. However, thanks to its oceanic climate, it almost never snows on the coast. The Highlands and the Glencoe region are the coldest areas, where you can ski in the winter.
It can get quite cold in Scotland during winter. The Highlands have some great ski resorts that you can enjoy during the winter after your elopement, if you wish. Winter is also the calmest, most peaceful season in Scotland. If you don’t like hordes of tourists, it might be the best season for your Scotland elopement.
Spring also is a very nice time for a small wedding in Scotland. Daffodils are blooming everywhere, and nature is emerging from its hibernating state. The weather gets milder (although it is still pretty cold). You can enjoy hiking in most parts of Scotland, even on the highest peaks. In May, you can elope anywhere in Scotland, and even hike on top of a mountain to exchange your vows!
Like everywhere else, summer is THE peak tourist season. This is why I don’t recommend visiting Scotland during the months of July and August. The weather will be nice (even if it rains almost every day in Scotland, regardless of the season). However, it won’t worth enduring the hordes of tourists in the form of slow campervans on the narrow roads, tourist vans coming from Edinburgh and Glasgow for a day-trip, packed hotels and restaurants, and, in general, people everywhere.
Fall is the best season for surfing, if you would like to catch the waves after your Scotland elopement. If it also a beautiful, dark season when the trees are absolutely gorgeous and make the best background for your pictures. However, Scotland has mainly pine trees that don’t shed in autumn. It is a very nice, mild and less crowded season for your special day.
Did you know?
One of the coolest and most enchanting experiences Scotland has to offer is the occasional glimpse of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. Yes, you read that right—this magical natural phenomenon can grace the Scottish skies with its celestial dance of colors. Imagine saying your vows under a canvas of shimmering greens, purples, and blues as the Northern Lights paint a breathtaking backdrop to your Scotland elopement. It’s a celestial spectacle that can make your special day even more extraordinary and truly unforgettable.
Unique Things to Do When You Elope in Scotland
Eloping gives you the incredible opportunity to make your wedding day whatever you want it to be!
Whatever adventure you’re craving, planning an elopement instead of a traditional wedding makes it possible.
So during your Scotland elopement, plan some adventures and experiences that you’ll never forget! Here are some ideas for unique things to do in Scotland.
Explore a Castle
Scotland has lots of castles, and lots of ruins that you can explore. Some of them you can even stay in! Edinburgh Castle sits on a dormant volcano overlooking the capital of Scotland, and some other amazing fortresses to visit include Balmoral Castle, Dunnottar Castle, and other historic sites.
Look for the Loch Ness Monster
Loch Ness is a big freshwater lake in the Scottish Highlands, best known for the legend of the Loch Ness Monster! You can keep an eye out as you kayak, take a boat tour, or just relax on the beach of this famous lake. The surrounding area also has lots of cute countryside villages to explore, and nearby hikes where you can see waterfalls and wildlife!
Enjoy the Mountains
Scotland has some incredible scenery, including stunning mountain peaks that tower high over the country. If you love the outdoors, hiking is a great way to experience your elopement day, but you can also mountain bike on the trails, or in the winter, hit the slopes and go skiing!
What to wear for your elopement in Scotland
An elopement doesn’t mean that you must have a quick wedding and get it over with in an hour or so. It can also be an aesthetic, beautiful, thoughtful day you will put a lot of love into. You will have a lot of fun designing everything, from the beginning to the end. The beginning might be: what should you wear for your elopement day?
Since Scotland is VERY windy, a flowing dress that will move with the wind is always a great option. Talk with your dress designer about chiffon, crepe, silk or batiste, since they are all lightweight, flowing and amazingly beautiful fabrics for your elopement wedding dress.
You should try to avoid huge, princess-like dresses. They will slow you down on your adventure and add a lot of weight on the day. Dresses that are easy to put on are always best for a Scotland elopement, since you won’t want to be naked in the wild for too long, if you decide to put your wedding dress on the site where your vows are exchanged.
I always love vintage leather hiking boots, since they add a touch of timelessness to your pictures. They are also very comfortable for hiking. Normal hiking boots are also great. In any case, avoid shoes you won’t be comfortable walking long distances with, such as high heels, sandals, etc.
The same is true for men. Classic wedding shoes might be too uncomfortable to walk long distances in. Don’t forget that Scotland is very humid and plan accordingly.
You have many different options, when it comes to suits. You can even go the Scottish way and choose a tartan for getting married in the Highlands. However, if you want something more classical, you can find many inspirations online on different wedding blogs. The rule is: be comfortable. Like the dress, you will walk a lot in your suit and will probably jump on rocks, avoid mud, do silly things, etc. You HAVE to feel awesome in it, but choose something that will also be comfortable for a whole day of adventure.
How to keep warm
Scotland can be cold in any season. The weather changes rapidly.You might have a beautiful sunny day, that is followed by six days of non-stop rain. Plan accordingly when you elope in Scotland and buy some warm clothes. A fluffy, big plaid is always beautiful in pictures. if you a jacket, pick something that won’t stand out too much on camera (avoid bright colors for example) and that won’t cover you too much (huge fluffy jackets might not be the most flattering for your elopement).
You should also pack some hand and feet warmers. They are lightweight, practical and you never know when you’ll need them!
Typical food and dishes from Scotland
You might want to integrate into your elopement day
Scotland is renowned for its high-quality salmon, thanks to its pristine waters and strong salmon-farming industry. Try smoked salmon, often served with cream cheese on a bagel or as a delightful appetizer. The tender, smoky taste of Scottish salmon is a treat for seafood lovers.
For those with a sweet tooth, Scottish shortbread is a must-try. This buttery and crumbly biscuit has a rich, melt-in-your-mouth texture that’s simply irresistible. It’s a beloved Scottish classic and makes for a perfect souvenir to bring back home.
Cranachan is a traditional Scottish dessert that’s as delicious as it is visually appealing. It typically consists of layers of whipped cream, raspberries, honey, and toasted oatmeal, all combined to create a delightful, creamy, and slightly crunchy dessert. It perfectly balances the sweetness of honey with the tartness of raspberries, making it a delightful way to end your Scottish meal on a sweet note.
Example budget of an elopement in Scotland
When it comes to elopement budgets, I understand the challenges of providing a precise estimate for vendors outside of my own expertise. The cost can greatly vary depending on your chosen destination and the quality of vendors you desire.
Elopement expenses are significantly influenced by factors like your chosen location. Rather than providing generic budget estimates for vendors I don’t work with, I recommend exploring my elopement packages. They include all-inclusive options, giving you a clearer view of your budget and costs.
Plan your Scotland elopement – your checklist
Think about where you’d like to go
Scotland covers a large area and has a wide variety of landscapes. You have many options for your elopement in Scotland, so choose wisely. And if you’re not sure, ask around and find inspiration on Pinterest. You will surely find secret and amazing places.
Pick a date
Once you have chosen the perfect place for your ceremony, pick a date for your elopement day. Once again, try to avoid the summer months and select the late spring or fall as the weather will be perfect and you will avoid the crowds. For even more choice in your vendors, you can also pick a weekday. They all are generally more flexible and available than weekends, especially if you’re planning only a few months in advance!
Find more information about travel visas and wedding certificates
Travels visas are necessary to travel to any country, so please plan in advance and check your government’s website to see what you need to travel to Scotland for your elopement. Don’t forget about the process required to obtain a legitimate wedding certificate. You will find all of the information on the official government website.
Book your accommodation
Once everything is in order and you’re good to go, you can start booking your accommodations. This will be closely linked to the place you chose to exchange your vows. Therefore, don’t forget to check websites like AirBnB, Homeaway, TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Booking.com and others. You will find the best accommodation options near the site of your ceremony and will also be able to book online.
Find a place to exchange your vows
This is when your experienced, seasoned and passionate photographer will help you pick the very best spot to exchange your vows. You have chosen the region and you know where you will sleep. It is now the time to pick THE place to say “I do”. Check out a variety of hikes around your accommodations, and pick the one that seems to be the least used by travelers (to avoid crowds) and which will offer a unique and amazing panorama. Definitely ask your photographer to help you with this, since choosing a spot with the best light at the right time of the day is definitely something only a pro can do.
Book your other vendors
Don’t forget that you will need a officiant to make your elopement legal in Scotland. You can also book a florist for your bridal bouquet and boutonniere, a private chef if you’d like to indulge for a few meals (and a wedding cake!), etc. Don’t forget to buy your wedding rings. A beautiful addition to this day can also be a vows book to bring with you to your ceremony.
Plan your travel
Scotland is huge. There are many things to see. It might be a good option to plan a road-trip across Scotland before, during or after you exchanged your vows. This will transform your wedding day into an amazing experience to remember, filled with discoveries, peaceful landscapes, adventures and memories to share – forever.
Book your photographer
Once you have completed these steps (or even before, since your photographer can also help you choose everything from the start), you can contact the photographer of your choice and ask about her services for your Scotland elopement. Not all photographers offer the same number of hours each day. Some (like myself) also offer a complete travel experience that will take your elopement to the next level and will be an unforgettable event. Don’t overlook your photographer’s experience in traveling and shooting elopements, since this is the most important part: being stuck with a photographer who is not ready to follow you where you have decided to exchange your vows, or who won’t be able to recommend an amazing place to do so, if you haven’t decided yet, can totally kill your day!
A beautiful Scotland elopement
filmed by Heart Stone Film
DOES SCOTLAND SOUND LIKE YOUR DREAM?
How to plan your peaceful Scotland elopement with me
Let’s dive in, so you can start your journey right away!
Imagine a wedding where you can be you. Breathe. Bask in each other’s love.
Experience a place close to your hearts, or a bucket-list dream.
Are you eager to start planning your Scotland elopement? I’m here to help you envision, plan and immortalize this beautiful adventure! Contact me now for a free consultation!