How to Elope in Scotland: The Ultimate Guide
Updated: Mar 15
Find and book your Photographer / Guide
Okay, it may seem like we’ve thrown this first one in on purpose. But we promise, this is actually a really important first step!
You might think of your photographer as just one of many suppliers you’ll find along the way. But your photographer can often guide you through the process incredibly well. They’ve likely been to a lot of weddings, and know some key do’s and don’ts. So consider them your expert! Your photographer will know the best locations, the best time of year, even the best time of day. All sorts of questions, some of which you may not yet know you need to know. And sooner rather than later!
Plus, even more importantly, the images that you will take home afterwards will be some of the only tangible memories you will keep from your wedding day! So make sure that you shortlist photographers you actually like the work of, and choose a photographer (or perhaps two!) you like as a person.
Choose your location
Another one of the important ‘first’ steps is to decide on your ceremony location. It will determine where to apply your paperwork.
Scotland isn’t big (especially compared to the US!) but there are a lot of varying landscapes with a lot to offer. From outdoor beauty spots, to the majestic castles and ruined Abbeys. There’s plenty of Scottish wedding destinations to choose from.
Personally, we believe that the Scottish Borders is the very best location to elope in Scotland! So much so, we’ve written a blog post all about it, which you can read here.
Once you've found and fallen in love with your ceremony location, you'll need to gain permission from the landowner to be married there. This isn't usually a challenge, as most folk are very accommodating and friendly! We can help you with finding and contacting the appropriate person for all of our recommended locations.
Choose your date
Your date can also be determined by a few factors.
If, like us, your wedding date has sentimental significance, you'll likely plan around it. But if you're open to any day of the year you may be swayed by a few seasonal pro's and cons.
If it's the vibrant colours of Autumn/Fall appeal to you then late September to November is ideal. It's not as cold as the core Winter months, and a lot less busy than high-season Summer.
A Summer elopement might be tempting, especially if you're not a fan of cooler climes. But it really is our duty to make you aware of Scotland's midge season, and the threat they pose for all outdoor activity in the North of Scotland. No wedding day is made complete by swarms of biting bugs! Here’s a link to learn more about these 'wee beasties'.
But if it's Summer you're after, fear not. The Scottish Borders are such a great year-round option for elopements, with breathtaking landscapes that remain mostly midge-free, even in the height of Summer.
Find a celebrant
Another important step! Choosing who is going to marry you is key. Ideally you'll find someone that will connect with you both as a couple, and conduct a ceremony tailored for you.
We recommend the not-for-profit Fuze Foundation to browse for and choose your celebrant. We've also shortlisted our favourite characters that will make your ceremony unique and unforgettable!
Choose your witnesses
To be married in Scotland you need 2 witnesses. They can be friends or family members of course, but if you choose a more intimate ceremony, with just the two of you, your celebrant and your photographers, then it's perfectly possible to choose us to be your two witnesses.
We are always so honoured to be the official witnesses to our couple's marriage, making the day even more intimate and significant.
The not-so-fun but oh-so-crucial part of eloping in Scotland. It can seem overwhelming. That's why we’ve created a Pre-Elopement Timeline to help you keep track of what needs to be done and when! You have unlimited access to our timeline chart when you book, but in the mean time, get to know each part of the paperwork involved...
You both have to complete and submit a Marriage Notice + the required documents† (see below) + the appropriate fee (around £70) to the registrar for the district in which the marriage is to take place.
Find your registrar here
Marriage Notice M10 form here
Notices should be in the hands of the registrar 10 to 12 weeks before your wedding date. The minimum period is 29 days before the date of the proposed marriage, but be warned - if you leave it this late you could be faced with the need to postpone.
WITNESS DETAILS AND CELEBRANT DETAILS
This form is to be enclosed with your M10 form with the details of your witnesses and your celebrant.
Find it here
CERTIFICATE OF NON IMPEDIMENT
Anyone living outside of the UK you should obtain a certificate of non impediment. This is issued by the competent authority (usually the civil authority) within your resident country to declare that there is no impediment to your proposed marriage. In other words, you're free to marry, either at home or abroad! If the certificate is in a language other than English you should also produce a certified translation.
In America, the first step is to contact the local County Clerk’s office to request a document that states you are not currently married. This document is commonly known as "single status", but it may also be known as a “no record of marriage”. Here’s a link to more information.
MARRIAGE VISITOR VISA
If you are travelling from the US you will need a Marriage Visitor visa from the UK Government. It will cost you £95 and you will get a decision within 3 weeks. There is the option to pay more for a faster decision.
Apply for the Marriage Visitor visa here
† REQUIRED DOCUMENTS
Birth or Adoption certificate
Evidence of your usual residence
If you have been marked before a decree of divorce or dissolution or annulment or a certified copy decree
Valid passport or other document to provide evidence of your nationality
If you live abroad a certificate of non impediment issued (see above)
Okay, so the next paperwork steps skip ahead to the ceremony. But there's no harm getting to know the process really really well!
THE MARRIAGE SCHEDULE
When the registrar is satisfied that there is no legal impediment to the marriage, they will prepare a Marriage Schedule from the information you have provided.
The Marriage Schedule is not a plan of the day, as the name suggests. It is the most important document. No marriage can proceed without it.
It will be issued to you by the registrar no more than 7 days before the ceremony and it has to be collected in person.
Immediately after the ceremony, the Marriage Schedule must be signed in black fountain pen by both parties (you & your partner), by the person performing the marriage and by the two witnesses. Thereafter, it must be returned to the registrar within three days (see Step Nine).
After the marriage has been registered, you can obtain copies of the marriage certificate from the registrar on payment of the appropriate fee.
Collect your Marriage Schedule
So you're up-to-date with the required paperwork. And we are now much closer to the date!
Once your marriage has been approved, you will be issued with your Marriage Schedule. It may be the most important document, so this goes without saying. Try not to lose it and remember to actually bring it to the ceremony. You really do need it to get married!
Your marriage schedule will be issued by your registrar no earlier than 7 days before your ceremony. It has to be collected in person. You will get a call from the registrar to let you know when it is ready.
Check in advance the opening times of your registrar to make sure that you can get it before your wedding day. You will need to include this stop by the registrar into your travel schedule. If you are getting married during the weekend make sure that you pick it up by Friday as most offices will be closed Saturday-Sunday.
Have your dream Scottish elopement!
The most important step. You've dreamt about it for months, perhaps years. Now it is happening and you are celebrating your sacred marriage in the romantic landscapes of Scotland!
Return your Marriage Schedule
We know there's been a lot of paperwork. And we know how easy it can be to be swept up in a newlywed bubble of bliss! But you must remember to return your Marriage Schedule to the registrar in order for your marriage to be legally registered.
Immediately after your ceremony, the Marriage Schedule must be signed in black fountain pen by both parties, by the person performing the marriage and by the two witnesses. Thereafter, it must be returned to the registrar within three days.
Remember to take this into account when planning your trip. It may determine what day of the week you decide to marry (you need to take weekends into consideration). You can also post the signed Marriage Schedule to arrive at the registrar within the 3 day timescale.