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How to Elope in Scotland from the U.S.

Updated: Jan 19


Elopement Couple on the Sligachan Bridge on the Isle of Skye, Scotland
Sligachan Bridge on the Isle of Skye

Get married in Scotland!


Whether you've got ancestral ties, enjoy the history and culture, or love the natural elements that the Highlands offer, Scotland is a unique and exciting country for couples to plan an elopement. It's truly an unforgettable excursion, so sharing new experiences and saying "I do!" to your life partner there would be the story of a lifetime! However planning a wedding from another country can be incredibly intimidating, so the info below will help guide the way and give you the tips needed to help set you up for success.



Eilean Dunan Castle in the Highlands of Scotland
Eilean Dunan Castle

Choosing the Perfect Location


Scotland is teeming with stunning locations for an elopement. From the historical charm of Edinburgh to the rugged beauty of the Isles north, there's no shortage of beauty for your wedding destination. You could rent a castle for you and your guests to stay in for the trip and be married on-site (I found one for $3747 for 3 nights for you and 8 guests!) or choose one of the country's national parks with unique geological features. In fact, there aren't any special licenses needed in order to get married out in the public lands of Scotland!


If you're overwhelmed with all of the options available to you and not sure where to start with choosing a location, you should first find a wedding planner or a photographer who also offers location scouting and guidance through the planning process. Fortunately, with Wild North Weddings you have both options! All of my couples receive a customized list of location options with information and images to help you with your decision.




Couple in Glencoe Mountains, Lochaber Geopark of Scotland
The Glen Coe Mountains in Lochaber Geopark

Legal Requirements


If you're wondering how to be legally married, there are a couple of ways to go about that.


1.) Get legally married in the US - The easiest way to make things legal is to get it done in the U.S. prior to leaving for your trip. You can apply for your marriage license and have a legal ceremony at your local courthouse or magistrate. The only downside is that your legal marriage date will be different than your ceremony date, but if this technicality doesn't bother you then you're set!


2.) Get legally married in the UK - If you're over 16, not already married to someone else, have 2 witnesses over 16, and are not related to each other, then you can get married in the UK. You don't need to live there to receive a marriage license there, but you will need to get a marriage visa if you're not a UK National or resident. You'll need to bring your passport, proof of marital status, and the marriage visa when applying for your marriage license. If you're divorced, you'll need to have your divorce decree stamped by the Secretary of State where your divorce took place. You'll also need to submit a notice with the district registrar at least 29 days prior to wedding so they can confirm the details. For more details and information, check out this post at TravelVisaPro.com


Elopement at the Fairy Pools - Isle of Skye, Scotland
Fairy Pools - Isle of Skye

Travel & Accommodations

Having been all across the country, I can offer some insight and travel tips to help make your stay run smoothly!


Plan to arrive in the country at least 2 days in advance. The last thing you want is for flight delays or travel issues to make you late for your wedding day. Often flights from the U.S. will not arrive in Scotland until the next day because of the time change, so in this case, here's how your travel plans should look...


Day 1 - Flight departure for Scotland

Day 2 - Arrive in Scotland. Get overnight accommodations near your airport and explore the local town for the day

Day 3 - Rent a car and drive to your wedding destination.

Day 4 - Get married!


Give yourself at least 2 days to get back to the airport so you have time to recover, but if time allows, you'll want to stay much longer so you can truly enjoy the country. Consider taking this time for just the two of you as well (let any guests make their own plans).

Car Rentals - I highly recommend renting a car vs relying on public transportation/rideshare unless you only plan to stay and get married in Glasgow or Edinburgh. If you rent a car, be sure to bring your driver's license and have someone in the passenger seat that can help you navigate and translate signage. Driving on the other side of the road is a huge challenge when you're starting in a big city, so having a support system with you is invaluable. And be sure to specify that you want an automatic vehicle vs manual! It's common for them to drive/rent manual vehicles there, and the last thing you want to do is be stuck in a scenario where you're learning a new driving system and how to drive a stick. The roads are small in Scotland and tour busses are not mindful of that, so you may have a slight panic attack when they come barreling toward you but just take things slow and don't mind the people behind you. They'll go around.


Accommodations - If you're planning to travel in the summer, I recommend you book your accommodations early because options run out quickly. Bed & Breakfasts are my favorite way to stay in Scotland because in my experience, it feels like an authentic Scottish experience. You get to meet and learn from locals who work hard to ensure that your stay is a wonderful experience. Plus you get a home-cooked breakfast! There are lots of Airbnbs throughout the country as well as boutique hotels and cabins, like the Bracken Hide (pictured below) that are great home bases for your adventures. Some even offer elopement packages that will allow you a great indoor location as a backup in case of inclement weather.


A big difference between the US and Scotland is the size of living spaces, so you may find that the rooms there are smaller than expected. When you're choosing a space to get ready for your wedding day, be mindful of that as well. You don't want too much chaos happening in too small of an area or you'll get overwhelmed quickly.


Elopement at the Bracken Hide Hotel in Portree on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
The Bracken Hide Hotel - Portree | Isle of Skye

Seasons & Weather

No matter the time of year, the one thing I can guarantee that you'll find in Scotland is rain. I love the moody, misty aesthetic of the country, but if you're not prepared for the weather it can ruin your wedding experience. Unfortunately, if you choose to stay in on rainy days, you'll likely be in on your entire trip. It's best to embrace it and dress accordingly instead.


Items to Pack:

  • A wind-proof umbrella

  • A water-proof fleece-lined rain jacket

  • Extra socks

  • Water-proof hiking boots or comfortable rain boots

  • Clothing layers that can quickly be added or removed. The temperature can fluctuate throughout the day and rain can come and go quickly.


Because of the rain, it's best to be flexible with your plans on the day of your wedding. It's possible to move things up or back on the timeline when your plans aren't super involved, so keep that in mind when you're setting expectations.


Summer is the most popular time to travel to Scotland, which means tons of crowds, tour busses, and sparse parking. I've had to skip visiting some amazing scenery because of the lack of parking, which would be very unfortunate to experience on your wedding day. So while the weather may be warmer, I would recommend avoiding it if you can. Summer also brings midges - tiny biting little bugs similar to a mosquito but that swarm together light gnats. They're mostly near bodies of water. If you can find midge spray, buy lots! I helped save a lot of people with spray I brought, but covering up with clothing is still the most effective way to prevent those bites.


If you're looking for a much better travel experience, choose to get married from April-May or September-October.

  • April is actually the driest month of the year!

  • May & September still have enjoyable temperatures between 50°F-70°F

  • Popular destinations, like Edinburgh, the Isle of Skye, and Glencoe are much less crowded

  • Attractions and businesses are still open -vs- winter months when they close down.

  • Better photos! You'll be able to enjoy the blue hour and golden hours of lighting at more beneficial parts of the day. In the summer it doesn't get dark until 10 pm but that will be much earlier the closer we are to winter. You'll also have backdrops with spring wildflowers, warm autumn foliage, and still have snowcapped mountain tops.



Elopement Couple at the Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Create Your Ceremony

You likely will have an officiant to help you through this, but there's still lots to discuss when creating the perfect ceremony.


Location - If you're not inviting guests, your options can be limitless! But if you are, you'll need to be mindful of your guests' abilities for walking/hiking when choosing a ceremony space, and know that if it's in a public park that seating for guests might not be an option. You want to make sure that the location you choose has plenty of parking for those guests too. You'll likely want to have seclusion and privacy, rather than having tourists walking up around you, but still a great backdrop for your photos. These are all thoughts that I factor in when I'm choosing locations to present my couple with so that we can ensure a great experience for everyone involved.


Alternatively, if you choose a venue for your wedding day, you can hold your ceremony there with seating and easy access to your guests, then venture off with your photographer for photos at nearby sites! Your photographer/planner can still scout out those spots for you and help you plan the agenda.


Wedding Traditions - If you enjoy Scottish culture and history, you may want to include one of their traditions in your ceremony to honor that! Here are a few ideas for you...

  • Handfasting (tying the knot)

  • Hiring bagpipes

  • Wearing a tartan or family crest pin - there are tons of stores across the country that sell tartans specific to clans and heritages. Even if you're not Scottish, they have a pattern for you! I even found one for Italians. But wearing a clan-specific tartan is actually more popular among Americans than it is for Scots, so if you love a pattern and color scheme, just go for it.

  • Drinking whiskey - A ceremonial Quaich is often gifted to couples prior to the ceremony, so once they're legally married, couples will have "a dram of whiskey" from it or any drink you prefer.

  • Sixpence in the shoe

  • White Heather - request a sprig of white heather from your florist to include in your bouquet or boutonniere for good luck in your marriage.


Vows - You could repeat traditional vows that your officiant provides you with, or you could write your own personal vows. If you want to write your own personal vows, but aren't sure that you want the whole guestlist to hear them, you could plan a private vow reading somewhere spectacular that day with your photographer, either before or after the actual ceremony. This allows for a private, special moment just for the two of you to share and remember together, and you have the opportunity to choose a location that's more picturesque and secluded if your guests can't make it where you want to go.


Elopement Couple in the Mountains of Glencoe in Scotland
Glencoe

Celebrating and Other Activities For Your Day

The best part of eloping is doing whatever the heck you want on your wedding day!


Celebrations

  • Make dinner reservations at a local restaurant - get these early in the busy season, and if you have a large group, you'll want to check for places that can accommodate larger groups or offer a private dining room. You may have to order from a pre-selected menu in this case.

  • Have a caterer or private chef come to you at your house or cabin rental. You can decorate your dining space, order a cake to share together, and have a relaxing night in together by the fire.

  • Go pub hopping - Check out the local live music schedule and enjoy a true night out in Scotland! But don't plan to be out too late - I've found that many places slow down earlier in the night, so you may want to begin your pub tour right after dinner.


Adventures & Activities

  • Go hiking and sightseeing to natural attractions

  • Don't forget to plan time for hiking and exploring between each.

  • Watch the Northern Lights - these will happen from September - March

  • Ride a gondola to the top of Ben Nevis (UK's highest mountain)

  • Ride a ferry to one of the Scottish Isles

  • Go whiskey tasting

  • Tour a castle or historical landmark

  • Schedule a dark history tour or another unique tour that interests you!

  • Go kayaking or canoeing on the sea or in a loch

  • Put together a picnic and take it with you for lunch overlooking the sea



Loch Lochy - Highlands of Scotland
Loch Lochy - Highlands of Scotland

Eloping in Scotland is a romantic adventure filled with natural beauty, rich history, and enchanting landscapes. With careful planning and attention to detail, your Scottish elopement can be a dream come true, providing lasting memories of a day filled with love and breathtaking scenery.


If you're unsure where to begin or are overwhelmed with the idea of planning your wedding day alone from afar, you don't have to be! Visit wildnorthweddings.com and check out our planning, photography, and guide packages that help make your wedding experience the exciting, low-stress adventure that you deserve. Whether you choose Scotland or another destination abroad, your pricing is all the same! Fill out the contact form at the bottom of any page on this site to ask questions, inquire about availability, or schedule a Q&A with me!




 


International Destination Wedding and Elopement Photographer

Hey there! I'm Carly D'Angelo - a photographer specializing in documenting weddings and elopements across the U.S. If you love the idea of a wedding with adventure, excitement, and a little romance sprinkled in, let's talk about how I can help you create and capture the wedding day of your dreams!


Destination Wedding and Elopement Photographer for weddings in Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland and other international destinations


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