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How to elope to Scotland from Canada

June 7, 2024

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Eloping to Scotland from Canada?

Got no idea where to start? Let this guide talk you through everything you need to know.

Scotland and Canada

Scotland and Canada are actually very closely linked. Nearly 5 million Canadians claim Scottish descent with many Scots leaving their homeland (either through choice or force) in the 18th and 19th centuries and settling in The New World. To this day there are Gaelic speakers in Nova Scotia (or New Scotland) and the ties remain strong with over 150,000 Canadians visiting every single years.

So why elope to Scotland?

For some it is their ancestral ties that bring them to Scotland. For others it is cultural inspiration – maybe Outlander or Harry Potter. Whatever the reason, eloping to Scotland is a pretty good idea

Eloping to Scotland from Canada offers a mix of amazing landscapes, rich history, and flexible marriage laws, making it an ideal destination for couples seeking an intimate and unique wedding experience.

As elopement photographers, we’ve seen countless couples create unforgettable memories in this magical country (it’s home to Harry Potter so it actually is magical) and we want you to be next. So let’s begin…

Whenever we talk to our clients, we ALWAYS talk about deciding on two things first – your date and your location. Let’s start there.

Choosing a Location

Scotland is full of stunning locations that are just perfect for your elopement. Here are some of our top picks:

GLENCOE

Glencoe is a dramatic and beautiful area, famous across the world. Featuring in films such as Harry Potter and TV shows like Outlander. It’s perfect for couples who want a backdrop of rugged, untamed nature. The area’s history and folklore add a sense of mystery and romance to your special day. And all of this just 2 hours away from Glasgow.

Highlights

  • The Three Sisters: Iconic mountains providing a stunning backdrop.
  • Loch Achtriochtan: A serene loch with reflective waters. Low level, easily accessible.
  • Hidden Valley (Coire Gabhail): A secluded spot ideal for private ceremonies – not for the faint hearted, it’s quite the hike!

ISLE OF SKYE

The Isle of Skye is famed for its otherworldly landscapes, from the jagged peaks of the Cuillin mountains to the mystical Fairy Pools. This island offers a variety of stunning locations, ensuring you can find the perfect spot for your ceremony.

Highlights

  • The Quiraing: A landslip with unique rock formations. Our advice – head up, not down. This will get you away from the crowds!
  • Neist Point: A dramatic lighthouse setting on the most Westerly point of the Island. Quite the drive to get here but you’ll be rewarded with views of the Outer Hebrides
  • Elgol: A small fishing village on the South south of the Island with the most amazing views of the Cuillin Mountain Range. Our favourite spot on the island.

EDINBURGH

For those who prefer a blend of city and scenery, Edinburgh offers historic charm with its medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town. Venues like Edinburgh Castle or the Royal Botanic Garden provide a unique and picturesque setting.

Highlights

  • Edinburgh Castle: Overlooking the city, offering grandeur and history. Available out of season for intimate weddings.
  • Holyrood Park: A natural greenspace within the city. Home to old ruins, an extinct volcano, lochs and more – our top spot for ceremonies.
  • Calton Hill: Known for its iconic monuments and city views., get here early or very late if this is your ceremony spot

TORRIDON

Torridon, located in the Northwest Highlands, boasts some of the most dramatic landscapes in Scotland. The combination of rugged mountains and remote beauty makes it an ideal spot for a truly secluded elopement. Maybe leave this off the list for mid-winter weddings though!

Highlights

  • Loch Torridon: Surrounded by imposing peaks.
  • Beinn Eighe: A massive mountain with extensive views. Fun fact – Beinn means hill or mountain in Gaelic and there are various spellings
  • Shieldaig: A picturesque village with coastal charm. Not to be confused with Shieldaig Lodge – a popular elopement venue 15 miles away.

HARRIS AND LEWIS

The Outer Hebrides islands of Harris and Lewis are renowned for their stunning beaches with white sands and turquoise waters. The contrast of the island’s rugged interior and serene coastline creates a perfect backdrop for your elopement.

Highlights

  • Luskentyre Beach: Famous for its white sands and clear waters.
  • Callanish Standing Stones: Ancient and mystical stone circles. You will need a permit to get married here which at the time of writing is £300. More can be found here.
  • Huisinis Beach: A hidden gem with breathtaking scenery. Like Luskentyre, this can get pretty darn cold in the Autumn and Winter months but you’ll have the beach to yourselves!

THE BORDERS

The Scottish Borders offer rolling hills, charming villages, and historic ruins. Locations like Melrose Abbey or the Eildon Hills provide a tranquil and picturesque setting for your ceremony.

Highlights

  • Melrose Abbey: A stunning ruined monastery. Available for your ceremony or just your photos. Find out more on their website.
  • Eildon Hills: Offering beautiful hiking trails and views. Whilst not as dramatic as The Highlands, the border hills are more accessible.
  • Dryburgh Abbey: A striking historical site with similar rules to Melrose. These can be found here.

Choosing a Date

When planning how to elope in Scotland, consider the time of year carefully:

AVOIDING MIDGE SEASON

  • Timing: Late spring to early autumn (typically May to September).
  • Regions Affected: Mainly the Highlands and the Northwest.
  • Impact: Midges are tiny biting insects that can be a real nuisance and detract from the calmness of your day.

AVOID EDINBURGH DURING FESTIVALS

  • Timing: August is the busiest month due to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and other events. We don’t take bookings for city elopements during August.
  • Impact: The city becomes extremely crowded, which can make it difficult to find accommodation and quiet spots for your ceremony.

BEST TIMES TO ELOPE

  • Late Spring (April to June): Enjoy milder weather, blooming landscapes, and fewer tourists. If coming to The Highlands, you’ll get to see the Glencoe mountains in their best green suits!
  • Winter (November to February): Winter is one of the best times to elope in Scotland. Imagine saying your vows against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains or a frost-covered glen. The serene beauty and the quiet, off-peak atmosphere make winter an ideal season. Castles and cozy lodges offer warm, intimate settings for indoor ceremonies.
  • Autumn (September to November): The fall foliage transforms the landscapes into a tapestry of rich colors, creating a picturesque setting for your elopement. The crisp air and fewer tourists add to the charm of an autumn wedding.

What You NEED for a Legal Ceremony

To have a legal wedding in Scotland, you’ll need:

A CELEBRANT

In Scotland, unlike the rest of the UK, it is the celebrant and not the venue that is licenced to perform weddings. This can be a humanist, religious, or civil celebrant who is authorised to conduct legal marriages. Each type of celebrant offers different styles and personal touches, so choose one that aligns with your vision for your ceremony.

TWO WITNESSES

These can be anyone over the age of 16. If you’re eloping just the two of you, don’t worry! You can often find locals who are willing to act as witnesses. Some celebrants can also arrange for witnesses. Or you can hire elopement photographers who will be your witness. (Psssssttt… we are talking about us.)

REQUIRED DOCUMENTATION

  • Marriage Notice Forms: Submit these to the registry office in the area where you plan to marry at least 29 days before your wedding date. These forms can be submitted up to three months in advance.
  • Documents: You’ll need to provide your birth certificates, passports, and any relevant documents if you have been previously married or in a civil partnership.

For a non-legal commitment ceremony, you only need a celebrant. This option is perfect for couples who want a symbolic ceremony without the legalities. Having a symbolic ceremony makes your wedding no less special.

What You May Want

PHOTOGRAPHER

OK we are biassed BUT, having a photographer is essential for capturing the magic of your day. We, unlike most photographers, specialise in elopement photography, ensuring that every moment is beautifully documented. We have speicialist equipment and the experience to capture amazing images whatever the weather.

Your photos will be a cherished reminder of your special day, and we know all the best spots for breathtaking shots.

Benefits of Hiring us as your Photographers

  • Expertise in Elopements: We understand the unique dynamics of elopements and know how to capture intimate moments naturally.
  • Knowledge of Locations: Our experience allows us to suggest the best times and places for perfect lighting and scenery.
  • Personalised Experience: We tailor our services to match your vision, creating a stress-free experience.
  • We can be your witnesses: There is always two of us so we are always on hand to witness your elopement. We currently witness and capture about 30 elopements a year.

VIDEOGRAPHER

A videographer can add another layer of magic to your elopement, capturing the sights and sounds of your day. A beautifully edited video will allow you to relive your elopement and share it with friends and family.

Why Consider a Videographer

  • Dynamic Memories: Videos capture movement and sound, adding depth to your memories.
  • Professional Quality: High-quality footage and editing create a cinematic experience.
  • Shareability: Videos are easy to share with loved ones who couldn’t attend.

BAGPIPER

Nothing says “Scottish wedding” quite like the sound of bagpipes. A bagpiper can add a touch of traditional Scottish flair to your ceremony, making it even more memorable.

Incorporating Bagpipes

  • Ceremony Entrance: A bagpiper can play as you walk towards your ceremony location.
  • Post-Ceremony: Celebrate with traditional Scottish tunes after, or even during, your vows.
  • Photographs: Bagpipes provide a unique and atmospheric soundtrack for your photo session. Most bagpipers we know also love getting in the photos too!

FLOWERS

A beautiful bouquet and boutonniere can add a personal touch to your elopement. Consider incorporating local flowers for a truly Scottish feel.

Floral Options

  • Seasonal Blooms: Choose flowers that are in season for the freshest and most vibrant arrangements.
  • Scottish Heather: A traditional flower that symbolizes good luck and protection.
  • Personalised Bouquets: Work with a local florist to create a bouquet that matches your style and color scheme.
  • Dried Flowers: Our number one choice for couples travelling for an elopement. Dried flowers are more flexible and can be posted home afterwards.

HAIR AND MAKEUP

Hiring a professional hair and makeup artist will ensure you look and feel your best on your big day. Many hair stylists specialise in elopements and will come to your accommodation to help you get ready.

Benefits of Professional Hair and Makeup

  • Long-Lasting: Professional products and techniques ensure your look lasts all day. Products such as setting spray helps your make up in the rain.
  • Personalised Service: Artists can tailor their services to your preferences and wedding style. Most will offer a pre-wedding consultation via video call to get to know you.
  • Stress-Free: Enjoy a relaxing experience while getting pampered before your ceremony.

Accommodation Choices

Scotland offers a range of accommodation options to suit your needs and budget:

HOTELS

From luxurious five-star hotels to charming boutique options, Scotland has a wide variety of hotels to choose from. Many offer wedding packages and stunning locations for your ceremony.

Top Hotel Options

  • The Balmoral, Edinburgh: A luxurious hotel with iconic views of Edinburgh Castle.
  • Glencoe House, Glencoe: Offers opulent suites and breathtaking mountain views.
  • Kinloch Lodge, Isle of Skye: A cozy, family-run hotel with Michelin-starred dining.

LODGES

For a more private and cozy option, consider staying in a lodge. These can range from rustic cabins to luxurious retreats, often situated in beautiful, remote locations.

Popular Lodges

  • Eagle Brae, Beauly: Eco-friendly log cabins with stunning views.
  • The Torridon, Torridon: A luxury lodge with a focus on adventure and relaxation.
  • Seabeds and Riverbeds, Woodlands Glencoe: A selection of lodges complete with hot tubs and the most amazing views.

AIRBNBS

Airbnb offers a wide range of unique accommodations, from city apartments to countryside cottages. This option allows for flexibility and a home-away-from-home experience.

Unique Airbnb Options

  • Skye Yurts, Isle of Skye: Experience glamping with stunning island views.
  • The Wee White Hoose, Harris: A charming cottage near beautiful beaches.
  • Edinburgh City Centre Apartments: Ideal for those wanting to explore the city.

BED AND BREAKFASTS

For a more personal touch, consider staying at a bed and breakfast. Hosts often provide valuable insights and recommendations.

Recommended B&Bs

  • Craigatin House & Courtyard, Pitlochry: A stylish B&B with a beautiful garden.
  • The Grange, Fort William: Offers luxurious rooms and stunning loch views.
  • Caddon View Country Guest House, Innerleithen: A charming Victorian home with excellent hospitality.

Eloping from Canada

So if you are eloping from Canada, here’s what you need to know.

LEGAL REQUIREMENTS

  • Marriage Notice Forms: As with UK residents, you need to submit marriage notice forms to the local registry office at least 29 days before your wedding.
  • Documents: In addition to your birth certificates and passports, you may need to provide a Certificate of No Impediment (CNI) from your home country. This document confirms that there’s no legal reason you can’t marry.

TRAVEL

  • Flights: At the time of writing, there are direct flights from Calgary and Vancouver in to Scotland. Alternative routes include flying via Paris or London. Alternatively, you could fly to London and take the direct train to Edinburgh – a great way to see some of the English countryside
  • Accommodation: Consider staying near your chosen elopement location for convenience. Many remote spots offer nearby accommodations to suit various budgets.

Travel Tips

  • Time Zones: Plan your travel and ceremony dates carefully, taking into account time zone differences and travel times.
  • Weather: Be prepared for Scotland’s unpredictable weather by packing appropriately and considering backup plans for outdoor ceremonies.
  • Jet Lag: Arrive a few days early to acclimate and recover from any jet lag before your big day.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL CONSIDERATIONS

  • Passports and Visas: Ensure your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your stay. You will need a marriage visitor visa to conduct a legal ceremony
  • Health Insurance: Obtain travel insurance that covers health care and emergencies while abroad.
  • Currency: Scotland uses the British Pound (£). Plan to exchange currency or use international credit/debit cards. The current exchange rate is Canadoam Dollars to Pounds – $1 = £0.57.

Eloping to Scotland promises an unforgettable experience filled with amazing landscapes, rich history, and a touch of magic. Whether you’re a local or traveling from afar, this guide provides everything you need to know about how to elope in Scotland. Remember, at The Sassenachs, we’re here to capture every moment and ensure your day is as special as your love story. We believe we are one of the best elopement photographers in Scotland

So, pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready to create lasting memories in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Slàinte mhath! (Cheers to good health!)

Thanks for reading.

Matt and Jodie

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