Destination Wedding in Scotland
Nothing less than a castle will do when you find your knight in shining armor, and Scotland has no shortage of picture-perfect fortresses for your wedding day. Even if you don't opt for something quite that grand, however, it's important to understand the legalities of tying the knot in the U.K.
Retain an Expert
Unless you're familiar with Scottish law regarding wedding ceremonies, it's best to either hire a solicitor who works in the district where you're planning to marry or a wedding consultant with expertise in overseas nuptials. These experts can assist you in ensuring the proper paperwork gets filed and that all the appropriate permissions have been obtained. The latter is critical if you want to marry at a castle, manor house, public park or historic landmark. An international wedding consultant will have the resources to recommend caterers, florists and musicians; such referrals aren't the purview of legal staff. Make your initial contact no less than six months prior to your wedding date. Law firms will require a retainer fee based on their hourly charge. This ranges from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Residency, Notice and Other Legalities
Unlike England and most of Europe, Scotland is a popular place for weddings because it doesn't require one or both parties to reside there for "x" amount of time prior to the ceremony. It allows marriage notices (the official request to marry) to be submitted via mail or delivered personally by an individual (i.e., solicitor or family member) acting on behalf of the couple. One or both parties, however, must appear in person before the Registrar during the week preceding the ceremony. Marriage notices are given to the Registrar of the presiding district no earlier than three months from the wedding date and no later than 15 days. If you're traveling to Scotland from abroad, six weeks is enough time for the Registrar to confirm that both parties are free to wed. Regardless of their country of origin or domicile, any two individuals can marry in Scotland if: (1) they're both at least 16, (2) not of the same sex, (3) not related by blood (i.e., brothers and sisters) and (4) are currently unmarried. For previous marriages ending in annulment, divorce or death, the parties must provide original documentary evidence that has been certified by a government records agent in their country of residence.
Religious Versus Civil Ceremonies
Civil ceremonies in Scotland can only be performed in the district Registrar's office or by an Assistant Registrar appointed by the Registrar General. Civil ceremonies that take place in a Registrar's office can only transpire during the office's public hours; these are usually weekdays between nine and four and Saturdays between nine and one. For ceremonies taking place in a private home, special arrangements need to be made for an Assistant Registrar to preside. Under Scotland's Marriage Act of 1977, religious ceremonies can only be solemnized by a recognized member of the clergy. Ceremonies of this kind do not have to take place in a religious setting such as a church, but it's left to the discretion of the clergyman whether he approves of the venue (i.e., castle, sheep meadow, hilltop) and is available to travel there. Two witnesses over the age of 16 are required to act as witnesses for both types of ceremonies.
Weddings and receptions are big business in Scotland. They're pricey, too, especially if your wedding date falls in February, December or during late spring/early summer. If you choose a venue such as Stirling Castle, you may also run the risk of being bumped by no less than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II; security trumps private events whenever royalty enters the equation, and it's important you have a backup plan. The following castles each have their own websites as well as facilitators who can explain what their pricing packages include. Note: Wedding parties are charged significantly higher fees if they choose to use caterers, florists and bagpipers, other than those with whom the castle staff regularly contract. Many of these castles are located in regions with honeymoon accommodations ranging from cozy B&Bs to upscale hotels. Sample listing: Armadale (Skye), Blair (Perthshire), Drumtochty (Aberdeen), Stirling (Stirling), Thirlestane (Berwickshire).Venues such as Barcaldine (Oban), Bunchrew House (Inverness), Craufurdland (Ayrshire), Dalhousie (Edinburgh), Glengorm (Isle of Mull) and Minard (Argyll) may appeal to newlyweds who have always wanted to spend the night in a castle.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.
Photo by John Dimidowich