Historically Scotland has always been a popular destination for those seeking a truly romantic setting in which to make their wedding vows. Scottish weddings are by no means new, but since Madonna got hitched in Dornoch, half the world seems to want to come and tie the knot here, a bit like Vegas, but a lot more dramatic and cool.
As a country Scotland is famous for its beautiful and unspoilt scenery, its distinctive culture and its dramatic history. In addition it is renowned for the high standard of its cuisine and the quality of its accommodation which ranges from bed and breakfasts to magnificent castles. Perhaps most importantly though, Scotland is famed for its hospitality and the genuine warmth of its people.
So, whether you are planning to 'run away' to Gretna for a small intimate wedding or to do something on a much larger scale, be it in a hotel or castle or even on a canal boat, Scotland offers endless possibilities to make that special day truly memorable.
Legalities for traditional scottish weddings
In days gone by, the law was such that in Scotland couples over the age of sixteen could marry (without parental consent) simply by declaring themselves man and wife in front of witnesses. However in 1940 an Act of Parliament ruled that marriages were only legal if conducted by a Minister of Religion or an authorised registrar.
Prior residence in Scotland is not a prerequisite to marriage minimum age remains sixteen both parties must be free to marry (i.e. any previous marriage must have been terminated by divorce, death or annulment) they must not be related to each other in any way which may impede them from marrying. Details of forbidden degrees of relationship are listed in the leaflet RM1 (Marriage in Scotland) which is available from any registrar of births, deaths and marriages in Scotland or from the Registrar General in Edinburgh both parties must be capable of understanding the nature of the ceremony and of giving free consent.
The Scottish Wedding Ceremony
There are two types of wedding ceremony - religious and civil.A civil marriage, which is performed by a Registrar, can only be performed in a registry office. However, a religious ceremony performed by a minister can, theoretically, take place anywhere, either in or out-of-doors. It should be mentioned though that different churches and individual clergymen may have their own views on:
- Marrying couples who are from outwith their parish
- Performing wedding ceremonies in locations other than in their church
Couples should contact the minister concerned to ensure that he or she would be willing to carry out the ceremony should either of the above points be relevant.
Before a couple can marry both parties must submit a marriage notice along with the appropriate fee to the registrar for the district in which the marriage is to take place. These marriage notice forms are available from any registrar (whose address may be found in the telephone directory) or from the Registrar General in Edinburgh. Normally these should be submitted a minimum of fifteen days and a maximum of three months before the ceremony, however four weeks is the recommended period (or six weeks if either party has been married before). Along with the forms the registrar must also be supplied with:
- birth certificates
- divorce certificates (where relevant)
- death certificate of the former spouse if either party is a widow or widower
- certificate issued by a competent authority of the country of residence (usually the civil authority) if either party is a national of a country other than the UK to the effect that there is no impediment to the proposed marriage
- certified translation of the certificate if the certificate is in a language other than English. This certificate is not necessary if the party is now resident in the UK and has been for two years
The Registrar will check all documentation to satisfy himself that the parties are free to marry and then he will prepare the marriage schedule. This whole process normally takes about 14 days. In the case of a civil wedding the Registrar retains the schedule until the date of the wedding however if a religious marriage is intended the schedule is issued to the parties one or other of whom must collect it in person not more than seven days before the wedding. The schedule must be produced before the ceremony for the person performing the marriage who is then required to sign it, along with two witnesses over the age of sixteen. The Registrar then retains or must have the schedule returned to him within 3 days so that he can register the marriage.
Where one of the parties lives in England or Wales and the other in Scotland, the former if she or he wishes may apply to the English or Welsh Superintendent Registrar for a certificate which the Scottish Registrar will accept in lieu of notice - this certificate should then be forwarded to him as soon as possible.
It is important to make arrangements for the date and time of the ceremony either with the Registrar or the Minister as early as possible, particularly if you wish to get married on dates such as St Valentine's Day or Christmas Eve which are very popular. The above information is for general guidance only and should not be regarded as a full and authoritative statement of the law. Further information and advice can be sought from any registrar in Scotland or from the Registrar General.