Weddings in Scotland
Author: Mavis ElliotIf you've set your heart on a ceremony north of the border, however, you should know that Scotland has its own marriage laws, which are quite different to those of England and Wales. Religious ceremonies may be conducted at any time and in any place in Scotland. Whether you want to get married in the romantic setting of a remote Scottish castle or on top of Ben Nevis, the choice is yours so long as you can find a minister and two witnesses to go along with you both. In Scottish churches, there is no provision for getting married by the publishing of banns.
The Marriage (Scotland) Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 27 February 2002 and is now an Act of the Scottish Parliament. More details of The Marriage (Scotland) Act 2002 is available on the HMSO website.
The Marriage (Scotland) Act 2002:
permits civil marriages to be solemnised at locations other than registration offices
authorises local councils to approve locations for that purpose and to charge fees to meet related costs and for connected purposes
enables the Registrar General for Scotland to give guidance on the above to local councils
Organising a wedding in Scotland
Anyone can get married in Scotland, no matter where they live or what nationality they are, provided - as always - that there are no legal reasons to prevent the marriage. However, whether you are planning a civil or religious ceremony, it is absolutely essential that you 'give notice' of your intention to marry and obtain a 'Marriage Schedule'. The procedure for this is as follows:
Marriage notice forms are obtainable (by post if you prefer) from any Registrar of Birth, Marriages and Deaths in Scotland. The notice form must be filled in and returned, along with your birth certificate and several other relevant documents, to the registrar of the district in which the marriage is to take place at least 15 days before the wedding is to take place. It is advisable to allow between four and six weeks, unless one party has been married previously, in which case a minimum of six weeks is recommended.
The registrar then checks the information provided. If he or she is satisfied that there is no legal impediment to your marriage, the registrar then issues a Marriage Schedule. Without this essential document, your wedding cannot go ahead.
If you are having a civil wedding, the schedule will be kept by the registrar in preparation for the marriage ceremony. If you're planning a religious wedding, the schedule must be collected in person by the bride or groom, not more than seven days before the wedding. The schedule cannot be collected by any other person on your behalf. The marriage schedule must be produced before the ceremony to the person performing the wedding.
At the wedding, the schedule is signed by the couple, the minister or other officiant, and two witnesses.
In the case of a religious marriage, the schedule must be returned to the registrar within three days so that the marriage can be registered.
For further information, visit the General Register Office of Scotland's website at or call them on 0131 314 4447.
Civil weddings in Scotland
In Scotland, a civil wedding will be conducted by a registrar or assistant registrar who has been authorised by the registrar general to perform the role. It contains no religious elements. Due to The Marriage (Scotland) Act 2002, it is possible to be civilly married out of doors.
In Scotland, the ceremony can take place at any time or place that is agreeable to the celebrant. As long as the celebrant agrees that the venue is suitable and is happy to conduct the service there, you can get married inside or out in the evening by candlelight in a Medieval moated castle, in the bright midday sunshine in the beautiful gardens of a stately home or even halfway up Ben Nevis! Banns are no longer required for religious ceremonies.
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