How to have an amazing outdoor wedding in Scotland

Want to get married outside but worried the good ol’ Scottish weather might get in the way? Here’s our guide to having an amazing outdoor wedding in Scotland!Did you know that, so long as the person conducting your ceremony finds your chosen setting to be appropriate, you can get married literally anywhere you like in Scotland? Up a mountain, in the middle of a forest, on the sandy shores of a beach; there are no legal restrictions preventing you from saying ‘I do’ in any of Scotland’s breathtaking landscapes. There aren’t even any time restrictions, so you can even exchange vows at twilight if you like!

But with a climate best described as dreich, Scottish couples tend to have a bit of a dilemma on their hands. Reap the benefits of living in one of the most naturally stunning countries in the world and exchange vows outside, but then run the very real risk of getting drenched in Scotland’s trademark rain. What’s a newly betrothed couple to do?

FAIL TO PREPARE…

Firstly, if the great outdoors is calling you, it’s always wise to have a back-up plan.

“Given Scotland’s unpredictable climate, we always have a plan B just in case of wet weather,” explains wedding co-ordinator Janice at Blue Thistle Weddings. “However, in five-and-a-half years of organising weddings in Scotland, we’ve never had to revert to plan B and the weather has always been absolutely fine!”

Of course, a back-up plan is easy enough to arrange if you’re getting married at a venue with gorgeous gardens, or if you’ve chosen an outdoor spot not too far from your evening venue; all you need to do is decamp indoors should the heavens open, and your wedding co-ordinator will have accounted for that. If you’ve chosen somewhere in the wilderness, however, you’ll need to do a bit of additional prep.

Lynne Kennedy, a photographer who specialises in elopements and often finds herself hiking up hills or sailing to tiny islands with couples in search of the perfect spot to tie the knot, encourages her clients to go back to basics. “Having something sensible to walk in and to keep you warm and dry is important. A bride can’t walk to a remote location in beautiful bridal shoes, but she can always change shoes for the ceremony!” This may mean swapping a raincoat for a bolero later on, or even sporting an on-trend bridal jumper to keep the chill at bay.

Lynne also advises brides to create a checklist so they can avoid any disappointing ‘aw, shucks’ moments on the day. “It’s important to do this before setting off,” she says. “Put everything you need on it: the marriage schedule, any ribbons for the hand fasting, the quaich and something to drink from it, and, of course, the rings! You don’t want to get halfway up a hill and realise you’ve forgotten something important.”

And even if you do decide to get married in the grounds of a beautiful country manor instead of the depths of the Scottish woodlands, you still might not have immediate access to basic human rights like flattering lighting and a chiller for the prosecco. Joking aside, always double check that your suppliers are equipped to provide their services in the location of your choosing. Logistics should always be your number one priority, as Janice explains. “Something which seems easy is seating but this has to be planned in advance,” she points out.  “Transporting and setting out 150 folding chairs is time-consuming and has to be factored into plans.”

Image: Angus Forbes Photography

IN THE ATMOSPHERE

You may worry that the vastness of the great outdoors will take away a sense of intimacy from your ceremony, but this is easily remedied with music – imagine your guests arriving while a pretty tune carries through the air from a distance. “In certain venues, heavy carpets and drapes can swallow the sounds, but outside you’re not fighting with the space,” notes Annemarie of the Cairn String Quartet.

Remember, though, that certain instruments can be temperamental depending on the weather. “Really warm days can be detrimental for us – string instruments can be moody, and because they’re mostly made of wood they can actually crack in the heat. So if it’s a nice day, we need a bit of shade under a tree, for instance,” explains Annemarie. “We can also brave the cold for around half an hour before our fingers get numb and it affects our playing…”

GARDEN PARTY

While getting married outside can become a bit of a logistical puzzle, it can also bring a wealth of fabulous ideas for your entertainment. Most couples will celebrate their evening reception indoors in a venue, marquee or tipi, but there’s plenty of scope to incorporate outdoor elements into the post-ceremony festivities, whether that’s a drinks reception on the lawn; garden games; or even a good ol’ picnic or ice cream van instead of traditional canapes. You could even have a hog roast or barbecue rather than a typical three-course meal. So far, so summer, you might be thinking – but winter weddings aren’t exempt!

IMAGE: Andrew Jack

“We recently catered a winter wedding that used our hot chocolate bar for their canapés, and it was fantastic for outside,” says Alisa, who runs Artisana Vintage Mobile Tea Room and Patisserie, which operates out of a powder-blue Citroen H van and can pitch up at any event with road access. “Everyone congregated around the van, had their cups of hot chocolate and dippers, and it warmed everyone up on a chilly day. Perfect for a winter wedding!”

Alisa does however have some recommendations for outdoor-appropriate food. “Try not to go for anything that drips,” she advises, pointing out that a slight wind might ruin an aunt’s carefully selected dress. “It depends on how relaxed your wedding is, but you really don’t want to spoil clothing!”

PLANNED TO PERFECTION

Getting married outside might seem initially like a bit of a headache, but when it all comes together it can be spectacular. “I think  Scotland, and especially the Highlands and islands, are perceived to be incredibly romantic,” Lynne Kennedy tells us. “As long as a couple conveys all the logistics to their guests and has a back-up venue, then I don’t see why couples can’t take advantage of Scotland’s natural landscapes.”

And what advice does Janice, resident co-ordinator at Blue Thistle Weddings give to brides who are thinking of braving the elements? “Do think about having a professional wedding planner to oversee everything on the day and to help you think about things you may not have considered,” she suggests. That way, you can get married carefree with the wind in your hair, rather than harassed and knee-deep in mud!