I wanted to marry in an outdoors-y place, as non-formal as possible, but legally. Scottish law is different from the rest of the UK – you can only be married by a Registrar in a Register office, but you can be married anywhere (so long as you are stationary) by an ordained Minister.
My partner Mike had a desire to cycle from Lands End to John O’Groats so the idea was hatched that while we were in Scotland we would round off his epic ride by getting married. Having both been married previously we had gone through the normal big white wedding stuff and in retrospect felt it was all rather a sham. This time round we wanted a really meaningful wedding that would be special to us. As we wanted to marry in a remote, beautiful place, preferably next to a waterfall – the challenge was to make our dream come true.
First I did some research via the Net on the Scottish Marriage Laws. I recalled the Confetti site and contacted Confetti for some helpful advice. The biggest help was the suggestion that I should call the Church of Scotland HQ to try to find a Minister. A few calls later and I managed to find someone there to help in my quest. Having already decided that the Isle of Skye was our chosen area I went down through the hierarchy of Church of Scotland officials and spoke with the area head. He provided me with two names of Ministers whom he felt would be open to my request for an outdoors wedding. The one I elected to contact I knew was recently retired and therefore had no parish allegiance.
My first contact with the Minister was via old fashioned letter. I felt that by using that media I could put together a nice letter succinctly saying what we wanted to achieve and giving him a few days to think about it before I followed up with a phone call. It felt that if I rang him direct I might put him on the spot and by asking for an immediate decision it might go against me; this way it gave me two bites of the cherry. The Reverend proved to be a very warm approachable man who was quite happy to go along with our plans. Being an outdoors, nature lover himself he even suggested a suitable location – the wonderfully named Fairy Pools, Coire Na Creiche, Isle of Skye.
Dates were agreed. Photographer and flowers organised. Only a handful of friends would be told of our plans as to involve elderly parents and the extended families would inevitably mean we would have to compromise our plans to suit them. Whilst we didn’t want to shun them we were both VERY CLEAR that this time round it was ‘our wedding’ and we would do it ‘our way’.
The Church of Scotland are very relaxed about the actual wedding ceremony. There are very few words that the minister has to include to make it lawful. Our lovely minister was more than happy for us to more or less write our own ceremony; which is exactly what we did. Putting it together was at first a bit daunting until I got onto a roll. We chose a reading ‘On Marriage’ from the Prophet Kahlil Gibran, then moved on to read a poem, each to the other. These we chose very carefully to reflect exactly how we as individuals felt. The Vows were fairly formal, although again we modified them around the exchange of rings bit. The Minister then did a blessing and prayer, which we followed by ‘Our Special Prayer’ which we read together. To close the ceremony we chose the Apache Wedding Blessing which I think is quite the most beautiful and totally appropriate piece I have ever read and I would urge any reader to consider including this in their wedding.
One of the biggest problems was what to wear. As we were going to be up a mountain, next to a waterfall I wanted something moderately practical (we would have to walk a fair distance up a rough and possibly slippery track to get there). I really wanted a safari suit in a stunning fabric but that proved to be impossible to find in anything other than beige – boring! Then I spotted a lovely little avocado green leather jacket – very me, and rather suitable given the weather could do almost anything on the day. I opted for black silk embroidered trousers and matching top to go with the jacket. Shoes had to be sensible flat black boots, but I could change into something more stylish after we got back on to solid ground after the ceremony. Mike went for a flamboyant Italian sports jacket, casual shirt and slacks. Sensible flat suede shoes, albeit in a stunning shade of mustard.
Our first witness was an old friend of mine. Born a Scot he has the full works when it comes to a traditional kilt – the joke was I said he was my bridesmaid as he was the only one wearing a skirt ! His partner had a matching outfit (made especially for the occasion), in the romantic style. It really did steal the show on the day.
We arrived on Skye a couple of days prior to the wedding, met with the Minister and photographer and checked with the florist that the heather and thistle buttonholes and flowers were possible. The wind blew and the rain fell – but come the morning of our wedding we awoke to a beautiful sunny day – the first we had seen in almost two weeks in Scotland, while in southern England you were enjoying a heatwave!
Everything was perfect. We all met at a car park at the beginning of the track and walked to the waterfall area. Being a small group we made a circle and stood on the verdant grass with the clear, beautiful waterfall as the backdrop. The ceremony was perfect and very moving. We had some informal photos with the waterfall and mountains in the background. Then the party headed back to where we had parked our motorhome (in the camp site at Glen Brittle, which is next to a sea loch in the foothills of the Cuillin Mountains) where we planned to have the signing of the papers, cake cutting and a small reception. As the other campers were the dedicated hill walker variety who actually enjoy sleeping in tents only small enough for toddlers to lay out straight in, we must have been an incongruous site all dressed up and drinking champagne! The wedding present from our kilted witness and his partner was a Scottish Friendship cup (or Quaich as they call it in Gaelic). Traditionally filled with whisky or brandy we updated the theme by filling it with champagne, and concluded the reception by passing it around the circle of our guests.
All our friends felt that it was the most memorable, moving and beautiful wedding ceremony they had ever attended – it was definitely a very special day for us and one we will remember for the rest of our lives, together.