Destination Scotland: we chat to five couples from all over the world who chose to marry here

Caledonia is calling to romantics who lust after its wild and rugged beauty for their big day backdrop

Illustration: Faye Stacey

Sometimes, you need an outside perspective to truly appreciate what you have. What exactly draws so many couples to Scotland? “In our experience, a lot of our destination clients choose to marry here because of the country’s authentic history and because we are uniquely allowed to exchange vows just about anywhere we like,” says Emma Douglas, wedding planner at Timeless White. “There are also the people who have family ties to Scotland or who have studied or holidayed here, and the spirit of the Scots touches people’s hearts. Our open and welcoming culture means that everyone can relax and be themselves.”

Prepare to feel patriotic as five global couples share their Scottish celebrations:

Rebecca Nason married David Moncur at Hill of Tarvit Mansion, Fife, on 25th May 2016

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Rebecca and David, who both hail from Vancouver, cite Scotland as an obvious option for their destination wedding. “Canadian and Scottish cultures seem very similar to us,” explains the bride. “We chose Scotland because Dave is of Scottish descent and the scenery is beautiful.” The couple’s venue, the National Trust-managed Hill of Tarvit Mansion, and their planner, Emma Douglas at Timeless White, were instrumental in delivering their dream.

With ­25 guests to shepherd and a 13-hour flight between the countries, they quickly came to rely on this core team of experts. “Emma was my star supplier. She also introduced us to our photographer, Craig George, who was another winner. I didn’t want a conventional photographer, as Dave and I are more artistic and were looking for something different.”

From the humanist ceremony, complete with piped entrance and handfasting (“It was so fun!” she exclaims. “We don’t see that over here, ever”), to the dancing, Rebecca and David were enthralled by their day – but planning it didn’t come without its challenges. “The hardest thing for me was feeling guilty asking people to travel all the way to Scotland,” confesses Rebecca. “We only invited our closest friends and family and made sure no one felt pressured into attending.

“The kindness of all the vendors and people we worked with astonished us. We loved how friendly everyone was.”

Daniela Muller married Mike Wode at Eilean Donan Castle, near Kyle of Lochalsh, on 13th August 2016

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Eilean Donan is a bit of a benchmark for many to measure how unashamedly Scottish, luxurious and regal your nuptials are on this little island of ours, and it certainly played a vital role in Swiss couple Daniela and Mike’s celebrations.

“When I was young, I watched Highlander and instantly adored Scotland,” recalls Daniela. “Such a gorgeous country! Ten years passed until I fulfilled my dream of visiting, and this castle in the Highlands stole my heart. I decided there and then: if I was ever to get married, it would be here.”

When partner Mike proposed on Daniela’s birthday in 2014 they found themselves planning their big day at – where else – Eilean Donan.

“We had to have a Celtic service, with a powerful connection to this country,” says Daniela. “Searching the web, I quickly found Sonja Eckl-Riel of Heart and Soul Ceremonies. She created something entirely unique for us.”

Special praise is reserved for the locals: they rose to the occasion and went above and beyond to realise Daniela and Mike’s aspirations not only for their wedding but in the run-up to the big day.

“When we booked our B&B, the host there helped me to plan the whole hen, suggesting restaurants and places to party. He also found the perfect tailor for Mike’s kilt and made reservations for us, and greeted us with a bottle of champagne. It was so unexpected and helped us a lot with the planning in the days before our wedding.”

As the ultimate surprise gift, the bride’s family hired talented photographer Lynne Kennedy: “She stayed with us all day, taking pictures but also helping us with little details and celebrating with us. It was so personal.”

Jennine Hatu married Martyn Gillespie at 29 Glasgow on 18th Sepetmber 2016

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If you’re knee-deep in decision-making and logistical nightmares for your own w-day, spare a thought for Jennine and Martyn who had a time difference to contend with in the lead-up to their bash at 29 Glasgow. “It did become an issue,” says Jennine, who lives in Dubai with husband Martyn.

Luckily, the couple found a cheerleader in Louize Hollywood, wedding co-ordinator at their venue, 29 Glasgow. “She was extremely sympathetic to our distance restrictions,” recalls Jennine. “Her response time was always fast and she ensured there were no panics.

“Having no face-to-face contact with our other suppliers was a challenge and we often found it difficult to pull ideas together. We had to budget for two trips to the country prior to the wedding to meet in person and try to visualise the day. Skype was also very useful.”

Scotland was central to their plans. “Martyn was born and raised in the country, so it was a no-brainer,” explains Jennine. “My background is Scottish and Palestinian and I was raised most of my life in the States. By including bagpipes and kilts, we wanted to demonstrate how unbelievable Scottish culture and hospitality is to our overseas guests, who had travelled from Dubai, London and Chicago.

“We are city people and we wanted to reflect that in our day. There was also so much for guests to do before and after the wedding if they decided to explore Scotland. Thus, we created a small website with pointers and ideas for those who had travelled from abroad. None of our guests were disappointed.”

Aimee Crowley married Christopher Coleman at the Lothian Chambers on 31st May 2016 with reception at The Rowantree, Edinburgh

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Chris and Aimee’s decision to host their nuptials in the Scottish capital, a world away from their day-to-day life in Australia, was born, to a certain extent, out of necessity.

“We set out wanting to get married in Manchester, but when we discovered we had to be in England for four weeks before we could get married, we were unsure what to do,” explains Chris. “My mother suggested Gretna Green and that eventually morphed into Edinburgh, where there were no issues with us getting married straight away. We had a pre-ceremony meal at the Devil’s Advocate, which was fantastic, and we exchanged vows in the Lothian Chambers before our reception at the Rowantree, an amazing venue in the Old Town – it was so different to anywhere we’d been before.”

You might have clocked the unusual timeline of the couple’s day, which had its own solid rationale. “A relaxed day was what we were aiming for, without all of the pressures and formalities that typically come with a wedding,” reflects Chris.

Photographer Andrew Weild was a great support to the couple and slotted in effortlessly to the calm and carefree vision they had for the day. “It was important to us that a photographer could be left to be creative and shoot the day their way,” reasons Chris.

For Chris, a sense of perspective is critical when it comes to keeping your head. “It’s the one day in your life that you’re allowed to be selfish,” he asserts. “Of course, it’s easier said than done, but the people who really care about you will understand how hard it is to please everyone and will want you to be happy.”

Nathalie Chalmers married Lennert Acke at St Mary’s Parish Church on 27th August 2016 with reception at Broxmouth Park

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For bride Nathalie and hubby Lennert, travel, adventure and a mixed bag of cultural heritage have shaped their lives. Switzerland is home to the pair, but Lennert is actually Belgian, while Nathalie’s father is Scottish.

Considering their family and friends are scattered all around too, a destination wedding with an “international vibe” was all but inevitable.

“We were initially worried that people might not come because of the distance, but it turned out that most of our loved ones were really excited to join us,” explains Nathalie. “The country has a strong, mystical appeal and there are so many options in Scotland for couples: castles, mansions, libraries and lochside retreats. We were able to do much more than we could have done in Switzerland, which is quite expensive for weddings.”

Nathalie and Lennert chose Broxmouth Park as their reception venue because they “loved the setting, the majestic park and century-old cedar tree”, but it was the ceremony that captivated them. “We got married in St Mary’s Parish, mainly due to how fond we were of the reverend,” says Nathalie. “It was incredible serendipity that she was the first person we met and that she happened to speak the three languages our guests speak – French, English and Dutch.”

It gets better: “We also found out that the church is partly built from Belgian stone!” she laughs. And what would a Scottish shindig be without bagpipes? “We had hired a piper to play us in and out of the church,” she says. “But when we arrived at Broxmouth, there was an entire pipe band waiting for us! One of our Scottish friends had arranged it as a surprise!”