You want to get married but you can’t face all the palaver of a wedding. Could eloping be the answer? Amy Shearer finds out how to do it and who can help make it happen

As Carly Rae Jepsen reminded us back in 2015, it’s easy to ask someone to run away with you – if you soundtrack your request to a catchy beat. The Canadian pop queen wasn’t addressing teens who’d fallen out with their parents, though; her focus was those so deeply in love they can’t imagine not being with one another for even one second longer. Well, Carly, let us introduce you to elopements, defined as ‘the act of leaving home secretly in order to get married’.

One place with a long connection to eloping is Gretna Green. Way back in the old days, English couples would run off to Scotland, which had more relaxed marriage rules (crucially, you didn’t need your father’s consent), and the little town just north of Carlisle was the first stop across the border. Lots of couples still marry there today, seduced by the romance of the place. And Scotland is still brilliant for elopements: you can get married almost anywhere – up a mountain, on your favourite beach, next to a snowy loch – so long as you tick a few boxes first. We sat down with three experts to discover how to say ‘I do’ minus the bells and whistles, but without compromising on the charm or romance.

The legal bits

Until very recently, I was under the impression you could turn up at Gretna Green at 11am and be legally married by noon. That can technically happen, as long as you have followed a few key steps to make sure it’s all above board and legally registered in advance.

“The couple notify the registry office of where the elopement is taking place, by submitting the Marriage Notice (M10) forms, along with supporting documents, anywhere between 29 and 90 days before the wedding date,” explains Paul Browett of Fuze Ceremonies.

“The registry office will then provide a Marriage Schedule which will be signed on the day of the wedding by the couple and by an officiant and two witnesses, making the wedding legally binding.”

If you’re ‘running away’ just the two of you, where do you find witnesses?

Craig Flowers of Independent Humanist Ceremonies explains: “Legally, you do still need two witnesses, so your photographer (if you have one) is usually able to step in if needed. Many celebrants have their own partners with them, or you could even ask a passer-by.” As long as they ‘witness’ the actual wedding, you’re good to go!

Craig also points out you can’t ‘pretend’ to get married; that’s actually against the law. “We can provide a non-legal service, though,” he adds. “There just wouldn’t be any signing of the register.”

So if you did find yourself somewhere quite last-minute and wanted to ‘tie the knot’, you could have a ceremony and then make it legal at another time.

All-weather weddings

Scotland does many things well, but one thing it truly excels at is giving us four seasons in one day. If you’re eloping somewhere like Skye or Glen Coe, remember the weather is beyond your control. “Picking a venue that has both indoor and outdoor space is a good idea if you’re marrying in winter,” advises Lisa Bauer of Tartan Weddings, a New York-based company that brings couples here to Lisa’s home country to wed.

“You cannot predict when it’s going to be raining sideways in Scotland, and as I bring a lot of couples over from much hotter climates, they are often shocked at how cold it can get here. Having a back-up plan is a good idea. If you elope to a castle but it’s a lovely day, you can then go outside.”

Paul agrees: “Couples who elope are always free spirits, at one with the outdoors and happy to embrace the Scottish wilderness in all its beauty – including the weather. If you aren’t a fan of a little bit of wind or rain, an elopement might not be for you!

We can’t always guarantee you sunshine, but one thing that is certain with a Scottish elopement is the brilliantly breathtaking views.”

Do it your way

The beauty of eloping is you can do things your way and make it an extremely personal and unique experience. “I’m in Glen Coe about 16 times a month to carry out a ceremony, and each time I do I make sure I’m in a different spot so that it’s totally unique to the couple,” smiles Paul.

Lisa also makes the day entirely about you: “At one of my weddings, the couple hired a Scottish castle just for themselves, yet still had lots of elements you’d see at a wedding for hundreds of guests. You can make it suit you and your wishes, and you don’t need to worry about what anyone else thinks.”

Do your research

Considering eloping abroad? Be sure to investigate thoroughly, as every place is different. “All countries have their own regulations surrounding marriage,” confirms Craig. “Some legal systems may be harder to navigate than others, so do your research if you plan to marry outside Scotland. If it’s proving complicated, one option is to have a legal ceremony at home before heading overseas for a celebration.”

Lisa’s business takes the stress out of the process of getting hitched, sorting out everything ahead of time to prevent any hold-ups at the aisle: “It can be quite hard to navigate the different systems when marrying in a different country, so I can assist with all the paperwork when couples are coming to Scotland. If you’re thinking about tying the knot overseas, it is always worth enlisting the help of someone who can offer guidance and support.”

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