Planning Guide


When you announce your engagement, it’s the burning question on everyone’s lips: “So, have you set the date?” Whether you decide to fast-track your wedding and get hitched within a few months of the engagement, or take a year (or more) to allow you to save some pennies, a high percentage of couples still choose to set the date for the lighter, brighter months of April to September in the hope of securing some sunshine. Saturday is still the most popular day to get married, with Friday and Sunday taking second and third places. It’s worth keeping in mind that during peak season (including Valentine’s Day and the run-up to Christmas), weekend dates can be booked-up two to three years in advance at sought-after venues, as can in-demand suppliers. Being a bit flexible with your date and getting married on a weekday or off-season will often leave you in a better position to negotiate a good deal with your venue.


This is the most important aspect of the initial planning process as you can’t properly begin to organise other suppliers and services until you’ve booked the appropriate venue(s). To begin with, draw up a rough guestlist for the ceremony and reception so you know approximately how many people you will have to accommodate. Then, you and your spouse-to-be should discuss the type of ceremony you’d like to have as this will ultimately affect your choice of venue. Depending on your ceremony type, you can host your ceremony at one location before starting the celebrations in another; or host all the proceedings under one roof.
In Scotland, there are two types of ceremony: civil and religious. Religious ceremonies include marriage by
celebrants of many Christian denominations, and celebrants from other religions like Judaism and Islam. They also include celebrants from other belief systems, notably Humanist and Interfaith.

A civil ceremony is conducted by a district registrar at a registrar’s office or other approved location. There are hundreds of approved locations in Scotland for civil marriages to take place. You’ll find these, along with contact details for registration offices in your area, listed on the General Register Office for Scotland website.
If you want to have a civil wedding elsewhere, in your back garden for example, you’ll need to apply for a licence for those premises and the registrar will be able to talk you through the process and fees involved. The ceremony itself will include the statutory declarations, but you can personalise proceedings by incorporating poetry, music or readings.

The most common venue for this type of ceremony will be a religious building, although a religious ceremony can take place anywhere as long as it’s solemnised by a minister, pastor, priest or other person entitled to do so under the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977. Bear in mind that not all are willing or able to do so if they feel the location doesn’t reflect the meaning of the ceremony.

• The Church of Scotland
In the first instance, you should approach the minister of the parish where one of you resides. You can marry in the Church of Scotland if you are not a member, but the minister will want to discuss with you whether a religious ceremony is what you’re looking for and whether he/she agrees it is appropriate in your situation. If you see a church you’d like to marry in, it will stand you in better stead if you have some connection with the parish, family ties for example, before approaching the minister.

• The Catholic Church
Speak to your local priest and he will be able to advise you on the requirements for a Catholic wedding. If one of you is not Catholic, it may be possible to wed in a Catholic church, but a dispensation from the local Catholic bishop is required, and this will normally only be given if certain
conditions are fulfilled.

• Muslim weddings
Firstly you should speak to the Imam of your mosque or your local cleric. The format of the ceremony will vary depending on your cultural background. If the person conducting the ceremony is not authorized individually by the Registrar General then you may need to have an officiating ceremony at a registrar’s office.

• Jewish weddings
These are most often held in a synagogue and presided over by a Rabbi. Before the wedding ceremony, the ‘ketubah’, or marriage contract, is signed in the presence of two witnesses.

Scotland is one of only six countries in the world where Humanist ceremonies are
legally conducted and they continue to grow in popularity. The ceremonies are entirely secular and non-religious, leaving you free to make all the important choices about location, readings, music and the wording of your promises to each other. The celebrant will be able to guide you through the process.

With a civil or Humanist ceremony, you cannot normally use any words or elements that could be defined as religious or spiritual, but with a ceremony conducted by an Interfaith Minister (there are many dotted across Scotland), there are no such restrictions: you have freedom of choice to create a ceremony in a location of your choice using the words that are most meaningful to you, whether they be religious, spiritual or secular. If you’re from different religious or cultural backgrounds, this type of ceremony is well worth considering as the minister can honour different faiths with appropriate rituals and words, so that your ceremony reflects your beliefs.