A guide to getting married in Edinburgh
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The sound of bagpipes echoes through the cobblestones streets, and everywhere you go there are smiles and shouts of congratulations as people walk by. This is what getting married in Edinburgh can feel like.
I am an Edinburgh-based wedding photographer and whilst I love travelling around beautiful Scotland, I equally love shooting small weddings and elopements right here on my doorstep. In this guide, I have put together some ideas for your elopement or micro-wedding in Edinburgh.
How to be legally married in Edinburgh
Andrea Taylor, a marriage celebrant with Agnostic Scotland, shares her ideas on what a ceremony in Edinburgh can feel like and how to begin the process:
With my celebrant eyes, heart and mind I see Edinburgh as eclectic, evocative and elemental, at all hours, in all seasons. It is a city ripe for inspiring romance, ritual and ceremony. Just as the whole of Scotland may be defined by its bodies of water, mountains and dramatic skies, Edinburgh can be defined in that way too. The winter skies and light are especially magical, the sunrises and sunsets, the dawn, the dusk. One of my favourite things is the quality of the light and space here in the city. Eloping couples can pause to ground themselves in a sense of time and place here in Edinburgh. They can savour the majesty, the wonder and new friendships all around as they revel in their romance and make beautiful memories here in ‘Edina, Scotia’s darling seat’ (Quote from Address to Edinburgh by Robert Burns)
In Edinburgh, and across the whole of Scotland, you can get legally married or civilly partnered anywhere. Up a mountain, by bodies of water, under the sprawling, moody sky. If you’re getting married outside of a venue, a permit may be required for your location.
If you are planning to get legally married or civilly partnered somewhere in Scotland as soon as you start formulating plans I’d advise you to have a good look through the National Records Scotland website. It tells you everything you need to know about the process but don’t hesitate to telephone them if you need clarification. You can also look at the Government website here.
If you are not a UK National, you will need a Marriage Visitor Visa or Fiancé(é) Visa to get legally wed or partnered in Scotland and that can be a rather long, timely but ultimately rewarding procedure.
Your chosen Celebrant or Officiant will be able to advise and guide you but it is your responsibility to notify your intention to marry or partner civilly in line with the National Records of Scotland criteria so that you both can get that little piece of Scottish paper that says ‘I love you’ and so much more.
Locations in Edinburgh
Old Town is the heart of Edinburgh city, where visitors come from all over the globe to explore the unique architecture, history and cobble-stoned streets. Old Town feels like you are walking through a time capsule, where under the shadow of the castle, old structures stand proud, interwoven with modern shops, cafes, bookshops and pubs.
Victoria Street, Grassmarket, Advocates Close, The Vennel, Dunbar’s Close and The Writer’s Museum can all be found off the Royal Mile and are worth taking the time to visit. I also suggest spending some time going down the wynds and closes that you’ll find hidden along the Royal Mile. Each little laneway and alley is just begging to be explored. There is certainly something special about walking along the Royal Mile in your wedding outfits after saying I do to each other, with the congratulations of strangers as they pass by, and maybe a little dance to a bagpiper playing in the streets as well!
The New Town of Edinburgh provides a sense of contrast to the Old Town, with contemporary culture and newer architectural buildings to enjoy. There are plenty of artisan cafes, delis and shops to pop into should you need a break from exploring.
Popular locations to visit and some of my favourites to take photos around include The West End, Dean Village, Circus Lane and Stockbridge.
Amongst the famous old buildings of Edinburgh, you’ll find a range of outdoor locations to enjoy. Holyrood Park is a popular spot with locals and tourists, where you will also find St Anthony’s Chapel Ruins – a stunning spot for a wedding ceremony, with views looking back onto the city. Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill are the two famous vantage points of the city.
Dunbar’s Garden is a leafy garden tucked away off the Royal Mile, where I’ve photographed several wedding ceremonies. The garden transforms into beautiful oranges and yellows in Autumn time and is bursting with greens and colourful flowers over the Summer.
Where to get married in Edinburgh
Some couples choose to get married at City Chambers (i.e town hall) or alternatively you can be married in another venue or outdoor location of your choice. If you’re looking to have a micro wedding in Edinburgh, here are some venues that are worth considering:
Timberyard – Beautiful interiors and the option to hold your ceremony in their courtyard before enjoying their incredible food.
The Collective – If you want to get married with one of the best views of Edinburgh city
The Free Company – An organic rustic farm on the outskirts of Edinburgh that is full of charm and like you’re miles away from the world, but only a short drive from the city
The Bonham Hotel – Luxury hotel tucked away in Edinburgh’s New Town
Other venue ideas on the outskirts of Edinburgh
What should you do if it rains on your wedding day? Scotland is known for its rainy weather, which is part of what makes the atmosphere so romantic. There is nothing quite as memorable as walking along the streets whilst holding your partner’s hand as the rain comes down, taking little breaks under the hidden laneways to cuddle up together, and watching the rain give that extra glow to the lights and colours of the city
I recommend embracing the weather (with some umbrellas if needed) and also choosing a cafe or bookshop to drop into for a break if needed to warm up. Having accommodation or a venue that you love to take some indoor photos in if the weather gets extra wild is a useful backup plan as well.
Summer vs Winter
In Summer the city is bustling with crowds, tourists, and locals enjoying a pint on the street. The city is much warmer and the days are long, with the sun setting around 10pm in the peak of Summer.
August is the busiest month in Edinburgh, with the famous month-long Edinburgh Fringe Festival taking place. Accommodation can be difficult to find during this month, with the number of people in the city at its peak for the year. Getting married in the city when it is at its busiest can feel overwhelming to some, and if this is the case for you, I would recommend choosing a different month of the year, or perhaps one of the quieter months from September – April.
Over Winter the crowds tend thin out as the weather gets colder. The city’s many pubs, cafes and bars feel very cosy over Christmas time and the light becomes softer as the days become shorter, with the sun setting around 4pm. What I love about shooting a wedding in Winter is that we have the day to enjoy the ceremony and take photos, and then once the sun sets, you can enjoy the warmth and comfort of being indoors with a good meal for the rest of the evening!
If you’re a fan of Halloween, there is no shortage of tours and events to enjoy over the Spooky season. The golden colours of Autumn over October are a bonus to enjoy as well. In the lead-up to Christmas, the city is full of festivals, twinkling lights and markets that brighten up the dark evenings.
There are accommodation options to suit every style and budget in Edinburgh, here are my favourite spots below that are ideal both in location and style for a wedding day.
16th-century cottage | A building out of a fairytale
The Dunstane Houses | 5-star luxury boutique hotel
Linton Collection | Serviced apartments + studio flats in the city centre
Porteous Studio | Architectural gem in the heart of the city
Westside Woodshed | Luxury hideaway in the Pentland hills
The Pavilion at Lamb’s House | Hidden gem in Leith, Edinburgh