Angie Alexandra takes a look at beach weddings in Scotland. Beach weddings are growing in popularity which is not surprising as they offer a beautiful, natural and cost free location for a ceremony. And Scotland has some of the most amazing beaches in the world!
When I began to write this article yesterday, it was most definitely not feeling like a beach wedding day weather wise, but first thing this morning when I walked the dogs on Findhorn Beach, it was sunny and showery, and a beautiful rainbow blessed us. It would have made for the perfect wedding setting.
Having a wedding on the beach in Scotland, there are many variables to consider. If you’re lucky with the weather and have opted for one of the stunning northern or island beaches, you’ll think you’re in the South of France without the crowds. If you’re unlucky with the weather you’ll wish you had prepared a Plan B. Before you decide when and where, it’s a good idea to consider the date and time, guests or no guests, if you’re comfortable with public or private, and the kind of beach you’d like – remote or easy access, sandy or pebbly – and this could determine which beach you choose.
SUNRISE AND SUNSET OR IN BETWEEN?
When considering the date and time, couples who think it sounds romantic to get married at sunset or sunrise on the beach on summer solstice in June, do well to have a little reality check! Couples don’t usually fancy getting up in the middle of the night to have their wedding, though depending on you finding a celebrant who’s willing, it would be possible – just be careful what you wish for! The sun rises around 3.30am and sets around 11 pm on summer solstice, or midsummer’s day as it’s popularly known, so the idea of having a stunning sunrise or sunset sky as a backdrop can seem like a great idea to begin with, but practically speaking, it doesn’t depend on whether you’re ‘night owls’ or ‘early birds’, it depends on you being ‘all nighters’! You might also want to consider which side of the country you’re on. The sun rises in the East, so an Easterly beach is good for a beautiful sunrise. The sun sets in the West, so the West Coast could be good for a spectacular sunset.
HIGH TIDE OR LOW TIDE?
Most couples opt for late morning or early to mid afternoon to hold their wedding ceremony, and on the beach this can be tide dependent. Consider if you would prefer a high or low tide as the beach environment and access can be very different. For example, up the road from where I live in Findhorn, you have the choice of sand dunes, a long golden stretch of sandy beach when the tide is low, and millions of coloured pebbles at the top of the beach which is all you see of the beach when the tide is high.
CHECK PERMISSIONS AND PUBLIC LIABILITY
All legal marriages are administrated by the local Registrar, whoever you choose to marry you, and all legal marriages have to be applied for in advance. If getting married legally the Registrar who covers the postcode where the beach is located should be able to tell you if you need to apply for permission to be married there. I’ve heard of nothing being needed as one extreme, compared to the couple who were advised they needed to contact the factor of the estate the beach land belonged to, and that they needed to have public liability insurance and a risk assessment to be married there! So investigate early and choose wisely!
CONSIDERING THE PROS AND CONS
If you plan to marry just the two of you with your celebrant, photographer and legal witnesses, if the weather isn’t great, it will be easier to look after just yourselves than 100 seated guests. However if you’ve set your hearts on a beach wedding, you’d be wise to consider the pros and cons of a wedding on the beach – access, parking, facilities – and what to do if it’s a freezing cold or scorching hot day.
PREPARE FOR WIND AND RAIN
Wind and rain together are the worst scenario! Rain is always a possibility any time of year. Gazebos and marquees might help, but if the rain is coming in at an angle, they might not help too much. If the rain is hard it can be quite noisy on plastic or canvas. Rain can also be noisy on umbrellas and the hoods of outdoor waterproof wet weather gear. So you might keep your guests dry, but they might not be able to hear the ceremony. Wind is another possibility – welcome on a hot day, but maybe quite chilly on a cool day. I once held a beach ceremony when the wind was so strong that it blew the wifi signal, so the mic kept cutting out, but thank goodness we had the mic, as the wind was so frisky, we wouldn’t have been heard otherwise.
HOW TO KEEP WARM AND DRY AND SAFE
If you’ve set your heart on marrying on the beach, when you send your invitations, let your guests know to dress practically – stress to them to dress to keep warm and dry whilst outside, and let them know that there will be plenty of opportunity to wear party frocks and posh outfits later on during the reception. Footwear is a serious consideration. Wellies and walking boots might be the way to go, or flipflops or bare feet – again, depending on the temperature. Five inch heels might look amazing and be the height of fashion, but they can make navigating uneven surfaces like grass, stones and sand, quite treacherous.
IT’S IN YOUR INTEREST TO GIVE GOOD DIRECTIONS
Give your guests good directions and a helpful overview – where to park, where to congregate or how to get to the beach, and give them an idea of how long it will take to walk from parking to the ceremony spot. You might all meet in the car park and then you might nominate someone to lead guests to the spot, or the groom might welcome guests at the car park, and lead them on, before the arrival of the bride. I once held a wedding where 100% of the guests and myself all went via the neighbouring beach, as we were told the name of the beach, which is the one we went to, and it was actually the beach next door, which involved driving back up a steep single track road, and back down to the next cove.
Depending on the weather you might consider supplying your guests with bottles of water, sunscreen, midge repellent and seating. If having photos at the beach afterwards, you might want to supply some refreshments – nibbles are always nice, and a glass of fizz, but be sure to take boxes and bags to clear up afterwards, and beware if there are no public toilet facilities close by!
GIVING SOMETHING BACK
If you’re on a public beach, it’s a sad fact of contemporary life, that you and/or your guests will notice rubbish like crisp and sweet wrappers, plastic bottles and drink cans, and so many dog owners are clearly not vigilant about cleaning up after their pups, so you need to be careful where you tread. It’s well worth getting a small group together to check the ceremony spot the day before and clean and tidy the beach – it’s a great public service too, and feels nice to give something back to a place you have chosen for its natural beauty (and potentially zero cost). It’s nice to look after the planet.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
The often unheard of and overlooked county of Moray has some stunning beaches – Nairn, Findhorn, Roseisle, Burghead and Lossiemouth. Long stretches of pale, golden sand, and often not many people around.
City beaches can be surprisingly lovely – certainly in Aberdeen and Joppa in Edinburgh to name two. And you don’t just have sea and ocean beaches, there are lochside beaches and riverside beaches, one of the most famous being Dores Beach on Loch Ness.
Along the North Coast you will find spectacular Torrisdale beach, where the Borgie and Naver rivers run into the sea, which is a 1.5 mile stretch of golden sand.
You can feel beautiful smooth sand between your toes and swim off the remote Oldshoremore and Polin beaches which are near Kinlochbervie and Lairg on the West Coast. Or if you really want to get away from everyone, Sandwood Bay beach, caretaken by the John Muir Trust, can only be accessed by a 4 mile walk. An 8 mile round trip might not be your idea of fun, but legend has it you might see mermaids there.
Pennan Beach became famous for being featured in the film Local Hero back in the 1980s. The village is full of character and it has a nice little harbour and a very famous red telephone box. The actual beach scenes in the film were not filmed at Pennan though, they were filmed on the West Coast, as Pennan beach is at the bottom of cliffs, pebbly and north facing, with a single street of cottages just over the road. Beachwise we actually prefer its next door neighbour, the secluded Nethermill Bay. The beautiful Mill of Nethermill holiday cottages which are very sympathetically renovated listed historical buildings just set back from and overlooking the beach, are perfect for a wedding for two with a cosy apartment if just the two of you or the two of you with witnesses, or your hosts Bill and Lynn can offer you a spot for your marquee if having more guests.
If you feel you’d like some privacy, which can’t be guaranteed on a public beach, how about choosing somewhere that has its own private beach, that is open to an occasional tiny or small wedding, like purpose built B&B Balachladaich on Loch Ness, or Split Rock Croft near Lochinver, a beautiful self catering eco-house which also has two private beaches?
All these ceremony location options offer you good indoor locations for a Plan B close to hand if needed. Whilst I’m happy to hold a ceremony in the rain and I don’t mind getting wet, and I’m happy to roll up my trousers or don my cossie or wetsuit and join you for a post ceremony paddle or dip, please remember your photographer if having one. You and I can get soggy and recover, but your photographer’s camera equipment is a little more sensitive to the wet – here speaks the voice of experience! Wind and rain in an outdoor location can hugely restrict what your photographer can achieve for you so it’s helpful to have realistic expectations for an outdoor wedding on the beach, to avoid disappointment. We’re happy to support you in any way we can, to the best of our abilities, and give ideas for where to hold your beach wedding, but we will advise about midges and access and weather so that your special day is remembered for all the right reasons!