Scotland: a romantic rendezvous
IT may not have the sun-kissed beaches of a Caribbean island or the Tuscan beauty of Florence but Scotland is fast becoming a rival for the affections of would-be newly-weds.
With almost a quarter of marriages in Scotland now involving couples from abroad, the country’s romantically breathtaking scenery, historic houses, liberal marriage laws and renowned reputation for hospitality have combined to create the perfect foundation for a wedding boom.
“The market is just about ready to explode,” said Emma Douglas of Destination Weddings Scotland (DWS) who believes that with just a little more promotional effort Scotland substantially increase the value of an industry already worth more than £80 million a year.
“There is a lot of unrealised potential in the market for international groups coming to Scotland. We already have a thriving industry but perhaps we haven’t yet fully understood the value of what we have and what we could have,” said Emma, an experienced wedding planner who says that up to 80 per cent of her clients are now from outside the country.
“Overseas wedding parties tend to fall into two main categories. First, there are Scots who live abroad and they want to return home to get married, and then there’s people who love just Scotland, even though they may not have any existing inks with the country. Sometimes it’s just as simple as the girl wants to see a boy in kilt.”
While the average UK wedding is estimated to cost in the region of £21,000 many tourist weddings account for an even higher total spend. Although the average number of guests is generally smaller, a larger proportion of them require overnight accommodation and often stay much longer.
“Other countries have realised the potential and have been targeting the overseas wedding market for years,” said Ms Douglas.
“Although the Florentine area of Italy has had a lot of success focussing on international weddings for the last 25 years, as have many of the Caribbean islands, Scotland is every bit as beautiful and romantic. We have a lot going for us.”
North Americans tend to make up the majority of overseas wedding parties but there is growing evidence that other nationalities are following suit, especially couples from France, Norway, Sweden, Japan and even China.
One of the biggest attractions for overseas couples is the ‘can-do’ attitude of many venues.
While most brides spend up to 18 months planning their big day one Highland venue were recently given just 10 days to organise a dream wedding for a visiting Chinese couple.
Di Lv and her fiancé Aixiang Jin from Shenzhen, south west China had set their hearts on exchanging their marital vows in the Highlands – even though neither had ever been there before.
Just days before flying to Scotland Di they sent an email to Bogbain Farm, near Inverness, asking if it was possible to organise a wedding. The couple chose to get married in Inverness because they had seen pictures of the area on the Internet and read about the beauty of Scotland.
“It didn’t leave us a lot of time but we like a challenge. It seemed a shame to disappoint the couple when they had set their heart on a Scottish wedding,” said Jo De Sylva, Venue Manager.
“The first thing we did was contact our local suppliers to see if they could help they were all amazing. We arranged for a traditional handfasting ceremony, like the one seen in the movie Braveheart, and organised cakes, a piper, photographer and a traditional Scottish wedding breakfast.”
However, the whole thing was almost ruined when the bride and groom missed their connecting flight from London to Inverness and had to hire a car to drive 570 miles through the night, arriving just 30 minutes late.
The couple were greeted by a piper at Fort Augustus, where they underwent a civil ceremony, before travelling on to Bogbain for the traditional handfast ceremony in which the couples’ hands were loosely tied together with a piece of tartan to signify the binding together of two families.
They they sat down to a meal of venison, seafood and cranachan, prepared by local chef John Lochart.
“The bride specifically requested Scottish fayre and that’s what we gave them,” said John.
“We sourced some wild venison from Ardgay, mussels from Shetland and langoustines caught by a fisherman called Hamish off Kylesku.”
Musician and tv presenter Bruce McGregor, who owns Bogbain Farm, even serenaded the couple during their celebrations.
Di, a 33-year-old business development manager with a global consulting firm, and her new 31-year-old husband, who works as a sales manager for a biotechnology company, were overwhelmed by the efforts of everyone involved in getting the wedding ready in so short a time.
“All the efforts made for making this wedding in Scotland happen turned out almost more important than getting married itself. It will be a funny story we can talk about when we get a lot older,” said Di.
“There could be no better location more suitable for celebrating such a private but special moment.”