Doing it legally

December 11th, 2013

by Felicity Harvest

I was approached late in 2012 by some friends who wanted to get married in Scotland in 2013.  At that time, we all expected that they would have to go to the register office and that I would do a non-legal humanist ceremony, and they were fine with that.  But then I spotted a post by Elizabeth Donnelly on the Ceremonies Facebook page, mentioning that she’d accompanied Jim Trimmer to do a legal wedding in Scotland.  I leapt on this and contacted Jim for advice, which he kindly gave, and what follows is based on that advice and my experience.


Jim pointed me to the appropriate page on the National Records of Scotland website  This specifies what they need in order to register you as a “temporary approved celebrant”:

  • A copy of [your] religious body’s or other belief system’s constitution or statement of faith, which should contain the aims and beliefs of the group together with details on the appointment of office bearers.
  • Details of membership, both locally and throughout the United Kingdom if applicable, and how often the local body meets for public worship.
  • A copy of the wording of the proposed marriage ceremony.
  • [Your] full name and the designation [you] would use when signing the Marriage Schedule eg Minister, Pastor or Lay Preacher.
  • Letters from two office bearers of the religious body or other belief system supporting [your] application and testifying to [your] status within the group.
  • The full names of the couple, the date and place of the marriage.


The first two points can be covered simply by saying you are an accredited BHA celebrant, and I got Andrew and Noel to provide my letters.  In terms of the ceremony, there is just one small group of phrases which must be included:

So, in front of these witnessed gathered here today, can you finally declare that you accept each other as husband and wife

Him and her:  We do

I now declare that you are husband and wife! 

You then have to all sign the “Marriage Schedule”, the equivalent of the register.  It is the responsibility of the bride and groom to collect the Marriage Schedule and return it to the registrar.  All very simple.


As it happens, it was about the only thing about the wedding which was simple.  The bride to be was taken very seriously ill between the time the booking was made and the ceremony, and had two potentially life-threatening operations.  Her wedding dress company went bust, and the original venue put the price up by 63% three weeks before the wedding, and they had to find a new one (a change which National Records of Scotland smoothly processed for me).  On the morning of the wedding the electricity completely failed in the new venue, and they had to get an emergency generator out.


But in the end, it was all wonderful, of course, and for me made very special by being my first legal wedding.