Travelling chimps

How to get married on a mountain

In the UK you can’t just pick a spot, enlist the relevant qualified person and run through the legalities to tie the knot. Or can you? Follow my ten steps to get married on a mountain.

First a bit of background…

Rules, rules and more rules

Many, many years ago there was a Marriage Act brought in to stop all the crazy marriages taking place in England. No more irregularities – you had to be a certain age, your parents had to agree if you were under 21, you had to do it somewhere legit, someone official had to say all the right stuff and it all had to be recorded. It was a real spanner in the works for all those underage kids who got pregnant before their wedding day.

Scotland was not part of all this. They didn’t follow the new amendment and instead chose to just stick to ‘mutual consent’ as the tick box for their unions. Anybody could make the declaration of marriage and as long as you were over 12, it was a green light.

Civil license or no civil license

It’s not wildly different today in England and Wales, you still have to follow the rules. The Marriage and Civil Partnerships Regulations asserts that weddings cannot happen just anywhere – you can’t just get married on a mountain. They must take place in a registry office or somewhere that has a license – something that will only be granted if you have a permanent structure with a roof.

Things are still pretty relaxed north of the border. A few changes have taken place – maybe one too many buggers found themselves married off after a few drams too many, so they’ve stopped the ‘anybody can declare it’ rule and upped the age of consent to 16. If a registrar does the job the venue has to have a license, but if you opt for a minister or a humanist celebrant, no license is required. You just have to get them to agree to your location!

Making it personal

No permanent roof structure required!

In order for a marriage to be fully legal, certain points must be met within the service, i.e. you can’t just say exactly what you want. Any registrar or minister-led wedding has a fair amount of statutory stuff that has to be repeated (I declare no legal reason why I…etc. etc.). Of course you can add your own vows in some cases, but it’s not really that flexible if you want to have something entirely personal to yourselves.

Humanist celebrants prefer to perform ceremonies that focus on couple and the relationship, which makes sense even if you are not a declared humanist. The one catch is it’s not currently legal in England and Wales – you still have to go to the registry office and get the registrar to do the bit that makes it real. That kind of spoils it a bit in my mind.

It’s different in Scotland. Humanist Weddings have been legal since June 2005, as long as they’re conducted by a celebrant of the Humanist Society of Scotland who has been authorised by the Registrar General. They just need to hear themselves, and for your witnesses to hear, a verbal contract between the two of you that accepts each other in marriage.

 So… getting married on a mountain

So we’ve identified that you can have the ceremony you want if you head to Scotland and choose a humanist celebrant. So how do you  get married on a mountain?

  1. Find a mountain that is do-able for you and your guests
  2. Find a humanist who will do it for you – you can have a hunt on the Humanist Society of Scotland for a list.
  3. Before you can move forward, join the Humanist Society of Scotland (approx £20)
  4. Apply to the registrar in the area you want to marry for a marriage schedule. To do this you need to both fill in an M10 form as well as send in details of witnesses and original of birth certificates and divorce certificates. You need to include details of your celebrant and also your location (as well as a plan B location). There was a fee for this of approximately £71 to process this.
  5. Run through your wedding script with the celebrant so you are all agreed in advance.
  6. Pick up your form the week preceding the wedding
  7. Get married on the mountain if the weather is ok (yay!) or in the plan B location if the weather is foul (gutted). I get the feeling you can be pretty flexible on this if your heart is set on outside. The mountain car park would probably be fine!
  8. Make sure you get the signed document from the celebrant (it is signed by yourselves, the celebrant and the witnesses) and the form that the celebrant fills in that details what name everybody actually signed.
  9. Drop off your documents with the registrar within 3 days following the wedding.
  10. Marriage documents are sent to you by post.

In the next post I talk more about our specific wedding and our choices. Keep reading if you are interested in that. If not – good luck with your Scottish choice, I can assure you that you won’t regret it.