Kay and Ryan’s Scottish Beach Elopement – Why Elopements are the Best!
A few years ago I teamed up with my good friend Paula, who is a Humanist celebrant based in Arisaig, and together we work with couples who are planning to elope, or have a small wedding, anywhere from Arisaig to Glencoe. Paula lives by the sea right in Arisaig itself and is never, ever, concerned about the weather. The forecast for our Scottish beach elopement could be abysmal, but the ever-optimistic Paula just shrugs it off and says it’ll be fine.
Imagine how surprised I was then when, whilst enjoying a journey home from the south of France, I was getting concerned messages from her about our next wedding together, just five days away. Kay and Ryan’s wedding was supposed to be on Knoydart, a beautifully remote bit of Scotland, only accessible by a boat trip across Loch Nevis from Mallaig. The weather forecast for that day was grim. Gale force winds and torrential rain from the morning to the evening. I’d contacted the boat company and, to be fair to them, they said that they could still get us over there, but it might be in an even smaller boat than the one they usually use. As someone who gets sea-sick sat in my office booking a ferry to Mull, I wasn’t looking forward to it.
The days passed by, but the apocalyptic weather forecast remained unchanged. After a few phone calls with Ryan and Kay we decided to just move the wedding to the next day. They were going to be on the mainland that day anyway, and the forecast was miles better. Moving an entire wedding wasn’t as difficult as you might think (admittedly there were only two people involved). I was able to come up a day later and more than happy to make exciting new plans. Paula was available later in the day to officiate, and the ever-helpful registry office in Fort William were happy to amend the date on the marriage schedule. So, with no bother at all, Kay and Ryan’s Knoydart elopement on Sunday became an Arisaig beach elopement on Monday.
Wedding Plans – Take Two
This Arisaig beach elopement had everything and I loved every second of it. It even had a dog, but only for a short while. Kay and Ryan were remarkably relaxed about everything and our new plans were vague at best. I met them at their cottage in Arisaig about 4pm and we finalised everything. They wanted to go to a beach for photographs and, because the light was going to fail, I suggested that we get the bulk of the photography done before the 6pm ceremony, rather than after.
I know that particular part of Scotland very well, having photographed loads of weddings and Scottish beach elopements in Arisaig, so we headed to my absolute favourite spot. You approach this particular beach walking through a narrow sandy path through towering gorse and ancient trees. The final part of the walk takes you up a small rise, at the top of which you get to suddenly see a beautiful white sandy cove, completely deserted, with evocative views stretching over to the islands of Eigg and Rum.
Being able to introduce people to this special place, and to be able to witness their happiness and joy at being there for the first time, just as I felt all those years ago when I first saw it, brings me immense pleasure and is one of my favourite parts of being a wilderness elopement photographer. More and more recently I feel like a guide as much as a photographer, and that’s alright by me.
Once we arrived I did nothing but photograph Kay and Ryan on the beach doing whatever they wanted. I didn’t tell them what to do or where to go, I just captured their happiness at being in such a special place with each other. They decided to run into the water, they decided to have a cuddle and they decided to look out to sea. My approach as an elopement photographer is to be ready to create images for them that document all of this, guiding them a little only if I need to. As soon as I interfere, the mood changes and the shots are different. I might sometimes offer a gentle nudge in the right direction but, generally, working in the periphery is going to give the most natural shots.
The previous day’s storm hadn’t fully left the west coast of Scotland and the resulting turbulent seas and dramatic skies were simply breathtaking. I really wanted to capture as much of that in Kay and Ryan’s photographs as I could. What you might not realise from looking at the images is that it was nearly 6pm and the light levels were already low. I was so glad that we switched things around the did most of the photographs pre-ceremony.
The Beach Ceremony
We met up with Paula and walked to a different beach to find a spot for the actual wedding ceremony. This time we had the Isle of Skye as a backdrop, and some pretty hefty waves too, but I’m not sure that the setting could have been better. Yes, the waves came up to their feet occasionally, and yes, it was freezing, but I was genuinely fighting back the tears when I witnessed Ryan and Kay publicly declare their love for one another there on the sand in such a magical place.
There is a photograph of Kay looking up into Ryan’s eyes during the ceremony that, for me at least, is a very powerful image. It isn’t dramatic or artistic or Instagrammable. It doesn’t fit with a lot of the trendy pull-your-bride-up-a-hill photographs that I see so much of these days. It is just a simple photograph, but one that captures perhaps one of the loveliest and most honest moments in time that I’ve ever witnessed during a ceremony, and one that I won’t ever forget.
Whether you are planning a Scottish beach elopement, or eloping anywhere else for that matter, being open to making adjustments to your plans can be rewarding. As long as I have a vague idea of what’s going on, and where, I am completely happy to change things about right up to the last minute if it helps my couples.