Want to get married on a private island?
Of course you do – and you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d have to go to the Seychelles, the Maldives or the Caribbean to do so, but actually, the most romantic private island of all is closer than you think.
Eilean Shona in Loch Moidart is Scotland’s best-kept secret wedding destination. Known to its fans as ‘Neverland’ because it’s where author JM Barrie came up with the idea of Peter Pan, it ticks all the boxes – it’s moody and bohemian, tiny but perfectly formed, and you can only reach it by invitation. As Faith said in her interview with Your Scottish Wedding, “What stood out immediately was the remoteness of the location. A private island in the Highlands, only accessible by boat or helicopter, offered the privacy we desired. It is an enchanting place full of beautiful history and stunning vistas.”
Moidart is one of the least-visited parts of Scotland; together with Morar, Arisaig and Knoydart, it forms part of ‘the Rough Bounds’ and it’s a very wild but very beautiful part of the West Highlands. It’s where Bonny Prince Charlie came ashore to raise the clans before the failed Rising of 1745, but since then, it hasn’t really been a big part of our history.
I’ve wanted to visit ever since I played as a child on and around the ruins of Castle Tioram that sits on its own tidal island just across the loch. In those days Eilean Shona was owned by an eccentric maiden lady who used to commute to and from the mainland in an extraordinary amphibious vehicle called an Amphicar, – essentially a 1960’s Triumph Herald with a propellor mounted at the back.
Now owned by Vanessa Branson, sister of rocket man Richard of Virgin Galactic fame, Eilean Shona has been given new life as a get-away-from-it-all, carbon-neutral wilderness haven. There are no cars on the island; the water comes from the hills and the electricity flows from their very own hydro-electric power station. Guests have the choice of eight cottages to rent or the Robert Lorimer designed Big House that sleeps up to 18.
I always hoped that someone would eventually ask me to conduct a wedding there, and when I got a call in April last year from Faith and Jason who wanted somewhere truly special to elope, my wish came finally came true.
I like the word ‘serendipity‘; it applies to everything about how Faith and Jason’s wedding came about. By great good fortune, their wedding dates worked for the Big House and for me too, so the only thing we had to cross our fingers for was the weather – reliably unpredictable on the West Coast!
As it turned out, we were in luck.
What made it extra-special was that Jason and Faith pretended to their families and friends that the trip was just a holiday. It was only after their party of six arrived on the island – from the USA, Belize and the Scottish Borders – that they shared the news they were to be married.
One of the things that made the ceremony truly unique was that it took place over two days.
Faith and Jason invited me and my wife Susie to stay over the night before the ceremony proper, and it was that evening they asked if they could tell everyone their story, rather than do so on the day, as they’d originally planned. I thought that was a great idea, so they did, as we sat around the living room and listened.
As Faith wrote, “the process was incredibly rewarding. Sharing our love work with one another was a great bonding experience. We sat over a glass of wine and read and laughed and cried. With all the planning, rushing and details, we found such little time to lean into the love that was driving it all. Our homework allowed us to create that space.
Tim’s openness and guidance allowed us to create the ceremony that we wanted. It meant that we were able to create a lasting memory of real sentiment shared by our parents and friends. From sharing our story the night before the wedding in front of the fire, to extending our ceremony to include a myriad of aspects that were important to us, Tim’s process and careful hand was there to bring us along. Looking back we feel as if we really did have a fairy tale wedding. Tim and his wife Susie will forever be a core part of that memory.”
On the day itself, Susie and I headed over to the mainland ahead of the wedding party, where we met the musicians Ollie and Michael of Muckle Spree. Multi-instrumentalists, equally at home on the Highland bagpipe, fiddle, uillean pipes, guitar and whistle, they set the mood for a truly Celtic wedding.
Of course, there was a smirr of rain…
But nothing could dampen our spirits!
Because Jason and Faith had already shared the story of their journey, after a reading from Alan, it was time for the vows and the exchange of rings.
I was really pleased when Your Scottish Wedding‘s editor Katie Bletcher told me they wanted to cover Faith and Jason’s story, and they did a fabulous job. As I said in the article, “Faith and Jason’s wedding was quite simply magical, in every sense!” You can see the full piece online here.
As a celebrant, I rarely get to spend a lot of time with my couples, so my night and day on magical Eilean Shona with Faith and Jason felt very special. I was very touched when they sent me these words.
“Thank you again for being such a pivotal person in our process. Our hearts are so full of gratitude to you, and are we lucky to know you and Susie. We feel like we have new friends for life.”
Thank you so much, Faith and Jason – that’s how we feel too!