Having a beach wedding on the Isle of Harris on the Outer Hebrides seems increasingly like the best idea you may have ever had! I have been photographing beach weddings on the Hebrides for about 13 years now and each one is unique and joyous in its own way. The beaches on the Isle of Harris are empty, stretches of miles of sandy golden sands with beautiful turquoise waters and crashing waves fringed with the hills of Harris and often low hanging clouds and idyllic atmosphere.
So, given that I have photographed a few hundred weddings on the beaches of Harris, I thought I would write a post to help you with some of the handy tips and thoughts that may help you in planning your own wedding on the Hebrides.
I find the couples who have the most enjoyable time are those who embrace the day and whatever it brings. Not worrying about the wind messing with the hair or rain coming in just as the ceremony starts. An outdoor wedding is always a slightly risky option given that this is the Hebrides. In August, it can feel like winter when the wind picks up, and equally, in April there can be clear sunny days that feel like Summer. If you love the outdoors, it is likely that you will embrace any weather fully regardless. Weddings on the Hebrides are less about all the ‘stuff and the shoes and the dress being perfect and much more about love and enjoyment – so the best attitude is to simply enjoy.
ACCOMMODATION ON THE ISLE OF HARRIS
Always ensure that you have ferries and accommodation booked before going ahead. Ferries aren’t always bookable until the new timetable comes out, but if you are planning a summer wedding, it is best to book early. Accommodation and ferries are in high demand in the summer months.
If you choose a property that is large enough and is suitable for an indoor ceremony, you have a backup plan if the weather is really too bad to be outside. Yes, it does rain in Harris! If you aren’t delighted at the thought of getting married in the rain, then an indoor ceremony is something to consider as a backup. You can always go out afterward for your photographs.
Some beautiful accommodation on the Isle of Harris to consider for your wedding:
HOW TO PLAN YOUR WEDDING DAY ON THE HEBRIDES
Remember that if you are eloping to Harris it is just about the two of you and what you love – if you want to get married in jeans and a t-shirt, or have a pie on the beach for your wedding meal, then do so! Want to wear wellies? Or have your dogs running around with you during the ceremony? It is all entirely your choice.
Remember that an elopement is much more focused on what the couple wants and loves than a larger wedding. You are totally free from any traditional constraints when you choose to get married in this way.
FOOD OPTIONS ON THE ISLE OF HARRIS
The isle of Harris is a truly unique place for food options. There are very few restaurants but what it does have is some amazing take-out food and food trucks. I have seen couples head to a food truck after their wedding and enjoy seafood, pies, cakes, and other local food truck delights! Keeping it simple and delicious….
Sams Seafood Shack will do locally sourced fish and shellfish freshly cooked from their food truck. Eat fresh fish outdoors!
Lorna’s larder – serving fresh, homemade food with Scallops, haddock, and monkfish a specialty. Based on the Golden road turnoff.
Croft 36 is renowned for its pies and cakes- I can personally vouch for them!. This is an honesty box system, but in the summer months can sell out early in the day.
The temple cafe in Northton does beautiful cakes and coffee to take out.
Flavour Chris’ Hebridean fusion menus are created using locally sourced produce and specialty ingredients from around the world. A table needs to be booked in advance as there are only 12 places, Thursday & Friday only. You can also buy Chris’ handmade chocolates at the shop at Talla Na Mara.
Restaurants include The Anchorage, Talla na mara, Hotel Herbides, and the Harris Hotel if you are looking for a sit-down meal. Scarista House does afternoon teas and fabulous evening meals, but you will need to book in advance.
WEDDING CAKE ON THE HEBRIDES
Borve bakery make the most beautiful cupcakes and celebration cakes, so just get in touch well in advance if you are looking for a special cake for your wedding day!
WHAT TO WEAR FOR YOUR HEBRIDEAN WEDDING
I would always recommend sensible shoes! Even if they are an alternative and you have wellies stashed in the car as well as your heels. But most couples tend to opt for trainers, wellies, or bare feet. Heels and sand don’t mix all that well!
A warm throw, cardigan, or coat is advisable even if it’s left in a bag just in case. The weather can change rapidly and there’s nothing worse than feeling uncomfortable on your special day. I have seen some lovely tartan throws that are really warm and cozy and fit well with wedding dresses. It doesn’t have to be a wedding-specific top.
Your dress is entirely up to you – from traditional long flowing white dresses to more unusual options – this is your chance to choose whatever you like. If going with a traditional dress, I would ensure that you don’t feel precious about it as it is going to get dirty on a beach. The worst thing, in my opinion, is that the few hours you have during this special time is spent worrying about a dress. When a bride is more worried about a dress and is unable to walk with it, it simply becomes a burden rather than a delight. It then often means I am unable to take the photographs they would have wanted.
So free yourself up and buy something that you love and want to run on the beach with and dip your toes in the sea without worrying about the seawater on the fringes.
Not forgetting the men, once again the choice is yours! The one experience that I do have is that hired kilt shoes are incredibly slippy and often grooms have more trouble walking on rocks etc than brides do. Walking boots and kilts make a great modern look!
FLOWERS FOR YOUR WEDDING ON THE ISLE OF HARRIS
Bespoke Blooms is a bespoke florist in Stornoway who will do beautiful wedding flowers. Stornoway is a 3 hour round trip from Harris. So you can either pick them up on your way through if getting the Ullapool ferry or call and ask how to arrange your flowers.
I see many people have dried flowers as well on their wedding on the Isle of Harris. Some do not have flowers at all. Remember it is entirely up to you!
WHERE DO WE GO FOR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHS?
Many couples come to me looking to plan out the locations for the photographs afterward, as you normally would with a wedding. Usually, the more organised you are the better. But what we have to remember is a beach elopement is no ordinary wedding. Everything is more relaxed and can be much more free-flowing and you don’t have to worry about your guests and getting to the reception on time and all the group shots.
As your wedding photographer, all I need to know is where to meet you for the ceremony and the rest can happen naturally. Some couples opt to simply have 15 minutes of photographs on the beach where they get married. And then head off together to enjoy their time by themselves. This is perfectly fine and in fact, I work very quickly and can capture a large selection of images in a very short space of time. Other couples like to go onto a couple of different locations after the ceremony for a variety of backdrops. It is very weather dependent and also depends on how you are feeling as well. It is always important to do as much as you feel happy and comfortable with.
As I know the Isle of Harris so well, I can suggest possible stops along the way for the easiest access and best views, so essentially it is possible to leave it until the day itself to consider where to go for photographs afterward.
WEDDING CEREMONY LOCATION
The one thing you will need to choose is your ceremony location and this can be decided with your registrar or celebrant in advance. The top choices for ceremonies are:
Access to the main beach is via a car park at the end of the single-track road to Luskentyre. It is about a 5 min walk over the dunes and you will be right on the beach. This is probably the busiest location – but remember that busy means maybe 5 families on the beach. Luskentyre is a long sweeping beach so you only need to walk 5 mins to be totally alone. There are some rocks to the right which provide more shelter if need be.
Access is opposite Scarista House and this is a slightly longer walk over onto the beach. The beach is fully exposed and often very quiet. A very long expanse of beach with bigger waves – if you want to dip your toes into the water after your ceremony, I would suggest Luskentyre instead as the waves can be stronger here and it is not suitable for dipping!
Very easy access through the campsite and into the public parking at the end by the beach. Horgabost is very sheltered and the calmest of all beaches with nice views of the Hills of Harris. There are toilets and parking so it is an easy access option. There are rarely waves on this beach and if you want to splash in the water this is the place to do it! The food truck also serves coffee and snacks at the site if you need a drink afterward!
To see more information and read about past weddings I have photographed on the Isle of Harris check out my Harris wedding page here