Our wet and wild kayaking wedding – eloping to Scotland!

On Saturday 6th April 2024 myself and Tom got married by the river Etive in Scotland. In the middle of storm Kathleen and in the company of three of our closest friends, we became Mr and Mrs Clare. It was a crazy and wild day but it was the perfect wedding day for us. I wanted to share our wedding day with our wider friends through here so please read on and enjoy my account of our special day!

The Proposal

In case you missed it, we got engaged on Sunday 11th June 2023 by the river Tryweryn in North Wales. We’d been at the Tryweryn all weekend for a kayaking event and had been having lots of fun on the water with friends. I had just got off the water and we decided to have a walk along the river before getting changed. Along the banks of the lower Graveyard section, Tom proposed with a river ring that he had got made for me.

It had been a perfect proposal and I had spent the next hour running up and down the Tryweryn telling everyone that I knew (and didn’t know) that we had just got engaged.

A happy summer river engagement! Photo: David Rogers

Planning the Wedding

We started looking at wedding planning over the Christmas period. I had in my head that we could get married over the Summer of 2024. We are pretty easy going and I envisioned a small intimate outdoors ceremony. I wanted something where the focus was on us getting married and not on all the unnecessary extras. It was quickly apparent however that what I had envisioned was not possible at such short notice. The simple day we had discussed also didn’t seem possible, with everyone we contacted giving us a long list of ‘minimal requirements’ we would need to book if we wanted our wedding there and most places having very little availability until 2026! Nothing really seemed to fit us and I started to dread that we going to have to spend lots of money planning a day that neither of us would enjoy.

By February I was feeling a bit deflated and I joked that we should just get married in Scotland on one of our next kayaking trips up there. Tom had an idea and after a little bit of research discovered that ‘adventure weddings’ in Scotland were very much a thing! We found a celebrant who was perfect – Paula Wilkinson from Fuze Ceremonies. We booked Paula and the photographer she works with, Trevor from Silver Photography, for the 6th of April. Scotland is one of only 4 places in the world that you can get married anywhere! We opted to get married by the river Etive – a well known white water river that attracts kayakers from all over. Paula even offered to marry us in the river if we wanted!

On our way to our Glen Etive wedding!

We invited 3 close friends the very same day to join us – James, Jack and Sam. Jack and James have been two of our best friends for years and we wanted them to be our witnesses. Sam is another close friend we have also known for years and he took great delight in telling everyone that he was the only ‘guest’ invited to the wedding.

Our wonderful friends. Photo: Trevor

We booked a cottage in Glen Coe for everyone for the week and sorted out the paperwork with Fort William registry office. I ordered a wedding dress online and Tom picked up a suit from John Lewis the week before. We were set!

Arriving in Scotland

Although I have been up to the Scottish Highlands many times before, it is still a place that takes my breath away! We drove up early on Thursday and so arrived in the Highlands with plenty of light left in the day. Stunning mountains still adorned with snow and huge spectacular valleys. We decided to stop at Glen Etive as we were passing and suss out what the conditions were like.

Thursday before our Wedding!

It was very dry when got there and the Etive was low. We found the perfect spot in between the second and third step on triple step and decided that this was the place! The river was inviting and I so wanted to get on for a paddle. We opted to wait until after the wedding however to rule out any unexpected river injuries before the big day.

We drove another 15 minutes up the road to Signal Rock Cottages where we were staying for the week. Our cottage was right on the river Coe and each night we fell asleep to the sound of white water. The Coe was too low to paddle although we enjoyed a chilly group swim in it the next day! The boys arrived a few hours after us and we enjoyed a quiet day on Friday.

Admiring the Coe on our wedding day! Photo: Trevor

Our Wedding Day

The morning of

As we had driven up, our journey had been lined with flashing signs of weather warnings for heavy rain and as we got up to Scotland for snow. It had been a particularly soggy day on Friday and we woke up on Saturday to heavy rain and strong winds. Saturday morning was relaxed as we shared a cooked breakfast and then read books. An hour before Paula and Trevor were due to arrive, we started to get ready. I got my dress on and added a pair of thermal leggings underneath. The boys even ironed their shirts and showered! It was pretty relaxed and thankfully they were all ready on time!

Quick photo at our accommodation before the rain came! Photo: Trevor

Arriving in Glen Etive

We drove up in convey to Glen Etive and parked up by the top of triple step. Luckily there was a pause in the rain but the winds were crazy! 60mph gusts nearly blew us over as we stepped out the car! The Etive was swollen and it was clear the rain of the last two days had had an effect. We also bumped into kayakers as we arrived! Our friends David and Gabi Bain, along with the Scottish Pyranha paddlers Taylor and Rowan had all arrived to scout the Etive. We hadn’t told many people about our elopement and so when we bumped into these guys in our wedding attire – there was a lot of excitement!

Being blown over as we arrived! Photo: Trevor

We wandered down to the Etive and quickly realised the rock slabs we had planned to have the ceremony were much more under water than they had been 2 days previously. We relocated slightly further down to higher ground and got started. The ceremony was only 20-30 minutes but it was so intimate and special.

A small and intimate ceremony! Photo: Trevor

The ceremony

Paula started by giving a brief introduction of how we met (a University kayaking pool session for those of you wondering). Our best friend Jack then gave a beautiful reading that he had prepared for us full of river analogies and very suited to us!

Jack’s reading was beautiful! Photo: Trevor

Paula had requested that we send her our wedding vows a few days before our wedding along with ‘three things you love about each other’. She had instructed us to keep these a secret from one another and she then read to us those three things. The three things I had listed about Tom (in a bit more detail than I’ll list here) were:

  • His internal happiness.
  • His kindness – to me and everyone!
  • His never ending support of me.

Tom’s three things about me were:

  • Making Tom and everyone else happy.
  • My smile – especially when I see minions.
  • My spontaneity!
Me and Tom! Photo: Trevor

Next come our wedding vows and handfasting. We had asked Sam to lead the handfasting part of the ceremony. Paula had told us that handfasting is an ancient Celtic marriage ritual and where the phrase ‘tying the knot’ actually came from. We had brought some kayaking rope up with us (think the thin cord you use instead of ratchets) and held hands as Sam wrapped it around our hands.

Sam carrying out our handfasting. Photo: Trevor

Next came the tricky bit! We had printed out our vows and holding a sheet of paper with one hand is a skill I think I have mastered. The wind however was ferocious at this point and we were struggling to keep hold of our vows! In the end, I had to hold the paper against Tom’s chest to keep it open enough to read. Our vows were beautiful and it certainly felt wild in those moments. Once we had finished we had to part hands and in doing so the knot in our ropes would become tied. When we get round to printing some photos to hang up, we plan to frame the knot and have it up along side them.

Tying the knot! Photo: Trevor

Next came the exchange of rings and our legal vows. James was our ring bearer and had kept our rings safe. I wanted to use the river ring Tom had got me made for our engagement and we had found Tom a beautiful river band to match. We exchanged rings (careful not to drop them in the Etive) and said our ‘I dos’. By this point it had started to rain again and I had become my ‘something blue’ from the cold, but it was such a wonderful moment. I felt incredibly happy and just couldn’t believe what an adventure our wedding had been thus far! Perfect!

Exchanging rings. Photo: Trevor

Our friends cheered as Paula announced us as man and wife and we had our first kiss. Having seen enough films, I had convinced myself it would be fun to ‘swoop’ for the kiss. Tom was taken by surprise and dropped me – catching me before I fell completely in a massive puddle. Not that it would have mattered as it was now properly raining!

Our second kiss! Less dropping this time! Photo: Trevor

Luckily our lovely friend James had brought his van and we got into the back of his van to sign the marriage schedule. By this point, storm Kathleen was in full swing and Glen Etive was feeling her wrath! Trevor and Paula suggested we find another location for the last part of the ceremony and photos. We had one last scenic shot in the valley (our second kiss) and drove back over to Glen Coe. On the drive, me and Tom (probably delirious from hyperthermia) just kept saying – ‘hello WIFE’, ‘hello HUSBAND’ before giggling hysterically.

Admiring Tom’s ring after we had signed our marriage schedule! Photo: Trevor

Drinking from the Quaich

We walked along the Coe and up into the woodland above. Here, in the sanctuary of the trees, it felt calmer. I’ve always loved forests and this one was magical. Green moss covered the forest floor and I felt like a princess walking up through the trees. The last part of our ceremony was drinking from the Quaich.

Like a princess in the woods! Photo: Trevor

The Quaich is a special cup you drink from as your first act as man and wife. James was our designated Quaich pourer. I think you are supposed to do it with whiskey but we had water poured from one of our Palm kayaking water bottles. I am glad we did this though as we each had to drink from it 3 times! Once for the love we shared in the past. Once for the love we shared on this day – our wedding day. Once for the love we will share in the future. In the rain in the woods, just above a swollen river Coe, we completed our wedding ceremony.

Drinking from the Quaich. Photo: Trevor


We headed back down to the river and crossed over to where the get on the Coe (gorge section) was. It was pouring with rain but I just didn’t care. We had debated getting married in drysuits but just thought – who cares if our clothes get wet! As our friend Jack said, we had spent our lives chasing the rain, it was only fitting that it chased us on our special day.

Paddle guard of honour! Photo: Trevor

Embracing the wild weather and feeling high on happiness, we took some photos. Trevor had wanted us to get some shots by the Coe but it had felt awkward. Posing in romantic shots as a couple just isn’t our thing. As soon as we got the kayaks off the roof and started using them as props however – it felt very natural!

Yes we went kayaking on our wedding day! Photo: Trevor

We had a great laugh running around in our wedding attire, carrying boats, throwing throwlines (my bouquet toss) and generally causing a lot of amusement for all the tourists who kept turning up in coaches and stumbling across us.

Throwline for my ‘bouquet toss’ for my ‘bridesmaids’. Photo: Trevor

Wedding day lap of the Coe

Eventually we waved goodbye to Trevor and then we had a choice. At this point, it was early afternoon. We were soaked through, freezing and in need to get out of our wet clothes. 10 minutes away was the best pub in Scotland. Directly in front of us was the get on for a white water river at perfect levels. It wasn’t a hard choice. We geared up and went for a wedding day paddle on the Coe!

Sam ready for paddling! Photo: Del

This proceeded to be one of my favourite ever kayaking experiences. The Coe had enough water to paddle but not enough to be scary. Having paddled a lot recently I felt in good form and was paddling well. Minus the huge brace I had to do on a completely flat section when a gust of wind actually blew me over! The scenery was INCREDIBLE. Glen Coe is stunning at the best of times but the huge storm clouds, pouring rain and crystal clear water was breath taking.

Beautiful river Coe!

The highlight of this lap came just before the gorge. I was at the front and as I came round the corner on a shallow flat section, a gigantic stag stood in the middle of the river. He locked eyes with me and stood his ground. I motioned to the others behind me to eddy out and we watched in awe. The stag was calm and stayed in the river for much longer than I would have expected before running away. I didn’t take a photo but simply watched and took in everything I could for what I knew would be a lifetime memory.

We then descended into the gorge. At the bottom of the gorge, I said to Jack ‘that was the best moment of my life!’ Jack laughed and told me I couldn’t say that on my wedding day! So I conceded and said it was the best moment of the last hour. It was truly special though. We paddled the rest of the river with ease and got out when we got to our accommodation. Being able to walk straight from the river to our cottage front door was quite something!

The boys! Photo: Del

Evening Celebrations

We got changed and wondered down the road to infamous pub – the Clacaigh Inn. I had packed a second white ‘party’ dress to wear and the boys all had fresh shirts. We had a delicious meal and a few drinks to celebrate. Everyone we met was so friendly and I had great fun retelling our tale to friendly locals. Lots of people gave me hugs and a lovely lady I met in the loos even sent us a bottle of prosecco to the table. It never fails to amaze me what lovely welcoming people the Scottish are.

Evening meal! Photo: Nice waiter!

When it was time to head back to our cottage, myself and Tom walked back alone. There was a slight pause in the rain and the mountain toads were out in full force. We took great joy wondering back and saying hello to the many toads we came across on the footpath. Tom was very happy with them! We finished the evening sharing a small coconut cake we’d picked up from Morrisons the day before as our wedding cake and chatting with Jack and Sam. The day had been perfect and I honestly wouldn’t have changed a thing – storm Kathleen and all!

Thank you

First thank you has to go to the dream team of Paula and Trevor who helped us to carry out our dream wedding. It takes a certain kind of person to agree to trample down a muddy wet bank to stand by a raging river for an hour in the middle of a storm just because your clients said that’s what they wanted! On our initial chat with Paula – she even offered to marry us in the river! Trevor as well had said not to worry about location as he had boots and a waterproof coat. Their willingness, good sense of humour and incredible talent at what they do made our day the success that it was. I couldn’t recommend either of them more highly and I would encourage you to look them up if our story has inspired you to have an adventure wedding in Scotland!

Thank you Paula and Trevor for making our dream day happen!

Paula Wilkinson can be found through Fuze Ceremonies and Trevor Wilson can be contacted through his webpage Silver Photography

The next people we need to thank is our wonderful friends Jack, James and Sam. We are so blessed to have these 3 wonderful humans not only in our lives but with us for our special day. They all drove up to Scotland and were a great support throughout. I was pleased that they were able to be part of our ceremony in their own ways and for being the best friends we could have hoped for. Sam described our wedding morning (the getting ready part) as feeling like we were in a ‘frat house’. Having friends you can laugh with and be completely relaxed around was wonderful. The time spent together that week outside of our wedding day was also lovely.

Jack, Sam and James! We love you! Photo: Trevor

Thank you to our wider friends and family who accepted our decision to get married this way and who have offered so much support and well wishes. Family all sent messages of support on the day and we arrived home to cards in the post. I also attended kayaking events the following two weekends and was overwhelmed by all the lovely words of congratulations that were shared by friends and the wider kayaking community at those events. We really appreciate it and thank everyone who has sent their congratulations. Special shout out to any of my students reading this as well – many of them went out of their way to congratulate me on my first day back at school after the Easter break (once word got out that I had got married). I know some of them paddle and read my blog – so thank you guys as well!

Group hug with Jack! Photo: Trevor

Finally thank you to Tom for agreeing to be my adventure partner for the rest of our lives. You are the calm to my storm and I couldn’t imagine life without you. Thank you for agreeing to get married in a storm by the river and for going kayaking on our wedding day. It was perfect and you are perfect for me.

Our perfect day. Photo: Trevor

Final reflection

When sat in the pub on the Saturday evening, we reflected on our wedding day and I asked the boys for their favourite moments. Everyone talked about how ‘wild’ the ceremony had been and what an adventure our wedding had turned out to be. It might have been nice to be in Glen Etive on a calm sunny day but I am glad we had the day that we had. It was wet, wild and exhilarating. Every moment was perfect. From nearly being blown into the river during our ceremony, to dancing in a sodden wedding dress by the river to actually going kayaking on our wedding day. I wouldn’t change a single thing and I am so grateful to have been blessed to have this experience and with my closest friends.

Thank you – from Mr and Mrs Clare! Photo: Trevor

2 replies on “Our wet and wild kayaking wedding – eloping to Scotland!”

What a wonderful blog! Well done all of you. Welcome Mrs Clare. You are fine addition to all the Mrs Clares that I have had the pleasure of knowing (and there are a lot!). Thank you as well for choosing my eldest grandson to be your partner-in-life.

Bless you both. Lots of love and best wishes, Grandad

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