Mention the name Gretna Green and you conjure up images of passion, romance and excitement, as the name is synonymous with runaway weddings. Whilst many people believe that Gretna Green became a popular wedding destination in 1754, it was not actually until 1770, when a toll road was built in the area that Gretna Green became the first village in Scotland to be easily accessible when crossing the border.
Of course, Gretna Green’s appeal in the past was largely due to the marriage laws in England and Wales. In the 1700’s, ‘Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act’ stated that if the parent of anyone under the age of 21 wishing to get married did not give their consent, the marriage could not go ahead. This law only applied in England and Wales, and across the border in Scotland, the law was more lax when it came to marriage, with boys allowed to marry at 14, and girls permitted to marry at age 12 either with or without parental consent!
The Lore of the Blacksmith
Gretna was perhaps most famous for its hurried marriages, also known as ‘Blacksmith Weddings’. By law in Scotland, as long as two witnesses were present, almost anyone could marry a couple, and many people travelled to Gretna Green’s blacksmith’s shop to be married by local blacksmiths, also known as ‘anvil priests.’
In 1929, the legal age for marriage in Scotland was raised to 16, but today it is still possible for 16 year olds to marry without parental consent, whereas in England you need to be 18 to get married without the consent of your parents. Gretna Green has always been a place where young runaways or those deeply in love escaped to to tie the knot, with or without the knowledge of friends and family, and it’s this heritage along with the romantic connotations it provides that ensures Gretna Green remains the UK’s most popular wedding destination, for couples of all ages!
Gretna Green today has changed since the 1700’s, and as well as the Blacksmith’s Shop, there are a number of other venues to choose from for your wedding, including the magnificent Anvil Hall and the Parish Church. But the romantic air lingers in Gretna Green, and with it the memories of thousands of couples who stopped here on their way over the Scottish border to declare their love and become man and wife. A wedding in Gretna Green is a day that will go down in history!