It is estimated that one out of every eight marriages that takes place in Scotland is performed at Gretna Green, which equates to over four thousand weddings a year. Gretna Green is just over the Scottish Border and rather than being a village in its own right, is only one end of a large village which at the other end is known as Springfield. How Gretna Green became such a famous wedding destination is all down to geography and history.
It was in 1754 that restrictions was imposed on the number of marriages that were permitted to take place, and clamped down on the method of recording the marriages. Marriages in which either the groom or bride were found to be aged under twenty one were outlawed, unless permission had been sought and granted by both sets of parents. A clergyman found breaking these new rules would find himself shipped out on the next transport to the New World and banished from the British Isles for some fourteen years, so the rules were incredibly well enforced. However the act applied only in England and not Scotland.
Breaking the Rules
Anyone aged over sixteen could still be married in Scotland, even without the consent of their parents, they could even get married without having to give notice and without the assistance of a clergyman! Travelling north from England and into Scotland, Gretna Green was the first village that you reached and as such became the place to run away and get married. It was often the blacksmith that carried out the ceremony as he was the craftsman that had earned the most respect within the community, and the ceremony was concluded with the striking of the anvil.
Things only changed in 1940 when a law passed to state that marriages would only be recognised if they were performed by the clergy. Gretna Green is still the location of many marriages and civil ceremonies, and is seen as something of a traditional and romantic wedding venue, even though throughout history it has seen young couple running away from home to be together, and marrying in haste before their parents were able to catch up with them.
Despite appearances there is more to Gretna and Gretna Green than just the marriage industry. The area is now home to a fabulous Outlet Village which offers a number excellent retail outlets including a number of designer brands, where you can indulge in some great retail therapy. Gretna itself was planned and built to house all of the workers that were needed by the vast munitions plant that was built here in WWI, and is separated from Gretna Green by some open fields and a duel carriageway.
Gretna Green has all of the charm and prettiness of a border village with the added extra of hundreds of years of tradition relating to forbidden love and secret marriage. It is still a place that couples return to in order to renew their vows or celebrate their anniversaries surrounded by people who manage the business of love.