Why is the town of Gretna Green associated so closely with weddings?

Gretna Green in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, is perhaps one of the most renowned wedding venues in Great Britain and its name is synonymous with couples eloping 'North of the Border' to tie the knot.


Gretna is a small Scottish border town with a population of only a few thousand, but it is it's location that made it so popular for weddings from the eighteenth century onwards. On the main thoroughfare from England to Scotland, it was the first stagecoach stop across the border and as such presented couples with their first opportunity to wed under Scottish law, which varied considerably from it's English counterpart.


In 1753, Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act was passed in England, and stated that that both the Bride and Groom had to be at least 21 years of age in order to be allowed to marry without the consent of their parents. However, 'North of the Border' the law did not apply, and their rules were a little more lax, to say the least. In Scotland, until 1929, boys of 14 and girls of 12 were able to wed without the consent of their parents and until 1940, any responsible adult could conduct the Ceremony.


Young boys and girls from England eloped to Scotland in their thousands, stopping at the first place they could find, eager to tie the knot - and you've guessed it, Gretna Gretna was that place! The blacksmiths in the town achieved particular notoriety, and became the place that conducted many of the weddings that took place in Gretna over the anvil at the shop.  


These days, the minimum age that couples need to be wed without parental consent in England, Wales and Northern Ireland  is 18 (20 in Jersey), but in Scotland young men and women aged 16 or older can do so without the need for approval from their parents.


Beacuse of the lower legal restrictions, and to an even greater extent, the history of the town, Gretna Green still remains one of the most common places in the whole of the UK for couples of all ages to tie the knot. In fact, around one fifth of all marriages that take place in Scotland each year take place in Gretna Green.

Q&A Categories: History & Tradition, Wedding Ceremony

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