Gretna Green - home of romantic runaway marriages
Gretna Green, just across the border from England in Dumfriesshire is famous for its blacksmiths shop, where weddings of runaway couples were once undertaken. The first village in Scotland, it attracted couples who wanted to bypass the jurisdiction of the 1754 Marriage Act.
The new law, Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, meant that, if a parent of a person under the age of 21 objected to an underage union, it could be legally vetoed. Although in force in England and Wales, the Act did not apply in Scotland. Here, boys could marry at 14 and girls at 12. Once a toll road was installed in the 1770's, Gretna Green became the first easily accessible village over the Scottish border for eloping couples.
The Famous Blacksmith's Shop was built in 1713, and became a popular destination for runaway marriages. It benefitted from Scottish law, which meant that, if a declaration was made before two witnesses, almost anyone could conduct a marriage ceremony. The local blacksmith and his anvil soon emerged as symbols of the romantic Gretna Green runaway wedding story.
The blacksmiths in Gretna became known as 'anvil priests', culminating with Richard Rennison, who performed 5,147 ceremonies.
Some couples still like the idea of getting married in this traditional location, and weddings, and commitment ceremonies, can still be undertaken at the blacksmiths' there, or other Gretna Green venues.
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