“Fun Facts Saturday”
We visited famous Gretna Green when we picked up our daughter from her mission in Scotland.
In 1754, Parliament passed the Marriage Act, which prevented people under the age of 21 from marrying in England without parental consent. If the bride or groom was under 21 any of the parents could object and veto the marriage. “If anyone is opposed to this wedding, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
The 1754 Marriage Act did not apply to Scotland, where boys 14 and girls 12 could marry without parental consent. Plus, there was no waiting period. The marriage did not need to be performed by a civil or religious official. The couple was married by simply declaring, in front of two adult witnesses, their intentions that they were both free to marry. (“Marriage Declaration”)
Since Gretna Green is just across the English border, it became a popular place for quick-and-easy elopement or “irregular” weddings.
Gretna Green blacksmiths started performing wedding ceremonies across their anvil. Of course, they charged a fee. After all, they are Scottish. One blacksmith in the 1700s performed over 5,000 weddings.
These “anvil priests” used traditional “hand-fasting” by tying the couple’s hands together (“tying the knot”) on the anvil. The blacksmiths then gave the newlyweds a horseshoe, a Celtic symbol of good luck.
Like Las Vegas, Gretna Green “elopement weddings” are popular to this day. One blacksmith shop advertises “Over 10,000 Marriages.“
Gretna Green elopements have been mentioned in:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
- The BBC series You Rang, M’Lord?
- The Amazon Series, Doctor Thorne.
- The Poldark series.
- The Netflix series Brigerton.
- The Downton Abbey series.
(See: “Gretna Green,” “Gretna, Dumfries and Galloway,” Wikipedia)
Gretna Green, Scotland