Gretna Green- Scotland's Wedding Destination


In 1754, England past a law preventing marriage under the age of 21 without parental consent. In Scotland, the legal age for marriage was 16. Prior to 1929, it was even younger than that! And so, young lovers eloped traveling under the cover of darkness to Gretna Green. Gretna Green is ½ mile over the border north of Carlisle, England. It was a stagecoach changing post on the London to Glasgow route, and the first village in Scotland. The first building was the blacksmith's shop. The civil contract of marriage was lead by the "blacksmith priest" over the anvil, believed to offer good fortune. These blacksmiths became known as "anvil priests" and were able to marry couples as the law said that as long as there was two witnesses, anyone could hold the power to wed a couple. Runaway couples traveled for days by coach often with fathers in hot pursuit.

One of the most famous weddings that took places at Gretna Green was the marriage of the heiress Ellen Turner to, the much older, Edward Gibbon Wakefield. Ellen was the daughter of a rich mill owner who lived in England. She was to inherit her father's estate. When Ellen was 15 in 1927, she was tricked into believing that her fathers business was in trouble. She was told that if she would marry Edward Wakefield, her father would be saved. They proceeded to Gretna Green in Scotland where they were wed. Wakefield was found out and arrested in Dover less than a month after he had abducted Ellen.

The tradition continues today with 5000 weddings a year occurring in Gretna Green. Couples now travel from around the world to be married in the Scottish Wedding Hotel of the Year.

Places like Las Vegas and Reno have been nicknamed "Gretna Greens" because of the high amount of quick marriages that take place.

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