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Elopement at Gretna Green became such a problem that in 1754, Lord Hardwick’s Marriage Act was passed by British Parliament ~ stating marriages had to take place in a church, with both parties at least 21 years of age.
Scotland had it’s own legal system and ignored this British law. Soon English couples were coming over the border to wed.
The first town across the border was Gretna. Once the couple arrived at Gretna almost anyone would perform the ceremony. Fishermen, joiners, and the village blacksmith were known to conduct wedding ceremonies.
The cost was anything from two guineas to a dram of whiskey, being adjusted to what the couple could afford. Riders, in the pay of the blacksmith, would ride from Carlisle with information about the couples who were on their way to Gretna and what he thought they could afford to pay.
The local blacksmith’s shop became a wedding parlor where all social classes came to be wed. The traffic became so heavy that on one day, 50 couples arrived to be wed.
Legislation was soon introduced stating that one of the couple had to reside in Scotland 21 days. In 1940, an Act of Parliament declared weddings could only take place in a church or registry office.
These acts have since been repealed and the old blacksmith shop is once again a wedding parlor. The blacksmith’s house next door is a museum. As a wedding tradition, Gretna Green is the second most visited sight in Scotland, the first being Edinburgh Castle.