Britain’s wedding capital
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Every St Valentine's Day, thousands of people travel to a small village on Scotland's border with England. Many of them go to get married, and many more couples go through mock wedding ceremonies to "renew their marriage vows". The village is Gretna Green and it's sometimes called Britain's wedding capital .
Why Gretna Green? Gretna's romantic reputation began 250 years ago. In 1754, English Parliament passed a law banning young people under the age of twenty-one to get married without their parents' permission. In Scotland, however, this law did not apply. Traditionally, a man and a woman over the age of sixteen could get married by declaring themselves husband and wife in front of two witnesses.
So what was a young couple to do if they were in love and under 21 ? Why, flee to Scotland of course. And Gretna Green was the first village on the Scottish side of the border.
Over the Anvil Early Gretna runaways got married in the local Blacksmith's Shop. Scotland's marriage law allowed any responsible adult to conduct wedding ceremonies and Gretna's blacksmith was the most important person in the village.
The marriage ceremony was short and simple. The "anvil priest" first asked the couple their names and addresses, then told them to stand up, and asked if they were single and if they were both there of their own free will.
On their "yes" answers, he filled out the certificate and proceeded to the heart of the ceremony including the groom placing a ring on his bride's left hand, and an admonition, "What God joins together let no man put asunder." Then he hit the hammer over the anvil and declared the couple man and wife.
Big Business Very soon Gretna Green weddings became so popular that the blacksmith could no longer satisfy the demand on his own and the village had to get more "anvil priests". They were a colourful set of characters.
Many had other occupations and none of them had any "qualifications" to perform marriages and used Scotland's marriage law as a way of earning extra money. If a couple had come unaccompanied, the anvil priest would often knock on a neighbour's door — and the witnesses were quickly found.
If word came that an angry father (often armed with a gun) was approaching Gretna Green, he helped them find a hiding place. One of the last "anvil priests", Richard Rennison, married 5,147 couples in the Blacksmith's Shop!
Romances live on The laws that brought fame to Gretna Green no longer apply. But its reputation is secure. So many thousands of lovers have married at Gretna Green, that its name and traditions live in all corners of the globe. Couples have been delivered to the anvil by all kinds of transport: lorry, fire engine, horseback — you name it!
Sometimes the wedding parties arrive on motorbikes dressed in black leather, so the only way to identify the bride is to find out which one has got the bouquet! And, of course, traditional kilts for Scottish bride grooms are still as popular as ever.
In this small place, at least one couple gets married, on average, every day of the year. Weddings for St Valentine's Day have to be booked three months in advance. Couples are welcome from all over the world, so when you decide to get married, why not consider getting married at Gretna Green?