Running Away to Gretna Green – Marriage Capital of the United Kingdom

I am sure most of you must have heard about the famous 24-hour wedding chapels of Las Vegas. Well, there is another wedding hotspot in the world where couples have been tying the knot since the 18th Century. History and Romance together would define Gretna Green, a village in Scotland, famous for the runaway weddings and popularly known as Marriage Capital of the United Kingdom.

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What is so historic about it?

It is the famous Blacksmith’s Shop.

This shop has a dramatic past. In 1754, an English law stopped couples under 21 marrying without their parents’ permission. But in Scotland it was permitted for girls from the age of 12, and for boys aged 14 or older. Moreover, anyone in Scotland could marry a couple by “declaration”.

Young lovers in England would elope and Gretna was the first town they would come to, two miles over the border. Blacksmiths would set themselves up as “anvil priests”, carrying out the wedding ceremony in their shop in return for a drink or a few British gold coins.

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Though the marriage laws have been transformed over the years, “Running away to Gretna Green” remains a popular phrase in UK and couples still come to the village. The extra ordinary part is that almost 5,000 marriages take place in Gretna Green every year. In fact, it is so much in demand that an entire wedding industry has been built up in such a small village. One can easily spot hotels, wedding planning companies, make-over salons, photo studios and gift shops.

What else to see at Gretna Green?

Surrounding the Blacksmith’s Shop, there are traditional Scottish buildings; one of which is a museum that preserves wedding memories of yester year’s couples, audio visual displays of wedding ceremonies, runaway carriages, old letters and marriage certificates.

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There is another room where the famous Anvil, the symbol of romance in Gretna Green is kept and the actual marriage takes place by touching it. I did witness a wedding ceremony but photography is prohibited in the room.

There are shops which feature handcrafted souvenirs that symbolize love, friendship and marriage and a few of them are definitely good take-away.  One can also relax in the courtyard and grab a meal.

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And don’t forget to take a quick selfie with the Scottish Wedding Bagpiper who would be playing the piper in his Highland dress. I got a cute picture with Allan Marshall.

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Why is Gretna so special for me?

I visited Gretna in July 2016, just a few days after I found the love of my life. Therefore, this place will always remain close to my heart and who knows I would re-visit the village with my husband next time and we will together be touching the famous anvil.

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Just as a sweet memory, I carried this miniature ceramic book and a star candle back home bought from the souvenir shop at Gretna Green.

How to Reach Gretna Green? 

The best choice would be to depart from London. I opted for the Historic Scotland tour by Star Tours where you head from London to Glasgow and en-route stop for lunch at Gretna Green. This tour would cover the other highlights of Scotland in four days.

Check the itinerary here:

HISTORIC SCOTLAND – BY STAR TOURS

 

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