There is a small village on Scotland’s border with England. Thousands of people travel to it every St Valentine’s Day. Some people get married there and many couples go through mock wedding ceremonies to “renew their marriage vows”. This village, Gretna Green, is sometimes called Britain’s wedding capital.
Its 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, young couples under 21 flee to Scotland. And the first village on the Scottish side of the border was Gretna Green. Early Gretna runaways got married in the local Blacksmith’s Shop. Gretna’s blacksmith was the most important person in the village and Scotland’s marriage law allowed any responsible adult to conduct wedding ceremonies.