|Yes, it all started with this ad. I got adventurous and decided to put an ad in Creative Loafing, the publication that is now the Weekly Planet. About a week and a half after the ad was printed I got a call, the only call that the ad produced during it’s 3 week run. It was from a “blonde, blue-eyed banker by day and student by night” woman named Briget. We spoke for the first time on June 27th, 1994, and we met two days later for our first date at the romantic Tampa Theater to see Widow’s Peak. We have been together ever since.|
Gretna has been a haven for romantic lovers for more than 250 years and this tradition is still going strong today. Since 1991 more than 15,000 couples have been married in this small Scottish border township.
Traditionally, in Scotland, a man and woman over the age of sixteen could be married by declaring themselves husband and wife in front of witnesses. In England, such marriages were prohibited by Act of Parliament in 1745 with the result that eloping couples fled to Scotland for their marriages. Gretna Green was the first changing post across the Scottish Border for the stagecoaches on the main London to Edinburgh route, and so began its long association with the romance of the runaways.
The ceremonies were often carried out “over the anvil” with the blacksmith “priest” officiating. This remained the position for over 100 years.
Then in 1857 another Act of Parliament imposed residential qualifications on the fleeing lovers, whom locals took to their hearts as they lived out the compulsory 21 days in the area before they marry.
In 1940 Parliament stepped in once again to outlaw the “Blacksmith Priests” and their anvil marriages. Thereafter, marriage could only be conducted by a Minister of Religion or an authorized Registrar. But the romance lives on.
With no residential qualification for marriage in Scotland nowadays, and no parental consent required for couples over sixteen (unlike the regulations of many other countries) couples have continued to “run away” – albeit with a need to serve notice to the Registrar. Gretna and Gretna Green have attracted visitors from as far afield as the Middle East, China, Russia and Australia. Although the legal civil ceremony is now performed in the Registration Office in Gretna itself, many couples go on to visit one of the original Blacksmiths’ shops at Gretna Green.
So many thousands of lovers have wed at Gretna that its name and traditions live in all corners of the globe.
All modes of transport have been used to deliver couples to the Office: car, van, lorry, fire engine, horse and carriage, horseback, bicycle and motor bike. One couple arrived with their boat in tow. En route to Inverness for their honeymoon on the Caledonian Canal, they stopped off at Gretna to be married, then continued up north. The boat was decorated with streamers and balloons and the traditional “Just Married” sign had been placed on the stern bedecked with a couple of “L” plates.
One couple had arranged their wedding to fit in with their journey to Aviemore to take part in the International Sled-pulling competitions. The 29 Huskies remained in their transporter outside the building whilst the marriage was being solemnized.
Wedding outfits worn at Gretna have been varied. When the wedding parties arrive on motor bikes resplendent in black leather, the Bride is the one with the bouquet!
Robin Hood and Maid Marion arrived at the office on horseback. Fortunately, the horse was tied to a tree outside the building whilst the ceremony was taking place.
More than one couple has arrived without a common language and these marriages require the presence of two interpreters. You may wonder how they courted one another and how they arrived at a point where they wanted to marry here! They may have seen Gretna on television as numerous TV production companies from around the world have arrived to make programmes.
However the couples arrive and however they are dressed, they are all made most welcome.
Paraphrased from the Gretna Wedding book