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Gretna Green Elopement: A Guide to the Land of Runaway Lovers!

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Gretna Green, Scotland, has been something of an elopement haven for several centuries – and that’s not just down to the scenic views of the rural Scottish Borders.

Many, many moons ago, a geographical “happy accident” occurred regarding marriage laws for young lovers, and ever since then, Gretna Green has been considered one of the most romantic locations in the UK, and for centuries, has been the Promise Land for runaway lovers.

We’ve put together the ultimate guide for those planning a romantic Gretna Green Elopement.

Gretna Green Elopement History

Gretna Green is more than just a pretty face.

Cast your mind back to the mid-1800s when English lovebirds under the age of 21 could not legally wed without the permission of their parents.

In 1754, a government official by the name of Lord Hardwicke created the Marriage Act, which was put into place in England – and came with lengthy punishments for those who defied this act – including any clergyman involved.

Scotland, however, maintained their OG laws on getting hitched, which allowed anyone over the age of 15 to tie the knot (provided they were not closely related or already in wedlock with another person).

Naturally, Lord Hardwicke’s new ruling pooh-poohed the matrimonial plans of many young lovers. So, where does Gretna Green figure into this, you may be wondering?

Well, Gretna Green is only two miles away from the English border, making it one of the closest towns for runaway lovers to get hitched in – bearing in mind that transport wasn’t quite as rife back in the 1800s, so convenience was a key factor.

Fast forward 20 years when a toll road was built between England and Scotland by way of Gretna Green, making it super accessible for those with marriage on the brain. The rest was history!

Why Elope at Gretna Green?

The picturesque beauty of a rural Scottish village coupled with a long history of wedded unions makes for the perfect combination of romantic ingredients for a stunning Scottish elopement.

Not only that but there are still three historical ‘marriage houses’ available to tie the knot in, for those wanting to truly embody the lineage of young love made official.

Photography by Wildling Weddings in Glencoe

Gretna Green Wedding

Although you can of course have a traditional, larger-scale wedding in Gretna Green, it is famous for elopements, so that is what we’ll be focusing on for the duration of this blog.

Elopement Ceremony in Gretna Green

So, fast-forward a few hundred years and there are no longer any weird lordship rules that drive happy couples to Gretna Green to get hitched – it is purely the romantic association that holds the appeal.

But for those coming from overseas to elope in Scotland, here’s everything you need to know.

Rules for Eloping in Gretna Green

Make sure you are familiar with Scottish marital laws. Here’s the lowdown (please note we these are subject to change. Check with a legal professional or government website to confirm):

  • Both you and your partner need to be of the legal age of consent in the UK, which is 16 or over.
  • Neither party must be in a relationship or marriage with another person.
  • You will legally be expected to have two witnesses present at the ceremony – not including the registered officiant.
  • You cannot wed or elope until your marriage has been legally approved. You will then be given a marriage schedule document. DO NOT lose this, as you will be required to present it during your ceremony. This document will be issued within 7 days of your wedding date – no sooner – so make sure your travel plans coincide with this, as you will need to collect it – it will not be sent to you in the post.
  • After your ceremony, you will need to return the marriage license to the registry office within 3 consecutive (not working) days.
  • Once the marriage schedule has been dropped off, your marriage certificate will then be processed and posted to your home.

Photography by Wildling Weddings in Glencoe

Where to Elope in Gretna Green

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff: organising your special day. Although Gretna Green is a small parish (the population was recorded as 3,110 people during the 2020 census), there are still a number of gorgeous spots to tie the know – including outdoors.

Owing to Scotland’s relaxed laws on outdoor ceremonies, it is totally legit to get hitched virtually anywhere outdoors (providing the landowner’s permission has been approved).

Some of our favourite spots include:

Famous Blacksmiths Shop

First up is one of the OG places that put Gretna Green on the map: the Famous Blacksmiths Shop.

Dating back to 1713, this old-time establishment is one of the first places to hold elopements when the town was swooped with happy couples (meaning over 260 years worth of weddings have been held here!) and is the home of the legendary Famous Blacksmiths Anvil.

Known as ‘the original home of romance’, the Famous Blacksmiths Shop has three ceremony venue options: the Original Marriage Room (max 50 Guests), the Elopement Marriage Room (max 20 Guests), and the Forge Marriage Room (max 50 Guests).

The 2024 hire prices are:

£719.00 – The Original Marriage Room 

£599.00 – The Elopement Marriage Room 

£719.00 – The Forge Marriage Room 

Gretna Hall Historic Marriage House & Hotel

Built just three years prior to the Famous Blacksmiths Shop, this former affluent home became a coaching house in the mid-18th century and was a keen venue for wealthy ‘runaway’ couples (including lords, ladies, earls, and other members of the English royal bloodline).

Now a luxury hotel, this swanky hall still allows happy couples to tie the knot here, and offers 3 ceremony venue options: The Courtyard Room (max 80 guests), The Coach House (max 70 guests), and The Cottage (max 8 guests).

All 3 venues start from £449.00 (per room).

Smiths Hotel

Smiths is a multi-award-winning 4-star hotel in central Gretna offering a choice of 2 venues for happy couples: the Smiths function room, which can accommodate between 20 and 180 guests, or the intimate Penthouse Apartment, which allows no more than 6 guests – ideal for elopements.

Lovers of fine dining can also tuck into a post-wedding meal at the hotel’s 2 AA rosette-awarded restaurant, which includes a private dining option for weddings and elopements. 

Details about venue hire costs can be found here.

Places to Stay in Gretna Green

Wedding Photography Gretna Green

One of the most magical ways of documenting your special day is by hiring a local photographer who knows the area, knows the weather, and will make sure your elopement photography dreams come true.

As well as providing unique elopement packages, Wildling Weddings also offers a tailored wedding/elopement photography experience to snap every magical moment of your day.

For instant access to our pricing page, please click here. If you don’t receive an email, be sure to check your spam folder.

Photography by Wildling Weddings at Glen House

How to Get to Gretna Green

Owing to its closeness with England, the nearest international airport is Newcastle Airport, which is just under 55 miles away.

By car, your journey from Newcastle Airport to Gretna Green should take roughly 1 hr 18 mins following the A69, which then takes you to the M6 motorway. The journey is fairly smooth and straightforward, as well as signposted.

Gretna Green Elopement FAQs

The parish of Gretna Green can be found in the southern council area of Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, which is on the Scottish side of the Scottish Borders, and is a mere 2 miles from the English border.

Because of the close proximity to England, there is sometimes confusion as to whether Gretna Green is an English or Scottish location, but we can hand-on-heart confirm that it is indeed the latter!

Yes, there are currently no restrictions against tying the knot in Gretna Green, Scotland.

Gretna Green became a romantic hotspot for elopers in 1754 when the Marriage Act was introduced in England, making it impossible for young lovers to legally wed in the country. 

The resolution was to wed in Scotland, where the legal age limit for matrimony was 15, and Gretna Green was an instant hit with elopers, owing to how close it is to the English border.

Yup. Anyone – of any nationality – is legally able to wed in Gretna Green, provided they are over the age of 16 and the ceremony is being performed by a registered officiant. 

Anyone coming from overseas to tie the knot in Gretna Green will need to have a valid marriage visa for the date of the wedding.

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