Wedding Destination: Scotland

Getting Married in Gretna Green

Scottish piper at Gretna Green Photo by gwyn_bardGretna Green is a popular place to get married, there is something very romantic about saying that you have 'run away' to Gretna Green for your wedding.

The village became synonymous with weddings after 1754, when a law was passed in England which meant that only marriages solemnised in a church and between those aged over 21 were recognised. However the law didn't apply in Scotland and to make things even simpler, all that Scottish law required was that there were two witnesses to the marriage, no religious or other official celebrant was reuired.

Young English lovers dashed to the first town over the border - Gretna Green - where marriages were usually performed by the local blacksmith, in his forge with the anvil acting as the 'alter' - hence the expression "marrying over the anvil".

Gretna Weddings & the Law

The laws of both Scotland and England have undergone considerable reform since the 18th century, and nowadays weddings in Gretna must be performed by an official registrar or a religious celebrant, and the general requirements for a civil marriage in Scotland apply.

Gretna Weddings To-day

Weddings in Gretna to-day range from quick in and out of the registry office affairs to elaborate events held in a castle and complete with bekilted grooms, pipers and a huge reception.

Couples dress in jeans, in bikers' gear, in full traditional dress; they turn up on horseback, on Harleys, on foot and by limo; they come from just a few miles away or the other side of the world; they travel alone or bring hundreds of guests.

Whatever you want, you can pretty much have it.

About the Village

For some the whole Gretna experience has become less than wonderful, overly touristy and even a little tacky.

Tourists at Gretna Green. Photo by chinyiThere is no industry other then weddings here. Virtually every store is either wedding related - photographers, florists, limousine hire, wedding dresses etc are all there in force - or filled with tourist souvenirs. Lines of tour buses bring hoards of sightseers and the various wedding venues compete frantically for business.

But you cannot avoid history, it is there and there is a terrific buzz about the place, with up to 20 or more weddings a day taking place in this one small village. In any case, it remains popular and celebrates thousands of weddings annually.

Eloping to Gretna Green

If you plan to run off to marry in secret, then nowadays it cannot be a spur of the moment decision. People still do it, because they want no fuss, because their marriage might not be approved of or to save on the massive cost of holding a traditional wedding.

If you are strapped for cash, a quick 'elopement' is a great option, combining romance with financial prudence.

We know one Irish couple who treated it as a private weekend adventure, flew to Scotland, hired a car, spent one night in Gretna, roped in some locals as witnesses (they are used to this!), had a honeymoon night in Edinburgh and returned to Ireland, legally married, all for about €600, a tiny fraction of a typical wedding budget.

Gretna Wedding Venues

Gretna Green Registry Office

The registry office in Gretna is the location for several marriages every day of the year and is a very pretty place to hold a wedding.

There are three different marriage rooms in the modern building, catering for different sizes of wedding parties from 4-50. It isn't possible to hold your reception here.

This is also a good site for general information about the legal aspects of getting married in Scotland.

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Old Blacksmith's Shop & Smiths Hotel

Photo by ololphieThis was where the original Gretna weddings took place, with the blacksmith as celebrant.

You can still get married in the shop, at the old anvil, though nowadays without the blacksmith! The shop is now right beside a large modern hotel, Smiths, where a reception can be held and good accommodation is available.

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Anvil Hall

Again, a venue only so your reception (if you plan to have one) must be booked elsewhere. It's an old style building, though not actually very old, and perhaps a little less impersonal than the registry office.

Both civil and religious ceremonies can be held here, both in a candlelit church style setting. There are a number of wedding packages available, ranging in price from just a few hundred pounds.

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The Gables Hotel

A 4 star country house hotel with good food and service, who are practiced in organising weddings for overseas couples.

There are lovely gardens, wonderful for wedding photographs. You cannot get married at the hotel, but it is close to all of the places above.

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Auchen Castle

A mainly Victorian building now, though there has been a castle here since the 12th century, Auchen is a very good and atmospheric venue close to Gretna.

Pretty much anything is possible at Auchen when it comes to weddings - ceremony and reception or either one alone, exclusive use is available, you can have a marquee wedding. There are a number of packages available and a helpful in-house planning service to assist.

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