Love was truly in the air in Scotland this Valentine's Day as numerous couples tied the knot at one of the most popular wedding destinations in the world: Gretna Green Blacksmiths Shop. People have been getting hitched at Gretna Green since the 18th century, and more than 5,000 weddings take place in the area every year. The destination is especially popular for eloping or "runaway marriages," a tradition that began in 1754 with the arrival of Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act that declared the parent of an under-18 minor could prevent a marriage from taking place. Since the rule only applied to England and Wales, Scotland's loose marriage regulations made it an appealing spot for these elopements. Scottish law also stated that pretty much anyone had the authority to conduct the wedding ceremony, so the blacksmiths in Gretna earned the nickname "anvil priests." Nowadays the blacksmiths shop and its anvils are still a part of the Gretna Green tradition.
The Scottish venue has also been mentioned in popular culture. Jane Austen included it in two of her stories: in Love and Freindship [sic] the protagonists convince a naive girl to elope in Gretna Green, and in Pride and Prejudice a couple elopes, leaving behind a note that they're headed to Gretna Green. More recently, Downton Abbey's Lady Sybil Crawley and her chauffeur-turned-husband Tom Branson were en route to Gretna Green to elope before her sisters convinced them to change their plans.
See what the Scottish wedding tradition looks like in modern times — kilts, bagpipes, and all — with pictures of today's Gretna Green nuptials now!