Small town in Dumfriesshire, Scotland, on the border with England. Gretna Green is famous for weddings: for years the phrase 'running off to Gretna Green' has been a common way of saying 'they're eloping'.
It all started in 1753, when a new law in England passed by Lord Hardwicke made marriages without parental consent illegal. It didn't take long for young couples to realise that as soon as they crossed the Scottish border, nothing could prevent their marriage. The Scottish Law demanded only that the couple proclaimed in front of two witnesses that they wanted to get married, and a legal marriage, from that moment on, was recognised in all countries. They were usually married by the blacksmith, or 'anvil priest'.
These weddings caused a lot of complaints in the Church, and the Gretna marriage trade was considered scandalous and immoral. There are many stories of furious parents, often armed, arriving in Scotland, trying to stop the marriage of their runaway children. In 1857 a new law was proclaimed that a couple could only marry if one of them had taken up residence for 21 days prior to the wedding. This brought a reduction in marriages.
Gretna still marries people, mostly young ones: the age for marriage without parental consent in England is still 18, and 16 in Scotland.