The story begins in 1552, when the border between England and Scotland was finally settled, after years of raiding by the Border Reivers. The village of Gretna lay 1 mile within the new Scottish border; making it the first village in Scotland (where Scottish wedding law applied). Gretna’s location became historically important when, in 1754, English law forbade marriage by consent; leading thwarted young English couples to defy both their families and English law and flee across the border to marry in secret.
Scottish law decreed that a couple could marry by declaration in the presence of two witnesses, which was a variation on the centuries old ‘hand-fasting’ ceremony. These marriages of consent were also known as irregular marriages, but couples marrying in this way were man and wife in all British and most foreign courts. The origins of hand-fasting are centuries old. Tradition tells of a yearly fair held throughout the Scottish borders where men and women pledged their troth for a year. At the end of a year together those couples that were pleased with each other remained as husband and wife for life. Those who were not simply parted, under no obligation or disgrace.
By the 19th Century blacksmiths and anvils came to be seen as lucky, although the term “Blacksmith Wedding” had originally nothing to do with a blacksmith. It might have been from the German “grabschmied” which means ‘rough forger’ and could have been a generic term to cover all marriages where ceremony was either absent or of an unusual character.
The expression ‘Tying the Knot’ originated from the bride and groom ripping their wedding plaids (clan tartans) and tying the two strips together as a symbol of the unity of the two families. We hope you find that same unity in your marriage and wish you good luck.