FAQ's (Visiting)

Q. How long does it take to go round the exhibition?

The Gretna Green Story Exhibition has been devised to enable visitors to spend as much time as they like going round the various exhibits. As soon as you step inside the blacksmiths cottage, in which the main exhibition is housed you will be captivated by the atmosphere. The background sounds of the frantic young lovers making their dash to Gretna Green (250 years ago!) immediately brings this ancient building to life.

A 20-minute visit will make you feel you have absorbed a part of this atmosphere and become, yourself, a part of its history. You will have time to see the characters and hear the part they played in Gretna Green's past and you may have listened to the story of Gretna Green on the 'story phones'.

A longer stay will enable you to read the information panels which give a more in depth account of the many recorded romances and scandals, the various law changes and the effect Gretna Green's notoriety had on the community.

However long you stay, a visit is incomplete without a view of the original anvil, which is protected within a glass case. The Anvil used for weddings nowadays is situated in the original marriage room and has been used to seal couples' marriages for over 150 years.


Q. Why did people come to Scotland to be married?

Back in the 18th Century marriage laws were very relaxed. It was simply a matter of declaring your wish to be recognized as husband and wife, and you were married by law. Members of the English aristocracy were not happy with this haphazard arrangement and feared their daughters would make unsuitable arrangements with men of whom they did not approve. In 1754 a new marriage act was passed through parliament and made law in England and Wales.

The romantic Scots did not adopt this law and the handfasting ceremonies (as they were known) continued. When knowledge of this difference reached the ears of the young lovers from over the border it wasn't long before they began eloping to marry here.


Q. Why did people come to Gretna Green?

Gretna Green was the first village in Scotland and located along the main coaching route between London and Edinburgh.


Q. Where were the first weddings held?

The Famous Blacksmiths Shop is one of four original marriage houses: An inn situated in the adjoining community of Springfield was also a marriage house as was a local coaching inn, the Gretna Hall and during the 19th Century, when a new road was built over the Sark river, the Toll bar became a venue for run-aways to marry.


Q. Do weddings still take place?

Yes, the traditional Anvil weddings (known as handfasting ceremonies) were banned in 1940. However, since 1977 it has been legal to marry in the Famous Blacksmiths Shop. Nowadays both religious and civil ceremonies are conducted. Every year about 5,000 couples marry in this area.


Q. Do you still have to live in Scotland before you marry here?

No, it is no longer required for a couple to reside in the parish where they wish to marry for any longer than the duration of the ceremony. Back in 1856 a marriage act was introduced which enforced the requirement for one member of the couple to reside in the parish for at least 21 days. This law has since been repealed.


Q. Can you just turn-up here and get married on the day?

In true run-away style? Sadly not. The minimum length of time required to plan a wedding in the UK is 28 working days. Nowadays wherever you marry you are required to fill in a legal document (M10 form) which along with you birth certificates and any other documents such as divorce papers need to be sent to the registrars where you plan to marry. From this information they will draw up your marriage schedule. Without this you cannot be married.


Q. Why was the Blacksmith authorised to conduct weddings?

Anyone could conduct a handfasting ceremony. It just happened that in Gretna Green the first building over the border was a blacksmiths Shop. Weddings took place in the workshop, while the blacksmith and his men continued their work. The first notable 'Blacksmith Priest', Joseph Paisley was not a blacksmith but adopted this title and since then all these marriage men inherited the title of 'Blacksmith Priest'.


Q. Can we photograph the real weddings taking place?

As with most museums photography is prohibited. For different reasons this also applies to weddings. The wedding couples and their party are here for their special day and it is our privilege to be able to share this day with them. Without their permission it would be disrespectful to intrude by taking photographs.


Q. Where do you keep the wedding records and can we research a marriage?

We have almost complete records going back to 1920. Between 1891 to 1920 some records do exist. If you have a relative you believe married here and you are interested to know for sure we will be happy to search our records for you. The marriage certificates are stored within the blacksmiths Exhibition Shop. Please phone us on 01461 338224 with the date and names of both parties and we will search our records. We can provide a photocopy of the certificate for a nominal fee.

If our records bear no fruits we suggest you contact the Central Registrars Office in Edinburgh on 0131 334 0380.


Q. How many different tartans do you sell?

There are over 500 registered tartans.


Q. Am I entitled to wear a tartan, even if I don't belong to a clan?

Yes - there are a number of general or district tartans available. Any friend of Scotland can wear a tartan! There is a Clan Information Centre within The New Shop for visitors to explore.



Q. Is there a difference between a man's and lady's kilt?

A ladies kilted skirt is made of 2.5m of cloth and a gents kilt is made up of 7m of cloth.


Q. What's the difference between hand and machine knitted Aran's?

To create a hand knitted Aran it is not only hand knitted but sewn together by hand also. Machine knitted Arans are hand framed then knitted on a machine.


Q. What's in a traditional Scottish meal?

We would recommend Haggis, Neeps (Swede) and Tatties (Potatoes) of course! Followed by oatcakes and a selection of Scottish Cheeses. Our Foodhall sells a variety of Haggis and different cheese, along with Scottish preserves, locally smoked meats and salmons, pates, shortbreads and hand-made chocolates.


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