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Gretna Green is a village in Scotland, just over the border from England, which was notorious for hosting quickie weddings for young English lovers. The bride and groom needed only make their vows in front of witnesses (who were sometimes disinterested) and pay the nominal fee in a form that could be cashed before the angry parents arrived and dragged them back home. Moreover, Gretna marriages could be solemnised by anyone. This led to the blacksmith's anvil becoming a symbol for weddings, much as the barber pole has come to signify prompt medical treatment.
edit Evolving paradigm
The village was named for Gretna Green, a nubile Scottish lass who was equally notorious for getting "married" several times a week. It acquired its niche in 1754 when Lord Hardwicke's Marriage Act, no pun intended, authorised parents to veto the marriage of a minor. Although the Act had the unintended consequence of cancelling many marriages to Welshmen digging for coal, it famously did not apply in Scotland, where pubescent marriages were routinely consummated on schoolyard playgrounds. In the 1770s, the A74 (now the A74(M)) was built, hormone-fueled engines revved up, and the race was on. Gretna Green, just above the mossy outgrowth on Adrian's Wall, became the prime destination, curious youngsters curiously not wishing to penetrate further into Scotland. It would go on to take the British record not only in irregular weddings but in irregular rail disasters.
In 1856, Parliament made the practice illegal unless one of the parties to the marriage had lived in Scotland for 21 days, a requirement so unattractive as to kill the industry entirely. At that point, Gretna Green became Glasgow and changed its specialty to greasy chippies and graffiti.
Quickie weddings were thus an industry created and then destroyed solely by legislative action — not unlike Health Insurance in the United States.
edit Modern Love
In 2014, Parliament ruled that two people could marry even if they were not in love (see illustration) or not of opposite sexes. The law not only made it even more pointless to run off to Scotland, but also gave a useful indication that a marriage is doomed to fail, when the prospective partners argue about who gets to be Spouse A on the form and who will have to live out life as Spouse B.
If the British courts embrace American precedent as eagerly as they have done with Sharia, they will rule that it is equally parochial to insist that both spouses be human. This could lead to a resurgence of "Love, Scotland-style."
edit Other Gretnas
When one mortifies one's family by running off and marrying a trollop from across the tracks, one is said to "elope." Modern Glaswegians rarely elope, because their method of being "on the suck" does not require actual breasts.
In the U.S. Wild West (where it is instead "antelope"), Las Vegas, Nevada is sometimes called a Gretna Green, for the number of brief, hopeless marriages officialised there, as well as other contracts in which "the house" always wins. For fifteen-minute "marriages" to professionals, however, one must exit Clark County. This is not an insurmountable obstacle, as it is nearly as easy to rent a car as to rent the bride.
On the other coast (where, due to legal constraints, it is "canteloupe"), Elkton, Maryland is the center of parenting over the veto of both parents, though it is better-known for hosting baseball teams over the veto of both Major Leagues. Not far from there, the reverse was practiced: shotgun weddings solemnised despite the veto of both of the principals.
edit See also
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