Picture the scene: you wake up with the birdsong on a brisk October morning, a new frigidness to the air signalling that Autumn has finally arrived. You throw open the curtains, light spilling into the room. Something is amiss. It’s your sister- she’s gone. You dash over and pick up the piece of paper that has been left on her carefully made bed. It reads, “I am going to Gretna Green, and if you cannot guess with who, I shall think you a simpleton.”
This is, frankly, an unmitigated disaster- or at least it would have been if you found yourself a character in one of Jane Austen’s novels. Gretna Green haunts the pages of her novels; famously, Pride and Prejudice, when Lizzie Bennet’s sister Lydia runs off with the villainous Mr Wickham. The elopement sits at the centre of the novel’s drama, threatening to ruin Lydia and the wider Bennet family’s reputation. Marriage and all of the intricacies of proposing, making a good match, and finding love were a preoccupation of Austen’s, so of course she had thoughts on elopement.
Our distress, my dear Lizzy, is very great. My father and mother believe the worst, but I cannot think so ill of him. Many circumstances might make it more eligible for them to be married privately in town than to pursue their first plan; and even if he could form such a design against a young woman of Lydia’s connections, which is not likely, can I suppose her so lost to everything? Impossible!Pride and Prejudice
Why was an elopement such a scandal? The 1753 Marriage Act put considerable obstacles in the way of young lovers- if you were under 21, you needed your parents’ permission to marry, which could be quite frustrating if you were particularly keen on one of the new handsome sailors around town but mum and dad thought it was a poor, even embarrassing match. There was a Scotland-shaped loophole in the law, however, and many young lovers would slip away to the border town of Gretna Green to tie the knot. The town remains a hotspot for weddings to this day.
However, the law, as well as attitudes towards making a suitable match have changed considerably since Austen’s day, and elopement weddings have become quite the up-and-coming trend. In fact, it seems that COVID-19 has been a clear factor in this surge, since wedding guest numbers have been limited, many have chosen to have an intimate elopement rather than postpone. In our busy world, many are also keen to have a peaceful ceremony away from the ever present gaze of social media. A remote elopement also offers excellent opportunities for stunning photography, as you can go where you want and take creative snaps without the hassle of getting your seven-year-old nephew to sit still and smile nicely.
Whilst not the traditional Austen-themed wedding, an elopement is a fun opportunity for any Regency Rebel looking for something a bit different. Do consider whether it might be a good idea to warn your mother before you book the tickets to Scotland, especially if she’s a bit of a Mrs Bennet.
Looking for a gift for some surprise newly-weds? Why not consider getting them some Austen themed homeware from our shop.
Royalty free images courtesy of Unsplash