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In the early modern era there was a stress on a wife's duties to her husband and on the virtues of chastity and obedience.How exactly patriarchy worked in practice is difficult to discern.Marriages can either be conducted by "authorised celebrants" (usually, but not always, a minister of religion) or by an "authorised Registrar".

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Other motives for Gretna marriages were to avoid publicity or to marry immediately.

In 1856 Scottish law was changed to require 21 days' residence for marriage, and since 1929 both parties have had to be at least 16 years old (though there is still no parental consent needed).

There is a distinction between so called religious marriages, conducted by an authorised celebrant, and civil marriages, conducted by a state registrar but anyone over the age of 21 can apply to the Registrar General for authorisation to conduct a marriage under s12 of the Marriage (Scotland) Act 1977 and no form of religious ceremony is necessary.

Civil partnerships became available to same-sex couples in the United Kingdom in 2005 and grant rights and responsibilities virtually identical to civil marriage.

Marriages, particularly higher in society, were often political in nature and the subject of complex negotiations over the tocher (dowry).

Some mothers took a leading role in negotiating marriages, as Lady Glenorchy did for her children in the 1560s and 1570s, or as matchmakers, finding suitable and compatible partners for others.These differences led to a tradition of couples from England and Wales eloping to Scotland, most famously to marry at border towns such as Gretna Green.The legal minimum age to enter into a marriage in Scotland is sixteen years and does not require parental consent at any age.A further law change was made in 1940 to abolish these irregular marriages by declaration. Gretna Green remains a favoured location for marriage because of its romantic associations, with Dumfries and Galloway (the council area containing Gretna Green) the most popular area to get married in Scotland in 2015 (4,395 marriages in Dumfries and Galloway, out of a total of 29,691 marriages throughout Scotland). Marriage must be between two otherwise unmarried people.(Foreign divorces are generally recognised, but existing foreign polygamous marriages prevent a marriage in Scotland as this would be treated as bigamy). Under Scots law, one may not marry one's: The list of proscribed affinities was reduced in the early twentieth century by the Deceased Wife's Sister's Marriage Act 1907, the Deceased Brother's Widow's Marriage Act 1921 and the Marriage (Prohibited Degrees) Relationship Act 1931.However, in Scotland it was possible for boys to get married at 14 years and girls at 12 years without parental consent.