There was a time in Ireland when getting married meant a trip to your local church, signing the registry and having a few drinks in the local hotel to celebrate.
f course if you've been to a few weddings in recent years you'll have noticed that wedding ceremonies come in all shapes, sizes and set ups, from traditional hand fasting in spiritual ceremonies and secular humanist ceremonies, to registry office civil ceremonies and celebrant-led blessings.
The most popular choice of ceremony for opposite sex couples in Ireland in 2017 was a church ceremony, while demand for civil and humanist ceremonies increased. Spiritual ceremonies are also on the rise, with latest figures showing 1,083 opposite sex couples and 76 same sex couples opting for a ceremony under the Spiritual Union of Ireland in 2017.
If you're just starting to plan your wedding, you may already be confused about the differences between a civil, secular and religious ceremony, and where the likes of the humanist or spiritual ceremony falls within those categories, so we hope THEVOW.ie's guide to the three types of wedding ceremonies you can have to legally marry in Ireland, and information on some of the most popular options within these categories will help you get your head around it all.
Let's start with the notification of intent to marry.
Notification of Intent to Marry
One thing that has not changed over the years in that to get legally married in Ireland you need to have a Marriage Registration Form or cert, which you can get from any registry office. To get your marriage cert, you need to make an appointment to inform a registry office of your intent to marry in person, and this appointment needs to have taken place at least three months before the wedding. This applies to all marriages, whether solemnised by an official state registrar or according to religious or secular rites and ceremonies*. You should try to arrange the appointment well in advance of your wedding date, and both parties need to be present at the meeting. When you make the appointment with the Registrar, you will be informed what information and documents you need to bring with you but generally you need: your passport; your long form birth cert (original and photocopy); proof of address; if divorced, you final divorce decree(s); if civil partnership dissolved, final decree of dissolution(s); if widowed, deceased spouse's death cert.
At the appointment, you may be asked to provide the following information to the registrar: the date and location of the marriage; whether it will be a civil, religious or secular ceremony; the details of the proposed solemniser of the marriage; the names and DOBs of two proposed witnesses; the PPS numbers for both parties if applicable.
If either party is not an Irish citizen, you may be asked to provide a Letter or Certificate of Freedom to Marry or other documentary confirmation of your civil status from your country of origin – you should contact the registrar to check if this will be required.
You may be asked to download and fill out a Data Capture Form and bring it with you, along with the notification fee of €200 which is non-refundable.
Once it is decided that you meet the criteria to get legally married in Ireland you will be given your Marriage Registration Form, which you, your witnesses and solemniser will sign on the day you get married.
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Where to apply: You can book a notification appointment with a Registrar over the phone, or online at crsappointments.ie (only available for certain counties currently). Contact details for your local Registrar are also available from your Local Health Office in the HSE. You will find all the information here.
Marriage notification appointment checklist
Types of wedding ceremonies in Ireland
Marriage ceremonies in Ireland are generally broken into three different types: Religious, Secular and Civil.
1. Religious Ceremonies
To get married in a church or religious ceremony in Ireland, you must first start by contacting the church in which you intend to marry and meet with the proposed celebrant.
It may possible to have your local priest/celebrant perform your ceremony if the church you've chosen isn't his/her own parish, however this should be discussed directly, and will often require an extra donation towards travel etc, and may require an extra donation to the hired church.
Roman Catholic ceremonies accounted for 52.8% of all opposite sex marriages in 2017 (down +1% on the year previous).
Other denominations with registered solemnisers who can perform ceremonies in places of worship include; Church of Ireland, Presbyterian Church, Baptist, Methodist, Jahovahs Witness, Assembly of God, One Spirit Interfaith, Dublin Buddhist Centre and the Spiritualist Union of Ireland, among others. You will find a complete list of religious ceremony solemnisers by denomination on the Register of Solemnisers.
What to know
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. Some churches may suggest a donation for weddings held which can be in the region of €200-€250 for one's local parish, or up to €400 for a non-local parish. Suggested donations/costs vary and should be discussed with the church prior to arrangements. Some celebrants require couples to undertake a pre-marriage course prior to the wedding. Pre-marriage course costs vary, and the most popular of them, Accord, charges anywhere from €120 to €200 for their pre-marriage course, depending on the centre. Other pre-marriage courses are available, follow the guidance of your celebrant. Paperwork: Many parishes expect couples to attend pre-marriage counselling ahead of their wedding although the requirement is generally up to the priest performing the wedding. If you are not part of the parish you intend to marry in, you may be required to supply a marriage release form/letter of freedom from your own parish and/or parents, and/or other paperwork including baptism/confirmation certs. Speak directly with your celebrant who will inform you of any additional paperwork needed. Guidelines: Your choice of music and readings will all have to be in accordance with the church rules.
Spiritual ceremonies are another type of ceremony that fall under the religious category. They are non-denominational, legally binding ceremonies and are carried out by solemnisers from the Spiritual Union of Ireland, whom are listed on the Register of Solemnisers. The latest figures show 1,083 opposite sex couples and 76 same sex couples opted for a ceremony under the Spiritual Union of Ireland in 2017.
In a spiritual ceremony, the couple decides what is spiritual to them. Music and readings can have a religious or secular tone or a mixture of both, and deceased relatives and/or friends can be remembered in blessings or reflections or usually with the lighting of candles.
Spiritual ceremonies can be carried out seven days a week, and can include outdoor ceremonies. Within a spiritual ceremony, couples say vows colloquially known as the 'I do' vows, and it will be asked if there is any lawful impediment to the marriage. Beyond that, couples are free to include what they wish. Symbolic ceremonies can take place as part of the spiritual ceremony, these can include (but are not limited to) hand fasting, unity candles, a wine box ceremony, a love letter ceremony or sand ceremony.
What to know
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. Fees depend on location and travel, however a guideline is €465 plus travel costs. Additional paperwork: None. Guidelines: Spiritual ceremonies can include a religious or secular tone or both and other symbolic ceremonies can be included. See SpiritualCeremonies.ie for more.
Many ordained Interfaith ministers are registered marriage solemnisers in Ireland, and can carry out legally-recognised religious ceremonies both indoors and outdoors, seven days a week.
Interfaith ministers are non-denominational ministers can serve all faiths and none, and generally take a spiritual tone in marriage ceremonies. They do not have their own 'church', but instead will travel to the ceremony location to carry out the ceremony.
Ceremonies can include traditional entrances, candle lighting, handfasting, blessing of the rings, exchanging of vows, the legal requirements for marriage ceremonies (declaration of no impediment and expression of intent), music, readings and signing of the marriage cert.
What to know
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. Fees are decided by individual ministers. Additional paperwork: No extra paperwork. No pre-marriage counselling necessary, however individual ministers may supply a range of questions for couples to reflect on ahead of their wedding. Guidelines: A directory of Interfaith ministers can be found at interfaithministers.ie, and cross-checked on the national Register of Solemnisers. Couples are advised to contact ministers directly to discuss options.
2. Secular Ceremonies
Humanist ceremonies fall under the 'secular' category for ceremonies and shouldn't be confused with either civil or spiritual ceremonies. 1,616 opposite sex couples and 111 same sex couples tied the knot in humanist ceremonies in 2017.
Humanist ceremonies are legally recognised in Ireland if they are carried out by registered humanist solemnisers from the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI), who appear on the Register of Solemnisers (see link above).
One of the tenets of humanism is a tolerance for others who hold different belief systems, however as Humanists have no belief in a god or the supernatural, and rely on "scientific evidence and appreciation of the world and the achievements of humans", their ceremonies are secular and non-religious occasions. Deceased relatives can be remembered with a short pause in ceremonies, however different solemnisers have different approaches so it is best to discuss with them directly.
A humanist wedding ceremony is typically made up of an introduction (with a traditional entrance if you wish), words on love and marriage, music, readings, a symbolic ritual or two, vows, marriage declaration, exchange of rings, signing of the register and closing words.
What to know
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. Humanist solemnisers generally cost from €450 - €650, which includes a €70 contribution to HAI. Additional paperwork: None Guidelines: Humanist solemnisers can book out a year in advance of a wedding, so it's important to contact them with details and dates as soon as you know if this is the type of ceremony for you. Humanists do not believe in a god or the supernatural, and ask that couples consider if they share the same philosophy before hiring a humanist solemniser. Couples do not however have to call themselves 'humanist', nor are required to be a member of the Humanist Association of Ireland to get married in a humanist ceremony.
Other options: Celtic ceremony
Celtic Monk and Priest Dara Ó Maoildhia is a registered solemniser of secular ceremonies in Ireland and can legally marry couples under the Aisling Árann organisation.
This type of ceremony can take place indoors or outdoors and usually on the island of Inis Mor.
If the wedding ceremony takes place on the Aran Islands, there is an option to carry out four stations of an outdoor Celtic ceremony, which include the 'holy well', 'standing stone', handfasting and vow exchange at the altar, before the coupe and their guests finally gather around the sundial in a circle where the marriage is confirmed and blessed.
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. Fees vary depending on time and travel. Paperwork: No extra paperwork. Guidelines: Wedding ceremonies can have a religious or secular tone, and can take place seven days a week, including public holidays. Ceremonies can take place indoors or outdoors, but not in a church owned by a Christian denomination.
3. Civil Ceremony
Civil ceremonies are legally binding secular ceremonies carried out by a registrar. If you wish to marry in a civil ceremony, you should approach the Registrar of Civil Marriages for the district in which you intend to marry for information on how to proceed. There is no requirement to live in the district where you want to get married.
Civil ceremonies can take place in a registry office, or registrars can travel to perform civil ceremonies in an approved room or venue.
If you want to get married in a venue other than a civil registration service, contact the civil registration service in that area. Many hotels and venues have rooms that have been approved for civil ceremonies, simply ask the venue when you are booking. If the venue or room you wish to marry in has not been officially approved, contact the local registrar as they might need to inspect the venue.
Registry office ceremonies can only take place during office opening hours, Monday - Friday.
What to know
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. An additional fee is charged for holding a civil ceremony in a venue other than a civil registration service. Also bear in mind that venues may charge extra for room hire for civil ceremonies. Additional paperwork: No other paperwork. Guidelines: Civil ceremony registrars can book out way in advance so be sure to give plenty of notice, especially if you plan to wed in a venue that's not the registry office, and your wedding date is in the popular summer months. A civil wedding ceremony cannot contain any words or lyrics deemed in any way religious, and couples are required to accept each other as husband/wife/spouse in accordance with Irish law. There can be secular music and readings, all of which can be discussed directly with the registrar.
Good to know: Non-legal blessings (and professional celebrants)
If you've been married in a civil ceremony in a private registry office, but would like to have a ceremony that includes your guests on another day (for example, you got legally married, as witnessed by two people and a registrar on a Monday afternoon in a registry office in the city, but want to have a traditional 'wedding' in a big country house hotel on a Saturday with all your friends and family), you can still carry out a simple blessing whereby the content of the 'ceremony' is completely up to you, and can be 'performed' by a friend or relative or a professional celebrant.
This 'ceremony' will not be legally binding as you are already married (and have had your marriage cert signed by an official registrar), but can be a good option for those who wish to include a ceremony type feature in their wedding celebrations. By staging a 'blessing' (or whatever you wish to call it yourself) a couple can choose their own format, music, readings, and include anything else they wish.
Professional celebrants are a popular option for couples who do not want to marry under any religion, and many are self-employed and work with the couple to ensure their celebration is carried out professionally, but with a personal touch.
What to know
Cost: Standard €200 for Marriage Registration form**. Venue hire if applicable. Professional celebrants costs vary. For celebrants listed on on MarryMeIreland.ie, a non-refundable booking deposit of €245 is required to secure a date. The remainder to be paid a month before the wedding. Additional paperwork: None. Marriage form/license must be signed by official before or after to make marriage legal Guidelines: None.
*unless you are intending to marry your civil partner, and your partnership was already registered in Ireland
** applies to all types of ceremonies