How to Get Legally Married in Ireland – Different Types of Wedding Ceremonies

The process of how to legally get married in Ireland is actually considered to be one of the easiest in Europe. The rules for foreigners to be legally wed in Ireland are also simplified, making it a very desirable location for destination weddings.

However, with five different types of possible marriage ceremonies, figuring out which one is right for you can get confusing! In this article we will first present the five types of ceremonies, then we will explain the difference between each and in the end we will outline the steps you need to follow to get legally married in Ireland.

1) Civil Ceremony

To most people, the word ‘civil’ is usually a synonym for ‘legal’ in the context of weddings. Indeed, a Civil ceremony is the most common type of legal wedding ceremonies in Ireland. Until not long too long ago, it was one of the only two ways to get legally married in Ireland.

A non-religious Civil wedding ceremony can only be performed by an appointed civil servant, called a Registrar. For our American readers, this would be the equivalent of a courthouse wedding in the US. In order to comply with the rules of having a Civil wedding in Ireland, the ceremony must take place either on one of the Civil Registration Offices (also called the Registrar’s Office) across the country or at a licenced wedding venue. To see a list of Civil Registration Offices, click here. Whilst there is unfortunately no equivalent official list of licenced wedding venues, weddingpages.ie currently holds the most extensive directory of of such venues.

Civil marriage ceremonies in Ireland can only take place on a weekday between Monday and Friday (no weekend ceremonies are possible) and they must be held indoors. Even if a venue is licenced, the ceremony still cannot take place outside.

Rustic Mr & Mrs wooden ring boxes
Wedding rings for a Northern Ireland elopement

2) Religious Ceremony

A Catholic Church wedding is the second most common way to get legally married in Ireland. Whilst it is not the only type of religious wedding ceremony possible in Ireland, it is the most common. For the purposes of this article we will only consider Catholic religious weddings.

To be married in a Catholic ceremony in Ireland, the couple must follow the rules of marriage as outlined by the Catholic Church, such as undergoing the marriage preparation course. If you are considering a Catholic ceremony for your destination wedding in Ireland, you will be required to get a dispensation letter from your local priest allowing you to get married outside of your parish.

Catholic weddings in Ireland can only be performed by a solemnised Priest and must take place in a consecrated church or chapel. Unlike Civil ceremonies, Religious marriage ceremonies in Ireland can be held either on a weekday or a weekend, including Sundays where permitted by the local Bishop.

Catholic Ceremony in Church in Ireland

3) Humanist Ceremony

In June 2013 the Irish government passed a law allowing Humanist weddings to be recognised in their legal status. Such weddings are performed by accredited celebrants of the Humanist Association of Ireland.

Humanist weddings are non-religious and hence, non-denominational. Humanists have no belief in a god or the supernatural, relying on scientific evidence and appreciation of the world around us and the achievements of humans. Anyone can get legally married in Ireland by a Humanist ceremony and the exact wording of the ceremony can be completely adapted to your needs. There is only two components of the service that have to be fulfilled in order for the ceremony to be considered legal:
1. Confirmation of the lack of any lawful impediment to the marriage;
2. The “I Do” vows

Humanist weddings can take place in any location, indoors or outside, as long as the location is open to the public (i.e. not in somebody’s private home, etc) and has an identifiable address or landmark (i.e. not in the middle of an open field, etc).

Marry or renew your vows with a small ceremony in Northern Ireland

4) Spiritual Ceremony

Similar to the Humanist Ceremony, a spiritual ceremony is non-denominational and it doesn’t conform to the religious aspects of the mainstream religious beliefs. Although spiritualism is a religion in its own right, it does not have any particular god similar to other religions. As part of the spiritual ceremony you can, if you choose, invite those from the spirit world to be present with you to share your special day and remember those who have passed to the spirit world in a special way not traditionally seen at a wedding ceremony.

Spiritual ceremonies are performed by a member of the Spiritualist Union of Ireland and can take place on any day of the week, either indoor or outside (following the same legal rules regarding the ceremony location as for the Humanist ceremony above).

weddings in Northern Ireland

5) Secular Ceremony

The meaning of a secular ceremony is that it is not connected with religious or spiritual matters. By definition, a Humanist ceremony also falls under the category of secular. However, for the purpose of this article we have separated the Humanist and Secular ceremonies in order to give recognition to a special Solemniser who deserves to be in a category of his own. This Solemniser is Dara Molloy (or Dara Ó Maoildhia in Irish, as his name is stated in the official Register of Solemnisers), who is a Celtic priest and monk that lives on the Aran Islands.

Dara has been performing marriage ceremonies for over 30 years, but was only recognised as an official Solemniser in April 2015. The reason we have awarded him a separate category is because Dara’s ceremonies can be as unusual as your mind allows (whilst still having to include the 2 legal requirements regarding the impediment to marriage and “I do” vows).

Dara’s ceremonies are ‘secular’ in that he does not belong to any religion, denomination, sect or cult. They are ‘Celtic’ in that they draw on the Celtic/Irish spiritual tradition for their inspiration and can include rituals such as ‘handfasting’ and blessings such as ‘the blessing of the four elements’. The ceremony can also contain religious elements depending on the wishes of the couple.

Wonderful ceremony for your outdoor wedding in Ireland

The Legal Requirements

Despite their differences, there are three basic rules that all couples have to follow regardless of which ceremony they choose to be married in. These rules form the basis on which your marriage ceremony is deemed legally recognised.

1 – Submitting your marriage notification:

The couple must give 3 months advance notice to the Registrar in order to get legally married in Ireland. For example, if you wish to get married on 1st of June, you must contact the registrar no later than 31st of March. Whilst the procedure requires that couples hand in their marriage notification in person, non-residents living abroad can submit their marriage notification by post. If you submit the notification by post, you will still be required to meet with the Registrar in person at least 5 calendar days before the wedding day.

Please be aware that such appointments are not possible on weekends so do take that into consideration when planning your arrival date in Ireland. For example, if your wedding is on a Friday, the latest you will have to meet the Registrar is the previous Friday. Whilst for a Saturday wedding, your in-person appointment at the Registrar’s Office can be on a Monday.

2 – The ceremony location:

Whilst you can get married outdoor by either a Humanist, Spiritual or Secular ceremony, your chosen wedding ceremony location must still satisfy the following two requirements:

  • The ceremony location must be in a publicly accessible place;
  • The ceremony location must have a postal address or an identifiable landmark

3 – Elements of the ceremony:

All ceremonies must contain within their wording the following two elements:

  • The officiant must ask you if there is any impediment to your marriage, to which you must answer there is not;
  • You must exchange vows and say “I Do”

But you won’t really need to worry that much if you choose Peach Perfect Weddings to plan your big day because our wedding planning team gives assistance to help you comply with all the legal requirements.

Summary

Below is a handy little table that represents at a glance the differences between a Civil, Religious and Humanist/ Spiritual / Secular ceremonies (grouped in the table as ‘Others’). Please note that all types of ceremonies still have to follow the 3 legal requirements stated above in order for the marriage to be deemed official (i.e. legally recognised in Ireland and elsewhere).

Civil Religious Others
Ceremony outside?

Ceremony on a weekend?

Flexible ceremony content?

Flexible length of ceremony?

Include rituals e.g. hand-fasting?

No

No

No

No

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

All photos used in this article are of past weddings and elopements planned and executed by the Peach Perfect Weddings team. Let’s plan your own perfect wedding in Ireland, contact us today!

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