Different legal ways of getting married

Introduction

In Ireland, there are 3 different ways of solemnising a marriage so that it is legal. A marriage may be celebrated in a civil ceremony, a religious ceremony or in a secular ceremony and each is equally valid and binding under Irish law. For a marriage to be legal, the ceremony must be performed by a registered solemniser. All marriages, civil, religious or secular, must take place at venues which are open to the public.

To have a legally valid marriage in Ireland, both parties must:

Once you have fulfilled these conditions, you should consider how you wish to marry.

Types of wedding ceremony

Civil ceremony

Civil ceremonies are legally binding secular ceremonies carried out by a Registrar. Civil ceremonies can take place in a registry office, or Registrars can travel to perform civil ceremonies in an approved room or venue. An additional fee is charged for a civil marriage held in a venue other than a registry office.

Ceremonies can only take place within the office working hours of the Registrar. The ceremony must be performed in the presence of 2 witnesses who should both be over 18 years of age. At the end of the ceremony, the Registrar, the couple and the witnesses must all sign the Marriage Registration Form (MRF). The marriage will then be civilly registered by the Registrar after the ceremony on the basis of the information contained in the MRF.

If you are getting married by civil ceremony in a Registry Office or other approved place, you should approach the Registrar of Civil Marriages for the district in which you intend to marry for detailed information on how to proceed.

Religious ceremony

Religious ceremonies are performed by registered religious solemnisers of established religions. They typically take place in their places of worship and the ceremony is performed according to the beliefs and philosophies of the particular body or church.

If you are getting married by religious ceremony, you should approach the authorities of the religious body concerned for guidance on how to proceed.

Secular ceremony

Secular ceremonies are legally recognised in Ireland if they are carried out by a registered secular solemniser. Secular ceremonies are performed by bodies that have a view point that does not include anything religious or spiritual. Humanist ceremonies are the most common type of secular ceremony in Ireland.

If you wish to get married by secular ceremony you should approach the authorities of the secular body concerned for advice on how to proceed.

A religious or secular ceremony must be performed in the presence of 2 witnesses who are both over 18 years of age. At the end of the ceremony, the solemniser, the couple, and the witnesses must all sign the MRF. The completed MRF should be given to a Registrar (not necessarily the Registrar who issued it) within 1 month of the ceremony, so that the marriage can be civilly registered. You will not be able to obtain a civil marriage certificate until such time as the MRF has been returned to a Registrar and the marriage is civilly registered.

Renewing your wedding vows

In Ireland, someone who is already married cannot get married again (even if it is to the same person). This effectively means that you cannot renew your wedding vows in a civil ceremony in Ireland.

However, there is a long tradition of "church blessings" in Ireland. This is where Irish people who have married in civil ceremonies abroad, marry in a religious ceremony the next time they are home. Sometimes, people living in Ireland have their marriage blessed in a religious ceremony, to commemorate a special anniversary or event. If you would like to have your marriage blessed, you should get in touch with your local clergyman.

Rules

Whether you decide on a religious, secular or civil ceremony you will require a Marriage Registration Form (MRF) which you obtain by fulfilling the notification requirements. To make an appointment to give Notification of Intention to Marry to a Registrar, you should contact your local Civil Registration Office. There is also an online appointment booking system available at crsappointments.ie.

Only a registered solemniser can perform a legally binding wedding ceremony. The General Register Office maintains a Register of Solemnisers of Marriage (pdf) and anyone solemnising a civil, secular or religious marriage must be on the Register. These categories are clearly outlined in the Register of Solemnisers as civil/religious/secular.

How to apply?

Check the Register of Solemnisers maintained by the General Register Office to find a registered solemniser who can perform a legally binding wedding ceremony.

If you are planning a civil ceremony in a Registry Office or other approved place, you should approach the Registrar of Civil Marriages for the district in which you intend to marry for advice on how to proceed.

If you are planning to get married by religious or secular ceremony, you should approach the religious or secular body concerned for guidance on how to proceed.


Page edited: 4 October 2019