Religious and secular marriage ceremonies

Introduction

In Ireland, to be legally entitled to marry, both of you must:

You can get married in a civil ceremony, a religious ceremony, or 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 solemniser. Solemniser is the term used for people licensed by the State to conduct weddings.

Civil ceremonies

Civil ceremonies are legally binding secular marriage ceremonies performed by a civil registrar. The registrar works for the State.

Civil ceremonies can take place in a registry office, or registrars can travel to perform civil ceremonies in an approved room or venue. In general, registrars only perform ceremonies in the county in which they are based. Civil ceremonies can only take place within the office working hours of the registrar.

There can be no mention of anything religious or spiritual in your ceremony. If you are planning to get married by civil ceremony, you should contact your local civil registration service for advice on how to proceed. You can find more information in our document civil marriage ceremonies.

Religious ceremonies

Religious ceremonies are performed by registered religious solemnisers of established religions. They usually take place in their places of worship, and the ceremony is performed according to the beliefs and philosophies of that particular body or church. If you are getting married by religious ceremony, you should contact the authorities of the religious body for advice on how to proceed.

Secular ceremonies

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 viewpoint 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 contact the authorities of the secular body for advice on how to proceed.

While a marriage ceremony can be performed according to the customs and rites of the body or church, there are certain requirements that must be met in order for any marriage to be legal.

Rules

Marriage Registration Form

Whether you decide on a religious, secular or civil ceremony you will require a Marriage Registration Form (MRF). You can get your MRF by giving 3 months’ notice of intention to marry to the registrar at a civil registration service. You should contact your local civil registration service to make an appointment with the registrar. You can also use the online booking system at crsappointments.ie.

Find out more about giving notification of intention to marry during COVID-19.

If you meet the 3 months’ notification requirements and there is no barrier to you getting married, known as an impediment to the marriage, the registrar will issue you with an MRF giving you permission to marry. You should give the MRF to the person who will be solemnising the marriage in advance of the marriage ceremony.

Register of Solemnisers

Anyone solemnising a marriage must be on the Register of Solemnisers which is maintained and updated by the General Register Office. It lists civil registrars and the members of the various religious and secular bodies who have been nominated by the relevant authorities of those bodies as solemnisers.

Temporary registrations of solemnisers of religious and secular marriages are possible for those who only wish to solemnise a specific marriage or to solemnise marriages for a specific period of time.

Marriage venue

The choice of venue for the ceremony is a matter for you to decide based on the type of marriage you want and the availability of authorised venues.

All marriages (whether civil, religious or secular) must take place at venues which are open to the public.

Marriage ceremony

While the marriage ceremony can be performed according to the customs and rites of the religious or secular body, as part of the ceremony you and your intended spouse must make 2 declarations:

  • That you do not know of any impediment to the marriage
  • That you accept each other as husband/wife/spouse

Witnesses

The ceremony must be performed in the presence of 2 witnesses aged 18 or over.

Registering the marriage

How you register your marriage depends on the type of ceremony you have. If you marry in a religious or secular ceremony, immediately after the marriage ceremony, the MRF should be signed by you and your spouse, the 2 witnesses and the person who has solemnised the marriage. You should return the MRF within one month to a registrar for the marriage to be registered. It does not have to be returned to the registrar who issued it. You will not be able to obtain a civil marriage certificate until you return the MRF to a registrar and the marriage is civilly registered.

Registration of marriage during COVID-19

The timeframe to return your marriage registration form has been extended due to the coronavirus outbreak. This timeframe of 1 month has been removed. You can post the form during the pandemic or you can wait until the pandemic is over. It is advised you send the form by registered or tracked post.

If you marry in a civil marriage ceremony in a registry office, the registrar who conducts the ceremony will register the marriage.

Use of interpreter

If either you, your intended spouse, either of the two witness or the solemniser does not have sufficient knowledge of the language in which the ceremony is being held to understand the ceremony, then the services of an interpreter must be provided.

Further information

Visit gov.ie for more information on what you need to do if you are planning to get married in Ireland.

Page edited: 21 July 2020