Getting Married

What preparations should we make before our marriage?

Your wedding day should be the happiest day of your life. To make it so involves more than organising flowers and a photographer, however. There are a number of preliminaries that must be organised before you can be married in the Republic of Ireland. The law states that to contract a valid marriage in Ireland both people must:

  • Have the capacity to marry each other.
  • Freely consent to the marriage.
  • Observe the necessary formalities as required by the laws of this State.

Marriage by civil ceremony (ie. in a registry office) is a civil contract. Marriage by certain religious ceremonies is also considered as a civil contract. Most of the Christian faiths are recognised by the state in this manner, as are Judaism and the Society of Friends (Quakers). However, anyone wishing to get married in a religious ceremony should approach the authorities of their church for advice on how to proceed.

The Family Law Act introduced the following two requirements for a valid marriage in 1995:

  • The minimum age at which a person, ordinarily resident in Ireland, may contract a marriage valid in Irish law is 18 years of age.
  • Each person marrying must give three months notification to the appropriate Registrar for the District in which the marriage is to take place.

There are exceptions, such as if one of the couple is very ill and wishes to get married before dying, but for the most part you must be over 18 and give three months notice. Notification involves writing to the Registrar for Births, Marriages and Deaths for the district in which you live. The Registrar needs to know:

  • The names and addresses of both parties.
  • The name and address of the church if it will be a religious marriage.
  • The dates of birth of both people.

This is generally done by both people filling in a pre-printed form, signing it and returning it to the Registrar. The three months does not begin until this form is returned. The Registrar will send back a confirmation note and you should keep this safe, as whoever will conduct your wedding will need this.

What are the procedures for marrying in Ireland?

It depends on what type of ceremony you have in mind. However, the rules are the same, whether you are an Irish citizen or not.

If you intend to have a civil ceremony, you must notify the Registrar for your district as above. Serving this notice requires turning up at the Registry office in person, and is different from the three months notification. At least one of you is required to live in that Registrar’s district for fifteen days before the wedding date. Civil ceremonies must take place in the office of the Registrar, which is often to be found in a solicitor’s office or a health board building. In exceptional circumstances, such as illness, a civil ceremony may take place outside of this office.

For some religions, you will have to have a religious ceremony and a civil ceremony as the religious ceremony is not recognised by the state. Most of the major religions in Ireland are an exception, and a marriage under their rites qualifies as a valid marriage under Irish law. These exceptions are:

  • If you wish to marry according to Roman Catholic rites, you should consult your local parish priest who will advise you on that church’s pre-marital requirements.
  • If you intend to marry according to the rites of the Church of Ireland, there are a number of procedures for going about it. You may have to publish banns, or obtain a special dispensation from the Church. If you publish banns, both people marrying ought to be Protestant Episcopalians. Again, you should consult with your local minister well in advance of your intended wedding date.
  • The Presbyterian Church is also recognised by the church as a marrying authority. There is a requirement to publish banns, or else to obtain a dispensation from the Moderators of the Church. If you publish banns, both people marrying ought to be Presbyterians. Once again, consult with your local minister prior to marrying.
  • Similar rules apply for certain other Christian religious bodies. Consult your local church representative to discover if they are allowed to conduct valid Irish marriages.
  • The Society of Friends (Quakers) are also licensed to conduct valid Irish marriages. The clerk to the yearly meeting issues a special licence.
  • A marriage conducted according to mainstream Jewish rites is recognised by the state. A special licence is granted to the marrying couple by the Chief Rabbi of Ireland. Again, you should consult your rabbi before proceeding.

Islamic marriages, Hindu marriages and Buddhist marriages at this time are not recognised without an accompanying civil ceremony.

All marriages must take place in a building licensed for conducting marriages. All Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian churches are so licensed, as are all Registry offices. If you wish to conduct your ceremony in any other building, the authorities of that building may have to apply to the Registrar-General.

I’ve been married before — how can I get remarried?

If either of you have been married previously, it will be necessary to produce either a Divorce Decree (Absolute) or a Death Certificate, as appropriate. You MUST declare that you were married before, even if you have divorced your previous partner, or they are now dead. You should inform the Registrar when giving your three months notice, and you should produce your documentary proof (divorce, death certificate) at this point also.

If you were divorced abroad, and this includes Northern Ireland, you will need to forward details about the marriage to the Registrar-General. You may need to provide an English language translation of your divorce papers. If you were divorced in Ireland, you will have to present your court decree of divorce to your local Registrar at the time when you are giving them your written notification to marry.

If your previous marriage was declared null, you are free to remarry as the first marriage is deemed legally not to have existed. However, if you received an annulment from the Roman Catholic Church, this does not count as a civil annulment. You are still required to divorce your previous partner before marrying again under Irish law. If you are separated, but not divorced, you are NOT free to marry again. You remain married and must first divorce your previous partner.

What if we want to get married outside Ireland?

Many Irish people choose to marry abroad. For some, it is because their partner comes from another country; for others, the lure of a romantic wedding in Rome or on a Caribbean beach is too appealing. If you choose to marry in another country, your marriage will be registered in that country, NOT in Ireland.

You will have to ensure that your marriage meets all the requirements of the laws of that country, and would be well advised to consult both the relevant embassy of that country in Ireland and your local religious authority before embarking on such a wedding. You may have to have your marriage certificate officially translated into English for legal purposes upon returning to Ireland.

Some countries require that both people getting married possess a certificate of freedom to marry, also known as a certificate de coutume or a certificate of Nulla Osta. Check with the relevant embassy. These certificates should be obtained from the Consular section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, or if you live abroad, from your local Irish embassy.

Useful Addresses and Telephone Numbers

The office of the Registrar-General is the authority on marrying in Ireland. The office can be contacted at:

  • Registrar-General of Marriages, Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2. Tel. (01) 6354000.

If you wish to get married abroad, consult the telephone directory or Golden Pages for contact details of the appropriate embassy. The most popular foreign destinations for Irish people marrying are the UK and Italy (Rome), whose embassies can be contacted as follows:

  • Embassy of Italy, 63 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4. Tel. (01) 6601744.
  • Embassy of the United Kingdom, 31 Merrion Rd, Dublin 4. Tel. (01) 2695211.

You may require a certificate of freedom to marry, which can be obtained from:

  • Department of Foreign Affairs, Consular Section, 72/76 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2. Tel. (01) 4780822, extension 304.

If you were previously married in Britain or Northern Ireland and your previous spouse remains alive, you will need to obtain a divorce certificate. If you have been divorced in the UK, you can obtain the relevant confirmation documents from:

  • United Kingdom Divorce Registry, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 1LP, England.
  • General Register Office (N.I), Oxford House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast, BT1 4HL, Northern Ireland. Tel. (08-01232) 252000.

Which Registrar of marriages you need to contact depends on where your marriage will take place, and whether you wish to have a religious ceremony or not. If you are unsure how to contact the relevant Registrar, contact the Registrar-General’s office and they will advise you.

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