Civil Ceremony or Church Wedding – Which is Right for you?

Planning to get married in Ireland? There are three types of ceremonies in which you and your partner will be legally married: civil ceremony, religious ceremony and secular ceremony. In Ireland, these are most commonly known as civil ceremony, church wedding and humanist wedding.

Navigating your way through each type and their differences can be overwhelming. As most of us only plan one wedding, this information and the different formalities associated are new to you. We’ve broken down the three types of legally solemnised weddings in Ireland to help you decide which is best for you.

What is a Civil Ceremony?

Civil ceremonies became a legalised form of weddings in 1836. But back then the ceremony had to take place in a registry office. Today there is a list of approved civil ceremony locations. In this type of service, the wedding is solemnised by a licensed registrar (civil servant). Though there are more options when it comes to venues, there are still some points to note about civil ceremonies:

  • Venues need to be pre-approved and licensed for civil ceremonies. They need to be fixed structures and meet other set criteria. These regulations rule out the possibility of having a civil ceremony on the beach, field, woodlands or any grounds that are open to the public.
  • Civil ceremonies are non-religious. Only registrars (civil servants) can legally marry people at them.
  • Legally binding civil ceremonies can only happen from Monday to Friday in Ireland.
  • You need to register with your registry office at least 3 months before you plan to get married. However, we recommend giving up to 7 months’ notice so you can choose a date and time that suits you. No one wants to get married at 9 am on a Monday.
  • Venues outside the registry office are subject to particular days and times that are set by the local office and vary from county to county.
  • Services are scheduled to last up to 45 minutes and you must arrive 15 minutes beforehand.

How to plan a Civil Ceremony

  1. Choose which county/area you would like to get married in and make an appointment to meet with local registrar there.
  2. When the meeting takes place, you will notify the registrar of your intent to marry. As mentioned above, this meeting needs to take place at least 3 months in advance of your wedding (though we recommend at least 7 months). You will also tell the registrar where you plan to marry i.e. registry office or alternative venue. You will also need to tell them the date of your wedding and give the name and birth date of your two witnesses.
  3. You’ll both need to bring the following to the meeting:
  • Passport
  • Birth cert
  • Any divorce papers from a previous marriage
  • Death cert in the case of a widow or widower
  • PPS number
  • €200 fee
  1. Once this is all processed, you’ll be issued with a marriage registration form.
  2. As the wedding approaches, you’ll be asked to confirm any readings, music or vows for the ceremony. No religious content is permitted.

If you would prefer more freedom of choice when it comes to your wedding ceremony but still want it to be non-religious, you can opt for a humanist ceremony.

What is a Humanist Wedding?

A humanist wedding is categorised as a secular wedding and is a legal form of marriage in Ireland. Couples are married by a Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI) accredited celebrant and the service is incredibly personal. The couple can work with the celebrant to design a bespoke ceremony that can include different traditions, readings, music and vows. Some points to note about humanist weddings:

  • Humanists have no belief in a god or the supernatural. They rely on scientific evidence and have a special appreciation of the world around us. You can have a humanist wedding ceremony without being part of the humanist association.
  • Humanist weddings aren’t restricted to certain days or times – it all depends on your celebrant.
  • Humanist weddings can take place outdoors but cannot take place in private locations that aren’t usually open to the public.
  • Humanist weddings tend to be around 30 minutes long.

How to plan a Humanist Wedding

The steps involved in planning a humanist wedding are very similar to those of planning a civil ceremony.

  1. Choose which county you wish to get married in and consult the list of HAI approved celebrants to find a suitable celebrant in that area and arrange to meet with them.
  2. Discuss the type of ceremony you would like to have and share the details of your ceremony venue with the celebrant to ensure it is suitable by HSE standards.
  3. Check that your chosen celebrant is available on your wedding date and pay an agreed deposit of the overall cost. Humanist weddings range from €470 to €500. This fee includes a €70 contribution to the HAI and the celebrants’ travel costs.
  4. Work closely with your celebrant to make your ceremony as unique and personal as you wish. The celebrant works off a ceremony template and will advise you of different options that you might like to include.
  5. You must give at least 3 months’ notice to the HSE registrar’s office of your intent to marry. You’ll then receive a marriage registration form that you must bring to your wedding ceremony. You will need to bring the same documents as listed above for the civil ceremony.

Church Weddings

The third way to be legally married in Ireland is by having a church wedding.

Catholic Church Weddings

The policies for catholic wedding ceremonies vary from church to church. You’ll need to contact the parish priest of the church you wish to get married in and submit a request to be married there. There are no guarantees on dates or if the priest will marry you or allow you to be wed in the parish if you are not from there. Some points on planning a Catholic Church wedding:

  • It is important to confirm details such as the church, wedding date, priest (registered solemniser) at least 3 months in advance of your wedding.
  • Same as above, you need to submit your intent to marry to the HSE Registrar at least 3 months before the wedding to obtain a marriage registration form.
  • You will need to present your baptismal certificates, confirmation certificates and a letter of freedom from each parish you’ve resided in since the age of 18.
  • You’ll have to complete a marriage preparation course and show the priest a certificate of completion.

Other religious ceremonies in Ireland

If you are planning to have a religious wedding in Ireland that isn’t Catholic you will need to:

  1. Give notice to the Civil Registrar of Marriage a minimum of 3 months before the wedding
  2. Contact the authorities of your religion and discuss what the requirements are .
  3. Make sure that your wedding officiant is on the registrar of solemnisers so that your marriage is legally binding.

Exclusive Wedding Venue Dublin

At Thomas Prior Hall we know that weddings are personal and unique to each couple. Our exclusive wedding venue in Ballsbridge, Dublin is a HSE registered civil ceremony venue where you can be legally married in our beautiful building. We also welcome couples opting for a church wedding hosting their reception, dinner and wedding party. View our wedding packages, read our wedding reviews and see details of our wedding showcases to discover why a wedding at Thomas Prior Hall is like no other.

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