So you want to get married in Ireland? There are no shortage of cathedrals and castles to use for the nuptial settings, but you should be aware of all the legal requirements to have a legally recognized wedding in the Republic of Ireland (another article will give you details on weddings in Northern Ireland). It does take a little planning ahead but the steps are simple if you follow these basic guidelines (but know that it is not as easy as getting hitched in Las Vegas). Getting your paperwork in order long before the actual Irish wedding date is of paramount importance!
General Requirements for Marriage in the Republic of Ireland
First and foremost, you must be at least 18 years old to get married in Ireland, though there are some exceptions to this rule. In addition, you will be assessed to determine as to whether you have the so-called "capacity to marry." What this means is that apart from not being already married (bigamy is illegal, and you will be asked for certified divorce papers if you have ever been married before) you must freely consent to marriage and understand what marriage means.
The latter two requirements have recently come under closer scrutiny by the authorities and a bride or groom not being able to reasonably communicate in English may find it difficult to get through the ceremony, at least in the registrar's office. A registrar may also refuse to complete the ceremony if s/he has any doubt that the union is voluntary or believes that a sham wedding to circumvent immigration laws is taking place.
Apart from these requirements you just need to be a human couple. Ireland has fully legalized marriages of all fashions, whether between heterosexual or same-sex couples. So whatever your sexual orientation or identification, you can freely marry in Ireland. With the one caveat -- a church wedding will still be reserved for heterosexual couples. Though, this is more of a rule of the individual churches than a legal roadblock.
Irish Notification Requirements for a Marriage
Since November 5th, 2007, anyone marrying in the Republic of Ireland must have given at least three months notification. This notification must generally be made in person to any registrar.
Take note that this applies to all marriages, those solemnized by a registrar or according to religious rites and ceremonies. So even for a full church wedding, you will have to contact a registrar beforehand, not just the parish priest. This registrar does not have to be the registrar for the district where you intend to get married (e.g. you can leave a notification in Dublin and get married in Kerry). You will need to know the planned date of the wedding when you appear at the registrar's office and both parties will have to fill out and sign a form about their intent to wed. (More information about the exact documents and details needed are below).
Up to a few years ago, you would have to appear in person - this has changed. If either the bride or groom is living abroad, you may contact a registrar and request permission to complete the notification by post. Should permission be granted (it generally is), the registrar will then send out a form to be completed and returned. Note that all this adds several days to the notification process, so start corresponding as early as possible. A notification fee of €150 will also need to be paid.
If you opt to give notification from abroad, you still need to plan to be in Ireland before your wedding because the bride and groom will still be obliged to make arrangements for meeting the registrar in person at least five days before the actual wedding day - only then can a Marriage Registration Form be issued.
Legal Documentation Needed
When you start corresponding with the registrar, you should be informed about all the information and documents you need to supply. The following will generally be demanded (some depend on the past marital status of the couple):
- Passports as identification;
- Birth certificates (with an "apostille stamp" if not issued in Ireland);
- Original final divorce decree(s) if one or both are divorcees, in case of a non-Irish divorce an approved English translation of the divorce decree will be required;
- Original dissolutions of all previous civil partnerships (if applicable, again in translation if needed);
- Final decree of nullity and a letter from the relevant court confirming that no appeal was lodged (if a civil partnership or marriage was annulled by an Irish Court);
- Deceased spouse's death certificate, and previous civil marriage certificate, in case of widowhood;
- PPS Numbers (not applicable to non-residents in most cases).
Further Information Needed by the Registrar
To issue a Marriage Registration Form, the registrar will also ask for further information about the planned marriage. This will include:
- Decision on a civil or religious ceremony;
- Intended date and location of the ceremony;
- Details of the proposed solemnizer of the marriage;
- Names and dates of birth of two proposed witnesses.
Declaration of No Impediment
In addition to all the paperwork above, when meeting the registrar both partners are required to sign a declaration that they know of no lawful impediment to the proposed marriage. Note that this declaration does not override the need to provide the paperwork as detailed above!
Marriage Registration Form
A Marriage Registration Form (in short MRF) is the final "Irish marriage license", giving official authorization for a couple to marry. Without this, you simply can't get legally married in Ireland. Providing there is no impediment to the marriage and all documentation is in order, the MRF will be issued fairly swiftly.
The actual wedding should follow swiftly as well -- the MRF is good for six months of the proposed date of marriage given on the form. If this time frame proves to be too tight, for whatever reason, a new MRF is required (meaning jumping through all the bureaucratic hoops again).
Be sure you bring the MRF with you to the ceremony, have it duly filled out, and bring it to the register's office to be recognized within 30 days of the ceremony.
Actual Ways to Get Married
Today, there are several different (and legal) ways of getting married in the Republic of Ireland. Couples may opt for a religious ceremony or choose a civil ceremony. The registration process (see above) still stays the same -- no religious ceremony is legally binding without a prior civil registration and an MRF (which needs to be handed to the solemnizer, completed by him/her and given back to a registrar within one month of the ceremony).
Couples may opt for marriage by a religious ceremony (in an "appropriate venue") or by civil ceremony, the latter may take place either in a registry office or at another approved place. Keep this in mind when looking for wedding locations, as hotels and venues must be approved for civil ceremonies. Whatever the option -- all are equally valid and binding under Irish law. If a couple decides to marry in a religious ceremony, the religious requirements should be discussed well beforehand with the celebrant of the marriage.
Who Can Marry a Couple
Since November 2007, the General Register Office has started to keep the "Register of Solemnisers of Marriage" and anyone solemnizing a civil or religious marriage must be on this register. If he or she is not, the marriage is not legally valid. The register can be inspected at any registration office or online at www.groireland.ie, you can also download an Excel file here.
The register currently names nearly 6,000 solemnizers, the majority from the established Christian churches (Roman-Catholic, Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church), but including smaller Christian churches as well as the Orthodox churches, the Jewish faith, Baha'i, Buddhist and Islamic solemnizers, plus Amish, Druid, Humanist, Spiritualist, and Unitarian. Civil celebrants can also oversee a ceremony so long as they are recognized in the list.
Renewing vows is not possible under Irish law because anyone who already is married cannot get married again, not even to the same person. Effectively it is impossible (and illegal) to renew wedding vows in a civil or church ceremony in Ireland. You will have to opt for a Blessing instead.
There is a tradition of non-legal "church blessings" in Ireland -- Irish couples who married abroad tended to hold a religious ceremony at home later. Also, couples may choose to have their marriage blessed in a religious ceremony on special anniversaries. This might be an alternative to a full Irish wedding if you have already undergone an official ceremony in another time or place.
More Information Needed?
Should you need more information, citizensinformation.ie is the best place to go to for all things Irish wedding.