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Planning your wedding ceremony – Religious, Civil or Humanist

Planning your wedding ceremony Source: Lyme Bay Photography

Have you thought about what kind of wedding ceremony you and your partner would like? Traditionally, weddings in Ireland were held on a Saturday and were a church affair, but now there are a lot more options available.

According to the Central Statistics Office, in 2016 there were 22,626 marriages in Ireland, 64.8% of which were religious ceremonies (a majority of which were Catholic), this has dropped from 76.8% in 2006. In the last ten years Ireland has seen the deregulation of weddings, with the introduction of same-sex marriage and many non-religious options opening up for couples, and with this more and more couples are now opting for civil or humanist ceremonies.

Check out the different types of weddings available in Ireland below, including tips on how to get started organising them, and an estimate of how much each option might set you back.

Registering your intent to marry

Regardless of the type of ceremony you choose, you will need to register your intent to marry at a registration office a minimum of three months prior to the wedding (find your nearest registry office here), for more details on the paperwork required see the HSE website checklist for marriage notification. There is a fee of €200. At the appointment the registrar will check you have all the correct documents and establish if you are free to marry, they will then issue with a Marriage Registration Form which will be signed by both of you, your witnesses and your Priest or Celebrant on the big day.

Catholic ceremony

If you and your partner are not Catholic, or neither of you has been baptised and confirmed, this is not the option for you – move along buddy.

  • Is it religious? Yes
  • Where and when can I do it? The ceremony must take place in a Catholic church, it is traditional to get married in your own parish. Some churches do not allow weddings on Sundays.
  • How much does it cost? Approx. €150-€500. The fee varies from church to church and is likely to be more expensive if you get married outside your own parish. Contact your church to enquire about their fee.

The ceremony will be performed by a priest and getting married in a Catholic church will add a spiritual dimension to your marriage. The ceremony includes God and looks to him for help, guidance and his blessing.

There is quite a bit of paperwork and preparation involved prior to the wedding. You'll need to contact the church and give them at least three months' notice of your intent to marry, but we suggest contacting them much earlier to check if your date is available (here's a list of all the Catholic churches in Ireland). If your date is available, you'll need to organise a priest that is willing to officiate. You also may be required to take a pre-marriage course. Contact your local church for information on the long list of paperwork that is required.

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Civil ceremony

For couples not planning a religious ceremony, a civil ceremony is the next most popular with over a quarter of couples choosing this option.

  • Is it religious? No
  • Where and when can I do it? You can have the ceremony at a registrar's office or a civil ceremony at a venue pre-approved by a registrar or the HSE. Weddings take place Mon-Fri 9am-5pm.
  • How much does it cost? Approx. €100-200 for the registrar's time and travel, plus any additional venue fees.

Once you have decided when and where you'd like to get married, contact the registrar in the district. You must give the minimum three months' notice, but popular days such as Friday book out quickly, so we suggest contacting them as early as possible. Also, if you're having your wedding at a venue rather than the registry office, you'll need to ensure the venue gets approved in time as it must meet some strict criteria. See these guidelines to ensure your venue will be suitable. The ceremony will be conducted by a registrar, you can find a list of registrars here.

Humanist ceremony

Humanist wedding ceremonies are the third most popular option and another alternative to religious ceremonies. Plus, you can get married at the weekend!

  • Is it religious? No
  • Where and when can I do it? An indoor or outdoor HSE pre-approved venue.
  • How much does it cost? Approx. €450-€650 for the celebrant, plus any additional venue fees.

Humanist weddings are a great option for couples who have different beliefs. Humanists believe in tolerance for others who hold different belief systems, they rely on scientific evidence and human achievements and their ceremonies are open to couples with similar beliefs. One reason humanist ceremonies are becoming so popular is the ability to make the ceremony as personal as you wish.

If you are planning a humanist wedding, decide where you want to get married then contact a humanist celebrant to check their availability. Just be aware that weekends and holidays can book up fast, sometimes up to a year in advance. You can find a list of all humanist celebrants on their website here. The same as the civil ceremony venues, your venue must be approved by the HSE.

Other religious ceremonies

Of course, outside of the Catholic church, there many other types of religious wedding ceremonies available in Ireland including Spiritualist, Church of Ireland and Presbyterian to name just a few. With all these, you will still need to register your intent to marry at least three months prior with your local registry office. We also suggest you contact your local church or organisation who will be able to advise you on the individual regulations and practices for your chosen ceremony type.

Which one is right for us?

Your first step is to discuss with your partner whether you want a religious or non-religious ceremony, this will cut down your options. If you choose non-religious, your choice it between civil or Humanist. Civil ceremonies are likely to be cheaper but tend to be shorter and less flexible (although it depends on the registrar). And remember if you go for a civil wedding you won't be able to have the ceremony on a weekend. Humanist weddings are generally a little more expensive, but you can have a weekend wedding if you book early and have the ability to personalise the ceremony much more. Sit down and discuss what is important to you and your bride, and if none of the above tempts you, you can always elope!

Still having trouble deciding on a wedding venue? Check out our guide to the most important points to consider.

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