Marriage is a legal contract and you must fulfil all the necessary requirements if the marriage is to be legally valid. The 2004 Civil Registration Act, which came into force in 2007, introduced major changes to the procedures for solemnising and registering marriages in the Republic of Ireland.
To contract a valid marriage in Ireland, you must:
This applies to ALL marriages, including same-sex ‘marriages’.
Marriage by civil ceremony is a civil contract. Marriage by certain religious groups is also recognised in law as being a civil contract. If you want to marry in a religious ceremony, seek advice from the authorities of the religious denomination, and then make an appointment to attend the local registrar. (Under the 2015 Marriage Act, religious bodies are not obliged to recognise same-sex ‘marriages’.) If you want a civil ceremony, make an appointment to attend a Registrar of Civil Marriages. Some counties have more than one registrar; the Health Service Executive (HSE) will provide their contact details. See the list of HSE registration offices
Minimum age for marriage
If you are ordinarily resident in the Republic of Ireland, you must be at least 18 years old to contract a valid marriage, whether you marry in Ireland or elsewhere. This applies to all non-residents who marry in the State. You do not need parental consent for a marriage, as long as you are 18 or over. Anyone under 18 must obtain the permission of the Circuit Family Court or the High Court. You can apply in person without a solicitor, and there is no court charge for the application.
Anyone intending to marry in the State must make an appointment to attend the registrar’s office and give at least three months’ notification of intention to marry (or obtain an exemption under the Civil Registration Act 2004). At the registrar’s office, the couple must pay the notification fee (currently €200 – a fee of €50 applies to same-sex couples who are already in a civil partnership registered in Ireland and now wish to ‘marry’) and provide evidence of their names, addresses, ages, marital status and nationalities, including:
Once the legal requirements have been met, the couple are issued with a marriage registration form (MRF) which is effectively a civil marriage licence.
For Catholic marriages, you should complete a registration form after the church ceremony; this form must be returned to a registrar for the marriage to be civilly registered. The priest solemnising the marriage must be on the register of solemnisers. For civil marriages, your local registrar will arrange for you to be issued with a completed marriage registration form, as long as you are free to marry. For non-Catholic religious marriages, contact your local registrar for a completed marriage registration form, and make sure that the person solemnising the marriage is on the register of solemnisers.
The couple will also have to state the date they wish to marry, whether they intent to have a civil or religious ceremony, the names and dates of birth of their witnesses, and details of the proposed solemniser and venue. They will also both have to complete a declaration stating that they are not aware of any lawful impediment to the proposed marriage (see below). The registrar will issue acknowledgements confirming the date of the receipt of the notification.(This is not a licence.)
If either party is seriously ill or is resident outside the State, a couple may post a marriage notification to the registrar by prior agreement with the registrar. But the couple must still attend the registrar’s office in person at least five days before the marriage to complete their declarations of no impediment, produce the required documents and be issued with their MRF.
Postal notifications of intention to marry should not be returned to the General Register Office, but to the registrar who authorised the postal notification. If either party was previously married, they must send the original final divorce decree or death certificate of the former spouse with the notification. Marriage notification can be given to any registrar, not just in the area where the marriage is to take place or where the couple are living.
Marriage registration form (MRF)
When all required details have been provided, the registrar will issue the couple with a marriage registration form (MRF). This is effectively the civil authorisation for the marriage to proceed. Any marriage that takes place without an MRF cannot be civilly registered. The MRF should be given to the registrar or religious solemniser before the ceremony.
Finding your local registrar
Check the list of HSE registration offices
Marriages by civil ceremony may take place at the office of a Registrar of Civil Marriages or at a venue which has been approved in advance by the registrar. If you want to have a civil ceremony somewhere other than in a register office, contact the nearest registration office to the venue and ask to have it approved for the ceremony. The registrar may need to inspect the venue, so you should make these arrangements well in advance of your notification appointment.
There are additional fees for civil marriages at venues other than register offices. The ceremony must be performed in the presence of two witnesses, both aged over 18. At the end of the ceremony, the registrar, the couple and the witnesses must all sign the MRF. The marriage will then be civilly registered by the registrar on the basis of the information in the MRF as soon as possible after the ceremony.
Marriage by religious ceremony
Religious marriages may be performed according to the customs and ceremonies of the Church or religious body carrying out the ceremony. However, the couple must first obtain a marriage registration form which they must show to the person solemnising the marriage. The couple are responsible for ensuring that the person solemnising the marriage is on the register of solemnisers. (He may be registered temporarily to solemnise a specific marriage or to solemnise marriages for a specific period.)
Check the register of solemnisers
The venue for religious marriages is a matter for the authorities of the Church or religious body, but the venues for all marriages, civil or religious, must be open to the public. The ceremony must be performed in the presence of two witnesses, and the couple must declare that
If the bride or groom, either witness or the solemniser does not understand the language of the ceremony, the couple must arrange for an interpreter to be present. At the end of the ceremony, the solemniser, the couple and the witnesses must all sign the MRF. The completed MRF should be given to any registrar within one month of the ceremony for the marriage to be civilly registered. A civil marriage certificate will not be available until the MRF has been returned to a registrar.
If either party is divorced or widowed, the registrar should be informed when notification is given, and a divorce decree absolute or death certificate be produced. If the divorce was granted by a court in another state and is in a foreign language, an English translation must be provided, certified by an official body or recognised translation agency. If the divorce comes within EU regulations, it is sufficient to confirm that both parties to the divorce were notified about the proceedings and had a chance to give evidence to the court which granted the divorce. Where EU regulations do not apply, the parties must complete a questionnaire which is forwarded to the General Register Office for consent to the marriage.
A Catholic Church annulment does not have any effect in civil law so anyone who has obtained a Church annulment, without a divorce or civil nullity decree, is not free to remarry in civil law.
Marriage outside Ireland
Marriages which take place outside the State are normally registered in the country where they are celebrated. If you are marrying abroad, make sure that you meet all the legal requirements of the country in question. Ask the relevant embassy or religious authorities how to obtain a marriage certificate from that country. A marriage certificate in a foreign language is normally accepted for official purposes in Ireland if you have an official translation.
Impediments to marriage
Your marriage will not be valid if either party is:
You may also not marry within the forbidden degrees of kindred, so you may not marry your:
The State allows marriage to a first cousin (and the Church can allow this too). A 1970 study found that one in every 625 Catholic marriages in the Republic of Ireland was to a first cousin.
You may be asked to sign a declaration (under s 51(4)(a) of the Civil Registration Act 2004) in the presence of—
Useful addresses and phone numbers
The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, England. Tel: +44 208 876 3444, for divorces in Britain, or the UK Divorce Registry, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 1LP Tel: +44 207 947 6000
General Register Office (Northern Ireland), Oxford House, 49-55 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 4HL Tel: 048 90 252 000
German embassy, 31 Trimleston Avenue, Booterstown, Co Dublin, A94 TX94 Tel: 01 269 3011
Spanish embassy, 17A Merlyn Park, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4 Tel: 01 269 1640
French embassy, 66 Fitzwilliam Lane, Dublin 2, D02 HP38 Tel: 01 277 5000
Italian embassy, 63/65 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4, D04 VA89 Tel: 01 660 1744
British embassy, 31 Merrion Rd, Dublin 4 Tel: 01 205 3700
If you have any queries about the requirements for a civil marriage, contact the marriages unit at the General Register Office, Government Buildings, Convent Road, Roscommon, phone LoCall 1890-252076, +353(0)9066-32945/7/8/9, -32964 or -32970, or email the General Register Office.
With acknowledgments to the General Register Office website.
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