The people of Ireland nervously went to the polls on Friday the 22nd of May. That was the day that they would decide the future for same-sex couples who want to have the choice to get married. After months of heated campaigning from both sides, rumours were rife that it was too close to call; that the ‘no’ vote would win out because so many people were undeclared during polls. Saturday morning came, and the first thing I did upon waking was to check Twitter. ‘Early signs indicate a Yes to marriage equality’ was the first headline to catch my eye. As the day progressed, county after county declared a winning yes vote, and by early evening, we finally received the official announcement. A resounding YES to marriage equality had been given by the Irish people, with 1.2 million votes in favour of the referendum, ousting the con by almost half a million votes. It was the largest turnout in Irish voter history for a referendum, and a testament to the tireless campaigns over the past few months for people to get out and use their vote, and to use it for good.
There were quite a few proposals on Saturday night among the revelry, and so today I want to talk about the legal side of getting married in Ireland. This applies to both opposite- and same-sex couples, so don’t feel left out! This guide should give you a good insight into the process of applying for a marriage licence, and how to go about registering.
Whether you choose to have a religious, civil or secular ceremony, you will firstly need to notify your local Registration Office of your intention to marry. This must be done at least 3 months before your wedding date. If you intend to have a civil ceremony, this will be performed by a registered solemnizer from the HSE and you can make this arrangement at the same time as registering your intention to marry; however bear in mind that there are limited time slots available, a limited number of solemnizers that can perform the ceremony and it is only available Monday-Friday during office hours. Therefore if you are hoping to have a Friday afternoon ceremony in high-season (April-October), you will need to give much more notice than three months to get your preferred time slot and date.
In order to register your marriage, you and your partner must be of consenting age (over 18, although exceptions can be made by applying to and successfully making a case at the Circuit Family Court or the High Court) and free to marry each other, i.e. not already married to someone else. You must produce proof of identity in the form of a valid passport and birth certificate. If one or both of you was born outside of Ireland, you must produce your birth certificate from your country of birth (this must feature the seal of that embassy). If you or your partner are divorced, you must provide official proof of this; likewise if you are widowed you must produce the death certificate of your former spouse and original marriage certificate. A €200 registration fee is also required. At this point you will also be required to advise the office of your intended date of marriage, what type of ceremony you intend to have, the names and dates of birth of two witnesses and the contact details for the ceremony provider, e.g. priest or humanist solemnizer.
If you have chosen to go with a religious, i.e. church, or secular or humanist ceremony, you must make arrangements with the ceremony providers in your own time. This may incur additional fees. If you have chosen either of these routes, you may be booking your wedding date a year or two in advance – you do not have to register with the HSE until at least three months beforehand in this case, although it is worth getting this out of the way as you will be busy with other wedding plans at this point.
Should you be living abroad and intending to get married in Ireland, it is possible to notify the HSE by post of your intention to marry. You will need to provide copies of the above mentioned documents, the registration fee, and you must also arrange to meet with the HSE in person at least 5 days before your wedding to produce necessary documentation. Postal notification may also be given when you are not living in the intended jurisdiction of the HSE where you are getting married; i.e. if you live in Dublin but plan to marry in Tipperary.
Once you have provided all documentation and the registrar is satisfied that you have no impediment to marriage, you will be issued with a marriage registration form (MRF). This form should be given to the person who performs your marriage ceremony in advance. If for any reason your wedding does not take place on the date stated on the MRF, e.g. due to illness or bereavement or other extenuating circumstances, the ceremony must take place within 6 months of that date, otherwise a new MRF will be required.