More and more couples in Ireland are choosing to have a non-religious wedding. I have just started planning my own wedding, and though I was raised as a Catholic, I have never felt a major connection to the church. Years of attending church weddings made it abundantly clear that a church wedding was not for me – I was tired of sitting through long ceremonies, musical restrictions, an officiant that generally had no connection to the couple or their love story, and couples who made their vows while looking at the priest, uncertainly repeating words – they should have been looking at each other! It was a tough decision to come to as my fiancé is also Catholic and he said for a long time that he would prefer a church wedding; I thought it would end up being a major issue for us when we eventually decided to tie he knot. Luckily for me, he came around to my way of thinking and we have agreed on a non-religious wedding. We had concerns that our parents would be disappointed, but thankfully they have all said that if we are happy, they are happy.
So how does one go about planning a non-religious wedding in a country that has been so consumed with our Catholic heritage for so long? Amazingly enough, non-religious ceremonies are becoming more popular, with a quarter of couples in Ireland now choosing a civil or humanist ceremony instead of the church wedding (Source: Weddingsonline 2016 Wedding Survey). Many wedding venues have now been approved by the HSE for civil ceremonies, and the Humanist Association of Ireland can perform legal marriage ceremonies, leading to a surge in outdoor weddings (what we’re hoping to do, weather permitting!).
First things first. Your venue needs to be approved to hold a civil or humanist ceremony. The venue needs to comply with certain regulations, including fire safety and wheelchair access. Choose a venue that is meaningful to you and your partner, or perhaps one that fits with your theme. This could be a historic castle, a hotel ballroom, or even a garden. If you are going through the HSE for a civil ceremony with a HSE appointment solemnisor, the venue must be approved by the HSE. Ensure you check with your venue that they have approval before making any commitments. There are day and time restrictions with this so ensure you check with the registrar first. Spiritual Ceremonies can conduct a legal ceremoney wherever you want (with approval from the venue’s owner). You could also do the legal part in the registry office, and have a blessing conducted by a ceremony officiant anywhere you like. There are a number of ceremony officiant providers in Ireland that can do this for you, such as Marry Me Ireland.
If you have the option to choose your ceremony officiant, then don’t take the decision lightly. You should feel comfortable with this person, and rest assured in the knowledge that they will take the time to learn about your relationship, your journey and your hopes and dreams for your life together. If you’re going with a HSE solemnisor, you may not get the option to choose your officiant as they are strictly by appointment, Monday-Friday, and there are a limited number of solemnisors. However, if you are going with an external provider, you will find lots of information on their websites and it is a good idea to meet with them before you make a final decision.
When it comes to the ceremony itself, a non-religious wedding is a wonderful opportunity to really personalise the experience. You can integrate favourite music, readings and poems, and even write your own vows. There is also the opportunity to include marriage traditions from different cultures, such as a sand ceremony, hand-fasting and even a bi-lingual ceremony.
If you want to make your marriage legal, you will still have to register your intention to marry with the HSE, regardless of whether you choose a civil or humanist ceremony or indeed if you go ahead with a church ceremony. Follow this link to find out how to register your intention to marry, making an appointment for a civil ceremony and all the other legal bits.