Marriage in Ireland
Marriage is a solemn legal contract and it is vital
that all the necessary preliminaries for a marriage
be completed in order that the marriage is legally valid.
The marriage provisions of the Civil Registration Act, 2004
became law on 5th November 2007.
This legislation brought about major changes
in the procedures for solemnising and
registering marriages in the Republic.
The information on this webpage reflects
the requirements of the new legislation
and should be noted carefully.
If you have any enquiries about the
details in this section, you should contact
The Marriages Unit at the General Register Office,
Phone LoCall 1890-252076 or direct lines +353 (0) 9066-32945/7/8/9, 32964 or 32970
e-mail through the ‘contact us’ option on THEIR website www.groireland.ie
However, to make an appointment to give notification of intention to marry (3 months notice), you should contact your local Health Service Executive (HSE) headquarters.
NOTE: The relevant religious preliminaries should be arranged with the appropriate celebrant of marriages.
SECTION 1: Preliminaries to a valid Marriage, including the Marriage Notification Process. THIS APPLIES TO ALL MARRIAGES
To contract a valid marriage in this state the parties to the marriage must:
- have the capacity to marry each other;
- freely consent to the marriage; and,
- observe the marriage notification process as required by the laws of this State (detailed below).
Marriage by civil ceremony is a civil contract. Marriage by certain religious ceremonies is also recognised by civil law as being a civil contract. Persons wishing to get married by religious ceremony should approach the authorities of the religious denomination concerned for advice on how to proceed, and also make an appointment to attend their local Registrar. Those wishing to get married by civil ceremony should make an appointment to attend a Registrar of Civil Marriages.
1.1 Minimum Age of Marriage: From August 1, 1996 (under the Family Law Act, 1995) the minimum age at which a person, ordinarily resident in the State, may contract a marriage valid in Irish law is eighteen years of age. Persons aged under 18 must obtain the permission of the Circuit Family Court or the High Court to get married.
1.2 The Marriage Notification Process (including documents required) From 5th November 2007 each person marrying in the State must either attend (by appointment only) at the office of a Registrar in person togive at least three months notification of intention to marry; or obtain an exemption from this requirement under Section 47 of the Civil Registration Act, 2004. For example, any person marrying on or after August 1, 2007 must have given notification to the appropriate Registrar on or before May 1, 2007. Assuming all the legal requirements are met, the couple are then issued with a Marriage Registration Form (MRF) which is effectively a civil marriage licence.
Roman Catholic marriages – you should complete a registration form (Form A) after the marriage ceremony which must be returned to a Registrar for the marriage to be civilly registered; you should also ensure that the priest solemnising the marriage is on the Register of Solemnisers (see Section 2.2 below) The requirement to give three months notification of an intended marriage is a legal requirement for a valid marriage. A marriage will not be valid in civil law unless three months notification has been given, or; unless permission to marry has been granted by the High Court or Circuit Family Court under Section 47 of the Civil Registration Act.
After 5th November 2007 any couple proposing to marry should begin the process by contacting their local Registration Office to make an appointment to meet the Registrar to give him/her their marriage notification. Notifications can be taken only by prior appointment with the Registrar. While only three months’ notice is required by law, couples are advised to contact the Registrar well over three months before their intended date of marriage to ensure they can get a timely appointment. The notification details will be entered on a computerised notification system by the Registrar on the basis of the information given by the couple. When attending the Registrar’s office in relation to the notification, the couple must also pay the notification fee of €150 and provide the Registrar with evidence of their name, address, age, marital status and nationality.
In general, all couples will be asked to produce:-
- Passport or driving licence as ID
- If either party is divorced, original final decrees in respect of all previous divorces
- If widowed, death certificate of the previous spouse and the civil marriage certificate for their first marriage
- Their PPS Numbers (where either or both of the parties have one)
- Fee of €150 as above
In addition to their personal particulars, the couple will be requested to provide details in relation to their proposed marriage such as
- the intended date of marriage,
- whether they require 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 of no impediment stating that they are not aware of any lawful impediment to the proposed marriage.
1.3 Postal Notifications In very limited circumstances (i.e. critical illness of one of the parties or one or both parties being resident outside the State) and only by prior agreement with the Registrar, it is possible for a couple to post a marriage notification to the Registrar. However, in such cases the couple must still attend the Registrar’s office in person at least 5 days before the marriage to complete their declarations of no impediment and produce the necessary documentation and particulars as set out above, and be issued with their MRF.
NOTE:-Special arrangements can be made where one or both parties is seriously ill; the Registrar will advise you of these if required.
The marriage notification can be given to any registrar. It does not have to be a Registrar in the area where the marriage is taking place, or where the couple are living. It may for example be more convenient for a couple to attend a Registrar near their place of work or business.
1.4 The Marriage Registration Form (MRF) When the Registrar is satisfied that all required details have been provided and that the couple are free to marry, he or she will issue them with a Marriage Registration Form (MRF) based on the information they have provided. This is a critical document as it is effectively the civil authorisation for the marriage to proceed.
1.5 Exemption of some marriages from the age and notification requirements: If one or both of the parties to the proposed marriage is under eighteen years of age, or if the provision of three months notification poses a difficulty, you may make an application to the Courts for an exemption order and the Court will then decide if the marriage should be allowed to proceed or not.
SECTION 2:- The Solemnisation and Registration Process:- Requirements for a valid Marriage in the Republic of Ireland
Marriage by religious ceremony
Marriages by religious ceremony may be performed according to the customs and ceremonies of the church or religious body which is carrying out the ceremony. However, all the civil requirements set out in Section 1 must first be complied with and the couple must have been issued with a Marriage Registration Form by a registrar which they must show to the person solemnising the marriage. The solemniser must also be a registered solemniser, nominated by his or her church or religious body, and it is the responsibility of the couple to ensure that the person they wish to solemnise their marriage is on the Register of Solemnisers.
Temporary registrations of solemnisers of religious marriages are possible for those who only wish to solemnise a specific marriage or to solemnise marriages for a specific period of time.
The venue for a religious marriage is a matter for the authorities of the church or religious body under whose auspices the marriage is being performed. All marriages, civil or religious, must take place at venues which are open to the public
The ceremony must be performed in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18 years of age. Both parties must make two declarations:- a) that neither of them knows of any impediment to the marriage; and b) that they accept each other as husband and wife.
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 a registrar (not necessarily the registrar who issued it) within 1 month of the ceremony, so that the marriage can be civilly registered. Please note that you will not be able to obtain a civil marriage certificate until such time as the MRF has been returned to a registrar and the marriage is civilly registered.
Marriage outside of Ireland
Marriages which take place outside the State are normally registered in the country in which they occur and are NOT registered in Ireland. Persons marrying abroad should ensure that all the legal requirements of the country in question are met, and should enquire as to the procedure for obtaining a marriage certificate from that country - the relevant Embassy and/or religious authorities may be able to advise.
In particular, the Italian Embassy, (63 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4, tel: +353 (0) 1 660 17 44) can provide useful information on marriage in Rome. If a marriage certificate is in a foreign language, it should normally be accepted for official purposes in this State if accompanied by an official translation, or a translation from a recognised translation agency. If one or both of the parties to a marriage contracted abroad is or are ordinarily resident in the State, both of them must be over 18 for the marriage to be valid in Irish law.
Certificates of Freedom to marry (also known as 'Civil Letters of Freedom', "Certificates de Coutume" or "Certificates of Nulla Osta") which state that a person is not married, may be needed for marriage in some foreign countries, and are not issued by the General Register Office. Irish citizens living in Ireland wishing to obtain such a Certificate should apply to the Consular Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, 72/76 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Tel.: +353 (0) 1 4082568. Irish Citizens living abroad should contact their nearest Irish Embassy.
The General Register Office has no function in advising on, or in the registration of, marriages which take place outside the State. There is no facility for registering such marriages in the State, and the civil marriage certificate would normally be accepted as the legal proof of the marriage. In cases where a serious doubt exists as to whether the marriage is recognised in Irish law, legal advice may be sought and an application made to the Circuit Family Court for a ruling under Section 29 of the Family Law Act, 1995 as to whether the marriage is recognisable under Irish law.