Are you recently engaged and planning to be married in Ireland? Then it’s very important that you are aware of your ceremony options.

Firstly, you must decide between the following two options:

1. A traditional Church wedding or

2. A non-Church wedding with a marriage solemniser of your choice to suit your beliefs and wishes.

Traditional Church Wedding

For those with their heart set on a traditional church wedding, the occasion can certainly be one to remember. Planning the ceremony is very easy because you already know exactly what to do. Visit your Priest for a chat and agree on your wedding date – subject to their availability, then lodge your “Notify your Intention to Marry” or NOIM with the HSE.

Non-Church Wedding

If you are one of the many couples getting married in Ireland who would like to do things your own way with a non-church wedding, times have certainly changed in Ireland in the past 10 years. There are now so many choices to make regarding your non-church legal marriage ceremony it can be very confusing to know where to start.

First things first – there are two options with a non-Church or “alternative” legal marriage ceremony:

1. A registry office marriage ceremony (also known as a Civil Ceremony) conducted at the registry office – or for an extra fee, at a venue of your choice, or

2. A unique & personalised marriage ceremony with your choice of ceremony officiant/marriage solemniser.


Here in Ireland a Civil ceremony is very different to what it is in Australia, the country where the Civil ceremony movement began in the 1970’s. When the term “Civil Ceremony” became part of the Marriage Act of Australia it became known as “a ceremony created according to the wishes of the couple, rather than the rules of a Religion” and today, some 85% of Australian marriages are Civil ceremonies conducted by government-registered Civil Marriage Celebrants.

But here in Ireland a Civil Ceremony has a very different meaning, and there is also no such thing in Ireland as a civil marriage celebrant. The term “civil celebrant” has been in use for many years in the Funeral industry to describe a lay celebrant, a celebrant who is not a member of Clergy. But the use of the job title civil celebrant does not extend to those who conduct marriage or wedding ceremonies.

Here in Ireland a Civil ceremony is another name for a registry office marriage and is conducted by a Civil Registrar, from the HSE Civil Registration office. There are some great advantages for a Registry Office marriage, but there are also some disadvantages, depending on what you really want for your ceremony.

Advantages of a Civil Ceremony

1. Because the marriage ceremony is a standard Registry Office ceremony, you don’t have to be concerned at all about the ceremony design or the ceremony wording, because the ceremony has already been written for you. This also means there is no need to meetup with your Registrar at any time to discuss any ceremony ideas. This can save you a lot of time and fuss.

2. A registry office / civil ceremony is very short, around 10-15 minutes – so if you are at all nervous about being the centre of attention during the ceremony, you don’t need to worry. Your ceremony can be all over in less than 10 minutes if that’s what you want, and you can spend more time celebrating your marriage afterwards with your guests.

3. A registry office marriage / civil ceremony is a no fuss option. There are no decisions to be made regarding the ceremony design as the ceremony is a standard registry office marriage. Which is great news if designing your own ceremony is just to much fuss or bother.

4. Because it is low fuss, and the ceremony is already written for you, the registry office marriage/civil ceremony is mostly always your cheapest option. (But not always) The registry office marriage / civil ceremony can therefore be very appealing to anyone who is on a strict budget and doesn’t want any fuss.

If you would much rather just get on with the celebrations, because you don’t want to fuss over a personalised ceremony and/or you want the cheapest option possible – a registry office marriage (civil ceremony) may very well be the perfect choice for you. If the Registrar has any great distance to travel to your venue, it won’t always be your cheapest option, as the Registrars cost is based on an hourly rate and cost of travelling twice to the venue, first for inspection and second to conduct the marriage.

However if you would like your ceremony to be unique and personalised, a ceremony that is all your own, no matter how simple the ceremony is, or you dream of that fairytale wedding ceremony with all the enchantment and magic, or there is a chance you could be more than 15 minutes late for your wedding for any reason, a registry office marriage (Civil ceremony) is definitely not for you, please read on.

Disadvantages of a Civil Ceremony

1. For couples who want their wedding ceremony to be unique and personalised, individually designed to their exact requirements, and to have the final approval on all ceremony wording, a registry office marriage/civil ceremony is not the right choice.

2. For couples who would like to have a spiritual or religious ceremony ideas or wording included, or ceremony ideas with any spiritual or religious origins, a registry office marriage/civil ceremony isn’t for you either. Some HSE Registrars will allow you to include spiritual or religious ceremony ideas and customs eg. the unity candle ritual to create the sacred ceremony space, or the celtic handfasting ritual, but because you don’t get to choose your Registrar there is no guarantee of this.

3. If you would like your ceremony officiant/solemniser to provide you with a more personalised service, someone who you can call for advice any day of the week if you needed to, or meetup for a chat about your ceremony ideas any day of the week, or you may really want to choose your own spiritualist minister to custom desgn a spiritual or mixed faith ceremony to your exact requirements, a registry office marriage/civil ceremony really is not for you at all. A registry office marriage / civil ceremony must be strictly non-religious and non-spiritual.

4. If there could be any factors beyond your control which could make you late for your wedding, anything at all, then maybe a registry office marriage/civil ceremony would not be your best choice either. The HSE Civil Registrars are very busy and will most likely have other ceremonies to conduct on the same day, and if they have another ceremony booked right after yours, they just won’t be able to wait around if you are running late.

For any of the reasons stated above is applicable to you, it may be the best choice to choose your own marriage soleminser from a secular or religous organisation that matches your beliefs to create & conduct your ceremony to your own wishes.

Our own list of recommended Marriage solemnisers who we have worked with over the years will save you a lot of time, we have hand-picked each one based on their kindness and caring, their dedication to their work and the great service they provide for the couples they work with. Each can help you create a beautiful unique humanist style, spiritual or mixed faith marriage ceremony, or even a civil ceremony style with prayer or two, designed just for you, no matter how big or how small your requirements are.

What You Can Expect to Pay

For a registry office marriage/civil ceremony when conducted at the registry office there is generally no charge. There could be a cash payment required on the day, from €40 or more, but this will depend on the Registrar allocated to you. Most do not require a cash payment. A registry office marriage/civil ceremony at your choice of venue can be in the range of around €170 to €300 or more, depending on the distance required to travel to your wedding venue.

Prices for a unique & personalised ceremony with your choice of secular or religious solemniser range from €250-€750+ depending on the solemniser chosen. Some solemnisers will have a tiered approach to their fee structure with a price to suit your needs, with a cheaper price for a simple traditional ceremony without any great deal of customisation, while will some will have a one-fits-all fixed price no matter how big or small your ceremony requirements are, plus additional travel charge. The price will depend enitlrely on your choice of solemniser, but – interviewing your soleminser at least on the phone, is essential for your re-assurance in their character, their sincerity and genuine desire to put your wishes ahead of their own, and their ability to provide you with the ceremony you want. The price charged does not always indicate the level of service provided or the quality of the ceremony.

If you would like a unique & personalised legal marriage ceremony created especially for you, you should choose your own Marriage Solemniser from a managing body/organisation which aligns wth your beliefs.

Our own list of recommended Marriage solemnisers who we have worked with over the years will help you take the worry out of finding a great marriage solemiser. Like all of our preferred suppliers we have hand-picked each marriage solemniser based on their genuine kindness to others, their dedication to their role and the great service they provide for the couples they work with. Each can help you create a beautiful unique humanist, spiritual or mixed faith marriage ceremony designed just for you, no matter how big or how small your requirements are, to create your own unique ceremony.

If you prefer to make your own choice, there are many other registered solemnisers in Ireland who belong to a range of organisations, or managing bodies who set the ceremony standards and level of professionalism they must comply with. Some organisations require that their solemnisers give a short speech about the beliefs of the organisation, some require that your ceremony is all about you and nothing at all mentioned about the organisation the soleminser belongs to. Some solemniser’s managing organisations don’t have any belief in superstitions of any kind which means you are forbidden from including any ceremony ideas or traditions in your wedding ceremony with any spiritual or religious origins including for good luck or any other superstitious meaning.

You will find all marriage soleminsers listed in the public document titled “Register of Solemnisers” along with the names of the organisations they belong to so you can do your research thoroughly before contacting them. The current Register of Solemnisers is publicly available from the government website here:

Your Guide to Marriage Solemniser Organisations/Managing Bodies

Here in Ireland the Marriage Act defines three types or organisations/managing bodies which Registered Solemnisers can belong to.

  • 1. Civil (Registry Office)
  • 2. Secular or
  • 3. Religious.

The biggest misconception about secular or religious solemnisers is that they can only create either secular or religious ceremonies. This is only true if they belong to an organisation with strict rules and certain rites for the ceremonies they conduct. Choosing a Secular or Religious solemniser doesn’t necessarily mean that you will have a Secular or Religious marriage ceremony either. This will depend on your choice of solemniser.

The diversity of secular and religious bodies in Ireland and around the world, means that their belief systems are very different from each other and cannot be generalised. A secular body really could be an atheist Religion, a Religion with strict beliefs and rules to follow but without any belief in God. Likewise a Religious body could have secular beliefs without any strict rules along with an interfaith and inclusive philosophy which welcomes everyone.

What this means is that you really need to do you research regarding the beliefs and goals of the secular or Religious body your solemniser belongs to, to find out if the ceremonies they conduct are truly non-denominational. If you fail to ask what organisation your solemniser belongs to – you could be in for a big shock if you wanted a strictly non-church wedding and you discover that the name of the Church they belong to is printed on your legal marriage certificate.

If you choose your marriage solemniser based on the philosophy and beliefs of the organisation they belong to and their willingness to put your wishes first along with the level of service they can offer, and how confident you are that they can provide you with the ceremony you wish for, you are on the right track.

Our own list of recommended Marriage solemnisers who we have worked with over the years will help you take the worry out of your unique & personalised, fully customised legal marriage ceremony from start to finish. All of them create ceremonies of any style to suit your wishes and their ceremonies are truly non-denominational.


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