How do you know if you need a civil celebrant, a wedding celebrant, a marriage celebrant or a registered solemniser?

That all depends if you’d like to be legally married in Ireland, or if you want your wedding ceremony in Ireland to be a non-legal wedding because you will already be legally married somewhere else.

In order to understand the difference and ensure that you find the right celebrant for your needs, you must first know the correct terminology to use.

The Problem

The biggest problem modern couples who want to get married in Ireland are facing right now is being caught with a non-legal wedding ceremony, when it wasn’t at all what they really wanted. What they really wanted to was to be married with a unique & personalised marriage ceremony created to suit their own wishes with their family & friends there with them as witnesses to their legal marriage on their big day – which is so easy to do here in Ireland these days, so why shouldn’t modern couples have what they want?

If you are among the many couples who want to be married in Ireland with a modern legal wedding ceremony, a non-legal wedding ceremony isn’t right for your for so many reasons. Firstly because a non-legal ceremony has no legal standing, you will also need to go to the registry office on a separate day before your non-legal wedding day with your witnesses for a registry office marriage to make sure you are legally married. This means that despite how much money you are spending on your wedding day, your dearest family and friends won’t really be there to witness your real legal marriage.

Sadly there are many couples in Ireland experiencing this dilemma, all because they had no idea of what some of the wedding terminology means or what their legal marriage options really are.

Just like the devastated couple whose dreams and hearts where shattered when they flew in from their home abroad to be legally married in Ireland with their dream Irish wedding – in the presence of their family & friends at an elaborate wedding venue, only to find out to their absolute horror once they arrived in Ireland for their wedding that they weren’t going to be legally married at all. Needless to say the story didn’t end very well at all for the celebrant or for the wedding venue where the celebrant was also conveniently employed as the wedding co-ordinator.

To avoid making the same mistake and getting caught with this dilemma it is essential to know the correct terminology when searching for your celebrant. Google is always your friend, but you can only find the right celebrant for your needs if you are using the right words to search with in the first place.

The Solution – Correct Terminology

If you would like to be married in Ireland it is essential to know if your celebrant is registered to solemnise legal marriages. The following list of terminology used to describe the various types of celebrants in Ireland will help you to avoid getting caught out with the situation as mentioned above, by helping you to ensure that you find the right celebrant for your needs.

  • Celebrant : This is a generic job title which refers to an individual who creates & conducts a ceremony of any kind. An individual using the job title of celebrant may or may not be registered and duly authorised to conduct legal marriages. The job title of “Celebrant” used on its own is not an indication of the individuals authority to conduct legal marriages.
  • Ceremony Officiant : This job title is legally recognised in Northern Ireland where it is used to describe an individual who officiates a legal marriage ceremony on behalf of the government. This job title is sometimes used by their equivalent in the Republic of Ireland by those who don’t want to use the more generic title of “celebrant” due to the public confusion it may cause. The job title “ceremony officiant” is also sometimes used by lay celebrants who don’t realise that it refers to an official who officiates a legal marriage.
  • Civil Celebrant : This job title is from the Marriage Act of Australia and has no legal standing here in Ireland. An individual advertising as a civil celebrant here in Ireland is a lay celebrant and therefore not government registered to conduct and solemnise a legal marriage in Ireland. If you choose to have a non-legal wedding ceremony with a lay celebrant, unless you have previously married abroad, you must also attend the registry office on a separate day with your witnesses for a registry office marriage in order to be legally married. This was once a trend in Ireland many years ago, but times have changed and modern couples in Ireland are now realising they can have a unique & personalised fully legal marriage ceremony created to suit their own wishes if they choose a celebrant who is also a duly authorised and government-registered solemniser of marriages.
  • Civil Registrar : A civil registrar is a registered solemniser employed by the HSE Civil Registration Office to conduct strictly Secular and non-Religious but traditional government marriage ceremonies, either at a Registry Office or at a venue of your choice during business hours for an extra fee. Because a registry office marriage is always conducted by a HSE Civil Registrar, it is also known as a “civil ceremony”.
  • Lay Celebrant : This is a general job title and when used to describe a wedding celebrant, it means that the celebrant is not registered to conduct or solennise a legal marriage.
  • Marriage Celebrant : Again this job title is from the Marriage Act of Australia and is sometimes used here in Ireland although it has no legal standing here. The legal equivalent to a Marriage Celebrant here in Ireland is a Registered Solemniser.
  • Registered Celebrant : This job title has no legal standing in Ireland either, and is sometimes used by lay celebrants to indicate they are registered with a celebrant trade association. A registered celebrant is not authorised to conduct & solemnise legal marriages.
  • Registered Solemniser : This is the only celebrant legally recognised in Ireland to conduct and solemnise a legal marriage ceremony. Registered solemnisers must be members of an approved non-profit Secular or Religious body duly registered with the government in compliance with the Marriage Act. A Registered solemniser is the only celebrant who has completed the approved training necessary to obtain their registration with the government as a registered solemniser of marriages.
  • Wedding Celebrant : Generally this is a lay celebrant who conducts non-legal wedding ceremonies and the clue here is the word “marriage” – a legal term from the Marriage Act but the word “wedding” is not. The majority of “wedding celebrants” in Ireland are lay celebrants, ie. they are not registered to conduct legal marriages. But there is an increasing number of Registered Solemnisers also referring to themselves wedding celebrants because they will also conduct non-legal wedding ceremonies.

Common Myths About Legal Marriages in Ireland

There are some myths around concerning legal marriages in Ireland including:

  • Myth 1: There are not enough Registered Solemnisers in Ireland so you will never find one.
    FALSE: There is no shortage of registered solemnisers and there never has been. There are thousands of them! You will find them all listed on the HSE document titled “Register of Solemnisers” which is freely available online for public viewing.
  • Myth 2: Registered Solemnisers are booked so far ahead for years so you will never find one who is available on your date.
    FALSE: There may be a small number of registered solemnisers who are booked up well in advance for various reasons, but most will always have good availability of dates to choose from and if they are not available on your requested date they will recommend a respected colleague for you.
  • Myth 3: Registered Solemnisers can’t create a unique & personalised ceremonies to suit your wishes because they must follow strict rules of a secular or religious organisation.
    FALSE: Not all Secular or Religious solemniser organisations have strict rules to follow regarding the ceremonies they create & conduct. There are many organisations with inclusive principles and philosophy who create their ceremonies to suit the wishes of the couple.
  • Myth 4: A civil ceremony is when you have a lay celebrant for a non-legal wedding ceremony and go to the Registry with your witnesses on a separate day for a Registry Office marriage in order to be legally married.
    FALSE: A civil ceremony in Ireland is another name for a Registry Office marriage. A civil ceremony in Ireland can only be conducted by a HSE Civil Registrar who is employed by the HSE.
  • Myth 5: Only Secular solemnisers can conduct non-Religious ceremonies.
    PARTLY FALSE: There are some Religious Solemnisers who belong to a Spiritual or Religious organisation whose philosophy welcomes people from all walks of life regardless of what their beliefs are. So they conduct unique & personalised marriage ceremonies in any style to suit the unique wishes and style of each couple. This means their ceremonies can be either non-religious, spiritual, religious or mixed faith, or anything in between to suit the couples wishes. Because they are permitted to conduct spiritual and/or religious ceremonies as well as non-religious ceremonies, they must be registered as Religious solemnisers.
    However if you have strict atheist beliefs and it is vital that your celebrant is not registered with an organisation that allows their celebrants to have agnostic or spiritual beliefs, or if you wish to have your wedding at a public building like a city hall which requires a Secular solemniser, you must choose a Secular solemniser.

Registered Solemnisers are as unique as you are. Just like with any registered specialist, it is very important to find the right person for the job and get the right information about the work they do – which can only ever be obtained directly from them individually.

We have made it very easy for you to find the celebrant for your needs with our very own recommended celebrants & solemnisers, all are registered to conduct & solemnise legal marriage in the Republic of Ireland. Click on the relevant link below to see our recommended solemnisers and their contact details.

Connaught Solemnisers

Leinster Solemnisers

Munster Solemnisers

Ulster Solemnisers


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