Church wedding ceremonies are still the most popular in Ireland. If you're planning one, it's best to start as early as possible as there is quite a bit of paperwork to organise. Every diocese will have different policies, so do your research and meet with your priest or vicar asap. Here are a few things that you'll need to know about planning Catholic church wedding ceremonies.
How do we start planning a church wedding ceremony?
1. Find your priest
Priests (or vicars for other Christian faiths) have the right to refuse to marry a couple they don't know or couples that aren’t of their religion, so be sure to approach one as soon as possible.If you're Catholic but planning to marry someone of a different Christian faith, you will need to get a dispensation from your priest. There usually isn't an issue granting this, but it may be helpful to you if you're hoping to have a priest you or your family knows well. If one of you are not baptised, belong to a non-Christian religion or are atheist, a dispensation of (disparity of cult) is needed. You must apply to the bishop of the diocese to grant this.
If you wish to have a priest/vicar whom you know (but is not from the parish where you hope to marry) perform the ceremony, this will have to be discussed with the local parish priest/vicar. You will need their permission to use the church if another member of the clergy is to perform a marriage ceremony there.
2. Book your church
If you wish to get married in your local parish church, you must first arrange a meeting with your local priest/vicar to confirm a date and other details. Keep in mind that marriage ceremonies won’t be performed on religious holidays such as Good Friday, St. Patrick's Day, Christmas Day etc. If you aren’t from the area, policies for marrying non-locals will vary from church to church. Our advice is to draw up a shortlist of two or three churches in the area, in case your first choice doesn’t work out.
There will be a fee for use of the church on the day which can range from €200 right up to €500, depending on the parish. Church flowers, if you wish to have them, will be left up to you to organise through your chosen florist. It’s often expected that they are left in the church after the ceremony, so be mindful of that.
Your priest will go through the details with you when you meet, but you must complete a Marriage Preparation Course before marrying in a church, and provide a certificate to the priest in advance of the wedding. This is done through accord.ie.
Timelines for church wedding ceremonies
You’ll need to confirm details such as date, church, priest/vicar at least three months prior to your wedding. Even though you’re having a religious ceremony, your marriage must first be registered with the state. Meet with a Civil Registrar of Marriage a minimum of three months before your wedding, in order to get your Marriage Registration Form (MRF). This is essentially your marriage licence and will cost you approximately €200 - all the details of what you need to do to get that organised are here.
What can we include in church wedding ceremonies?
Who says your reception has to be the only fun part? There’s no reason why your ceremony can’t be as inventive and unique as the party that follows. From religious passages and songs to old love letters or texts to one another, there are lots of places you can pull your readings from. Invite your loved ones to read your chosen passages. Or, if you have a friend with a talent for spoken word, singing or even playing guitar, ask them to perform something. Including a reading from your parents’ weddings is also a lovely touch – make sure to let your guests know the meaning behind it.
Unfortunately, within religious or church wedding ceremonies, you're discouraged from deviating from the traditional wedding vows. However, working with a family priest or one you know quite well is a great way to inject personality into the ceremony.
Checklist of documents you will need for church wedding ceremonies
- Pre-marital course certificate (eg: accord.ie)
- Marriage Registration Form (MRF) - issued by the Civil Registrar of Marriage confirming you are both legally free to marry
- Baptismal certificate
- Confirmation certificate
- Prenuptial Enquiry Form
- A letter of freedom from each parish you have lived in since 18