Adored for its stunning coastal scenery and wild, dramatic landscapes, Ireland is much more than just a pretty face. The emerald isle offers ancient myths and charming customs, along with a side serve of the famous Irish ‘craic’. Visitors are warmly welcomed by the literary locals, to a place where conversation is an art form and any more than two in a room constitutes a party!
Ireland has two official languages, English and Irish (also known as Gaelic). English is spoken throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Euro in the Republic of Ireland, and the Pound Sterling in Northern Ireland. Credit cards are widely accepted in most areas, although some small, rural businesses or B&B’s may only accept cash. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are common in larger towns, however may be scarce in more rural counties such as Galway, Clare and Limerick. Travellers cheques are not widely accepted in Ireland.
Religion is an important part of daily life in Ireland, where the rate of regular Mass attendance is one of the highest in the western world. In the Republic, 87% of the population is Roman Catholic, followed by Protestant denominations including Presbyterian, Methodist, and the Church of Ireland. Hindus and Muslims are also represented in small numbers. In Northern Ireland, Roman Catholics make up 40% of the population, followed by Protestants; Presbyterian – 20%, Church of Ireland – 15% and Methodist – 3.5%. There are also small Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jewish communities.
Ireland is well serviced by the main carriers, and numerous routes and flight times are available daily. Most international visitors to Ireland arrive via one of the three main airports; Dublin (DUB), Shannon (SNN) or Belfast International (BFS). The remainder fly from Britain or Europe directly to one of the seven regional airports in the Republic (Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Knock, Sligo and Waterford) or one of the two in Northern Ireland (Belfast City and Derry City). It is also possible to reach Ireland via ferry from either Britain or Europe, and this is a good option for those wishing to travel with a car. A word of warning however, the Irish Sea is notorious for rough crossings. Pack your sea sickness tablets!
Entry to Ireland poses very few challenges for most visitors, and UK citizens don’t even require a passport to enter. Non-UK nationals must have a current passport with six months’ validity or a national identity card. Citizens of most other western countries including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA do not require a visa. All other visitors should contact their local Irish Embassy prior to traveling to the Republic of Ireland, or their local British Embassy prior to travel to Northern Ireland.
When to go
Some say that the way to tell the difference between summer and winter in Ireland is to measure the temperature of the rain! It’s true that rain is likely during your stay, regardless of when you visit. Summer (June to August) is the prime tourist season, and the time of year when tourist numbers and prices climb. Temperatures average 10°C to 24°C (50°F to 75°F) and the days are long, with sunrise around 6am and sunset around 10pm. This allows plenty of time for sightseeing (or wedding photos) and visitors will find every attraction, B&B and restaurant open for business. Be sure to book your accommodation and your church well in advance for this time of year. Although visitors in winter (December to February) will save on travel and accommodation expenses, this is not an ideal time of year for weddings, with cold, windy and rainy weather in the range of 0°C to 6°C (32°F to mid 40s°F). And while the scenery is still spectacular at this time of year and the countryside is peaceful and uncrowded, many attractions and small businesses are closed or have limited opening hours. Daylight hours are also very short, with sunset as early as 4:00pm. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are both great times to visit, with more reasonable prices and smaller crowds, along with longer daylight hours and beautiful scenery.
No specific immunizations are advised for travel to Ireland.
Getting Legally Married in Ireland
While not particularly complex, the process of getting legally married in Ireland can pose some challenges to non-residents, mainly due to the lengthy notification process. Couples should also be aware of the rather strict guidelines regarding where a wedding can take place, and who is authorized to perform a wedding ceremony. With some forward planning however, a romantic Irish wedding ceremony is entirely possible.
Registering Your Intent to Marry
The first step, regardless of whether you plan to wed in a religious or civil ceremony, is to register your intent to marry with the Registrar at least three months prior to your wedding date. Notice can be provided to any Registrar in any county of Ireland, not necessarily the county in which you plan to wed. Under normal circumstances, you must make an appointment to register your intent, and both the bride and groom must attend the Registrar in person. In limited circumstances, and only by prior arrangement with the Registrar concerned, couples may be able to provide a postal notification of their intent to marry. In this instance, you are advised to contact the Registrar well in advance of your wedding date, and you should be aware that you will still need to meet with the Registrar in person at least five days prior to your wedding in order to sign the relevant paperwork and provide your documentation.
In general, couples will be asked to provide the following;
• Birth Certificates (if either party was born outside of Ireland, your certificate must bear an Apostille stamp from the Embassy of origin)
• If divorced – original final decrees of all previous marriages
• If widowed – death certificate of previous spouse and marriage certificate for the first wedding
You will also be asked to confirm;
• Your wedding date
• Proposed wedding venue
• Names and birth dates of two witnesses over the age of 18
• Details of the person who will perform the marriage (referred to as the Solemniser)
If all of the above is in order, you will be required to pay the prescribed fee (currently €150) and asked to sign a declaration confirming that you are not aware of any lawful impediment to your proposed marriage.
The Marriage Registration Form (MRF)
Once the Registrar is satisfied that you have met the requirements to marry in Ireland, you will be issued with a Marriage Registration Form (MRF). This document is effectively a marriage license, and any marriage that takes place without an MRF having been issued cannot be legally registered. Once issued, it permits the couple to marry on the date specified or on any date in the six months following the specified date. If the marriage has not taken place within this time, the MRF is no longer valid and the entire process must be repeated. The MRF should be given to the Solemniser prior to your wedding, and must be signed by yourselves, your witnesses and the Solemniser at the conclusion of your ceremony. The form must then be lodged with the Registrar within one month of the ceremony in order to legally register the marriage.
Religious v Civil Ceremonies
Couples planning a religious ceremony should contact the church in which they plan to wed well in advance, as there will usually be additional requirements that must be satisfied before the marriage can take place. This will depend upon the religion concerned, but may include; letters of freedom or introduction from your home parish, other proof of your religious affiliation or a requirement to attend counseling.
Religious ceremonies are legally recognized and you do not need to arrange a civil ceremony in addition to the religious one however, you must have your MRF with you on the day so that it can be completed by the relevant parties at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Couples planning a civil ceremony can opt to wed in a Registry Office or another venue approved by the Registrar (see ‘Where Can a Wedding Take Place?’ below). If you’re planning to wed in a venue other than the Registry Office, you will need to ensure that a staff member of the Registry is available to solemnise the marriage at the venue. Offices and their staff operate from 9:00am to 5:00pm, Monday to Friday so it is generally not possible to wed on a weekend, although some Registrars are more flexible.
Where Can a Wedding Take Place?
Couples dreaming of a wedding on a dramatic clifftop overlooking the Atlantic, or in the grounds of a beautiful medieval castle will be disappointed to learn that Ireland has very strict guidelines governing where a marriage can take place. Venues such as marquees, private homes and outdoor locations are not acceptable, and any venue other than a church or Registry Office must be approved by the Registrar. In order to be considered as acceptable, a venue must;
• Be seemingly and dignified, and
have no connection with any incompatible religious practice
• Allow unrestricted public access
• Have the capacity to accommodate, comfortably seated, the number of persons attending
• Have the appropriate public liability insurance and meet the relevant health and safety requirements
• Be a fixed structure (i.e. indoors)
In the event that your ideal venue is not deemed to be suitable, a civil ceremony (either at home or in Ireland) followed by a blessing at your dream castle/cliff top/countryside destination is a popular compromise.
Who Can Marry You?
The person solemnizing the marriage must be on the Register of Solemnizers, which is maintained by the General Registrar and available for inspection via each local Registry Office.
There are very strict regulations dictating who can be a Solemniser, and the list comprises both civil registrars and the nominated clergy of various religious bodies.
Popular Wedding Destinations in Ireland
Bordered by the wild Atlantic sea, Clare is home to wild, windswept landscapes and miles of dramatic coastline. Starring on many a postcard, its breathtaking natural attractions include the famous Cliffs of Moher, along with the ancient Aran Islands, rising eerily out of the sea at Galway Bay. Its emerald fields are home to prehistoric artifacts and medieval ruins, and its quaint villages feature tiny pubs, blaring with traditional Irish music.
Beautiful Galway hosts some of the most stunning scenery in Ireland. Its landscapes include colorful shopfronts and cobbled lanes, mountain peaks, rolling pastures crisscrossed by stone walls, picture-perfect remote villages, medieval churches and Norman towers. It features one of Ireland’s largest Gaelic speaking areas, overflowing with Irish tradition and culture.
Ancient relics dot Kilkenny’s rolling green hills, with medieval castles, cathedrals and abbeys set amongst meandering rivers and moss-covered stone walls. Its capital, Kilkenny, is a pretty medieval city and the little village of Inistioge is so cute that it became a Hollywood star, featuring in the movie ‘Circle of Friends’, among others. Foodies will be pleased to find fantastic restaurants scattered across the countryside, and those looking for quality a souvenir are sure to find it, with many artists and craftspeople calling this beautiful county home.
NOTE: The information contained in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Couples should always seek the advice of their own Embassy to request accurate and up to date information on the requirements for legal marriage in Ireland. These requirements may vary, depending upon your own personal circumstances.