The main steps to getting married

Mags Gargan looks at the preparation involved in planning a wedding

The question has been popped. You have both decided that you have found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. It is an important decision and a big commitment, so really the hard part is over, and the planning of the actual wedding should be an enjoyable experience. However, it is a daunting task in many ways, with lots of elements that need to come together. Everyone seems to have an opinion to share and it is not just the bride who can turn into a bridezilla! But when you start sweating the small stuff, like button holes and party favours, just take a step back and remind yourself why you are getting married in the first place.

However, there are certain rules and procedures you must follow in order to marry in Ireland, both from a Church and State perspective. Of the thousands of couples who get married in Ireland each year, the majority choose sacramental marriage. So for most people the first thing you need to choose upon engagement is where you want to get married, and book the church and priest as soon as possible because they can book out at weekends for years in advance.

Meet the priest

Make an appointment to meet the priest to go through the paperwork and fill out the pre-nuptial inquiry form. You will need to bring your Baptism certificate, Confirmation certificate and a letter of freedom to marry – traditionally letters of freedom were needed from each of the parishes the person has lived in for six months or more since 18 years of age, alternatively you can ask a parent or somebody who has known you all your life to write a letter stating to the best of their knowledge you have never been married religiously or civilly in any jurisdiction.

Pre-nuptial enquiry form

As well as going through your basic details the pre-nuptial enquiry form affirms that as a mature adult you understand the nature of marriage and accept the duties and responsibilities of married life. It can seem a bit intimidating, but this is not an opportunity for priests to pry into your private life but to make sure you are prepared for the commitment you are about to make.

It is also a good idea to meet your priest to go through your wedding booklet. He will have useful suggestions for readings and prayers, and it is best to let him know what music or songs you are planning, to ensure he agrees that they are appropriate.

Pre-marriage course

The Church requires that couples attend a pre-marriage course. Some people resent having to attend a course to get married but for many it is a worthwhile exercise. This is an opportunity for engaged couples to talk through their expectations around marriage, particularly in terms of children and even down to practical things like money and housework.

Avalon ( and Accord ( both offer marriage preparation courses in centres throughout the island of Ireland. These courses offer each couple the opportunity to reflect on how you communicate, to explore your understanding of commitment, how to manage conflict, how to be responsible parents and to live the sacrament of marriage.

You receive a certificate on completion of the course that should be given to the priest celebrating your wedding.

Civil requirements

The civil requirements for marriage in Ireland should also be attended to promptly. By law a couple must give three months notice of their intention to marry to a civil registrar in person. In order to do this, couples must contact the registrar’s office to make an appointment, and you can get details for local Civil Registration Service Offices on

To legally marry in Ireland the two parties must be aged over 18, have the capacity to marry each other and freely consent to the marriage, and this is what the appointment with the registrar covers with you both completing a declaration stating that you are not aware of any lawful impediment to the proposed marriage. Couples must bring a valid passport, birth certificate and PPS number to the appointment and pay a €200 fee. You will then be issued with a Marriage Registration Form which gives you authorisation to get married. Mind this carefully until the wedding day when the bride and groom sign it along with their witnesses and priest. Following the marriage ceremony, the completed form should be given to a registrar within one month of the marriage ceremony, for the marriage to be registered and to receive your marriage certificate (for another €50).

In Northern Ireland a couple must give between 14 days to one year’s notice of their intention to marry. They must approach the local registrar in the district in which the marriage is going to take place to obtain a Notice of Marriage Form (one for each party). You must collect the Marriage Schedule from the local registrar’s office. This is signed during the wedding ceremony and returned to the local registrar within three days after the wedding. For details see

Marry abroad

If you are planning to marry abroad, then the legal side of your marriage is governed, in part, by the laws of the country in which you marry and these can be very different to those in Ireland – see

Planning the wedding reception can often be the most stressful aspect of your preparations from choosing a band, photographer, wedding cake, seating plan etc. Sourcing wedding suppliers can seem like an overwhelming task, but the most important thing is research. Ask friends and family who got married recently for recommendations, look through wedding magazines and search the internet for ideas. Photographers and bands will have lots of information on their websites including photo galleries and YouTube clips. You can also ask your wedding venue and your priest for contacts for local suppliers.

Just remember that this is supposed to be a party – it is a time for you and your loved ones to enjoy good food and drink and each other’s company, and it might be the only time that this group of people will come together in one room.

On the ‘big day’ itself made sure to take a few minutes alone with your new husband or wife to soak up the atmosphere and talk about the day.

Exciting time

Getting married will immediately affect lots of areas of your life, from taxation to inheritance rights and pensions. It will also affect your relationship and how you see yourself now that you someone’s husband or wife. It is an exciting time in life, but once the ‘honeymoon is over’ you might feel a little bit of the post-nuptial blues. So why not put all those planning skills to work and book a nice holiday or long weekend a few months after the wedding as a treat for your other half?


Wedding checklist

☐  18 Months: Set a date, decide a budget, book the church & reception venue

12 Months: Choose your bridal party, book the photographer, band & marriage preparation course

9 Months: Attend the pre-marriage course, complete all the pre-nuptial paperwork, start dress shopping

6 Months: Notify the civil registrar, complete the Mass booklet, order wedding cake & book ceremony music

3 Months: Finalise Mass booklet, book honeymoon, & book florist

2 Months: Send wedding invitations

1 Month: Attend dress fittings, print Mass booklets, hold hen and stag parties

2 Weeks: Finalise guest numbers & draw up seating plan

1 Week: Hold wedding rehearsal, collect wedding dress & pack for honeymoon

On the day – The planning is done, preparations made, now enjoy the day!