The Civil Registration Act has modernised the law in relation to the registration of marriage.
Notice must be given to the registrar of the intention to marry at least three months in advance of the intended date. The couple must attend at the registrar’s office or other designated place at least five days before the marriage and sign a declaration to confirm that there is no impediment to the marriage.
Where a party to the marriage is outside the State, and it is not reasonable or practical for them to attend in person for good reason, an alternative non-personal notification may suffice.
The registrar may require evidence on particular matters relevant to the marriage, including the current marital status of the parties. Failure to make the required notification invalidates the marriage. The courts may grant exemption from the requirement for notification. There must exist serious grounds to justify dispensation.
Once the marriage has been notified, a marriage registration form is issued to the parties. It is a marriage licence and gives authorisation for a couple to marry. This must be given to the person who celebrates or solemnises the marriage. It is valid for six months. It has details of the proposed place and date of marriage and other particulars.
A marriage celebrated in the State after the Family Law Act 1995 commenced is not valid unless:
- the parties have notified the registrar in writing of their intention to marry at least three months beforehand or
- have been granted an exemption by court order and
- attend the registrar not less than five days before the date and make the declaration that there is no impediment to the marriage.
The notification is to be delivered by both persons, subject to exceptions which may be prescribed to be allowed. The requisite fee must be paid.
The above requirements are substantive requirements which affect the validity of the marriage. In contrast, many other procedures concerning marriage are procedural and their omission will not affect their validity.
The registrar may require parties to an intended marriage to provide him with evidence of the person’s full name, surname, address, marital status, age and nationality.
He may be authorised by the department/Minister to publish notifications of intended marriages. This shall not contain the PPS number of intended parties to the marriage.
The Circuit Court or High Court may grant exemptions from the above requirements. The application may be heard informally and other than in public. No court fee is charged. An order may be granted if there are serious reasons for its granting and it is in the applicant’s interests.
The 2014 Act provides that couples who produce a court order exempting them from giving three months’ notice of intention to marry will be required to pay the marriage notification fee.
Where one or both of the people giving notice of intent to marry is a foreign national, they must provide documents and information regarding their immigration status.
The registrar is to issue a marriage registration form when he is satisfied that the above obligations have been complied with. The solemniser before whom the marriage is to be solemnised must not do so unless a valid marriage registration form is produced.
Marriage of Convenience
The 2014 Act provides for the procedures when a registrar forms an opinion that a proposed marriage is a marriage of convenience.The Superintendent Register who makes the decision that a marriage constitutes a marriage of convenience shall notify the Minister for Justice and Equality.
Marriages at Embassies
The 2014 Act provides for the validation of certain marriages carried out at foreign embassies in the State.
It provides for the cancellation of an entry in the register of marriages when a marriage has been annulled by an Irish Court for reasons other than there was an impediment to marriage.
A marriage may only be solemnised by a registered solemniser. Both parties to the marriage must be present together with two witnesses who are over 18 years old. The place must be open to the public. The solemniser must be satisfied that the parties understand the nature of the marriage ceremony and the declarations required.
A registered solemniser may not solemnise a marriage other than in accordance with a ceremony approved by the general registrar. It must not be inconsistent with the required declarations.
Where the registered solemniser is not a registrar, the format should be in accordance with that recognised by the religious body of which he is a member.
The marriage may be carried out by a registered solemniser. That person must ensure that both parties are present to witnesses over the age of 18 years are present, that marriage takes place in public, and that the parties understand the nature of the ceremony and that the declarations have been made.
Once the marriage has been solemnised. the person solemnising it or witnesses must sign a marriage registration form. This must be given to the registrar within one month. It must then be registered. If this is not received within 56 days of the intended marriage, a notice may be served on the parties requiring it to be filed.
The marriage is to be open to the public unless it is certified that one of the parties is too ill to attend at a public place, and approval is given to solemnisation at another place.
A declaration must be made that there is no impediment to the marriage and that the parties accept each other as husband and wife.
A marriage may only be solemnised at a place and time chosen by the parties to the marriage with the agreement of the solemniser. If the solemniser is a registrar, the approval of the authority by which the registrar is employed is required to solemnisation at a place other than a registrar’s office.
Marriages must be solemnised at approved venues. It must be an appropriate place and be open to the public. Food or alcohol may not be served during the ceremony. There are guidelines on marriage venues.
A fee is payable to the registrar if the ceremony is undertaken elsewhere, together with travel and subsistence expenses on a scale. This is recoverable by the registrar from the parties to the marriage.
The requisite declaration above must be given by the parties to the marriage in the presence of the solemniser and two witnesses. They must declare that they are not aware of any impediment to the marriage. They must declare that they accept each other as husband and wife. These requirements are substantive requirements of marriage so the failure to complete them would invalidate the marriage.
If one of the parties to the marriage, the solemniser or witnesses, does not have sufficient knowledge of the language of the ceremony to understand it, the parties to the marriage must arrange for translation during the ceremony of the words into a language known to that person by an interpreter. The interpreter must not be a party or witness. He or she must be present at the ceremony.
The interpreter must sign a declaration to the effect that he or she understands and can converse in the language concerned in advance. Afterwards, he must give the recognised solemniser a certificate in the language used by the solemniser at the ceremony and sign in the presence of the registered solemniser to the effect that the interpreter has faithfully acted as interpreter at the ceremony.
The declaration that there is no impediment and the declaration that the parties are husband and wife need not be made simultaneously but the former must be made not more than two days before the latter declaration.
Immediately after the solemnisation of the marriage, the marriage registration form is to be signed by the parties to the marriage, two witnesses and the person who solemnise the marriage.
Each of the parties to the marriage must give the registrar the marriage registration form duly completed within one month after marriage. The marriage is then entered into the register.
There is a provision for the correction of errors in the registry.
Where the marriage is not solemnised within six months of the date of the registration form, the party shall submit a notification to the registrar and the registrar shall issue a further marriage registration form.
Where the registrar is satisfied that a marriage is being registered in respect of which the above obligations have not been complied with, he shall direct cancellation. The parties shall be notified of the direction.
Where 56 days after the date specified on which the marriage is intended to be solemnised, the registrar has not received the completed form, he may serve a notice on the parties requiring them to give requisite information within 14 days. If a person fails to comply with the requirement, the registrar may serve a notice requiring him to attend within 14 days at the office of the registrar.
A person may lodge an objection to the solemnisation of a marriage with any registrar. The reasons for objection must be stated. Where the registrar receives an objection in respect of another area, it must be transmitted to the relevant registrar.
If the objection relates to a minor error or misdescription in the notice that would not constitute an impediment, the registrar may notify the parties to the intended marriage, make enquiries and arrange to correct the registration or make it subject to such necessary corrections.
If an objection is received that is more than a minor error or misdescription in the relevant notification and the possibility of the existence of an impediment to marriage needs to be investigated, he must refer the matter to the superintendent general for investigation.
He should notify the parties to the intended marriage of the investigation and the objection. The solemnisation may not proceed until the investigation is completed.
Decision and Appeal
The superintendent registrar shall make a decision as soon as practicable. If he determines that there is no impediment, he shall advise the parties and the registrar, in which case the marriage may proceed.
If the superintendent registrar determines there is an impediment, he should give the registrar reasons for his decision, who shall notify the parties and the decision. The registrar is to take all reasonable steps to ensure that solemnisation does not proceed. If the marriage is solemnised, it shall not be registered.
A party to a proposed marriage may appeal to the Circuit Family Court against the decision of the superintendent registrar. It shall determine the matter and objection on the basis that the party to the marriage who lacks mental capacity must be accompanied by a certificate by a registered medical practitioner.
Where a court grants a divorce, particulars are to be entered in the register of divorce decrees. Where a court grants a decree of nullity, the same is to be entered in the register of the decree of nullity.
The principal registrar must maintain a register of persons who may solemnise a marriage. The former ceremony used must be approved. The person must be a fit and proper person.
Civil registrars or members of religious bodies may be solemnisers. Temporary approval may be given, for example, for a non-resident, a priest or a minister who returns to perform a marriage. There are procedures regarding registration and cancellation of registration of solemnisers.
Prior to the solemnisation of a marriage, an objection may be lodged in writing stating the grounds. The objection must be based on one of the legal grounds above. If the chief registrar decides there is an impediment, the marriage may not be undertaken or proceed. There is an appeal to the Circuit Court.
There is a presumption that once the ceremony of marriage has taken place and that a valid marriage has occurred. Strong evidence to the contrary must be shown before the marriage will be invalidated.
Registration of Solemnisers
The registrar general maintains a register of solemnisers. Solemnisers are empowered to solemnise marriages. The register is open for inspection.
A person may be registered as solemniser on application subject to compliance with conditions. The superintendent registrar general many refuse to register a person if
- he considers the body concerned is not a religious body
- the form of marriage ceremony does not include the requisite consent and other features required by legislation
- the form of marriage ceremony has not been approved by the superintendent registrar general, the person who is not a fit and proper person to solemnise marriages.
A body of whom the registrar or solemnise as a member must notify the death or retirement of the solemniser. He must also register changes and information and make amendments as required.
A body may apply for the registration of named individuals employed by the authority over the age of 18 years. A religious body may apply for registration of a member’s name. A body may not make further applications for registration than is necessary based on demand.
A person may be removed from the register
- on the basis of a request from the relevant body concerned
- the marriage ceremony no longer complies with the requisite declaration requirements
- he is convicted of an offence under the act
- he has undertaken the business of solemnising marriages for profit
- he is not a proper person to solemnise marriages
- any other good reasons
The superintendent registrar must give notice of the intention to cancel registration specifying the grounds concerned. The person may appeal the cancellation to the department.
An appeal may also be taken against a refusal to register a solemniser. On appeal, the minister shall receive and consider submissions. On determination, he shall notify the persons concerned. A party may appeal against the dismissal on a point of law to the Circuit Court.
The registrar general may grant a member of a body named in an application a temporary authorisation to solemnise one or more marriages specified in the authorisation or to solemnise marriages during a temporary period. It may be subject to conditions.
The 2012 Act provided for the amendment and extension of certain provisions of the Civil Registration Act 2004 so as to extend the categories of bodies and organisations that may apply to An tArd- Chláraitheoir (the Registrar General) for the registration of members of that body or organisation to solemnise marriages.
Formerly only the Health Services Executive (HSE) and religious bodies could apply for registration in the Register of Solemnisers which was established under the Civil Registration Act 2004. This Act provides for secular bodies, as defined in the Act, to apply for such registration. The Act broadened the type of bodies that can apply to have a member added to the Register of Solemnisers to include a ‘‘secular body’’.
Solemnisers from secular bodies are included in the requirements to be met for a valid solemnisation of marriage. The Ard-Chláraitheoir may refuse to register a person on the Register of Solemnisers on the grounds that the body nominating them cannot be considered to be a ‘‘secular body’’.
Secular bodies are included in the categories of body that may apply for registration of persons on the Register of Solemnisers. An officer of the secular body must certify that, in their opinion, the nominated person is a fit and proper person to solemnise a marriage and confirm that the nominee has been selected, trained and accredited by the secular body in accordance with their procedures.
There are procedures in relation to requesting additional information from religious bodies or secular bodies regarding an application on behalf of a member to become a registered solemniser. There are provision the cessation of a body as a religious or secular body as a reason the registration of a person may be cancelled on the Register of Solemnisers. Secular bodies are included in appeals against refusals or cancellations of registration on the Register of Solemnisers.
Temporary authorisation may be granted to solemnise marriage to solemnisers from secular bodies. There are procedures in relation to requesting additional information from either a religious or a secular body regarding an application for temporary authorization to solemnise marriages.
Secular Body Criteria
A ‘‘secular body’’ must be an organised group of people; have a membership of not fewer than 50 people; the principal objects of the body must be secular, ethical and humanist; members of the body must meet regularly in relation to their beliefs and in furtherance of the objects; any rules of the body regarding marriage must not contravene the law; there must be appropriate procedures around the selection, training and accreditation of solemnisers;
It must be in existence continually for at least 5 years on the date of making an application; it must have charitable tax exemption for at least 5 years as evidenced by an entitlement to an exemption under section 207 or 208 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997; it must not have the making of profit as one of its principal objectives and it must maintain a register of its members.
In addition, there is a list of the types of organisations which are deemed, for the purposes of the Act, not to be secular bodies. These are chambers of commerce, organisations that are political, sporting/athletic, trade union/representative in nature and bodies that promote purposes that are unlawful, are contrary to public policy or morality, in support of terrorism or terrorist activities or for the benefit of an organisation of which membership is unlawful.