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Save the Date: The Ceremony

Posted July 16, 2012 by Karen Mulreid in Lifestyle
Me vows black and white

Planning your wedding or civil partnership ceremony is one of the most important and most exciting parts of wedding planning. Namely, because it is the one part of the day where you can entirely suit yourselves.

Your big day should reflect you as a couple and you should have the day you want, but it’s often not as simple as that. Compromises are made to please parents, to please guests or to fit a budget. Sometimes this is unavoidable and couples will, for example, choose a menu to please the majority rather than have the sushi they love themselves. Or will eschew their favourite obscure European dance music for something a bit more floor filling (Young man / There’s no need to feel down…).

However, your wedding or civil partnership ceremony can and should be 100 per cent what you want. A wedding day is roughly about 14 hours long. The ceremony, the most important bit, is roughly 30 minutes to one hour of that. Make it count. Have the ceremony you want and don’t be bullied into something you don’t.

In Ireland in recent years the rules have changed about where and how you can get married or have a civil partnership – it used to be either a church or a registry office. Now those options have opened up to include public buildings such as hotels and country houses and licences have been granted to solemnisers outside of the HSE to carry out wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships.

Organisations such as the Spiritualist Union of Ireland for example can now carry out ceremonies and legislation is currently being debated to allow members of the Humanist Association of Ireland to officiate at ceremonies, though this is still pending and at present Humanist weddings are not legal. You can check the list of Registered Solemnisers here. It’s best to choose and contact your solemniser as soon as possible to ensure you get the date you want, as they can book up fast, particularly at peak wedding season.

There are many options these days when choosing your ceremony, including but not limited to:

  • A church wedding where both the legal and religious parts are carried out together. Catholic priests, for example, are also registered solemnisers so can do both parts of the ceremony. There are some FAQs about Catholic ceremonies here. The Unitarian Church on St Stephen’s Green is a non-credal church where again ministers carry out both the legal and religious parts of the ceremony.
  • A civil wedding or civil partnership in a Registry Office, where a HSE registered solemniser will carry out the ceremony. These can only be carried out Monday to Friday.
  • A civil wedding or civil partnership in a Registry Office including just the couple and their witnesses to satisfy the legal requirements, followed a few days later by a ceremony with family and friends in a different venue, perhaps carried out by the Humanist Association or even a family member. Many couples choose this option so they can totally personalise their day with no restrictions and have their big day at the weekend.
  • A civil wedding or partnership in a hotel (usually where the reception/dinner is being held), where a Registrar will come to the venue to carry out the ceremony. There is an additional fee if using a HSE solemniser here.
  • A civil wedding in a Registry Office in Ireland to satisfy the legal requirements, followed by a religious ceremony or blessing in another country.


The broadening of the rules means your ceremony really can be whatever you want it to be. No matter what type of ceremony you have, it must satisfy the legal requirements that there is no impediment to the marriage and the couple must exchange the ‘I Do’ vows. After that however, it can be personalised totally.

  • You might want to include a sand ceremony or unity candle ceremony into your vows. With the sand ceremony the couple each pours a container of sand – sometimes different colours – into a larger central container, symbolising their coming together as one unit.
  • Similarly with the unity candles. The couple each lights the single taper candles at the start of the ceremony to symbolise them as individuals, then after they are joined together, they light the central candle to represent that they are now as one. For my wedding, my husband and I had our mothers light the individual taper candles at the start of the ceremony, to represent the passing on of the joy and light of a happy marriage to us; we then lit the central candle together after we were married.
  • Often couples will light candles or have a special mention of loved ones who have passed away during their ceremony, or have a piece of music played to represent the deceased.
  • Think carefully about any readings/poems you are going to have during your wedding or civil partnership – don’t just go for a generic one or one that has the word ‘wedding’ in it, unless you really love it. Do your research and pick something that really means something to you. For our wedding, my husband and I wrote the Prayers of the Faithful ourselves, personalising them totally.
  • Couples can even write their own vows for their ceremonies – after the legal ‘I Do’ vows have been said -  to make it really special. There are templates online but feel free to write your own that really reflect the pair of you. If you are having a religious ceremony, the rules can be a bit more strict. Generally for Catholic weddings for example the vows are fairly standard; speak to your priest if there is something you would really like to include on the day.
  • Think about what music you want played at different parts of the ceremony. For civil weddings and partnerships for example, modern music is allowed and couples can have their favourite song played as they walk down the aisle. For a religious wedding however, generally sacred music only is preferable. Again, speak to whomever is carrying out the ceremony to check what’s allowed.

I’m like a broken record at this stage, but as with everything wedding related – relax and enjoy it, all of it. It’s a cliché but the ceremony and the vows really are the most joyous part of a wedding day. I remember vividly standing on that altar and turning to my husband to say my vows – everything behind me stilled, everything went quiet and it was just me and him. And it was perfect.

Images by Shauneen Armstrong

About the Author

Karen Mulreid

  • http://backofbeyonds.wordpress.com/ Teresa

    Thanks for this Karen. Have only very recently heard about Humanist ceremonies and this is looking a strong contender as my fella isn’t religious & I wouldn’t feel right making him do a Catholic ceremony. Very very helpful info!

  • http://twitter.com/beatingblog Karen Mulreid

    You’re welcome Teresa, glad it helped. There’s all manner of ceremonies these days, people really can have whatever they want.

    Just on the Catholic thing – if it’s important to you there might be a way around it a little. It’s possible to have the wedding rite (nuptial rite) without a full Mass. So no gifts, no Eucharist, no Communion. I don’t know if that’s something you’d be interested in, just if one party is Catholic and the other is not, this is what they recommend. You would still have two readings,a Gospel, a homily by the priest and prayers of the faithful, but no Communion or the real Mass-y stuff. In the vows now you and your husband would have to vow to bring children up as Catholic which might be a problem, but just thought I’d mention it as sometimes people don’t know that you can leave out the ‘Mass’ bit and just have the wedding bit!

  • Scarie

    Nice point on the poems. A girl I worked with wanted Jose Gonzalez “heartbeats” as a song at her wedding til I pointed out it contained the lines ” you knew the hand of the devil”. Also I have this thing that ” when you are old and grey” by Yeats is not actually that nice . It is until the line
    ” love fled and hid his face among a cloud of grey” it something like that. Which to be negates the rest of the poem but that’s only leaving cert English not college criticism!!!

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