The legalities and practicalities behind religious ceremonies

If you have chosen to have a religious ceremony no matter what denomination you are you must follow a certain few steps before and on the wedding day itself which will depend on the customs and ceremonies of the Church or religious body which is carrying out the ceremony. 


Photo Credit: Weddings Romantique


Churches of different denominations vary in their requirements for marriage which is evident in the process leading up to the marriage itself. You need to contact the solemniser of the Church in which you wish to marry, as soon as possible. The Church should be one of the first things that you book for your wedding. The requirements for your marriage will then be discussed with you. It is your responsibility to ensure that the person you wish to solemnise your marriage is on the Register of Solemnisers. You can find a list of registered solemnisers at The General Register Office. Temporary registrations of solemnisers of religious marriages are possible for those who only wish to solemnise a specific marriage or to solemnise marriages for a specific period of time.

So what are the legalities and practicalities behind religious ceremonies?

General Religious Marriage Requirements

– The venue for a religious marriage is a matter for the authorities of the church or religious body under whose auspices the marriage is being performed.

– All marriages, civil or religious, must take place at venues which are open to the public.

– The ceremony must be performed in the presence of two witnesses who are both over 18 years of age.

– Both parties must make two declarations: that neither of them knows of any impediment to the marriage and that they accept each other as husband and wife.

– At the end of the ceremony, the solemniser, the couple, and the witnesses must all sign the Marriage Registration Form (MRF) which you will have received when you gave notification for your intent to marry and visited the registrar. This form needs to be returned to a registrar within one month of the ceremony, so that the marriage can be civilly registered. You will then be able to obtain a civil marriage certificate.

 – There will be a charge for your religious ceremony, this varies per Church so will be discussed at your first meeting.


Photo Credit: Boutique Italy Wedding


The Pre Marriage Course

Most parishes require that you attend a pre-marriage course in preparation for the wedding. Advance registration is necessary if places are limited. Some religions do not require a pre-marriage course but it is looked on much better than if you failed to attend one. Check out some websites that can provide you with some more information and how to book: Prices range from €100 to €140 depending on who is conducting the course.

Photo Credit: The Telegraph


  The Pre-Nuptial Enquiry Form (Catholic Church)

You will need to complete a pre-nuptial enquiry form. This form should be completed by the priest of the parish in which you currently live. You will need the following for completion of the pre-nuptial enquiry form:

 – Baptism and confirmation certificates

– Letters of freedom
(A letter of freedom is a statement from the priest of the parish in which you currently live stating that you have not been married before.)

– Pre-marriage course completion certificate (if required)

– Marriage Registration Form

– Important details
(i.e. contact details, dates of birth, occupations, parent’s contact details, and details of two witnesses).

– Questions regarding faith.
The priest will also ask you a number of questions regarding the practice of your faith as a married couple and the intention to bring your children up within the Catholic faith


Here is a Sample Pre Nuptial Enquiry Form

Inter Church & Inter Faith Marriages

If a Catholic wishes to marry a Christian of another denomination they must ask for a dispensation from their local bishop. The granting of this is dependant upon the promise of the Catholic party to ensure that their future children will be baptised in the Catholic Church and brought up in the faith. The minister of the non-Catholic partner may take part in the wedding ceremony (if you would like), with the agreement from the priest. You don’t necessarily have to have mass during your wedding service as guests who are not Catholics would be unable to receive Communion. Permission may be granted for the non-Catholic partner to receive Communion should you decide to include a wedding Mass.

In the event of the marriage ceremony being held in the Church of another denomination it is necessary to ask for a Dispensation of Form; that is permission to be married by the rites of another church. Again, this permission is granted by the diocesan bishop.

When a Catholic wishes to marry a person who is not baptised, or who is a member of another faith, they must seek a dispensation from the bishop. This is called a Disparity of Cult dispensation.


Take some time to read through the websites that are outlined above to make sure you have carried out all the necessary paperwork in the lead up to the wedding. There is nothing better than being prepared for the best day of your life in every aspect!


Keely is an assistant Wedding Planner for The Wedding Expert and Editor and Blogger for Wedding High. She adores everything about weddings, is crazy about travelling and languages and has a weakness for cheese boards!

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