Updated November 2016
Disclaimer: Please note that these topics are for general information purposes only. The answers are correct to the best of our belief and knowledge at the present time, but are not definitive.
Different celebrants take slightly different approaches, so please speak to a celebrant if you have a particular query or concern.
1. Q: Is a humanist wedding a legally binding ceremony?
A: Yes, if it is conducted according to the Civil Registration Act 2004, as amended in 2012 and 2015). This requires that the each part of the couple to be married must be:
- aged over 18 years,
- mentally capable to understand the importance of the legal contract they are signing,
- not related to each other,
- not already married, and
- not under duress.
The couple must give notice to a HSE Registrar’s Office – refer to http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/bdm/marriagesinireland/ . The notice period is 3 months unless exceptional circumstances apply.
The marriage must take place in a place open to the public especially on the day of the wedding. Your celebrant will advise you about the suitability of your proposed venue. The couple must freely consent to be spouses in the presence of two named witnesses and a registered solemniser. Celebrants accredited by the HAI are all registered solemnisers and may legally solemnise the marriage without a separate registry office wedding.
2. Q: Is a humanist wedding the right option for me?
A: Humanist weddings are wonderful and personal ceremonies. One of the tenets of humanism is a tolerance for others who hold different belief systems. Therefore everyone feels included during a humanist ceremony.
However, humanists have no belief in a god or the supernatural, relying on scientific evidence and appreciation of the world around us and the achievements of humans. So our ceremonies are secular and non-religious occasions. They are designed to be a positive option for those who share the same philosophical belief system as humanists whether you wish to call yourself a humanist or not, and even whether you are a member of any humanist association or not.
Please think carefully about this choice. If you think you don’t share the same philosophy, or you actually believe in a god or the supernatural, then perhaps a humanist ceremony is not the right choice for you. There are many other organisations out there that would be a more appropriate vehicle for your special day.
If you wish to discuss this more, please contact your celebrant. Celebrants’ contact details: http://humanism.ie/ceremonies-2/celebrant-profiles/
3. Q: Ireland has voted yes to same-sex marriage. Can my same-sex partner and I be legally married in a Humanist ceremony?
A: Yes you can. On May 22nd, 2015, the citizens of Ireland voted to amend the Constitution by inserting the following text: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.” Same-sex couples must comply with the standard legal requirements of marriage, as outlined on the HSE’s website: http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/bdm/marriagesinireland/
Humanists believe in equality for all and our celebrants are delighted to now be able to assist all couples to celebrate marriage without distinction as to their sex. Our celebrants have now conducted many same-sex wedding ceremonies and we look forward to discuss wedding formats and ideas with you.
4. Q: My fiancé(e) and I have just become engaged! We have heard so much about Humanist weddings – how do we organise one?
A: Firstly, you as a couple should consider when and where you wish to get married, and contact a humanist celebrant as close as possible to that area to check their availability. Due to the current popularity of humanist weddings, our celebrants can find themselves booked up a year or more in advance for popular dates, particularly weekend and holiday seasons. We recommend that you only provisionally book a venue until you have secured a celebrant’s services.
If you cannot find a celebrant based locally, then try celebrants further away. Many celebrants are happy to travel across the country to conduct your wedding, but will charge travel expenses. Your celebrant will be happy to explain all the processes involved, including the possible content of your ceremony.
Some celebrants will travel abroad to conduct wedding or commitment ceremonies, but this would not be legally valid unless somehow the celebrant can meet the local legal requirements for a valid marriage ceremony.
5. Q: Can I get married outdoors?
A: Yes, provided that the ceremony takes place in a venue open to the public and clearly identifiable by an address. Your celebrant will advise you as to the suitability of your proposed venue.
6. Q: Can I get married in my parents’ house?
A: A humanist ceremony that includes the act of solemnisation of the marriage cannot take place in a private location. If the house is a private home and not usually open to the public, then the wedding may not take place there. Your celebrant will advise you about the suitability of your venue.
7. Q: I am non-religious but my partner/fiancé(e) is religious – is there a ceremony that will embrace both our sets of beliefs?
A: One of the tenets of humanism is a tolerance for others who hold different belief systems, therefore everyone feels included during a humanist ceremony.
8. Q: How much does a humanist wedding ceremony cost?
A: Typically you can expect a guideline fee in the region of €470-€500 (this includes a €70 contribution to the HAI). Fees may vary from celebrant to celebrant, particularly if the venue is some distance away, as the celebrant will need to add expenses such as travel, and possibly accommodation, costs.
Please note that some of our celebrants, who exceed the VAT turnover threshold set by the Revenue Commissioners, are required to charge VAT at the standard rate of 23% in addition to their fees.
9. Q: On what days of the week can I get married?
A: Humanist celebrants are not restricted as regards time of day, or day of the week, month or year.
10. Q: I am trying to organise my wedding in Ireland but live abroad – how do I do it?
A: You should try to decide on a venue and date and then contact a celebrant, as discussed above.
You can obtain a form from a registry office which allows you to give notice of your intent to marry by post – http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/1/bdm/MarriagesinIreland/Marriage%20Postal%20Notification,%20couples%20living%20outside%20of%20the%20state.html
Due to the unprecedented demand for humanist wedding ceremonies, you may find it difficult to find a celebrant available on a given date. Hence we recommend that you only provisionally book a venue until you have secured a celebrant’s services. It is advisable to check if a celebrant is available for a particular date before you confirm the venue booking.
11. Q: How long does a Humanist wedding ceremony take
A: The duration of the ceremony will depend on the amount of content you choose to include. The more readings, music, and other elements you include can increase the duration, but it typically lasts about 25-35 minutes. If in doubt, please discuss the duration with your celebrant.
12. Q: What’s included in a humanist wedding ceremony?
A: A humanist wedding ceremony is typically made up of an introduction (traditional entrance if you wish), words on love and marriage, music, readings, a symbolic ritual or two, vows, marriage declaration, exchange of rings, signing of the register and closing words – you can personalise your ceremony to suit you. In essence, you have a great deal of control as to how your unique ceremony can proceed.
13. Q: One of my parents is deceased and we would like to remember him/her in our ceremony. Can we?
A: Yes, it is quite common to acknowledge early on in the ceremony that there are loved ones who are no longer with us and to have a short pause to remember them with love. Some couples light a remembrance candle. Please discuss this with your celebrant because different celebrants will have different approaches.
14. Q: I will be getting married legally in another country; can I have a humanist ceremony that does not include the legalities?
A: Yes, but it must be made clear at the ceremony that you are already married and that this is a symbolic ceremony only. In this case the humanist celebrant cannot make a pronouncement of marriage (declare you to be spouses).