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The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Destination Wedding in Ireland 

04.14.24

With everything from striking castles and charming country estates to rugged coastlines and ancient woodlands, Ireland is nothing short of magical. Factor in the friendly and hospitable locals, fascinating history, and loads of “craic,” as we say here, and Ireland is the perfect wedding destination for American couples planning an unforgettable wedding abroad.

To get legally married on the Emerald Isle, there are a few hoops you’ll need to jump through in terms of paperwork and permissions. Don’t worry, though: loads of people have done it before you, so it’s completely manageable. Still, I’ve compiled this step-by-step guide to make planning your Irish destination wedding easier. (This information still applies to all my Irish couples and couples around the world, so, everyone, come on in and join the party!)

I know you must be eager to get planning already, so let’s jump right in! Here is a quick list of what we’ll cover:

  1. Deciding on your ceremony type (religious, civil, secular);
  2. Notifying the Irish Registrar about your wedding and preparing all the correct documents;
  3. Declaring your marriage;
  4. The marriage registration form;
  5. Registering your marriage,
  6. Visa requirements;
  7. And the best part! Planning! Choosing the right season, venue, photographer, styling, etc

Step One: Determine Your Wedding Ceremony Type (Civil, Religious, Secular)

Before getting started, you’ll need to decide whether you and your partner want a civil, religious, or secular ceremony. All three ceremony types are equally valid and legally recognised in Ireland, so long as both you and your partner are at least 18 years old with the “capacity to marry” (meaning you consent to the marriage and understand what marriage means), use a registered solemniser, and meet the necessary notification requirements (more on all of this below). Same-sex marriage has also been legally recognised in Ireland since 2015!

The process will vary slightly depending on which type of ceremony you go with, so I’ve explained each of the three below:

Civil Ceremonies

Civil ceremonies are performed by a registrar who works for the Irish government. These ceremonies are typically held in a registry office, and many couples book chic city wedding photography after or head to a scenic location for wedding photography! Alternatively, some Irish wedding venues are registrar-approved, meaning the registrar can travel to your venue for the ceremony. Either way, all civil ceremonies must be held within the registrar’s business hours (weekdays, excluding bank holidays). For a civil ceremony in Ireland, contact the civil registration service for your dream wedding in the county where you plan to marry to get started.

Religious Ceremonies

Religious wedding ceremonies are typically held in a church or another place of worship. These ceremonies may come with a host of additional requirements, based on the rules of the particular religion. For example, you may require special permission from both the proposed registered religious solemniser in Ireland as well as a letter from your local religious leader.

Secular or Humanist Ceremonies

Secular or humanist wedding ceremonies are non-religious ceremonies that are legally binding if performed by a registered solemniser. These ceremonies are typically tailored to your specific love story, making them super flexible, whether you envision an indoor elegance or an outdoor wedding amidst the cliffs. In fact, many American couples choose to apply for a wedding licence in their home state and hold a civil ceremony at a local courthouse; a symbolic ceremony can then be arranged in Ireland at a later date using any (registered or not) celebrant since you’ll technically already be legally married at that point!

 

Step Two: Find a Solemniser for your Irish Wedding

No matter which type of ceremony you choose for your wedding, the Register of Solemnisers lists the contact details for those who can perform legally binding ceremonies in Ireland. It’s important to secure your solemniser, as you’ll need to include their information in the next step.

Top tip: To keep things simple when looking through the register, I’d recommend searching first by ceremony type, as they’re listed alphabetically by county from there.

Step Three: Notify a Registrar of Your Intent to get Married in Ireland

No matter which type of ceremony you plan to hold, you’ll need to make an appointment at a civil registration office to inform them of your intent to marry. This appointment must be held at least 3 months before your wedding, but be sure to schedule your appointment with the Registrar well in advance of the three-month mark to account for wait times.

Top tip: While you can technically book your notification appointment at any civil registration service in Ireland, choose one close to your wedding venue. You’ll need to attend in-person a few days before your wedding (more on that below), so you’ll thank yourself for this one later!

Postal Notifications

If booking your marriage notification appointment from abroad, contact a civil registration service directly to request your notification by mail. If granted permission, you’ll be mailed a form from the Registrar to be completed and returned by mail. However, if you plan to visit Ireland before your wedding, I would highly recommend completing all of the pre-wedding legalities while there.

Documentation

Below are some of the documents and information you’ll need for your marriage notification in Ireland:

  • Original and colour photocopies of your passports
  • Original and colour photocopies of your birth certificates*
  • Original and photocopy proof of address—like a utility bill—dated within the last 3 months
  • Freedom to Marry certificate, which can also be obtained from your local state office
  • This data capture form, filled in ahead of your meeting
  • If previously married: original and photocopy of divorce/annulment papers or a late spouse’s death certificate, if applicable
  • The type of ceremony (civil, religious, secular)
  • Name and address of proposed venue
  • Intended date of the marriage
  • Registered solemniser’s details
  • Names of your two proposed witnesses and their dates of birth (must be 18+)
    • Your vendors can act as witnesses if no guests are in attendance
  • Yours and your partner’s PPS numbers (if either of you is resident in Ireland)
  • €200 non-refundable notification fee (€50 for same-sex couples already in a registered civil partnership in Ireland)

*For Americans and other non-EU members planning to wed in Ireland, your passport, and potentially other documents, will require an apostille or legalisation to certify its authenticity. Americans can get an apostille stamp via their nearest official state office.

For additional clarification on the above documentation, be sure to communicate with the Registrar before your meeting to ensure your Ireland wedding plans are on track. Keep in mind that the requirements and necessary documentation for religious ceremonies will vary by religion, so be sure to contact the appropriate house of worship for more information. It’s also important to note that the rules and regulations are different in Northern Ireland.

Step Four: Declaration Form

Even if you were able to make your three-month notification by mail for your Ireland wedding, you and your partner will still be required to meet the Registrar in person at least 5 days before your marriage to sign a declaration form and officially tie the knot. In signing this declaration, you’re stating that you’re free to marry and know of no legal reason why the marriage cannot happen. Bring all the above documentation with you to this meeting in a travel-safe folder.

Step Five: Marriage Registration Form

If, after signing the declaration, you and your partner have supplied all the necessary documentation and fees, and are deemed legally eligible to wed in Ireland, you’ll receive your Marriage Registration Form (MRF). A Marriage Registration Form is similar to, and sometimes referred to as, a marriage licence, permitting you to marry in Ireland. You will need this form to not only get married but to also register your marriage after the wedding.

Once issued, the MRF should be given to your solemniser, who will bring the form to your marriage ceremony. On the day of your wedding, you and your new spouse (yay!), your two witnesses, and your solemniser will sign the MRF immediately after the marriage ceremony.

Step Six: Register Your Marriage

Depending on the type of ceremony you have, you may need to register your marriage after the wedding. If you opt for a civil ceremony, the Registrar who marries you will register the marriage. If you hold a religious or secular ceremony, you must bring the signed Marriage Registration Form to any civil registration service within 1 month of your marriage. While some offices allow for walk-ins, others require appointments, so be sure to contact the office ahead of time.

Top tip: If you want to purchase a marriage certificate, you can order it online for €20 plus postage.

Step Seven: Secure Necessary Visas

Assuming you’re only planning to stay for 90 days or less, Americans should be granted a short stay ‘C’ visa on arrival at Dublin airport. However, for couples outside of the U.S. or the E.U., certain visa requirements may apply.

New Visa Requirements

You may have heard there are new travel requirements for Americans visiting Europe in 2024 called ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorization System). For clarification, the ETIAS is a travel authorisation, not a visa. While certain European countries will require a valid ETIAS from visitors before entering their borders, Ireland is not currently on this list. However, if you or your wedding guests plan to travel elsewhere within the EU before or after the wedding celebrations, a valid ETIAS may be required.

Step 8: Let the Ireland Wedding Planning Begin! Choosing your wedding venue and more…

Finally—the fun part! It’s time to create the wedding of your dreams, which is easier than ever, thanks to technology, whether it’s a quaint ceremony on an island or a grand celebration in a manor. In addition to Zoom, WhatsApp is heavily utilized in Ireland, allowing for free, international calls with potential vendors for your dream wedding. Just remember to keep the time difference top of mind—it may be the afternoon for you, but it’s the evening for vendors in Ireland.

Type of Wedding and Wedding Style

So, where to begin? To make life easier, you’ll want to determine your specific wedding style. What, exactly, will your destination wedding look like once you’re in Ireland? Figuring out your style as a couple will help make planning easier, dictating everything from your venue to the overall theme of the day and even which type of dress you walk down the aisle in.

Some common styles of weddings in Ireland include: Irish traditional weddings (a romantic vibe with a traditional ceremony followed by a formal reception in a banquet hall), modern weddings (trendy with minimalistic design and a ceremony and reception all in one chic venue), country house weddings (exclusive use of a charming country estate for everything from the ceremony to the reception and day-after celebrations), elopement or city hall wedding (super flexible and handy for smaller guest lists), rustic or boho (loads of florals and natural elements with an outdoor ceremony or something less traditional).

Wedding Venues in Ireland 

Once you have your style nailed down, you can more easily research venues. I know it can be hard to commit to a venue without having seen it in person, but most venues have some virtual viewing options available, so be sure to ask for any video content in addition to wedding brochures when contacting any venue’s wedding team. If you’re able to come to Ireland for the venue search, I’d recommend narrowing down your list to a few in a relatively close location so you can maximise your time and keep travel costs down.

In any case, it’s important to consider the accessibility of your location, especially if you have guests flying in for your wedding. Here are some other questions to consider:

  • Does it accommodate your type of ceremony?
  • Do the aesthetics and overall vibe suit your taste and wedding style?
  • Is it registrar-approved, if applicable?
  • Do the minimum numbers and capacity suit your guest list?
  • Does it have indoor options in the event of rain?
  • Is there accommodation on-site or nearby for your guests?
  • Does it require lots of décor or is it stunning on its own?

10 Best Wedding Venues in Ireland:

  • 01

    Castle Leslie, Monaghan

    Nestled in the heart of Monaghan, Castle Leslie exudes timeless elegance. Its picturesque surroundings and luxurious interiors make it a dream Castel hotel destination for couples seeking a fairytale wedding experience.

  • 02

    Adare Manor, Limerick

    Adare Manor, with its opulent architecture and sprawling gardens, offers a truly enchanting backdrop for a destination wedding ceremony in Ireland. From its regal ballroom to its scenic grounds, every corner is steeped in romance.

  • 03

    Tankardstown House, Meath

    Tankardstown House combines old-world charm with modern luxury, creating an idyllic setting for a romantic wedding celebration. Its stunning Georgian manor and lush gardens, reminiscent of a castle hotel, provide the perfect canvas for your special day, whether it’s a micro wedding or a grand symbolic wedding.

  • 04

    Virginia Park Lodge, Cavan

    Tucked away in the serene countryside of Cavan, Virginia Park Lodge is a hidden gem for couples seeking a secluded and intimate wedding experience. Its elegant interiors and tranquil surroundings offer endless captivating locations for a wedding ceremony.

  • 05

    Luttrellstown Castle, Dublin

    Luttrellstown Castle, steeped in history and grandeur, offers a majestic setting to celebrate your destination wedding. With its magnificent estate and impeccable service, it promises an unforgettable celebration fit for royalty.

  • 06

    Dromoland Castle, Clare

    Dromoland Castle, nestled amidst lush greenery in Clare, is a romantic haven for couples exchanging vows. Its regal ambiance, exquisite cuisine, and impeccable service ensure a wedding day filled with enchantment.

  • 07

    Ashford Castle, Galway

    Set against the breathtaking backdrop of Galway’s scenic landscape, Ashford Castle is a dream destination for couples seeking a luxurious and romantic memorable wedding experience. Its majestic architecture and lavish amenities create a fairytale setting.

  • 08

    Ballymagarvey Village, Meath

    Ballymagarvey Village, with its historic charm and tranquil surroundings, offers a picturesque setting for a destination wedding. Its beautifully restored buildings and manicured gardens provide a romantic backdrop for your special day.

  • 09

    Cloughjordan House, Tipperary

    Cloughjordan House, nestled in the heart of Tipperary, is a hidden gem for couples seeking a rustic and charming wedding venue. With its scenic countryside views, including the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher, and warm hospitality, Ireland promises a unique and memorable celebration for your wedding or honeymoon.

  • 10

    Powerscourt House and Gardens, Wicklow

    Powerscourt House and Gardens, nestled in the scenic Wicklow Mountains, is a captivating venue for a destination wedding. Its stunning gardens, elegant interiors, and panoramic views create an enchanting backdrop for your special day.

Also, check out my blog post on some of my favourite alternative wedding venues in Ireland that offer something different. Many of these venues are located within a short drive from Dublin (trés convenient!)

Once you decide on your venue, the wedding team will be more than happy to send over a list of trusted local vendors to help with the rest of your planning. (Irish hospitality is real!)

Season and Timing for Your Ireland Wedding in 2024

Now that you have an idea of where you’d like to get married, the next logical question is when? The summer months are the warmest; temperatures typically hover around the 60s (20° C), and there’s plenty of daylight. (It doesn’t get dark in Ireland until after 10 PM at the height of summer!). Naturally, this leads to more tourism and therefore makes summertime more expensive for flights and accommodation. Fall and spring are a bit cooler (still mild, though!) with fewer crowds, while winter is unsurprisingly the coldest time of year. That said, winter temperatures rarely dip below the 40s (5° C), so snow isn’t typically an issue!

Still, with mild temperatures year-round, it’s never too cold to explore the beauty of the changing seasons. I’ve photographed equally stunning weddings throughout the year, so you really can’t go wrong no matter the season. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll always want to plan for the rain. Even the most beautiful days may see a passing shower or two!

In terms of costs, Irish wedding venues are similar to American ones in that they tend to offer more affordable wedding packages in the low season (around late autumn until early spring). Public holidays are also different in Ireland versus the U.S., so keep this in mind when selecting your date for a legal wedding or wedding reception. In Ireland, St. Patrick’s Day, the June and August bank holidays, and Christmastime are particularly busy holidays, so expect higher price tags around these dates. On the other hand, it might be easier for your guests to plan a trip around American holidays like Thanksgiving; they’re already off work and you won’t have to worry about venue price surges as these days aren’t holidays in Ireland. Win-win!

Wedding Planning Budget

As you well know, budgets are tricky at the best of times, but you’ll need to be especially mindful of the currency exchange and fluctuations when planning a wedding reception or legal wedding in Ireland. Ask around for the best rates on transfer fees. Your bank may have great deals, but there are also tried-and-true third-party options such as Wise which offer lower rates.

Wedding Ceremony in Ireland – The Guest List

Now, we all know it’s the people you surround yourself with that matters most. To make sure your venue can accommodate all of your guests, it’s best to have at least a loose guest list together before researching venues. While you won’t know your exact numbers at the time of booking, you can generally expect about 60-70% of your guests to RSVP yes to a destination wedding. Work with your guests by giving them ample time to plan their trip abroad for your wedding; a good rule of thumb is to send your save-the-dates 9 months to 1 year before the big day, sending the invitations about 3-4 months out.

Wedding Website

To collect your RSVPs, take advantage of wedding websites like The Knot. This is also a great place to house your wedding registry and every important detail about the wedding, from venue directions to the dress code. Better yet, your wedding website can include an FAQ section! You’ll be busy planning, so rather than field all kinds of questions from guests, you can direct them to your wedding website for any other helpful information you can think of, like car rental information, things to do in the area, and so much more.

Wedding Dress

When it comes to that gorgeous dress of yours, I’d always recommend that you buy it locally so all fittings, alterations, etc. can be done more conveniently from home. You, and the entire bridal party, for that matter, should carry on your dresses and suits. The flight attendants may be able to hang your wedding dress in first class (fingers crossed!). If not, carefully place your dress in a carry-on and arrange for it to be steamed once you land. Checked bags can get lost, and you don’t want to lose such precious cargo days before the big day!

Wedding Day Décor

Similarly, it’s best to hire any décor in Ireland. Not only will it be difficult to lug around all that baggage, but it’ll be stressful waiting at the baggage carousel, hoping nothing is lost. Save yourself the stress and try to bring as little with you as possible. Even if you find cheaper wedding favours Stateside, this is a time when it’s easier to pay for convenience and simply have everything sent to the venue or your wedding planner. 

Wedding Photography

As a local wedding photographer, I’m here to share my insider tips and recommendations for making the most of your time in the country. Whether you’re looking for romantic dinner spots, off-the-beaten-path attractions, or hidden gems to explore, I’ve got you covered. So don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know how I can help make your Irish adventure truly unforgettable.

I offer a range of wedding photography packages to suit every couple’s needs and budget. Whether you’re looking for full-day coverage or just a few hours of photography for your small wedding or micro wedding, I can tailor a package to fit your unique vision for your Ireland destination wedding. Have a look around, browse my portfolio, and get in touch to book a wedding photography consultation.

Final Thoughts on Planning an Irish Wedding

Whew! Finally got that dream wedding planning off the checklist. That was a lot of information, but I hope this helps you cross items off your list as you plan your destination wedding in Ireland. My best advice? Tackle the legalities sooner rather than later so you can move on and get straight to the fun part of planning! If you can arrive sooner, I’d even suggest arriving in Ireland a week or so before the wedding. Not only will you need to attend the Office of the Registrar 5 days prior, but you’ll be able to settle in and handle any last-minute details (wedding favours, table numbers, etc.), get the jet lag out of your system, and settle any pre-wedding nerves. It’ll also give you time to spend with friends and family as they arrive, which is the cherry on top.

Frequently Asked Questions About Destination Weddings

  • 01

    How much would a destination wedding in Ireland cost?

    The cost of a destination wedding in Ireland, whether it’s a grand event at a castle hotel or a more intimate affair, can vary widely depending on factors such as the location, venue, guest count, and level of customization. On average, couples can expect to spend anywhere from €25,000 to €50,000 or more for a destination wedding in Ireland.

  • 02

    Is Ireland a good place to get married?

    Absolutely! Ireland is a fantastic place to get married, offering stunning landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality. Whether you’re dreaming of a romantic countryside celebration or a coastal extravaganza, Ireland provides the perfect backdrop for your special day.

  • 03

    Is a destination wedding cheaper than a local wedding?

    It depends on various factors such as the location, venue, guest count, and specific preferences of the couple. While some destination weddings may be more affordable due to smaller guest lists or lower venue costs, others may end up being more expensive due to travel and accommodation expenses for the couple and their guests.

  • 04

    Who pays for guests at a destination wedding?

    Traditionally, guests are responsible for covering their own travel and accommodation expenses when attending a destination wedding. However, some couples may choose to offer assistance or provide accommodations for their guests as part of their wedding planning.

  • 05

    What is the cheapest month to get married in Ireland?

    Typically, the months of January, February, and November are considered the cheapest months to get married in Ireland. During these off-peak months, venues and vendors may offer lower rates, allowing couples to save on wedding expenses.

  • 06

    What is the best day to get married in Ireland?

    The best day to get married in Ireland, especially if considering a symbolic wedding on the island of Ireland, ultimately depends on personal preference and availability. Saturdays are the most popular choice for weddings, followed by Fridays and Sundays. However, some couples may opt for weekdays to save on venue and vendor costs or to secure their preferred date.

  • 07

    How far in advance should you book a wedding venue in Ireland?

    It’s recommended to book your wedding venue in Ireland as far in advance as possible, ideally 12 to 18 months ahead of your desired wedding date. Popular venues can book up quickly, especially during peak wedding season, so early planning is key to securing your dream location.

  • 08

    Do you tip wedding vendors in Ireland?

    Tipping wedding vendors in Ireland is not mandatory, but it’s appreciated for exceptional service. It’s customary to tip vendors such as photographers, florists, and musicians if you’re happy with their work. Tips are typically given at the end of the wedding day, and the amount can vary based on individual discretion and the level of service provided.

Ready to Plan?

So, while there’s a bit of work you’ll need to do to plan your Irish wedding, it’ll be well worth the extra planning once you see your wedding photographs! If my work aligns with your unique vision, let’s chat! I offer bespoke wedding photography packages in Ireland, and I’d be honoured to photograph your special day.

Additional Resources

Below are some helpful links for planning your destination wedding in Ireland from abroad. When calling from outside of Ireland, first dial “00,” then Ireland’s country code (353), and then dial the local number without the first “0.” For example, to call the Dublin Civil Registration Service (tel: 01 863 8200), dial 0035318638200.

Legal requirements for getting married in Ireland may change at any time. Please contact HSE Ireland for the most up-to-date legal requirements for getting married in Ireland.