Sacrament of Marriage

Congratulations on your forthcoming marriage. We wish you all the blessings of God in your preparation for the big day and in your living out of the vows you take at that time.

In the Catholic Church, marriage is not just a natural institution – it was elevated by Jesus Himself in His participation in the wedding at Cana to be one of the seven Sacraments. A marriage between two Christians has a supernatural element as well as a natural one. The Catholic Church believes that marriage between any two baptised Christians, if it is entered into with the intention to contract a true marriage, is a sacrament.

The Catholic Church distinguishes between a legal marriage and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Marriage is regulated by the civil government that has certain rules that must be followed to make a marriage legal. On top of that, the Church views marriages not just as a legal contract, but as a sacred covenant. A covenant is a relationship that is permanent and is only dissolved at death. Marriage is the sacrament that most closely imitates the love of Christ the bridegroom for His bride, the Catholic Church.

First Steps:

The marriage preparation process begins with a meeting with the priest where introductions are made, and the wedding date can be confirmed. Civil Law requires that you provide at least three months’ notice of your intention to marry with the Civil Registrar and the priest. It is strongly recommended that you take part in a Pre-Marriage programme.  Accord, the Catholic Marriage Centre run several of these during the year.

The Church requires the following documents for the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony to be forward well in advance of your wedding:

  • Pre-Nuptial Enquiry Form– to be filled in by the priest of the parish in which you live/are domiciled. To complete this you will need the following:
  • Baptismal Cert (issued by the Church you were baptised)
  • Confirmation Cert
  • Letter of Freedom: If you have lived for more than six months outside of the parish you were born. These are normally obtained from the parish in which you lived and simply states that there is no record of you having been married while living in that parish.

The following are the new Civil Requirements for Marriage in Ireland:

  • Make an appointment to meet with any Civil Registrar to give at least three months’ notice of your intention to marry in advance of your proposed date of marriage
    In preparation for the meeting with Registrar meet with your local priest, book the church and know the name of the priest who has agreed to celebrate your marriage.

You will need to following documentation for your meeting with the Registrar:

  • Photo identity, (preferably a passport or driving licence)
  • Names and dates of birth of two witnesses
  • Name of the church where you wish to marry
  • Date of marriage
  • Name of priest who has agreed to officiate at your marriage
  • If either of you has been previously married, you must provide the Civil Registrar with an original divorce decree or death certificate if widowed.


  • Make sure you receive the Marriage Registration Form (MRF) from the Registrar to show it to the priest.
  • You need to make a verbal declaration of no civil impediment before your priest and your two witnesses not more than two days before your marriage. This usually takes place just as you arrive in the sanctuary area on the day of your marriage.
  • You must return to any Civil Registrar’s office the signed MRF not later than one month after your marriage has been celebrated. 


Preparations for Marriage:

A Pre-Marriage Course is not something to worry about. It is an opportunity to take time out amidst your preparations to look at your future life together from a few different directions. Realistically most of what you hear you will be aware of – and this should affirm your decision to marry. But like all courses there is always something you can learn and that something might just help you to be happier and more secure in your relationship in the years ahead.


Many married couples look back and say they had no idea just what they were taking on by way of a lifelong commitment. What this will mean on a day to day basis is teased out on the course and you will be helped to have more realistic expectations of what your partner will bring to the relationship.

When asked what the most important topic on the course is – or indeed in maintaining the relationship – communication comes out on top. While it sounds like a cliché the fact remains that the level of communication will affect every single aspect of your life.

Difficulties about handling finance, managing conflict, deciding on family planning, sexual problems will all require the same skill – communication. Personal questionnaires at the end of each session which are for your use only, help you focus on your own personal needs.

Probably even before the engagement the word ‘compromise’ had entered your vocabulary on a regular basis. Many would say that compromise is the road to a long and stable relationship. At first you have a partner to be considered in all future plans – later there may be children. If everyone is to have some of their needs met, then there must be a great deal of flexibility and give and take. A rigid outlook is one of the great hazards of personal relationships. An awareness that there is no one right way to be married, to rear children, to solve problems is needed. Rather a wish to find the best way together – perhaps a new and different way to that of your families – is to be aimed for from the start.


Reasons for attending a Marriage Preparation Course:

  1. It will give you an opportunity to step back from all the preparations for the wedding day and plan beyond for your future.
  2. In a relaxed and easy atmosphere, it offers you a chance to discuss with each other and with other couples the issues that are relevant to couples marrying today.
  3. It affirms for each of you your own personal worth and the qualities you will bring to the relationship.
  4. It affords you an opportunity to discuss with counsellors any area of concern you may have in private and with confidentiality ensured.



Marriage Ceremony:


The Wedding Mass is falls into five main sections:

  1. The Introductory Rites
    2. Liturgy of the Word Readings
    3. The Rite of Marriage
    4. The Liturgy of the Eucharist
    5. Concluding Rite & Blessing

Wedding Rehearsal:

This is normally held during the week prior to the wedding.  It is essential that the bride and groom, bridesmaid and best man, readers and all those saying the prayers of the faithful and those carrying up the gifts attend the rehearsal. 

Church Offering:

To cover expenses and running costs for the use of the Church it is normal to give an offering/donation to the parish, sacristan, altar servers and the priest who is celebrating your wedding.

Marriage outside of Ireland:


Marriages which take place outside the State are normally registered in the country in which they occur and are NOT registered in Ireland. Persons marrying abroad should ensure that all the legal requirements of the country in question are met and should enquire as to the procedure for obtaining a Marriage Certificate from that country – the relevant Embassy and/or religious authorities may be able to advise.

In particular, the Italian Embassy, (63 Northumberland Road, Dublin 4, tel: +353 (0) 1 660 17 44) can provide useful information on marriage in Rome. If a marriage certificate is in a foreign language, it should normally be accepted for official purposes in this State if accompanied by an official translation, or a translation from a recognised translation agency. If one or both of the parties to a marriage contracted abroad is or are ordinarily resident in the State, both must be over 18 for the marriage to be valid in Irish law.

Certificates of Freedom to marry (also known as ‘Civil Letters of Freedom’, “Certificates de Coutume” or “Certificates of Nulla Osta”) which state that a person is not married, may be needed for marriage in some foreign countries, and are not issued by the General Register Office. Irish citizens living in Ireland wishing to obtain such a Certificate should apply to the Consular Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, 72/76 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Tel.: +353 (0) 1 4082568. Irish Citizens living abroad should contact their nearest Irish Embassy.


Useful Contacts:

Registrar-General of Marriages
General Register Office
Government Offices
Convent Road

Email Address:

By Telephone: Direct Dial:
LoCall: 1890 252076

By Fax:
Fax: +353(0)90 6632999.

Department of Foreign Affairs
Consular Section
80 St. Stephen’s Green
Dublin 2

Tel. +353 (0) 1 4082568 (Civil Letter of Freedom for marriage abroad)

The Embassy of Italy
63 Northumberland Road
Dublin 4

Tel: +353 (0) 1 660 17 44

The Embassy of the United Kingdom
31 Merrion Rd
Dublin 4

Tel. +353 (0) 1 2053700

The addresses of the other embassies appear in the telephone directory under Diplomatic & Consular Missions, Embassies.