The new procedures for marriage are set out Part 6 of the Civil Registration Act 2004. The Bill introduces universal procedures for notification, solemnisation and registration of marriages.
To meet the standard marriage civil preliminaries the couple must deliver to a registrar in person, a notification in writing in the approved form of their intention to marry not less than three months prior to the date of the intended marriage; sign a declaration that there is no impediment to the intended marriage; and produce identification and any other necessary documentation.
An exemption to the requirement to three months' notification can be obtained from the Circuit Family Court or the High Court. However, the couple must attend at a registrar's office to complete the civil preliminaries not less than five days prior to the marriage or, in exceptional circumstances, such lesser number of days as may be approved by the registrar. When all civil preliminaries are completed a registrar will issue a marriage registration form to the couple. The marriage registration form will be valid for a period of six months commencing with the intended date of marriage notified by the couple.
The Bill also provides for specific requirements for the solemnisation of marriages including the form of ceremony must be approved by an tArd-Chláraitheoir; a religious ceremony must be recognised by the religious body of which the solemniser is a member; a marriage cannot proceed unless the couple produce a marriage registration form to a registered solemniser; both parties to the marriage must be present at the ceremony; two witnesses aged 18 years or over must also be present; the venue for the marriage may be agreed between the couple and the solemniser; if the solemniser is a registrar, the venue must be approved by the local registration authority; the couple must understand the nature of the marriage ceremony; an interpreter must be used if required; the couple must make a declaration to the effect that there is no impediment to the marriage and a declaration that they accept each other as husband and wife; and the declaration of no impediment may be made up to two days before a religious ceremony to accommodate the liturgy of the different denominations.
Immediately after the solemnisation of the marriage, the marriage registration form must be signed by each party to the marriage, the two witnesses and the person who solemnised the marriage. The couple are responsible for the return of the completed marriage registration form to the registrar within one month of the marriage. The Civil Registration Act 2004 was signed into law by an tUachtaráin on 27 February.
The new marriage provisions contained in the Act amount to a very substantial modernisation and updating of the provisions which apply, many of which date back to the 19th century. The General Register Office is committed to ensuring that the new provisions are brought into operation as soon as possible. The office will, over the coming months, undertake the wide range of measures required to achieve this, including all necessary consultations with the churches.