How to Plan a Destination Wedding in Ireland 2021 - 2022
How to Plan a Destination Wedding in Ireland: Your Ultimate Guide
Are you considering having a destination wedding in Ireland? It is easy to understand why this country has stolen your heart! The Emerald Isle is one of the most beautiful places in the world and we have an incredible array of stunning wedding venues. And, of course, our magical country is famous for its one of a kind hospitality and gorgeous vistas!
As a wedding photographer in Dublin, I have had the privilege of seeing some of most beautiful wedding venues in Ireland. From Dublin to Derry, there are so many picture-perfect hotels, castles and churches for your idyllic wedding day in Ireland.
Before arriving in Dublin many years ago, I had been dreaming of shamrocks, Guinness and Irish dancing for too long! Trust me, ladies and gentleman, this place does not disappoint. Whether you have always wanted to come to Ireland, or if our lovely little island has already become your home away from home, a destination wedding in Ireland is a great option for any couple ready to tie the Celtic Knot.
Having worked with couples planning destinations weddings, however, I know that it is not all roses and romance! Planning a wedding abroad can be an overwhelming amount of hard work and it takes some serious planning to pull off the perfect day on the other side of the globe. However, while a destination wedding in Ireland isn’t something that you can just do at the spur of the moment, it can actually be easier than you might expect!
As a luxury wedding photographer, I have been lucky enough to work with some of the best wedding and event planners in the business. Olivia Buckley International is one such brand that really knows the wedding industry inside out. As one of Ireland’s leading destination wedding planners, they take pride in creating exceptional events so you can experience the true beauty of the Emerald Isle.
A boutique destination wedding planning service, Olivia Buckley International have over 20 years of experience working with clients from all around the world. From medieval castles to manor resorts, they work with some of the most spectacular venues in Ireland. Check out their incredible blogs to see some of the beautiful venues they work with.
Ps: All images featured in this post were captured by Bruno Rosa
The Essential Timeline for a Destination Wedding in Ireland
Before we dive into the details of organising a luxury wedding in Ireland, let’s talk about a basic timeline for getting ready to have a destination wedding in Ireland. We can basically divide this into three stages: the time before you arrive, while you are in Ireland, and after you set off on your honeymoon.
Long before your arrival in Ireland, you will need to arrange your Marriage Registration Form (MRF). This is an official, non-optional approval to marry that you will need to receive from the Irish government. While there isn’t a lot of red tape to be expected here, you will need to be sure that you plan ample time to get this done. I will go into greater detail about this form later on, but just keep in mind that you need to begin this process at least three months before your planned wedding day.
After you have received the MRF form, you may need to apply for a marriage visa. While some nationalities are able to get a short stay ‘C’ visa on arrival at airports in Ireland, many people from countries outside of the European Union may need to apply for a Marriage Visa. To do so, you will need to have your official approval from the Registrar of Civil Marriages and then start the application process online.
Tip — Before you start the wedding planning process, I would highly recommend checking out this handy site from the Irish government to do a visa requirement check.
Currently, if you are from North America, Brazil, South Korea, the United Kingdom, South Africa, the European Union, and a range of other countries (you can find the full list of countries on the Irish government website), you do not need to get a wedding visa. If you are from a visa-required country, however, it is essential to plan ample time to fulfil the requirements for getting this visa before you book any travel plans.
Regardless of where you are coming from, when you arrive in Ireland for your big day, it is essential to ensure that you have all of your documents in order. The Irish border control may want to see your passport, marriage visa, acknowledgement from the Registrar of Civil Marriages, and all of the supporting documents that you used to acquire these forms. I would recommend keeping a sturdy folder with organised documents in your hand luggage (don’t check this with your baggage) so you are ready to go with anything that they might ask you for on arrival.
Tip — Bringing your flower girl or ring bearer from abroad? If you will be travelling with children, review the full list of Irish requirements for travelling with children under 18 years old.
For couples who are considering seeing the Giant’s Causeway, Titanic, or historical Belfast during their honeymoon, keep in mind that this is a separate visa. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and you will need a UK visa to visit the country. There are some beautiful sites here and it definitely might be worth the extra step, but do make sure to plan ahead for this.
If you are travelling on an Irish wedding visa, you will also want to keep in mind that they are typically issued for one single entry. This means that you can’t explore other parts of Europe then return to Ireland, so be sure to ask for Multiple Entry Visas if wider travel is in your plans.
If you are planning to stay in Ireland after you get married, there are several steps you should take. If your spouse is Irish, look into the Join Family Visa. If your spouse is not Irish but is a Swiss, EU, or EEA citizen, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with EU Treaty Rights. Finally, if your spouse is a legal resident in Ireland but not a citizen, check out the Join Family Visa.
How to Get Permission to Get Married in Ireland
If you are coming from the United States, Scotland or Africa, where last-minute eloping is possible, you might be surprised to learn that you need to give at least three months’ notice to get married in Ireland. This means advanced planning is essential for a destination wedding here.
Before you get started on planning your Irish destination wedding, there are a few basics to be covered. First up, you have got to be 18 years old to get married in Ireland. Once you have got that covered, any adult can marry here. In fact, Ireland was the first country on the planet to allow gay marriage by popular vote. It is something the Irish people are very proud of, and it is the reason why so many gay couples are interesting in having a destination wedding in Ireland.
By the way, if you are a same-sex couple, you have got to check out my Ultimate Guide to Everything You Need to Know About Having the Perfect Gay Wedding in Ireland!
The next requirement is that you must be physically present in Ireland at least three months before the big day and pay €200 to the local government office. For those living in Ireland, this is a pretty simple requirement, however, when you are planning a destination wedding in Ireland, this is a bit trickier.
If you or your spouse lives outside the island of Ireland, you will need to make a request to get approved for a mail-in registration for your Marriage Registration Form (MRF). In order to get approval on this, I would highly recommend that you contact the office as soon as possible. You can find all of the contact details here on the Irish government website for making an appointment or contacting the office to get an exception. When you have decided where in Ireland you will be getting married, the easiest option is to choose an office close to your wedding venue.
Tip — If you have never been to Ireland, and don’t have a wedding planner here, I would highly recommend coming over before your wedding if possible. Looking at information online just can’t replace the experience of actually seeing wedding venues in person and meeting with the people who will be part of your wedding. Your wedding is one time when you have just got to listen to your gut. If you know that you need to visit your venue before your wedding to make sure that everything is going to be perfect on your big day, find a way to do it. If you are the kind of person who loves surprises and it makes your heart skip a beat to think about seeing the aisle for the first time right before you walk down it, go for it! As long as you have the essential documents in order, the rest can be managed remotely and on the fly.
Whether you are attending your appointment in-person or are looking to get an exemption so you can use a mail-in application form, keep in mind that the government marriage offices get very busy in some parts of Ireland. Here in Dublin, we actually only have one office to manage all of the application forms, even though more than 25% of the country's total population lives here. Leading up to the busy times of the year, many couples can end up waiting more than six months to get their necessary documents from these offices.
From my experience, my main recommendation for couples from abroad getting married in Ireland would always be to hire an Irish wedding planner! I have seen first-hand what companies like Olivia Buckley International can do to bring an event to life. Having a knowledgeable and experienced team on the ground at your chosen wedding venue will ensure you have a stress-free day as you sit back and enjoy a glass of bubbly with your family and friends!
The Civil Registration Service Offices requires:
- Passport for both parties
- Passport photos for both parties
- Birth Certificate for both parties (If you are not Irish, your birth certificate must have an apostille stamp from your embassy, with the exception of those from Denmark, Italy, France, Belgium or Latvia)
- Original final divorce decrees documents, if relevant
- Original dissolution decrees for civil partnerships, if relevant
- For ended Irish civil partnerships or marriages, a final decree of nullity and a letter from the court is needed
- If you are a widow/er, you will need your deceased spouse's death certificate and previous civil marriage certificate
- If you are living in Ireland as a non-native, you will need evidence of immigration status (typically a GNIB card)
- If you are living in Ireland or intend to reside here after your wedding, you will also need your PPS number
In addition to getting these official documents from your local government offices, you will want to have some basic details on your planned nuptials. Here are some questions that they are likely to ask you before providing you with the essential documents that you need to get married in Ireland.
- Are you going to have a civil, secular or religious ceremony?
- What is the date of your planned wedding?
- Where is your wedding venue?
- Who is your officiant?
- What are the names and date of birth of your two witnesses? (Note — these can be wedding vendors (like yours truly!) if you are eloping to Ireland with no guests.)
It can definitely feel like an overwhelming process to get all of your ducks in a row in order to get approval from the Irish government, so don’t be shy about calling them for more information. You definitely don’t want to arrive at the appointment missing any essential information or send in an incomplete application. It will set back your timeline and cause you unnecessary frustration. Instead, just find the phone number of your local office on the site and give them a call whenever you are unsure. Many people have destination weddings in Ireland, and the workers in these offices are patient and ready to help, so don’t be shy!
Special Requirements for Non-Natives Getting Married in Ireland
While English and Gaelic (the Irish language) are the official languages of Ireland, it’s all about having English documents here. If you are not from Ireland, it is vital to keep in mind that every single one of your documents that is not in the English or Irish languages will have to be accompanied by a certified English translation. This is something that your embassy can often help you with as well as many official translation offices around the world.
If you or your soon-to-be-spouse are not from the European Union, you may need to have an interview with a local office before your marriage request is approved. This isn’t something to worry about, but it is definitely something that you need to have on your timeline. The office will notify you if this is the case.
For couples who don’t speak a high level of English, you will need to bring an interpreter to your marriage notification appointment. It is important to keep in mind that often a very formal and legal type of English is used so it’s not always easy to understand. If English is not your first language, and you are not bringing an interpreter, I would recommend reviewing the requirements online before you go to get familiar with the language used in the office before you get there.
Finding the Perfect Venue for a Destination Wedding in Ireland
As a wedding photographer, I am incredibly passionate about wedding venues! There are so many dream locations for a destination wedding in Ireland and they can add so much character to your special day. From stately castles and country manors to luxurious hotels and country houses, Ireland world class wedding venues that really are one of a kind! Check out these photos of my favourite wedding venues in Dublin and Wicklow for inspiration. My blog features some handy guides with prices, contact information, photos and other important details that will help you start the process of deciding where to hold your destination wedding in Ireland. If you still haven't chosen your venue, please click HERE to see your best options.
One aspect that will narrow down your wedding venue options is whether you want to have a secular/ non-religious wedding or a religious wedding. Ireland is a Catholic country, which means that churches have a unique set of criteria for marrying inside of the church venue, so your own faith (and preferred wedding style) will play a role in your decision here.
Having a Non-Religious Wedding in Ireland
While you are considering your wedding venue options, there are a few things to keep in mind. Firstly, if you are planning to have a marriage ceremony outside of a church, the law in Ireland requires that you are married by an official, government-employed registrar. This could mean going down to the Registry Office or hiring someone for the day. I have worked with many couples who have opted to have picturesque weddings at the Dublin Registry Office which is a truly beautiful and historical space. It also offers you the chance to do a unique Dublin City Centre wedding photoshoot afterwards!
You will find Registry Office options all over the island of Ireland that are perfect choices for an elegant and simple affair. You can find a full list of options here on the Irish government website.
How to Get Married in Ireland at a Church
Ireland is famous around the world for its striking churches and dream wedding venues! Whether you are deeply religious or just want a beautiful, traditional space, church wedding venues are an extremely popular option.
Here is what to expect in terms of requirements for getting married in a church in Ireland:
- Your long-form baptismal certificate — Ask your church for this; it must have been issued less than six months ago.
- Your confirmation certificate — Again, ask your church for this; it must have been issued less than six months ago.
- Letter of Freedom to Marry — You will need to get an official letter from every parish you have lived in since turning 18. If you have moved a lot or are coming from abroad, you can also opt for an Affidavit from a Commissioner of Oaths. This is something that may be available from your home country.
- Pre-Nuptial Enquiry Form — The priest should provide you with this form, which confirms that you are free to marry and that you understand the nature of marriage.
- Dispensation — If one of you isn’t Catholic, you have to get approval from the local bishop to be married in a Catholic Church. The church can inform you on the level of difficulty to expect here.
- Pre-Marriage Course — The majority of Catholic churches will require you to do a pre-marriage course and obtain a certificate of completion. This is typically done through Avalon or Accord, and can usually be done online.
- Fee — This varies considerably from church to church. If you are getting married outside of your regular church, it can be up to €500.
- If you fall in love with a particular church wedding venue, contact them. Just explain that you are planning a destination wedding in Ireland and ask what they might be able to do to accommodate you.
- Tip — Buy Skype credit! Many places prefer calls rather than emails and being able to connect via Skype can save a lot of time and money during the wedding planning process.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Date in Ireland
In Ireland, whenever we make plans, we talk weather! As soon as you arrive, you will find that we actually love talking about the weather! As much as it is a hot topic, you will find that our climate is usually pretty temperate. We get chilly days and warm days, but it’s rare that you will see freezing temps or steaming hot days. January and February are the coldest months of the year, with low temps around 3 degrees C/ 37 degrees F and high temps of 7 degrees C/ 45 degrees. July and August are the warmest months of the year, and you will see low temps around 12 degrees C/ 54 degrees F and high temps of 19 degrees C/ 66 degrees.
When it comes to rain, well, let me just remind you that rain on your wedding day is considered to be good luck for your marriage, and Irish couples are very lucky! During any given month of the year, you will find that there are between 20 to 24 days of rain per month. May, June, and September tend to have the least rain while winter (and August, surprisingly) is often the wettest period.
Generally speaking, it is impossible to plan ahead to avoid a rainy wedding day. You just don’t know what the day might give you. When you talk to wedding venues in Ireland, you will realise quickly that every space has an option for rainy and non-rainy days. The good news is that you will find that the rain in Ireland rarely comes as a downpour so you can often get right back outside after a light rain.
As a wedding photographer, I actually love the rain. As you are looking through my portfolio, you will notice that the grey and pastel skies make for a beautiful background. I find that all colours really pop in front of a subdued sky, whether it’s your hair, shoes, or eyes! While a blue sky is always a nice perk on anyone’s wedding day, I think that the lush green grasses and deep blue sea set against a slate-coloured sky creates such a picturesque backdrop for wedding albums.
Another thing to keep in mind when you are considering a destination wedding in Ireland is the time of year. Certain holidays and popular tourism times can make it harder to find a space of your own on the Emerald Isle. The big holidays in Ireland are New Year's Day (1 January), St. Patrick's Day (17 March), Easter (varies), Christmas Day (25 December), and St. Stephen's Day (26 December). We also have a bank holiday on the first Monday in May, June, August; as well as the last Monday in October. The prices of flights and accommodation will be unusually high during these times, and you may end up finding that it is harder to organise your wedding. Again, advanced planning would be key to making it work during these times.
Outside of these popular travel times, the majority of weddings in Ireland are in July and August, with most weddings taking place on a Friday or Saturday. Sunday is an uncommon day to get married and January is the least popular time to tie the knot.
As you are shopping wedding venues in Ireland, you will often find discounts for getting married outside of the summer months as well as at times year-round during the week. This can be a great option for people planning a destination wedding. If your entire wedding party is travelling abroad, they won’t be restricted by their normal routine and work schedule so a non-prime time can make a lot of sense and create a marked reduction in costs.
Planning a Budget
If you planning a destination wedding in Ireland, you will be paying for everything in euros. If you are from outside of the eurozone, this will mean planning for a currency exchange rate. In recent times, both the US Dollar and the British Pound have fallen in value considerably against the euro which makes things more expensive for British and American travellers. Changes like this, for better or worse, can happen at any time. They could affect your bottom line by ten to twenty per cent so they are major considerations. I would recommend looking at the historical currency rate when planning your wedding. This will give you some idea if you are currently at a high or low rate. Bearing in mind that currency rates change constantly, understanding the rate can help you determine the best payment dates. Of course, rates and payment times are often out of your control but they are still something to keep in mind as you consider wedding dates and vendor agreements.
One thing that is in your control in many cases, however, is choosing the best payment method for your wedding vendors. Websites like PayPal offer notoriously poor currency exchange rates while Revolut, Currency Fair, and Transferwise will give you a better rate and lower fees. Bank transfers are not unusual in Ireland, and you will find that many wedding vendors here accept them. For last-minute payments, I would recommend against using a currency exchange office. Typically, your bank will give you the best rate through a simple ATM withdrawal (just be sure to contact them before travelling to check the rates and to allow use abroad).
If you are planning a big destination wedding in Ireland, you may want to look into credit card options. The rate charged by each bank can vary considerably so you’ll want to inform yourself. The rates and terms vary by country so it’s too big of a topic to dive into here, but I’d highly recommend reading up to see if a new credit card could make sense for you.
For those coming from Europe, bank transfers can be a great option. The 28 member states of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, and San Marino can all take advantage of free SEPA bank transfers that transfer cash typically within one day.
When it comes to prices, the average couple getting married in Ireland spent €24,556 last year (and, by the way, if you love stats, you have got to check out THIS infographic on the details of the average wedding in Ireland). This €24,556 is the budget for couples living locally, however, so your destination wedding in Ireland can be considerably less or more expensive.
Needless to say, going over budget is as easy as can be! A destination wedding in Ireland can be incredibly expensive. On the other hand, it can also be surprisingly affordable. In some ways, I actually find that you can have a far more customised affair when you are having a wedding aboard. There is no obligation to invite everyone you know, so you can create a streamlined guest list. In fact, one of my fave weddings was with a lovely American couple who brought a total of five people to the venue. They chose a wedding venue out of a fairy tale (just look at these photos!) and we able to spend real quality time with their nearest and dearest family at their unforgettable destination wedding.
A destination wedding in Ireland can be an intimate affair of just your immediate family, or even just you and your significant other. Going down this route will give you the option to budget exactly as you would like to. You can choose your dream venue, that perfect ring, or stash the cash away for your dream home.
On the other side of things, however, you may also find that many of your friends and family would jump at the chance to take a trip to Ireland! Of course, you will need to start planning at least a year in advance if you are coming from abroad because this will give people a chance to plan out their holiday time and make all of the essential arrangements. With all of this done, many of your loved ones can turn your destination wedding in Ireland into a dream trip abroad!
So, are you ready to have your ultimate destination wedding in Ireland? If you think you still need some help, check out the best 6 wedding planners in Ireland I've worked with and they will take the pressure off your shoulder ;)