#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal
Dublin: 5°C Thursday 25 February 2021

Yes, you CAN get married outdoors... the Attorney General gives her blessing

It follows a number of cases in recent months where couples were told they would have to get married inside a hotel, rather than in a marquee outside as planned.

A typical Irish wedding scene...
A typical Irish wedding scene...

CIVIL MARRIAGES CAN take place at outdoor venues, the Attorney General has determined — in the wake of some dispute about the issue recently.

It follows a number of cases in the last few months where couples were told they would have to get married inside a hotel, rather than in a marquee outside as planned.

The confusion as to whether marquees or other outdoor venues were suitable locations arose after the Registrar General sent out a guidance letter on the issue, regarded by many to contain an ‘overly narrow’ interpretation of legislation in the area.

The Humanist Association and the Spiritualist Union of Ireland, which solemnise weddings in Ireland, had both planned to take legal action over the situation. The Humanist Association announced last month that it had suspended all outdoor ceremonies until further notice as the uncertainty continued.

Here’s the contentious line, from the Civil Registration Act 2004:

Section 51(2) (c) of the Act provides that a registered solemniser “…shall not solemnise a marriage unless the solemnisation takes place in a place that is open to the public”.

Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer, who raised the issue with Social Protection Minister Joan Burton in the Dáil earlier this month, pointed out that the wording appears curiously vague anyway…

“The effect of the legislation, as currently interpreted and applied, is that civil marriages and partnerships must take place in a fixed structure – a place with four walls and a roof – that is open to the public,” Buttimer said.

Given that no guidance is provided by the Act or by supporting regulations, it is easy to understand how someone can reach this interpretation.

The Minister took the point, send a query to the AG, and there’s been white smoke today — with Marie Whelan confirming marriages may, in fact, be solemnised outside.

“This legal advice has clarified that the definition does include outdoor venues,” Burton confirmed in a statement.

However, the Minister added that to protect both parties, the outdoor venue should be “readily accessible to the public” to avoid the possibility of coercion or fraud, and “to provide an opportunity for objections”.

The Minister is planning to bring forward an amendment to the Bill in the autumn “to further clarify what constitutes an outdoor marriage”.

Read: You can’t just put ‘The Phoenix Park’ on your wedding invite… Here’s why.

Read: Nomadic beasts, hackneyed clichés and mild-mannered TDs: A not very productive day’s work in the Dáil

About the author:

Read next: