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Preparing for Marriage

Preparing for Marriage

What do we mean by a Christian Marriage?

In its Canons, the Church of Ireland teaches that “marriage, according to our Lord’s teachings is in its purpose a union permanent and lifelong, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman to the exclusion of all others on either side, for the procreation and nurture of children, for the hallowing and right direction of the natural instincts and affections, and for the mutual society, help and comfort which the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.“ 

Marriage is very much part of God’s loving design for humanity. God’s endorsement of marriage is very much seen in the wonderful story when Jesus and His disciples were invited to a wedding in Cana of Galilee. Jesus evidently delighted in the bride and bridegroom, performing His first miracle as He turned water into wine. As an introduction to the Marriage Service in the Book of Common Prayer, it states that ‘Jesus was a guest at a wedding at Cana of Galilee, and through his Spirit he is with us now.’ And so it is good to know that the same Christ promises to be with couples by His Spirit as they take their promises in His presence. As they commit themselves to Him, where he is very much part of their marriage, He will enrich their love, support them and help them in their lives together. 

What do we mean by Preparing for Marriage?

With the run up to your wedding day, there will be a long list of things to do, including booking the reception, ordering the dress, arranging where people sit at the reception, what the flowers will look like, and organising entertainment for the evening. But how much time do you spend considering the vows that you will make to each other? How much time will you consider the adjustments that you will both have to make once you are married. Therefore, setting aside time to talk together, maybe with your minister about your future together will be more important to sustain your life together well after the big day. 

Marriage preparation is about helping couples learn how to live and grow together over a lifetime. Time out during your engagement, so that you can deepen your understanding of each other, is an excellent investment in your future. There is a variety of approaches to preparing couples for marriage. Quite often ministers will meet with couples to discuss any issues, including the Marriage Ceremony. In some cases, your minister may direct you to organisations or resources that will help you discuss together the issues that prepare you for marriage. Typically the kinds of topics discussed will include :

  • Communicating with each other
  • Handling conflict
  • Finances
  • Keeping your love alive

Here’s an example of a Marriage Preparation course provided by Care for the Family. Speak to your Minister about resources available for marriage preparation, or contact the Church of Ireland Marriage Council.

What needs to be considered when marrying in a Church of Ireland parish?

In the Church of Ireland it is required that one of the parties to be married should be baptised in the Christian faith.  The Church of Ireland also requires that one of you is a member of the Church of Ireland (or a church in full communion with the Church of Ireland).  At every marriage there must be at least two witnesses.  In Northern Ireland, both witnesses must be at least sixteen years of age, and in the Republic of Ireland they must be at least eighteen years of age.

Marriage after Divorce

The Church of Ireland has made provision for the marriage in church of divorced person/s in certain circumstances and where the required procedures are followed. Your minister will be able to assist you further with this. 

Marriage Legislation

The Church of Ireland’s Marriage Regulations – for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland respectively – cover the registration or authorisation for the solemnisation of marriage, the validation of registered officiants, and compliance with the civil law of marriage, all liturgical and canonical rules, and the provisions of the Regulations.

Northern Ireland: Your minister will be able to supply you with the relevant forms and will explain the procedure to you. The Marriage Notice Application Form, which needs to be signed by the officiating minister, may also be downloaded by visiting local council websites or the NI Direct website and following the relevant links. This form, when completed, is taken to the local council office and a marriage schedule is issued in due course, without which the wedding cannot proceed.

For details pertaining to marriages taking place in the Northern Ireland, please click here.


Republic of Ireland: The website which gives necessary information to couples marrying in the Republic is www.citizensinformation.ie 

When a couple meets with the minister, he or she will remind them that without the Marriage Registration Form, the marriage cannot legally proceed. Please ensure that the necessary documentation has been given to the minister well in advance of the service.

For details pertaining to marriages taking place in the Republic of Ireland, please click here.


What do I need to do before my wedding day?

It is important not to book a reception venue until you have consulted your minister, as he or she may not be available on the date you have in mind. Remember that Church of Ireland ministers may not officiate weddings outside of Church buildings. 

A meeting with your minister will familiarise you with the practicalities and various marriage arrangements. It will also give you the opportunity to get to know your minister a bit better, and vice versa. It is much more significant and meaningful when there is a good positive relationship between the minister and you as the couple. He/she will discuss with you the structure of the service, rehearsals, music, decorating the church etc.

Should you require any further information, please speak to your minister, or for wider issues please contact the Marriage Council at Aisling.Sheridan@rcbcoi.org


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