We are devastated that so many couples are having to change their wedding plans because of lockdown. Lots of couples are finding creative ways to exchange vows on their original date in a microwedding hosted on Zoom! We’ve asked registered solemnisers to share the legal requirements and what your options are for getting married safely during lockdown.
Whether you are able to have a microwedding and get married legally, you choose to exchange vows in a small ceremony, or you postpone all the festivities until a later date, keep Sandra Losty’s helpful advice in mind:
“Remember why you are getting married in the first place. Getting married moves your relationship into another phase and that is still important, so focus on that. Bring attention fully on that fact.” – Sandra Losty
Make it legal
We enlisted the help of registered solemnisers to share the requirements for getting married legally. Please note that the legal requirements don’t always overlap with what is safe and recommended by the government. The advice below is based on what our trusted celebrants and solemnisers have experienced at different times during lockdown. Always seek legal advice from your solemniser or the HSE and make sure to keep the latest government advice in mind if you opt for a microwedding!
At the moment, with HSE restrictions, its really hard to say that “yes, you could have a small intimate ceremony with just your witnesses”… as there are restrictions on any gatherings, and there’s also the travel restrictions. But, there are also instances where a couple might need to be legally married… ie; illness or perhaps visa/residential or legal reasons. So it’s hard to give a definitive, you’d be allowed to do this… when really, everything is a case by case situation – and the majority of which, possibly might not be currently allowed.
There’s also the situation of, if a couple are prepared to be legally married – have they had their Notification with the HSE?… do they have somewhere (venue) that they could hold the ceremony? (remembering that their own home isn’t a possibility for a legal wedding), do they have their witnesses available too? If all of these elements are correct and approved, there is still the decision of, if the marriage is essential to be completed at this time. Unfortunately, it’s never just a matter of ticking the usual boxes.
Your Green Folder
“For a marriage to proceed at the moment, the couple will need to have their green folder already in their possession. If not, and there are special circumstances relating to their case, they will need to apply to the family court for an exemption from the 3 month notice period, and then they can liaise with the HSE/GRO to obtain their Marriage Registration Form.
Once the couple has their MRF/Green Folder in their possession, they will need a named venue and Solemniser, both willing to hold their ceremony – both must meet the relevant criteria for legal marriage, your solemniser will guide you on this. Your venue must have an identifiable address, and be open and accessible to the public – it cannot be a private home. Both witnesses need to be over 18. In certain circumstances, it may be possible to change the details on the MRF, but this should only ever be done as a last resort.” – Rev Karen Dempsey
Venue and Legal Intent to Marry
“As with all weddings, in order to maintain the legality, the ceremony must take place in a venue with a recognized address and be ordinarily open to the public, but it can be indoors or outdoors. For this reason, legal ceremonies cannot take place at a private home or building. The legal Intent to Marry notification applies and the Marriage Notification Form (Green Folder) is required on the day. If the couple has been issued with their Marriage Registration Form, they should contact their HSE office to amend the form with whatever details may need to be altered; venue, date, solemniser or witnesses. If your new date for postponement is outside the 6 months of your original date, a new application will be required. As regards, the ceremony itself, the minimum attendance requirement for all legal ceremonies are the couple, two witnesses and their solemniser. Additional guests will be according to government Guidelines.” – Berenice Farrell
Change of Date
“The green folder/MRF form is normally valid for six months from the date of the original ceremony date. If couples are changing their date to one which falls beyond that date they will need to contact the HSE where the form was issued, as they may need to issue notice again. We advise every couple changing their date to get confirmation from the HSE in writing that they are permitted to do so even if the new date falls inside the six months.” – Minister Miriam Fitzgerald
A Sweet Real Wedding
“I had the honour of performing the first intimate (tiny) wedding on the premises of the Spiritualist Union of Ireland on March 21st 2020. As a result of the impact of social distancing protocols this wedding is a wedding to remember for a long time to come. Originally planned for April 4th the couple decided to bring the wedding forward. There was no point in waiting until the 4th as their family and friends could not travel anyway. With the bride’s parents, Grooms brother and two witnesses in attendance this wedding had everything that a wedding with 100 people might have and a little bit more.” – Sandra Losty
Your Ceremony Options
If you aren’t able to make it legal, there are still ways to have a small, safe and super romantic ceremony or microwedding on your original wedding date. Put on a pretty dress, grab some blooms from the garden and say your vows over live-stream or Zoom so your friends and family can celebrate with you!
It is possible to have a beautiful “online” ceremony with your Solemniser/Celebrant. Although it will not be legally recognised – you can most definitely ask your Celebrant to write and oversee the ceremony for you online. We have had lots of couples get in touch with us to discuss options of what we can do on their original date – with themselves from their own home, and their family & friends logging in from all around the world.
You can keep your original wedding vows for the rescheduled wedding (so you don’t ruin the surprise!) but we can help you write some fun & unique “lock-down” vows for the virtual ceremony!
The Magic is in the Vows
“None of these restrictions, however, restrict the couple from having beautiful ceremony – words of poetry and beautifully crafted vows, along with music played via phones and laptops, and huge smiles and laughter present in the room, and beaming out through screens!” – Rev Karen Dempsey
Create a Romantic Atmosphere
“As the restrictions tightened a few weeks ago and to include family in their ceremony for couples I married, I had to exclude non-family guests and they included Unity Candle and Rose Ceremonies in their Ceremony. The Sand Ceremony was also used by one couple who were self isolating with their adult children. Another couple arranged for their wedding to be live-streamed to their guests. In another large venue I created a semi circle with the seating, lit lots of candles and side lamps (borrowed from other rooms in the venue) to create a more intimate setting.” – Brenda O’Grady
Get Your Guests Involved
“But just because the wedding is small, doesn’t mean it can’t be fun – full of love and meaning. As with any wedding, the ceremony is driven by who the couple are and how they wish their ceremony to be, so just go for it and have your ceremony your way!
Why not have a virtual wedding ceremony by streaming or zooming your ceremony. This is especially relevant if your guests are abroad. Some online guests could say a reading or sing, creating an inclusive vibe to your virtual reality. Ask your guests to choose a reading as a surprise for you or if you are lucky enough to know some talented and creative people, they could write a poem especially for you. If there are people who cannot be there, why not place their photographs on a pole, on their chair? Or you could play recordings of messages from those who cannot attend – something funny, loving, cheeky or some favourite memory that they have of the two of you.” – Berenice Farrell
Help Guests Feel Part of the Celebrations
“Due to some venues closing, Spiritual Ceremonies were able to host micro weddings (up to 8 people) for their couples in the Spiritualist Union of Ireland Sanctuary, just outside Dublin before the full lockdown began. Strict social distancing guidelines were adhered to and Zoom was set up to broadcast the ceremony to friends and family that could not be there. Guests were delighted to still feel a part of the celebrations by being able to dial in and watch the happy couple say I do. While we all wait in hope for the next government announcement, logic would dictate that when restrictions are lifted gradually, micro and small weddings will be the new norm for a little while. For any couple wishing to hold their micro wedding at the Spiritualist Union of Ireland sanctuary, they can enquire through their celebrant or with Spiritual Ceremonies directly.” – Enda Harte
Keep it Intimate
“In keeping with the intimacy, couples could have cupcakes following the ceremony as opposed to a large wedding cake. Often the guests in attendance can take the necessary photos at the appropriate times. Love shouldn’t require an audience to shine and most couples when working with them begin to realise that. Microweddings are special occasions, pandemic or not and nothing is nicer than allowing two people to begin their happy ever after in a meaningful and intimate way. At Spiritual Ceremonies we will endeavour to continue to create ceremonies with our couples in this intimate way, working with our couples, for our couples and ensuring the ceremony is about our couples. Over the last ten years it is safe to say that we have achieved that.” – Minister Miriam Fitzgerald
Include Guests via Live Stream
“Another intimate wedding I conducted was of a couple of Pakistani and Irish heritage. Through the miracle of live streaming, guests worldwide “attended” and felt ‘party to a unique event which spoke of our cultural heritage which sought to find common ground and reach our guests.’ Geographical or social distancing need, no longer inhibit the attendance of your dear ones at your wedding. – Reverend Margaret Roche
“A ceremony livestream gives family and friends who are unable to attend in person, the opportunity to witness you making your marriage vows. Our professional, unobtrusive livestream service allows us to capture every aspect of your ceremony, from the walk down the aisle to the music, readings and of course, the vows. We have a multi-camera and professional audio set up, ensuring that viewers watching online feel like they are sitting in the front pew.“ – Heirloom Films
“Studiorove live stream wedding ceremonies so that people that can’t make it in person, can watch live. Our mobile TV studio can set up almost anywhere, and with 5+ discreetly placed cameras, you can be assured that your friends will see all of the ceremony as it unfolds.” – Studiorove
Related: Live Streaming Your Wedding to Guests Around the World
“After our civil registry ceremony got cancelled, our Spain wedding postponed, we’re so thankful to have been able to conduct a very special, private, 20 minute “wartime wedding”. Of course, our wonderful friends and family couldn’t be with us unfortunately, but sent well wishes from afar.” – Jeri
Get Your Suppliers Involved
As lockdown rules begin to loosen, you’ll be able to involve some of your suppliers in your microwedding or intimate ceremony! Don’t make the assumption that they are too busy to explore all the options with you – trust me, your suppliers want your day to be magical just as much as you do.
No matter the lockdown restrictions, there will always be a reason to celebrate with cake, flowers, candles and gifts!
“Many, like myself, may be willing to cover the ceremonies (always do anyway) or as part of their original booking cover the ceremony and cover the ‘celebration’ party later. By shooting ‘candid’ and using telephoto lenses social distancing is often default for photographers.” – David McAuley Photography
If you’re not sure where to start, Stephen Neary from Eloping in Ireland has the answer for you!
“We are now offering the below couple only package priced from only €2,200 for any couple whose wedding was affected by COVID-19. Guests can be added for a small additional fee. This package is going to work well as there will only be 5 people in attendance (bride, groom, celebrant, photographer & videographer) which is the maximum that is currently allowed for a wedding and should be ok for the remainder of 2020. A legally binding ceremony can take place on the day too as the photographer & videographer can act as the two witnesses.
- Intimate Ceremony
- Venue/Location Fee
- All Planning Fees, VAT & Charges
Social distancing can be adhered to at all times as the couple can stand together with the celebrant, photographer & videographer a minimum of 2m apart from the couple and each other throughout.” – Eloping in Ireland
“If you’re opting for an intimate ceremony why not chat to your musicians about how to make your music personal and intimate for you also. You could opt for songs which have meaning or significance for you as a couple, or a unique version of a song. We’ve even had couples that have asked for recording of their pieces afterwards to remember the moment.” – D-Strings
“We are waiting until the 5th to see how many of these smaller weddings can go ahead. We don’t restrict brides to certain numbers so they can have ten to dinner and that’s wonderful.” – Firmount House
Don’t Forget to Have a Laugh!
“This loved up couple were due to get married last week but were forced to cancel their extravagant wedding with their nearest and dearest because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Instead, they opted for an intimate elopement in Galway with just the two of them in attendance!
DISCLAIMER: Playing with dolls even at our age was so much fun. All for a bit of craic and to keep our minds in wedding mode, stay safe everyone!” – Paul Duane Photography
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Kelly is a former wedding planner and a lover of anything pink. She believes that any bride can plan her own wedding, with a few tips and helpful tools.