What is a Marriage License?

What is a Marriage License?


How Do We Get Our Marriage License?

I am often asked this question by couples when they first book me, after which I carefully explain that in modern Ireland the Marriage License is known as the “Marriage Registration Form” or “MRF” for short.   But many people still prefer to refer to this printed document as their Marriage License. 

After all it does make a lot of sense, as their Marriage License/MRF is that “sacred” piece of paper which allows them to be legally married on their chosen wedding day!

What is the Marriage License/MRF For ?

In order for a marriage to be legally recognised the marriage must registered with the HSE Civil Registration Office, as for births and deaths.   The Marriage License/MRF is the printed document signed during your marriage ceremony by the 5 people who are signatories to the marriage as evidence of the legal marriage. 

Those five signatories to your marriage are:

  1. Your authorised and registered Solemniser/Celebrant
  2. The couple who are getting married
  3. and their two witnesses, who are both over the age of 18 years old.  

Once signed during the marriage ceremony, the Marriage License/MRF becomes the legal evidence that your marriage was conducted in accordance with the Marriage Act, by a Celebrant who is correctly registered with the Government and duly authorised to Solemnise marriages. 

Once your ceremony has concluded, your signed Marriage License/MRF must be returned to the HSE in order to finalise the proper registration of your legal marriage.  My general advice is to return this signed Marriage License/MRF to the HSE immediately or as soon as possible within 30 days.

How Do We Obtain A Marriage License/MRF ?

The process of registering your marriage with the HSE commences firstly by booking an appointment to attend any HSE Civil Registration Office of your choice to “Notify your Intention to Marry”, also known as your “HSE Notification Appointment”.

The non-refundable fee for this is currently €200, and this must be completed at least 3 months before your intended wedding day and no more than 12 months before.   

For urgent and unforeseen circumstances there is a procedure to waive the 3 month minimum notice period.  Although I am an expert in this area, I will never provide specific advice on how that is done without first chatting to the couple, because each case is so different and in most cases the waiver of the 3 month minimum notice period just may not be possible.

If all required information has been provided at your HSE appointment, including your required ID documents, your Marriage License/MRF will be provided to you in a Green Folder at the conclusion your “Notification of Intention to Marry” appointment with the HSE. 

Can the “Notification of Intention to Marry” Appointment be Booked Online?

In most cases your “Notification Appointment” can be booked online.  The HSE have provided the following handy link on their website for doing just that: https://www2.hse.ie/services/births-deaths-and-marriages/getting-married/book-appointment/

For couples residing overseas – the HSE does have an online/email/remote procedure for notifying your intention to marry, which requires an in-person meeting at some point much closer to your wedding date,   The HSE are always best to advise on this procedure, as ID documentation requirements can vary from one country to another and many couple’s circumstances are different.

Where Does the Term “Marriage License” Come From?

The term “Marriage License” is generally used in the USA to describe the piece of paper signed by the licensed Officiant, the couple and their witnesses during the marriage ceremony.  So it’s no suprise that American couples getting married in Ireland will always ask questions about to to get their Marriage License. 

But did you know, the term “Marriage Licence” can be traced all the way back to the Irish Marriage and Registration Act 1856 !  Something I discovered myself while conducting detailed research of the Marriage Act and its origins.

So it’s no wonder the term “Marriage License” is still used here in Ireland when referring to the MRF or Marriage Registration Form, because it is essentially and historically the same thing.

For all questions relating to booking your “Notification Appointment” including what documentation you must provide at your Notification Appointment, please contact your chosen HSE Civil Registration Office.

The HSE have provided a handy contact details lookup tool here on their website:  https://www2.hse.ie/services/births-deaths-and-marriages/find-a-civil-registration-service/

So there you go – have you got your Marriage License yet?

Rev Sharon Q.

Non-denominational Celebrant & Holistic Minister
from Australia, now based in Cork City, Ireland since 2013