Weddings can be complicated, expensive, and stressful. Many couples feel pigeonholed into the traditional catholic ceremony; the big white wedding in a large church surrounded by everyone they know. A dream come true for some, a nightmare for others, going the traditional route is certainly not for everyone. Your ceremony and wedding as a whole should reflect you as a couple and your love for each other. The question is, did you know that there are options when it comes to your ceremony? That personalising your day and doing it your way is becoming more and more attainable for the masses, and not just those that can afford it. Bella McCormick guides us through the various options when it comes to wedding ceremonies in Ireland.

Regardless of which route you take, traditional versus non-traditional, your first port of call will be to contact the HSE with your intent to marry. Seems obvious, but in the post engagement hysteria, it can be forgotten about and depending on how fast you hope to marry, needs to be the first thing you check off your list. Appointments can be made online, but this needs to be done a minimum of three months before your wedding date, and the cost is €200.

Once you've taken this first step, then you will need to decide who will perform your ceremony. There are several options open to you, from legal solemnisers to spiritualists, interfaith ministers and celebrants.

A route that is increasingly gaining in popularity is the non-legal celebrant service. Opting for a celebrant will allow you to create your very own bespoke ceremony, written from scratch, in consultation with your celebrant. The ability to personalise this part of your day is ticking the box for many couples, especially those Millenials looking to add symbolism and personalisation to their ceremony. While legally, a celebrant cannot 'marry' you, you can have the legal side done separately through the HSE at a registry office.

Chatting with Dr Lorraine Mancey O'Brien from Marry Me Ireland; a company offering professional celebrant services throughout Ireland, she explained the bespoke ceremony and the service her company provides.

"In a non-legal ceremony, the couple can choose to include whatever they desire - music, readings, poems, maybe even song lyrics. They can have an inclusive service, where the guests play a pivotal role or perhaps include an enhancement such as a sand blending or hand-fasting ceremony. We have had the honour of officiating at weddings where there have been blended religions, mixed ethnicities, no religion, and everything in between. We have had bi-lingual ceremonies and As Gaeilge ceremonies. Two families becoming one ceremony. You name it, we wrote it. That is the beauty of being all-inclusive and not adhering to any agenda".

Lorraine's motto is Your Day, Your Way. I like it — a no strings attached kind of ethos. For my top choices for the perfect way to personalise your ceremony, read below:

An At-Home Wedding Celebration

This option is mostly reserved for those who have space, whether that be inside the home itself or they have the grounds on which to place a marquee. Allowing for a wide range of budgets, an at-home wedding is only as costly as you would like to make it. You can go all out, or you can keep it small and intimate. The location will have meaning for one, or both of you, and so will make your day extra special while guests will have the luxury of one location for both the ceremony and reception.

The Family Friend

We all have that one person in our life who is a natural entertainer, possessing the ability to capture an audience with their charisma and wit. Whether a close friend or family member, choosing someone you both know means this person will already have a rapport with you and will allow you to enjoy this part of the day without worry or stress. If at first, your chosen victim is a little uncertain of their skills, there are training courses available. Depending on their willingness and your budget, they can become a professional celebrant in no time. Undertaking voice training and guidance on a variety of different ceremony options the Irish Institute of Celebrants will have anyone ceremony ready in no time at all!


The hand-fasting ceremony is steeped in our ancient historical traditions and was the most common form of betrothal and marriage under Brehon Laws. The hand-fasting service has a few variations, the simplest using only one cord and having the couple's celebrant wrap their hands. Quick and easy, many couples like the simplistic nature of this choice. However, if the meaning behind hand-fasting appeals to you, but you would like a little more show, then you can opt to use a variety of colours and have a selection of your guests lay them over your hands. Each colour chosen represents a gift or blessing bestowed upon the marriage with the ties symbolising the bind of the vows made, and the knots signifying that which, like a good marriage, strengthens under pressure!

The Surprise Wedding

If you're up for some fun, and definitely don't want to go down the route of the traditional wedding ceremony, have you ever thought about throwing a surprise wedding? My favourite option when it comes to a bespoke celebration, surprising friends and family will be a gift in itself. If you've been together for a long time, already have children and perhaps don't want to spend as much, or you simply don't want the stress of a big white wedding then follow in the footsteps of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and throw a surprise wedding! The premise is that guests are invited under the guise of a general party, birthday or similar, and when they arrive they will be shocked to discover that it is in fact, your wedding day!