IT costs €150 to register your intent to marry in the Republic of Ireland.
You give an official in the HSE your birth cert and passport, a few details, a cheque for €150 and they issue you with a Marriage Registration Form which you and your witnesses then sign on the day of your marriage. This serves as the basis for your marriage licence and notifies the State that you intend to marry Mr or Ms X on such a date, in such a place.
If you choose to have a church ceremony it’s usual to make a donation to your church and to your priest. If you opt to have a civil ceremony you’ll have to pay your solemiser a set fee, it can be anything from about €200 to €500.
All in all so it costs just a few hundred euro to get married in Ireland. In either a church or civil ceremony, the vows are pretty much the same, all about loving and honouring each other (though very few are obeying these days), in sickness and in health, just a few short sentences, and Bob’s your grandmother’s cousin.
It’s actually shockingly easy to get married here. Once you give three months notice, stomp up the couple of hundred euro and strong arm some friends into signing their names on your marriage cert, it’s all done in about 15 minutes.
I’m a reasonable, sane adult. I don’t go in for flights of fancy, I know the value of money, so why, instead of spending a few hundred on getting married, am I planning to drop about €18,000 on just one day?
I think I just may be legally insane.
Just think what we could do with that €18,000 – just take a minute and think.
We could buy a car. A good one. And tax and insure it. And still have money left over.
We could go on a round the world trip. Maybe not first class all the way, but not youth-hostel either.
We could build an extension or conservatory onto our house.
We could go on 18 shopping sprees worth €1,000 each OR 36 shopping sprees worth €500 each.
We could make one charity very happy indeed or 18 charities happy enough.
We could buy our nieces and nephews’ affections and make all our brothers and sisters sick.
We could knock a few years off our mortgage or even bump up our pension funds.
But instead of doing any of those things, we’re buying dinner for 179 of our closest friends and family, not forgetting the 15 children on the list too.
Well, the answer is, because we want to. It may sound crazy, it may make no sense whatsoever, it may seem like the maddest thing in the world to want to do, but it’s what we want.
We recently completed a pre-marriage course with Accord, a requirement if you want to get married in the Catholic Church. One of the sections in the booklet they gave out was about understanding why you wanted to get married and you had to tick the sentiments that you agreed with. There were choices such as ‘because we’re in love’ or ‘because we want to make it legal’ or ‘because we want our children to have the same surname’ and others in the same vein but there was one box, right down at the bottom of the list, which read:
‘Because we want to have a big party’
We looked at each other, hesitating, neither wanting to be the first one to lower the pen and make the mark on the paper. I cracked first, ticking the box with relish. Of course, I love Yer Man, I want to make the commitment, I want a legal partnership, I agreed with almost all of the boxes on the sheet. But along with all of that, quite frankly, I want a big ol’ party.
I can’t wait to walk up the aisle in my beautiful ivory taffeta designer gown. It’s only gorgeous so it is. I want to wear a veil and a tiara, even though I’m neither a member of the royal family nor a child of eight.
I want a man with a video camera to capture all of the important bits of the ceremony, I want our guests to ooh and ahh over the fancy hotel we’ve chosen. I want people to refer to me as The Bride.
I want our guests to marvel at the room decorations, gorge on the delicious food, get drunk on the crisp white wine that we’re providing. I want to dance to a live four-piece band and shake my stuff later on to a fab DJ.
I want to stay in a bridal suite. Just once.
I want to buy gifts for our family and friends, twee things with ‘For our Bridesmaid’ printed on them. I want to stand beside a three-tier perfectly iced cake and grin widely while our guests, inexplicably, take pictures of it. I want to rush off to the airport with my new husband and tell anyone who looks sideways at us that we’re newlyweds.
All of the clichés, all of the mad traditions, all of the over the top, done to death stuff – I want it all. I may sound shallow or selfish and perhaps I am, in fact I know I am, but for once, I don’t care.
For once, this day is going to be about us. The next day we’ll go back to being tiny fish in a very big pond, but on that day, our big day, it’s going to be all about us.
And as for the swans? Well, you gotta have swans, right?