Friday 6th April 2023 marks the tenth anniversary of the first legal secular marriage in Ireland. On 6th April 2013, Brian Whiteside, then celebrant for the Humanist Association of Ireland (HAI), solemnised the first humanist marriage in Ireland.
In July 2003, despite a recommendation from the Inter-Departmental Committee on Marriage Law Reform to allow secular bodies to legally solemnise ceremonies, the Civil Registration Act 2004 was passed, confining recognised solemnisers to religious bodies only. This meant that non-religious citizens who wished to have a Humanist marriage ceremony conducted by a Humanist celebrant were also required to hold a civil marriage ceremony conducted by a State registrar to ensure the marriage was legal.
Following years of HAI campaigning to amend this legislation, which was seen as discriminatory against non-religious citizens, the Civil Registration Act 2012 was introduced, which saw the General Register Office add ‘Secular Body’ to the list of registered solemnisers. Since then, the HAI has been an approved secular body to carry out legal Humanist marriages throughout the State to couples wishing to have a non-religious ceremony.
Since that first ceremony ten years ago, HAI celebrants have solemnised over 14,000 wedding ceremonies, with over 2,000 ceremonies being carried out last year alone.