Consumer Champion: The civil way to ensure you make your marriage a real day to remember
Irrespective of the outcome of the Marriage Referendum on May 22, civil weddings are becoming more popular.
Whether it's 'second time around' or non-religious couples, over a quarter of all weddings now take place in a civil setting, especially for over 45s where over half are now married in this way. So, this week I thought I'd look at what's involved, what it costs and some tips to make the day special. The table shows some alternative non-hotel venues licenced for civil weddings. Naoise McNally, of One Fab Day, says the rules are very strict. Venues must:
* Be licensed for the ceremony.
* Be in a 'seemly and dignified' setting in a 'fixed structure' (i.e. indoors).
* Be insured and meet health and safety standards.
* Cannot have a bar in the room (although elsewhere in the venue is fine).
* Cannot have religious music or themes during the service.
The registrars who are HSE employees only conduct ceremonies Monday - Friday 9am- 5pm and couples must meet with them, giving at least three months' notice. It costs €150 plus travelling expenses for the registrar if it's outside a registry office. You will be expected to provide:
* A marriage registration form (which is supplied by the registrar).
* Evidence of divorce decree or death cert in the case of widow(ers). A Catholic Church annulment is not recognised.
The important decisions to make are:
* Is it a civil partnership or wedding? The forms are slightly different at present.
* Do you want it in or out of the registry office? Each county has its own dates, times and rules for such ceremonies.
* Make an appointment to meet the Registrar (you must do this in person).
The only people licensed to conduct civil weddings/partnerships apart from registrars are celebrants from the Humanist Association. This allows latitude for weekend weddings. However, Eddie McGuinness, from event planner 'Marry Me Ireland', has other suggestions.
"You can get married in a registry office but have the ceremony elsewhere or even on a different day."
This means you can theme it to your own liking - Eddie's own wedding was "Winter wonderland meets Willie Wonka" and he's organised lake-side or clifftop options. Packages start from €399 and his tips to a great day are:
1. Get legally wed in a registry office outside Dublin. The waiting list is around seven months in the capital, while Newry or some rural offices are only weeks.
2. Tell your story. Whether it's how you met, your favourite film or a shared hobby, theme the day.
3. Stick to your budget. There are ways to cut back once you eschew the hotel dinner for 150 people.
4. Give yourself time. Bargain with suppliers, use a wedding planner, source cheap ways of decorating venues.
5. Relax and embrace the day. This is your time to share your dream, whether it's four or 400 in the room.
Charity begins ... at the tax office
I got an email during the week from Concern, a charity I like to support in a small way, reminding me that they can claim tax back on my donations if I fill out a form.
The Taxes Consolidation Act allows registered charities, of which Revenue maintains a list, to benefit from the fact that donors have already been taxed on charitable contributions and, with their permission, that tax can be returned to the charity concerned, at no cost to the individual.
For instance, a donor gives say, €1,000 to a charity (it doesn't have to be in one go, but can be spread over a year), and by completing the CHY2 form (available to download at www.revenue.ie) the charity actually receives €1,449.27 which is obviously hugely attractive.
Charities can be slow to demand this of donors because perhaps they don't want to be seen to be hassling them, but if we do donate I think it's incumbent on us all to maximise that for the charity concerned.
The minimum donation which qualifies is €250 per annum and you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get information and the form, or simply contact the charity you support and ask them to do it for you. They will be grateful and the money simply goes to Revenue otherwise.
Bear in mind that many schools qualify under the scheme so those 'voluntary' contributions you pay may well be included.
Gas customers can make real savings with One Big Switch
Gas customers can make big savings
The One Big Switch campaign has realised its first deal with Bord Gais Energy, which sees 81,000 customers getting up to 10pc off their first year's gas bill with 5pc discount thereafter and cash back if they move their electricity. It shows that people power works.
Anyone can avail of the offer by switching before May 22, but you will be signing up to the 'level pay' plan which spreads bills monthly. This carries an extra charge, refundable at year end. They're in talks about health insurance, so watch this space.