According to new figures released by the Central Statistics Office, civil ceremonies are on the rise, and if trends continue they could overtake religious marriages in just three years.
The report highlighted an increase of 17 per cent in civil ceremonies in just 10 years. In 1996 civil ceremonies accounted for just six per cent of marriages rising to 23 per cent in 2006.
Urban areas are most likely to have higher levels of civil ceremonies. In 2006 34 per cent of all marriages in Galway were non-religious. Other popular urban areas included Dublin and Limerick at 39 per cent, Wicklow 33 per cent, and Cork 31 per cent.
In contrast, couples were less likely to have civil ceremonies in more rural areas, with counties across the north and northwest recording the lowest figures; Donegal, Mayo, and Monaghan only had between 10 and 12 per cent of civil ceremonies.
Up until recently legal civil marriage in Ireland could only take place in a registry office, however a change in the law in 2007 has made it possible to marry in another location provided the location is indoors, the wedding takes place in an area to which the public have access, and the location has been issued with a licence by the authorities. Given this the HSE which is responsible for off-site marriages says that numbers opting to marry in hotels or other venues is growing, as many registry offices can only accommodate relatively small numbers.