"Supporting couples who are united in love across traditional Christian divisions and promoting acceptance of these relationships within Northern Ireland society"
A definition of mixed marriage
"Mixed marriage" strictly means a marriage contracted between a Christian and a non-Christian, but it has come to mean, particularly in Ireland, a marriage contracted between a Roman Catholic and another Christian from the Protestant denomination.
Strictly this should be called an Interchurch marriage, for it is a marriage between two Christians who belong to different denominations. We should not forget that this term would include Church of Ireland-Presbyterian marriages and other inter-Protestant marriages. While it is more correct to use the term "Interchurch marriage" for those marriages where both partners are deeply committed to their own churches the term "mixed marriage" is readily understood in Ireland.
In Ireland today, and particularly in Northern Ireland, mixed marriage is not just a marriage between two people who belong to different churches, but a marriage between people from different communities between whom tensions have existed for several hundred years.
The relationship between a Roman Catholic (perceived nationalist) and a Protestant (perceived Unionist) is not greeted with enthusiasm in many family groups and can be seen as a shameful act. Understandably many couples prefer to remain anonymous and try and live in "mixed housing" areas and often choose integrated schools for children. Indeed for a couple to acknowledge they are "mixed" can almost be the equivalent of "coming out" and it is unwise for mixed couples to live in a number of local communities where there can be intimidation.
Further information is available in our Guide to Mixed Marriage in Ireland.
- Canon Law
- Pastoral Care
The Northern Ireland Mixed
Marriage Association (NIMMA),
formed in 1974, has spent many years providing support
and information to couples
either in or contemplating
mixed marriage. NIMMA is much
more than ja source of support and
In a society where sectarianism
is institutionalised, NIMMA
continues to reach out to lobby
for the acceptance of mixed
marriage, integrated education
and shared social housing. NIMMA contributes to the debates on a Bill of Rights and A Shared Future to ensure that the voice of those in mixed mariages continues to be heard.
Since the devestating 1908 Ne Temere (not casually) decree the canons – the rules and regulations
- concerning mixed marriage from the Roman
Catholic codes have slowly but surely beocme more accepting of mixed marriages. It took considerable time, the most recent improvements date from 1983, but do illustrate what has been achieved with organisations such as NIMMA in the forefront of making change a reality.
We have gone from the marriage only taking place before
the Roman Catholic priest, but not in church, to a situation where the
marriage can be in the bride’s church, which after all is traditional, with
both clergy present and taking an active part.
The upbringing of the children is now secondary to the success of the
marriage and is the sole responsibility of the couple, which is as it how it
When NIMMA was founded one of its main aims was to provide pastoral care as in 1974 this, with a few honourable exceptions among the clergy, did not exist.
Now most churches have specialist advisors on mixed marriage. The Roman Catholic Church and Church of Ireland have one for each diocese while the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches have one for Northern Ireland.
These advisors are tasked with keeping up to date with developments on the subject and are available to advise and inform both couples and clergy of the rules and regulations and how they are to be understood.
You can contact NIMMA for further support.
Reactions to Mixed Marriage
The relationship between a Roman Catholic (perceived nationalist) and a Protestant (perceived Unionist) is not greeted with enthusiasm in many family groups and can be seen as a shameful act. Understandably many couples prefer to remain anonymous and try and live in "mixed housing" areas and often choose integrated schools for children. Indeed for a couple to acknowledge they are "mixed" can almost be the equivalent of "coming out" and it is unwise for mixed couples to live in a number of local communities where there can be intimidation..
The Christian must pray that these tensions may cease, and that real peace, not just an uneasy calm, may return to our country. When communities inter-marry it can lead to an increase of knowledge and understanding, for two families are inextricably linked in the children of these marriages and slowly come to lose the fear that they have of one another.There are complicated theological factors discouraging inter-marriage and in the past the Churches made it difficult to use this method of reconciliation. It is our experience that such marriages can be full of love and can make two differing people truly become "one flesh".
These marriages, by the fact that they happen at all, can be a beginning of the reconciliation so needed in our community and are increasingly recognised as such by the main Churches and some political parties.
Couples do not want to marry as a political move or to further the ecumenical movement, but wish to marry for love and to get on with their lives together. NIMMA aims to help these people by a range of activities.