Couple awarded €36,000 over Italian wedding

Couple discovered two years later they were not married at all

Eimear Byrne and Glenn Richardson, leaving court after their Circuit Civil Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Eimear Byrne and Glenn Richardson, leaving court after their Circuit Civil Court action. Photograph: Collins Courts

Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 15:26

A Dublin couple who spent thousands on a wedding in a village north of Rome discovered two years later they were not married at all, a court has heard.

Secretary Eimear Byrne told a judge in the Circuit Civil Court of her horror when she realised that if “God forbid” anything had happened to either of them they would not even have been considered next of kin.

Judge Jacqueline Linnane, awarding Eimear and her husband Glenn Richardson €36,000 damages, said the couple were very fortunate to discover by chance that they were not married.

Eimear and her carpenter husband, Glenn, told their barrister Peter Shanley they only discovered they were not married when two years after their Italian wedding they went to their solicitor Patrick O’Neill to re-mortgage their house.

Mr O’Neill had told them they needed a marriage certificate to process the conveyancing of the re-mortgaging transaction. When they looked for one through the Italian authorities they were told they had no record of their marriage.

They were never married because they failed to notify their intentions of holy matrimony to the Marriage Registry Office in Riva del Garda, Italy. They had not been advised of this and as a consequence were not recognised by the Italian or Irish authorities as being married.

“We had paid €16,000 for our wedding and reception for 36 guests who had flown out to share our very special day,” Ms Byrne told the court. “Since I was a little girl I had dreamed of my wedding day which should have been July 7, 2005 before a priest in that little church in Riva del Garda,” she said. “Instead my wedding anniversary now is August 13, 2007 following an accelerated marriage appointment before the Registrar of Civil Marriages in Dublin.”

It was discovered that the couple was not married when they encountered legal difficulties in re-mortgaging their house at Greenwood Avenue, Blunden Drive, Dublin 13, and acquiring a property at Abbotstown Road, Finglas, Dublin 11.

They had believed they were legally married in Italy and suffered severe disappointment, embarrassment, anxiety and stress when they discovered they were not.

Judge Linnane heard that as a result of attending a wedding fair at the RDS the couple had hired Vernon Travel Limited, trading as The Travel Broker, Vernon Avenue, Contarf, Dublin, and Tony Collins Travel Agency Limited, trading as Topflight, to handle the travel and wedding arrangements.

They told Shane English, counsel for Topflight, and Nicola Jane Andrews, for Travel Broker, they had never been informed they had to register their marriage details with the Riva del Garda authorities at least four days before the ceremony which would have made everything legal.

Both defendants entered full defence documents to the couple’s claim.

Judge Linnane, awarding them €36,000 damages 50/50 against both defendants, said they had conducted their lives as if they had been legally married. It had massive legal implications for them and Ms Byrne had dreaded what might have happened if they had not found out.

She said the couple had to endure a lot of inconvenience, upset and embarrassment in front of their family and friends and also the stress of meeting the court case.

When Ms Andrews asked Judge Linnane for a stay on her order, the application was opposed by Mr Shanley, who told the court Ms Byrne, who had had already suffered a lot of stress, was currently 28 weeks pregnant.

Judge Linnane refused the stay which had been sought by The Travel Broker to facilitate consideration of an appeal to the High Court.