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So you want to get married in Canada?

Posted by Catherine Kentridge on Sunday 3rd February 2019
So you want to get married in Canada?

Canada is a wonderful place to get married. It has breathtaking scenery, from oceans, to lakes, to mountains, beaches, forests, Provincial and National Parks. For indoor ceremonies there are restaurants, golf and country clubs, banquet halls, theatres, art galleries, museums, beaches and boats. Best of all, you can get married in any of these places that takes your fancy. There are no residency requirements, and very best of all, in Canada one fee pays for the legalities AND your ceremony!

Here are 8 essential things to know if you want to get married in Canada:

1. Licensed Officiants

The way the marriage laws work here, Licensed Officiants (the Canadian word for Celebrants) can legally marry people and conduct ceremonies absolutely anywhere in Canada. They are licensed by province. So I am licensed to do weddings in Ontario, where I live when in Canada. I could also get a one-time licence to do a wedding in any other part of Canada if a couple specifically request that I officiate their wedding outside of Ontario. You can have one and the same person doing the legalities and the custom-designed ceremony of your dreams.

2. Location, location, location

In Canada, you can get married anywhere, any time. There are no restrictions about roofs or walls. If there’s a place you love and that has meaning for you, you can get married there. I’ve done legal ceremonies on beaches, in living rooms, art galleries, restaurants, banquet halls, outdoors and indoors at golf and country clubs, on boats cruising on Lake Ontario, in provincial parks, on outdoor patios, in private gardens, theatres, ballet studios and the foyer of a concert hall.

Spring, summer, autumn, and winter, when it’s snowy, are all uniquely beautiful times to get married in Canada.

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3. Legal requirements of the Marriage Act of Ontario

Officiants are licensed by province so each province will have its own, slightly different regulations. In Ontario, there are exactly four things you have to include in a ceremony to make it legal:

1) a declaration by you, the couple, to the Officiant, that you know of no legal reason why you can’t get married to each other
2) a declaration, called “Affirmation of Intent and Consent” which is made to ensure that the two of you want to marry each other and that there is no coercion. That’s the part where I say “Sarah, do you take James, whose hand you hold, to be your husband?” and you reply, “I do.”
3) A declaration of marriage by the Officiant “I now declare you to be married. You may seal your vows with a kiss.”
4) Signing of the Marriage Licence, the Marriage Register and the Record of Solemnization of Marriage by the Officiant, the two of you and two witnesses.

4. Freedom of choice for the kind of ceremony you want

As long as you comply with the four requirements above, everything else about the ceremony can be exactly what you want. You can choose rituals, and readings. You can write your own vows. The officiant can tell the story of your relationship – most couples LOVE this aspect of an Officiant Ceremony. You can have family and friends participate in the ceremony in any way you would like. The only limit is your imagination. This freedom is particularly great if you have different heritages and languages and want to have a ceremony that combines your respective traditions in a meaningful way.

5. Residency requirements

The great news is that there aren’t any. According to Settlement.org, “if you and your partner are visiting from another country, you don’t need to be citizens to marry. You will still need to meet the requirements of the province you choose to get married. Each province has its own requirements.”

So you don’t have to have been in the country for a certain amount of time to be able to get married here. But you do have to get a Marriage Licence for the province in which you want to get married.

For more information see this Settlement website.

6. Same-sex marriages

Canada was one of the pioneers of legally recognizing same-sex unions . Same-sex marriages have been legal in Ontario since 2003. Before same-sex marriages were legal in the state of New York, I did tons of weddings for same-sex couples who dashed up to Toronto from New York so they could make their union official.

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7. Paperwork

Anyone who wants to get married in Ontario, needs to go to the nearest City Hall to obtain a Marriage Licence. All you need to have is the required ID and the fee of around $CAD 125 (about £72). Once issued, a Marriage Licence is non-refundable and is only valid in Ontario for 90 days. You can get your licence there and then from the clerk at the City Hall you go to. The Marriage Licence is the document that we sign at the wedding. We also sign a document you get in the same package, called “Record of Solemnization of Marriage. It has the same number as your Marriage Licence, and you take it away with you after the ceremony. It is not a legal record of your marriage but is pretty strong evidence, and you can use its number to follow up with the office of the Registrar General if you have any questions after the wedding.

Officiants are legally required to post the signed Licence to the Office of the Registrar General within 48 hours of the wedding. After that, the officiant's job is complete.

See here for full information of what is required to get a Marriage Licence in Ontario.

8. Difference between a Marriage Licence and a Marriage Certificate 

A Marriage Licence and a Marriage Certificate are not the same thing. The Licence is essential to be legally married. The Marriage Certificate is not. If you want to get a Marriage Certificate, it’s up to you, the couple to apply for one. You may want one for the record, and also, for example, if you want to have a legal change of name for a passport, birth certificate, driving licence or health card. You can apply for a Certificate 90 days after your ceremony. (Don't ask me why, such is bureaucracy!)

When you get your Marriage Licence, the package the clerk gives you also contains information about getting the Marriage Certificate and how to legally change your name if you want to.

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Getting married in Canada is fun, easy and straightforward. The beautiful wide-open spaces await you, and the glamorous and unusual indoor places do, too.

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Featured Blog: Catherine Kentridge

Featured Blog: Catherine Kentridge

Catherine Kentridge, of Custom Ceremony and Custom Wedding Ceremonies, is an international celebrant with clients throughout the UK and in Ontario, Canada. Catherine specializes in interfaith and multilingual ceremonies. She loves the challenge and the pleasure of weaving diverse cultural traditions and different languages into beautiful harmonious and memorable ceremonies that honour the couple’s respective heritages.

See Catherine's profile here
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