The Legal and Bureaucratic Niceties

How to Go About Getting Married in Ontario

Types of marriage
All marriages in Ontario must be performed by an authorized official, either civil or religious.  Civil marriages are performed by JPs, judges or authorized municipal officers.  Registered/Religious officiants who are authorized to solemnize weddings can be found on the Province’s religious marriage officiants list.  

Somewhat ironically, as far as the government is concerned, Humanist officiants (like me) are considered registered/religious officiants.  If you choose to go with a non-civil service, make sure your officiant is on the list; if not, they may not be authorized to perform a legal ceremony.

Age Minimum
You need to be at least 16 years old to get married in Ontario.  If you’re under 18, you’ll need written consent from both your parents. You can get these consent forms where you get a marriage licence.

The Legal Documentation Requirement
If you are getting married in a church service, you will need to get a Banns form from the church, (unless either you or your partner have been married before.  Then you’ll need to get a marriage licence).

If your marriage is not going to be a church affair – and if I’m your officiant, it won’t be – you will need to get a marriage licence. You can do that at any city hall, town hall or municipal office. It’s advisable to call or check the municipality’s website to to ensure you have all of the information required to purchase a marriage licence. There is a cost, which can vary from municipality to municipality, but you do not need to marry in the municipality that issued your licence. So if you want to shop around for a deal, you can!  You can download a Marriage Licence Application Form directly from the Province, if you wish.

Getting the Licence

You don’t both have to turn up in person to get your marriage licence, but there will need to be 2 pieces of government-issued identification for each person getting married. At least one piece of identification must include your photo.

Examples of government-issued identification include the following:

  • government-issued birth certificate, including any change of name certificates
  • valid passport
  • record of immigrant landing
  • Canadian Citizenship Card
  • valid driver’s licence
  • valid Ontario Photo Card

Don’t forget that your marriage licence is only valid for 90 days from the date it was issued.

The Ceremony

During the ceremony there are three mandatory declarations that must be made exactly as set out in the Marriage Act. These are the Declaration of Intent, “I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I (full legal name) may not be joined in matrimony to (full legal name)”, the Witness Affirmation “I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (name) do take you (name) to be my lawfully wedded (wife, husband, partner)” and the Pronouncement of Marriage, “I (your name), by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act, do hereby pronounce you (name) and (name) to be married”.

During the ceremony there are three mandatory declarations that must be made exactly as set out in the Marriage Act.

These are a legally required part of the ceremony and your marriage will not be legal if they are not included. The final legal requirement is for you, your spouse, your witnesses and the person who performed the marriage to sign the licence and register immediately after the ceremony.

A ring made from maple, with a delicate birch bark braided inlay enwreathing the circumference. Touch Wood Rings.

A ring made from maple, with a delicate birch bark braided inlay enwreathing the circumference. Touch Wood Rings.

Getting a Marriage Certificate.

It is the duty of your Officiant to mail the completed, signed Marriage Licence to the Province for registration.  Once it is registered, you may apply for a Marriage Certificate.  This is the legal record of the marriage; you will need it to show legal proof you are married, to apply for certain social benefits, to settle an estate and / or to change a last name.  Your Officiant will provide you with a Record of Solemnization of Marriage after the ceremony, but you should be aware that this is not the same thing as a marriage certificate.

You should have received an application form for the Marriage Certificate when you got your Marriage Licence.  If not, or if you prefer to order online, here is a link for applying for a marriage certificate online.  Either way, you should allow twelve weeks for the marriage to be registered before applying for your certificate.  If you are in a hurry, there are ways to expedite the service, but you will have to provide proof of urgency with your application.  Click on the link to see what the Government considers appropriate proof of urgency.

Changing Your Name After Marriage?
When you get married, you don’t have to legally change your last name (surname). But if you do choose to you may find the Government’s page on Changing Your Last Name useful reading.

Remarrying After a Divorce?

If you’ve been previously married, either here or abroad, you should take a stroll through the following Government information, Remarrying After a Divorce.

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