Welcome to ElopeToronto.com!

Welcome to ElopeToronto.com! We provide simple, meaningful, secular (non-religious) humanist marriage ceremonies in Toronto, legally equivalent to a 'civil ceremony' or 'justice of the peace' wedding, for couples looking for a personal alternative to a 'City Hall' wedding.
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See FAQ: HOW TO PLAN YOUR WEDDING: How to get your license, find a location, legal requirements, witnesses, the process of 'signing the papers', or 'registering a wedding' and how to apply for your CERTIFICATE OF MARRIAGE REGISTRATION. See the Toronto Registry link for information on a MARRIAGE LICENSE and MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE (online application, hours & location, fee, divorced applicants, IDs required, etc.)

Mary is licensed as a Marriage Officiant by the Ontario Humanist Society.
HUMANISM is an ethical philosophy of secular living, stating we all share a duty of care, to lead ethical lives of compassion and respect, for each other, and for the world we all share. Humanist Wedding Ceremonies are simple, meaningful, non-religious legal marriage ceremonies written specifically for each couple, which reflect your wishes, your values, and your story. We also provide humanist ceremonies for baby-namings, memorials, and other life events.

Wednesday

We make house calls! Weddings at home

We frequently perform marriage ceremonies at your apartment or home (or the Party Room of your condo, in the pix to the left, for instance). It's a nice alternative to City Hall, and you can cater your own wedding, arrange your own candles, flowers, even use your own music library.

If your apartment is small, and you've invited family, ask friends and family who have a larger apartment if you can hold the wedding there - it's a nice wedding gift to offer a space for a ceremony.

We've had lovely evening weddings by candlelight, looking out over the City - and mid-morning wedding brunches, and sunset ceremonies on the roof deck - but all are warm and friendly, and a great alternative to rented halls or impersonal court house settings.

Here is a small elopement in my living room - though we didn't have a fire in the fireplace. You can easily arrange a 'parlor wedding', with a few candles, some flowers, and some champagne.

Elopement Weddings at the CN Tower

...must be discreet.  All small weddings in public places are really 'guerilla' weddings, or 'ad hoc' events.  As long as you have checked to see that they are not forbidden, you can always assemble and hold a little 10 minute private wedding in a public space - esp. if it's just 5 people:  the officiant, the couple, and two witnesses.  Avoid big wedding dresses, and other flashy items, do NOT set up video equipment to impede other tourists or bystanders, and simply assemble and hold the wedding.  Think ''engagement" or "proposal" scenario.  If you are interested in a bigger, flashier event, you're really going to have to consider renting the space or asking for a permit (which will probably not be granted, as security is always concerned about public access).

So - whether it's a quick duck-in to the pretty grounds at Osgoode, or a discreet event by the Botanical garden at High Park - or the CN tower, remember this is a not a formal event, unless you do the expensive paperwork. Plan accordingly!

Friday

FAQ: How to have a small private wedding in Toronto, Ontario

First Things First:

Find your partner, propose, rinse and repeat.  Promise to love and support each other through thick and thin, congratulate yourselves, and enjoy the happiness of your decision.

Practical steps:

1)  Witnesses:  You need two witnesses over the age of 18.  So ask friends and family if they will help, or ask your officiant to assist in finding legal witnesses for you.  Some couples hire a photographer to record their elopement, and the photographer can act as one of the witnesses. It's important to secure the witnesses as soon as possible, as their presence is legally required.

2)  City Hall, or Private Ceremony?  If using City Hall in any of the boroughs, investigate the booking, the costs, hours, and the protocols.  The City of Toronto uses a private wedding firm and they provides a room and the officiant; the other boroughs rent you the chamber and you must find your own officiant.  Remember that you usually have only 30 minutes in the chamber for the ceremony/ signing/ celebrating, so plan accordingly. 

3)  Officiant:  If you've decided to be married privately, you need to find a legally registered Marriage Officiant, licensed by the Province to officiate at your wedding. If you are are looking for a non-religious wedding , you can go to a municipal Marriage Commissioner or City Clerk (City Hall wedding), or you can find an officiant through the Ontario Humanist Society or the Humanist Association of Toronto or the Canadian Humanist Association, or most Unitarian churches.  Humanist Officiants are 'ethical' (rather than 'faith-based') clergy, and we conduct wedding ceremonies which are thoughtful, secular (non-religious), personalized to suit each couple, and legally equivalent to a City Hall or 'Civil' wedding.  You can see samples of a Humanist wedding ceremony here.
You can contact me at WeddingsofToronto and I'll happily refer you to licensed officiants in the GTA. 

Contact your Officiant, see if they are available, and discuss your wishes for the ceremony. Humanist and Unitarian officiants are very flexible, and will ensure that the legal requirements of the ceremony are met, while allowing you to personalize the ceremony and reflect your own style, traditions and wishes, from traditional to informal.

4) Location:

The City of Toronto says "You can get married in Ontario just about anywhere you like, provided you have a licensed minister to perform the ceremony and, if you are holding the ceremony in a public space, the proper permit."

This means you can be married in a park, in your apartment, in a loft, garden, hotel, restaurant, the CN tower, in your living room, my living room, the party room of your condo (or your friend's condo), at Ontario Place, The Toronto Islands, in a pub, in a bistro or cafe, at Hart House, Cameron House, McLean House, McKenzie House, Black Creek Farm, Riverdale Farm, your farm (or your garden allotment!) or almost anywhere else you wish. You CAN be married in a boat or an airplane, but you must sign the papers back on land. We have married couples in the skypod at the CN tower, and the skating rink at Nathan Phillips, and other fun locations. You can be married at Starbucks - but, really - you can find somewhere a little more fun.  Be creative, but consider the comfort of your witnesses in a Toronto winter, or under the blazing summer sun at the end of Ashbridges Bay...

Note: the City of Toronto only issues park wedding permits for a certain number of selected parks, and they expect that you will be having a 'big' wedding. So you can gather in a small group for a simple celebration almost anywhere (just like you can go birdwatching or have an impromptu picnic with under 25 people), but if you want the white dress /  bridesmaids / lots of guests / videographer- type of wedding, you will need a permit: contact the City to reserve one of the designated 'wedding' parks. Here are some ideas.

5) Marriage License:
You may obtain a marriage license from any municipality in Ontario, and use the license in Toronto or any other Ontario city. The License fee seems to vary a bit by locality. This fee can be paid by cash, money order, certified cheque, or credit card. The City will not refund marriage license fees once a license has been issued. The license is good for 3 months, and there is no waiting period for marriages; you can obtain the license and be married the same day. Either or both of the persons to be married may obtain the license, with appropriate identification. In Toronto, you may only obtain up a license at;
  • Toronto City Hall
  • Etobicoke Civic Centre
  • North York Civic Centre
  • Scarborough Civic Centre
York and East York Civic Centres have application forms and information only, they do not issue Marriage Licenses.  LOCATION and HOURS

If you have been divorced in Canada, you must provide the original or a court-certified copy of your certificate of divorce, or Decree Absolute. If the marriage was dissolved or annulled in a jurisdiction other than Canada, the applicants must obtain authorization from the Minister of Consumer and Commercial Relations before a marriage license may be issued.

6)  Little details:
Pick up flowers at a deli or corner florist. Grab a pin so you can put one of the flowers on your jacket. 
Buy rings from Kensington Market, local craft stores, or make your own rings. Buy a couple of cupcakes and a split of bubbly. Make sure your camera battery is charged and your card not full. Bring your glasses to sign the license. Bring your ID for the officiant. BRING THE LICENSE.

7)  When you get to your wedding location  - turn off your cell phones - you can tweet afterwards.

8)   GET MARRIED:  Bring your partner, your witnesses, the license and go meet your officiant.  If you are exchanging rings, go ahead and buy them, but rings are not REQUIRED for a legal wedding ceremony. 

9)  Paperwork:  After the ceremony, the Marriage Officiant will sign and certify the Marriage License, along with you and your witnesses.  The Officiant will give you the Record of Solemnization of Marriage as a souvenir document recording the marriage.  They will take the signed license and send it to the Records office in Thunder Bay.  After about 6-10 weeks, you may request a Record of Marriage Registration from the Province, as a final legal proof that your marriage is registered.  You can apply online or by mail.  If you apply by mail, a good practice is to photocopy the Record of Solemnization, and mail a copy along with the order form - this will be a verification of your legal names and is helpful in location your form in the Ministry computer system.

In Toronto, there is only one full Service Ontario location to apply for your Record of Marriage Registration:

Service Ontario
4th Flr Unit 417,
47 Sheppard Avenue East

which can answer any questions about requesting a marriage license, or expediting your request for a certificate.

10)  Celebrate! - and live happily ever after.

Sunday

What to wear to an elopement

Whatever you wish, of course!  Dress down, dress up, bring along better shoes, change out of your woolies in the winter into something slinky, or get married in your fleeces - it's your wedding!
But you may be amused in a couple of decades to see the styles - just like you'd be amused to see my wedding pictures in a miniskirt and helmet hair. 
Jackets and ties and cocktail dresses are not required for a wedding - as an officiant, my only rule is that I insist people take off their sunglasses so we can see if they're looking at each other .  

But why not have fun, dress up a little, and then go and have a super meal - whenever you elope, that day will always be your wedding anniversary, so you'll be celebrating together for many years to come, dressed up or dressed down, so enjoy yourselves and have a little fun on your wedding day.

Friday

Economical Eloping - with a personal touch

All you need for a wedding is a couple, two witnesses (over age 18), a marriage license and an officiant. As it says on the City of Toronto Website --
"You can get married in Ontario just about anywhere you like, provided you have a licensed minister to perform the ceremony and, if you are holding the ceremony in a public space, the proper permit" -  City of Toronto 

Which means you can be married in your apartment, at Sunnyside, at Ashbridge's Bay, at the CN tower, or in Jamie Kennedy's Gilead Cafe at lunch (if he doesn't mind).  A wedding takes 15 minutes, plus time for signing the license, so you can be married on the subway - or the Toronto Island Ferry, if you wanted to - as long as you get OUT of the subway/ferry and sign the license at a real location.  So be creative.

You can also go City Hall, and even bring along your own licensed officiant to the York, East York, North York and Scarborough City Hall Marriage Chambers, and ask the officiant to conduct a personal ceremony for you (note: you can't bring your own officiant to the City of Toronto marriage chambers, which is a privately run business, but you can use their officiants-on-call). You can reserve the City Marriage Chambers at the other boroughs for 30 minutes for about $75, and have a very personal ceremony, with just yourselves, or a small group of friends.

For almost the same money, however, you can reserve Allan Gardens, though! Be married in an indoor greenhouse in January - how lovely. Or rent the Hart House Chapel, which also allows you to bring your own officiant (ask us for info). Here is a list of other historic spots, and how to reserve them for your elopement or private wedding.

Regardless of the special spot you pick, you can make your wedding as personal and distinctive as you wish, even if it's only 4 people, the marriage officiant, and the clouds over the moon this evening..

Wednesday

Should you record your elopement on video?

This is a completely personal concept.  If you are eloping because you want an entirely private romantic wedding, a video may not be necessary or appropriate.  If you want to set up a small video camera and record the ceremony for friends and family, it's another matter.  You can have the ceremony and repose for pictures afterwards, or film the whole thing - but it's important you feel happy and comfortable with your choice. Be sure to discuss what you want recorded with your photographer, if you have asked them to be your witness.

Surprise wedding: Engagement party and Wedding in One

We have had a few surprise weddings recently - and they are always very warm and exciting. The most common situation is when a couple decides to combine an engagement party and a wedding - and often a few guests and family are part of the plan, but not everyone. The officiant often arrives, introduces themselves, asks people to join the couple, and proceeds with the marriage service. Sometimes the couple slip away briefly and change clothes, and rejoin the group for the ceremony.

In two recent cases, we have held these ceremonies in the party rooms of condos, where it was already set up for a mini-reception for the 'engagement'.  Here is an example of a 'surprise' ceremony, from our other website.

Some advice:
** Decide in advance who will serve as witnesses - this can be an honour for people who were not part of the planning.
** Decide in advance who will need a little time to compose themselves before the ceremony (people who may be affected by the surprise).
** Take a few minutes to set up. Provide chairs in front of the couple to seat elderly guests and close family. Hug some people. Ask close relatives to hold your rings, and involve them.
** Provide a guest book or some other way to capture people's reactions.
** Have extra digital cameras or disposible cameras so those who have forgotten theirs can record the ceremony
** Pass out champagne during the signing of the license, to prepare for toasts and congratulations

Witnesses for a Elopement Ceremony

Even if you're eloping, you still need two witnesses over the age of 18 to be present at the ceremony, and to sign the license. Some of your friends might like to be invited, or close family members - especially at the last minute. If you do not have anyone in town, you can ask your officiant for recommendations, or hire a photographer (and assistant, perhaps) for the wedding, and they will be able to serve as witnesses. It's an honour to serve as a wedding witness, so spend a little time thinking about this important element.

How to Plan a Simple Wedding in Toronto (full post)

HOW TO ELOPE or PLAN A SMALL WEDDING in Toronto
(here is the original list, moved from the First Page....)

1. Find partner. Propose. Rinse and repeat.
2. Decide on Date and time, start thinking about location and rain location, if outdoors. You may be married anywhere in Ontario, indoors or out - from back yards to balconies to condo party rooms to a private room in a restaurant - but you may need a permit for some public spaces, esp. parks or waterfront.
3. Find all your IDs (passport, drivers license, birth certificate, divorce papers if relevant. If you have been divorced or widowed, bring documents and information regarding the previous marriage and spouse. You MUST disclose all previous marriages, including those in other countries. If you have been divorced OUTSIDE CANADA there are more requirements.
4. Decide if either of you will change your name. Not required in Ontario, and you do not have to make this decision when you apply for the Marriage License.
5. Go to one of the City of Toronto Registry Offices and apply for your marriage license. The cost in Toronto is currently about $130. You may print out the application in advance.  It is good for 90 days. You may get a marriage license from any municipality in Ontario, and use the license in Toronto or another Ontario city. One partner may print and sign the application and take the other person's ID in to obtain the license. Remember to have the other person sign the application line at the wedding.,,, (read more here)
6. Find a Marriage Officiant who is licensed to conduct legal marriages in Ontario. Feel free to ask for their license number with the Province of Ontario. Check to make sure they are legally  registered.
[NOTE: Humanist Officiants are technically classified as secular 'clergy' by the Province - we perform Non-Religious, secular marriage ceremonies, legally equivalent to "Civil Marriages", much the same as a Justice of the Peace, but with more personal touches.  We emphasize ethical rather than religious traditions and we also conduct other non-religious rites of passage -  baby-namings, coming of age, funerals, etc., much the same as 'religious' clergy, but without any references to religion. We use poetry, (from Shakespeare to Leonard Cohen or Margaret Atwood) rather than scriptural texts.]
Here are some Sample Humanist wedding ceremonies

7. Choose your legal witness(es), 2 persons over age 18.
8. Buy a ring or two (not actually required by law). Yes, you can have tatooed rings. Or wooden rings. Or one ring. Or none.
9. Buy some flowers, or not - your choice, but nice, even at a corner deli - bring ribbons and pins!
10. Discuss your ceremony wishes with the officiant. You can ask for sample ceremonies, and discuss writing your own vows, or other personal touches. Some parts of the ceremony are legal requirements, but much of it may be customized. Most elopements are simple, 15 minute ceremonies. See #8
11. Meet your officiant, exchange your vows, pledge your lives into the others keeping. Kiss.
12. Sign the license. Witnesse(s) sign the license. Officiant signs license with official date and time. You all sign the Marriage Register (your officiant's book of recorded weddings). Witnesses sign the Record of Solemnization, which is handed to you to keep as a record of your marriage.
13. The officiant will congratulate you, and take the signed license and THEY WILL REGISTER IT FOR YOU. Approximately 90 days later, you may apply for a Certificate of Registration of the Marriage, from the Provincial Office in Thunder Bay. That's the final step, and the Certificate is needed for passports or Driver's License changes.
14. Pop the champagne, and celebrate your new union!

And here is a post on 'jobs' for your friends and family to help you plan a small wedding.