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.

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  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, 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.  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.