Elements of a simple legal marriage ceremony


The couple themselves are responsible for obtaining a legal marriage license before the wedding. You may apply online, but one of you (or both) must go IN PERSON to pick up the license and swear that the information is correct.

After a simple verbal legal ceremony in front of 2 witnesses, the legal officiant will give the couple a Record of Solemnization, signed by the Officiant and the witnesses, to state that the wedding took place.  The officiant must then file your official Marriage License with the Registrar General within 48 hours.

In 6-10 weeks, the couple may request a Certificate of Marriage Registration (known as a "Marriage Certificate") from the Province of Ontario (note, this is not mailed automatically, you must apply for it).  See more information here: Toronto Registry Office, and  Getting Married in Ontario

Note requirements for divorced couples, those with foreign identity documents.
You must also provide TWO legal witnesses, over the age of 18.

Couples often ask us if we will just 'sign the papers', because they want a very simple legal wedding ceremony, or perhaps they are planning a more elaborate ceremony later, with friends and family, and want a legal ceremony first, or sometimes they have had a cultural ceremony which was not legal, or they have asked a friend of the family who is not a legally registered officiant to perform a 'celebration of marriage' ceremony, and want to legally 'register' the marriage. 

While 'signing the papers' is the closing part of a legal marriage ceremony, the Marriage Act requires that we first hold a simple verbal actual ceremony, in front of 2 witnesses, which includes the required elements legislated by the Marriage Act of Ontario. This means the voices of the two persons, repeating the words from the Marriage Act. This is because because marriage is a formal  legal agreement between two parties - which is enacted in a public 'marriage ceremony', where you state in front of the legally certified officiant that you are accepting the other person as your legal spouse: this is the same whether we're meeting in your kitchen, my office, the CN Tower, the beach - or in a formal wedding location.  You sign the documents AFTER the ceremony, to show you all participated in the legal wedding.

Wedding Ceremonies may thus be informal or formal, but the following parts must be included, and the LEGAL MARRIAGE OFFICIANT must conduct the parts listed below. 

If you wish to include other family or friends, other persons can offer statements, readings, blessings, introduce the couple, and also perform the ring exchange (which is not a legal requirement. This is called a 'co-officiated' wedding, in which the legal officiant performs the required parts, and the other person may conduct the traditional or family-oriented parts.

ASSEMBLY, STATEMENT OF PARTIES. The officiant will introduce themselves by name, as a licensed representative of the government and state their own licensing body and tradition, and announce "We have assembled together at this time for the wedding ceremony of (full legal names) NAME1 and NAME2.

WITNESS AFFIRMATION. The officiant notes the presence of the witnesses, and asks for their participation:  "Are you willing to be a legal witness for the marriage of N and N2?" "I am").

STATEMENT on MARRIAGE. The officiant makes a short statement about marriage, so that we all know we are present for a wedding ceremony. (not a betrothal, or commitment, etc.)

Example:  Marriage is a legal institution not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but following consideration and with reflection by both parties. A marriage is based on mutual love and respect, and a determination on the part of both persons to support and adjust to each other's temperaments and conditions, in health or sickness, joy or sadness, ease or hardship.  It is with this understanding of the shared benefits and legal responsibilities of marriage that n & n2 come now to be joined

INTENTION to MARRY or CONSENT. The officiant asks the couple individually if they are here freely, knowing no legal impediment to being married, and are prepared to enter into a legal marriage at this time with the other party, and asks them each to repeat:  "I do solemnly declare that I do not know of any lawful impediment why I (Name1) may not be joined in matrimony to (Name2).

THE VOWS. The officiant asks the couple to each state out loud to the other person that they accept the other person as their legal spouse. They must say:  "I call upon these persons here present to witness that I (Name) do take you (Name) to my lawful wedded husband/wife/partner/spouse". 
You may add personal vows or statements after this legal portion.

DECLARATION. The officiant states that this contract has been entered into by these two persons, and that the witnesses have witnessed this agreement (example: "In front of us all, this couple have exchanged their promises and agreed to meet sorrow and joy as one family") Then:

 "I  [OFFICIANT NAME] by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Marriage Act, do hereby pronounce you Name1 and Name2 to be married"

Then the officiant, the witnesses and the couple each sign the MARRIAGE LICENSE, MARRIAGE REGISTER, & RECORD of SOLEMNIZATION.

The officiant congratulates the couple and INTRODUCES THEM as a married couple.

KISS & TOAST etc. (optional) 

The officiant files the MARRIAGE LICENSE in 48 hours, and 6-8 weeks later, the couple can apply for the CERTIFICATE OF MARRIAGE REGISTRATION, described above.


Here is a CHECKLIST for organizing a simple wedding, including music, handling of guests, announcements, etc.

The Exchange of Rings, Music, Poetry, Candles, Flowers, Readings, and other rituals are traditional, and optional. THE KISS IS OPTIONAL. RINGS ARE OPTIONAL. The couple may write their own vows, and say them in their own language. At any point during the ceremony, the couple may address their family or assembled guests, or ask a friend or family member to make remarks, to offer readings, music, or other appropriate contributions.

The OFFICIANT may also read appropriate selections, as the couple requests. The couple may exchange flowers, a wine cup, tea, candles, or other symbols. The tone can be formal, informal, humorous, family-oriented, or anything you choose, as long as the required elements are included.

Be sure to ask your officiant for the options available to expand upon these required elements, or to add cultural elements from your tradition. (Glass smashing, wine toast, 7 blessings, 7 steps, circling, ring warming, handfasting, tea or saki ceremony, etc.)