A SIMPLE LEGAL WEDDING CEREMONY -  Marriage License, and Certificate of Marriage Registration

Here is some information on getting married in Ontario

In order to become legally married, you will need: a Marriage License, 2 legal witnesses, and you MUST have a short verbal legal wedding ceremony which fulfils the requirements of the Marriage Act of Ontario.  This ceremony must be conducted by a licensed Ontario wedding officiant, and be held in the presence of your two witnesses.  The Officiant must hold a current license from the Registrar General of Ontario.  You can check to see if your officiant is registered here:

A ceremony has certain required sections. A 'micro-wedding', or a short legal wedding takes about 20 minutes, and you do not need to exchange rings, or include other traditional elements of a cultural wedding, but you must follow the required marriage ceremony format in the Marriage Act of Ontario

This includes: stating your legal names, a verbal declaration of Intention to Marry and non-impediment, your spoken Legal Vows as specified in the Marriage Act, a Declaration and Pronouncement, and then signing various documents.  

Note: you CANNOT simply ‘sign papers’ for a cultural or religious ceremony held at another location or time. You MUST have a legal verbal ceremony in the presence of your legal officiant and witnesses, following the Marriage Act requirements.

Location:  You can be married anywhere in Ontario:  in a private residence, a hotel, a park or backyard, or any landmark that allows gatherings.  Please ask us for suggestions and ideas for outdoor and indoor weddings. We can offer suggestions on wedding locations and permits for city locations.

The couple is responsible for obtaining a valid Ontario Marriage License, which must be brought to the ceremony, and for obtaining two legal witnesses.  You can start this process by applying online, if you wish, or by filling out the forms at the Marriage Bureau.  Marriage Licenses are good for 90 days. 

Once the required legal ceremony requirements are met, the wedding service may be further customized to your individual wishes, including personal vows, music, readings and cultural rituals, and the inclusion of friends and family. We are happy to work with you to create a ceremony to fulfill your personal vision of your wedding. 

Sample ceremonies can be found here.

After the wedding ceremony, the couple will each sign the Marriage License and the Marriage Register, and then the witnesses each sign the Marriage License, the Marriage Register, and a Record of Solemnization to swear that they were present, and heard and saw the legal ceremony.  Then the Marriage Officiant will sign the documents to indicate that this all happened at the date and location listed, and in the presence of the persons stated. The Marriage officiant will finish all of this paperwork, and will file the signed Marriage License with the Province in 48 hours (sent by Priority Mail). 

Immediately after the wedding, you can start using a married name, or change your status on most (non-governmental) documents.  
However, in order to:
*show legal proof you are married (for government documents, passports, or any  immigration  or naturalization processes)
*apply for certain social benefits
*settle an estate
you will need to also apply for another document, a Certificate of Marriage Registration

You can start this application process about 6-12 weeks after the wedding. You can  apply online: https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-get-copy-ontario-marriage-certificate-online

The Certificate of Marriage Registration will only be issued approximately 8 weeks after the wedding, and you must apply for it, as it will not be sent to you automatically.  (Some couples do not need this Certificate, and so do not apply for it).  The 8 weeks is the data entry/processing time the Marriage office in Thunder Bay takes to enter your information in their records and prepare the Certificate.  

Also note:  you can't 'speed up' this part of the process.  Sometimes they will finish processing your information faster than 8 weeks, but that's due to their workflow.  Although you may eventually ask them to expedite the final Certificate of Registration by FedEx, that is only possible after the Marriage License has been processed, and it only saves a couple of days at the end of the process. 

However, if you have a legitimate reason for requesting faster service (e,g military personnel being posted abroad, etc.) You CAN include a personal letter to the staff at the Registry Office, for the officiant to place in the license return envelope explaining your need for a faster processing time. You may also pre-order and pre-pay for the Certificate and enclose the receipt in the Marriage License return envelope.
Please discuss this with us.

Yours,  Mary

Mary Beaty, MLS
Humanist Chaplain, University of Toronto
Ontario Humanist Society