Couples are sometimes confused by how convoluted the marriage process might appear to be in Ontario. Really, once you understand it, it is fairly straightforward. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions.
You have to obtain a Marriage License. These are issued by municipalities throughout Ontario. It doesn’t matter in which municipality you obtain your License, it will be valid for 90 days throughout the entire province of Ontario. The License is basically a permission to get married. The City Clerk will fill out the first section of the document (the top 1/3 of the license).
You have to meet with a registered Officiant (or a Justice of the Peace). Bring the License you obtained in Step 1 with you. You received a License (i.e. permission) to get married in Step 1, so now you should actually become married! In the second section of the License, your officiant testifies with his/her signature that the License has been “solemnified” (i.e. signed) by the couple and two witnesses. The officiant also indicates the date and place where the event took place. You’re married!
After the signing of the documents by the bride and groom, the two witnesses and the officiant in Step 2, your officiant must mail the signed License to the Registrar General of Ontario. The office is in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
What happens next?
In Thunder Bay, the office of the Registrar General reviews the entire license document — the parts filled in by the City Clerk (first section) and the Officiant (second part). Next, the Registrar officially “registers” the marriage.
In very rare cases, the Registrar may note a problem with the paperwork. Maybe someone forgot to sign. Maybe there’s something wrong with the date or place. Or maybe the officiant wasn’t a registered individual and thus not legally able to sign the License. (See my Blog post How Do I know My Officiant is legit?). The Registrar and/or City Clerk will follow-up with the Officiant to make sure the issue is addressed. Again, it is very rare that anything would be amiss.
How do I get an official certificate of marriage?
You got married in Step 2. You don’t have to obtain an official Certificate of Marriage. However, some couples like to get this document to frame and keep on display. Also, if applicable, the document is generally required for immigration purposes or name changes. After about 6-10 weeks after you got married in Step 2, you can contact the government for the official certificate. Check this link.
Fine print: On the day you meet with your officiant, you will receive a Record of Solemnization. This is special little document many people like to frame, especially if no Certificate of Marriage is required (i.e. no name change, no immigration or other considerations). However, it is not technically the same as the official certificate you can get later from the Registrar General.
You can check this website for more detailed information. Contact me at 416.938-8520 or firstname.lastname@example.org at any time if you like to discuss this process.