Can we get married in Quebec by an Ontario Officiant when we live in Ontario?

Getaways in Quebec such as Chelsea, Aylmer and Wakefield all offer super romantic and beautiful venues for wedding ceremonies! Can a couple living in Ottawa (or elsewhere in Ontario) get married in Quebec? Of course you can. However, if you plan to sign the legal marriage forms during your wedding ceremony in Quebec, you must retain an authorized officiant living in Quebec.

Many couples decide it’s much easier to do the legal paper work prior to their wedding day with an Ontario-based officiant. The law does *not* require you to sign legal wedding forms during your public wedding ceremony and celebration.

This might sound complicated, but it is ultimately quite simple. Marriages are within provincial jurisdiction. In other words, like all other Ontario officiants, I am only authorized to sign legal weddings forms during ceremonies taking place within Ontario’s provincial borders.

Many couples find an easy way around this situation. They pick up the legal wedding forms at their nearest city hall in Ontario and get them authorized (i.e. signed) in Ontario prior to the wedding day. So, give me a call! You and two witnesses can come to my home office in Old Ottawa South to get your legal documents authorized. Some time later, I’ll officiate at your wedding ceremony event at your favorite Quebec venue. The two events combined are charged at $400. I’d be honored!

[Just in case you like to read the fine print, here it is. Since I am a certified and registered officiant in Ontario, I have the privilege of a direct phone line to the Registrar General’s office in Thunder Bay. (Always make sure your officiant is legit… They explained to me that I can not officiate at wedding ceremonies in Quebec even if the couple obtained their License in Ontario and/or reside in Ontario. Here’s the fun part. If a couple have their home in Quebec, but plan to get married at an Ontario venue I can still solemnize their bonds if they get an Ontario License.]

How to get married? Follow these 3 steps to make it official!

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.

Step 1

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).

Step 2

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!

Step 3

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 at any time if you like to discuss this process.

How do I know if my Officiant is legit?

lSometimes couples confide to me that they are anxious about an officiant’s legitimacy. It’s a good thing to check out. After all, if your officiant isn’t officially registered with the Province of Ontario, your wedding papers are invalid. Also, the province requires your officiant to keep careful records in a registration book obtained by your officiant from the province of Ontario. You have every right to confirm your process. Don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions. I’m happy to assist without further obligations.

Here’s a quick way to check if your officiant is registered and can legally officiate at your weddings:

  • Visit this website. Scroll down and you will see an Excel document. It lists all the officiants currently licensed by the Province of Ontario.
  • Download this list of registered officiants. Search for an officiant’s name. (For example, when you search for “Overduin”, you will find me on it. There is currently also another Overduin on the list, one of my nephews!)
  • If your officiant is on the list you are sure he or she is legitimate and can sign your documents so you are legally married.
A happy day in Hyde Park, Toronto

There are more than 20,000 registered officiants in Ontario. Each officiant gets assigned a license number by the province. This license number isn’t on the Excel sheet. I’ve had mine for many years now. But I don’t know where you can find the evidence of that. In any case, it doesn’t matter.

The Excel sheet will confirm whether someone is currently licensed by the Province of Ontario. So be sure to check the Officiant list if you are feeling hesitant. You deserve the best possible treatment on your wedding day!

Don’t hesitate to contact me at to learn more about my services.

Six Key Tasks for a Celebrant

A Celebration of Life can be casual or formal. Guests can arrive in jeans. Or they can be dressed in formal black attire.  It can be in person, on Zoom, or some combination. There’s no “good” or “bad.”  

However, an end-of-life celebration does need some organizing in advance to avoid confusion or even hurt feelings. Everyone in attendance needs to feel they understand what to expect. Family dynamics combined with grief can be stressful enough.

A celebrant is a trusted facilitator during a funeral or memorial. The celebrant is the host you appoint to help those gathered follow your programme. It can be very short (15 min.) or relatively lengthy (90 minutes and up). But, there needs to be a plan. The celebrant can help you draft this programme.

Six Key Tasks for Your Celebrant

  1. Offer words of welcome and provide an overview of how the event will unfold.
  2. Introduce speaker(s) who offer a eulogy.
  3. Facilitate symbolic practices such as lighting candles, releasing balloons, laying flowers, and religious or cultural traditions.
  4. Facilitate an “open microphone” when speakers briefly share a special memory.
  5. Thank everybody for coming (or introduce an appointed family member to do.)
  6. Announce next steps to ensure all guests feel confident that they can also leave appropriately. (e.g. where to gather for refreshments or to encourage the signing of a guest book upon leaving, etc.)

Your celebrant will meet with you prior to the funeral or celebration of life to discuss your family’s ideas. Many families add other elements: music, singing, “words of wisdom” (a poetry reading, spiritual or religious texts), or a movie about the deceased person’s life. Families often wish to engage grandchildren if applicable. The time to discuss such ideas is prior to the event so all gathered can focus on celebrating a life well lived.

If you want to learn more about the tasks fulfilled by a funeral director and how they are different from your celebrant, click here.

Dr. Nick Overduin’s values, bio, and contact information.

Why you don’t want your Celebrant to cry…

Why do officiants need to remain professional? Or in other words, would you appreciate a crying, sobbing funeral director? Can an officiant show his or her emotions at a Celebration of Life?

First and foremost, families expect the persons they retain to plan and guide a memorial to care — a lot. But that’s not the same as showing one’s own raw emotions.

A few years ago, one of my friends and colleagues had to conducted the funeral for a 17-year old teenager. That’s a tough assignment for anybody and everybody involved.

At the event, my dear colleague stood in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people. So many showed up! Everybody wanted to demonstrate their support for the family of that young man.

Emotions ran high and it felt like all 1,000 people in attendance may be on the brink of a collective breakdown at any time, he told me later. The empathy for the teen’s distraught family was palpable.

I asked my colleague if he himself broke down at any point. I would certainly would have understood if so.

“No,” he said. He added, “Me breaking down would have been unkind. Everybody needed me to stay a little bit, even if just a little bit, in control.”

I agree. Kindness, respect, and even love for grieving families, asks professionals to stay professional. It’s our job to keep the focus on helping others to grieve. Not because we don’t care, but precisely because we do care.

Kids at funerals

In the course of my career, I’ve been asked repeatedly if young children should attend a Celebration of Life or funeral.

Ultimately, that’s a decision only a parent can make. It will depend on the maturity of the child, his or her relationship to the person who passed away, and if any other children will be at the funeral.

If at all possible, I suggest it is important to ensure a very young child has somebody to “watch over him or her” during the memorial. Maybe a family friend or an older cousin. Preferably someone with a bit more distance to the deceased.      

Some years ago, I officiated at a funeral for a community leader who was widely loved and respected. A large crowd gathered in his honour. At least 400 people filled the church.

On the front bench sat a little grandson, about 12 years old. From the beginning of the service to the very end, he was quietly sobbing inconsolably. The dissonance between the wonderful notes of honour, love and praise shared about the grandfather and this young child’s sorrow was difficult for me, as the officiant, to watch. Yet, in this case, this boy was given the opportunity to cry for a man he adored and loved. The funeral will likely be a memory he will carry with him likely for the rest of his life. I have every reason to believe it will be a memory he will cherish