To get married in British Columbia (BC), Canada, there are several legal requirements you must fulfill, making the process both significant and binding from a legal perspective.

Marriage in BC allows individuals to legally establish their partnership, impacting various aspects of their personal, financial, and legal affairs. It grants married couples rights and obligations concerning property division, inheritance, taxes, and support obligations under provincial and federal laws.

Legally, marriage in BC requires obtaining a marriage license, choosing an eligible officiant to perform the ceremony, and having two witnesses present during the ceremony. The marriage must also be registered with the government to be considered valid. This legal framework ensures that both parties are willingly entering into the marriage and that their rights are protected in various situations, including potential dissolution of the marriage.

Here’s a detailed overview of the legal requirements for marriage in British Columbia:

Age Restrictions and Consent Requirements

  • Minimum Age: Individuals must be at least 19 years old to marry without parental consent. Those aged 16 to 18 can marry with the consent of both parents. Marriages involving anyone younger than 16 are not permitted under any circumstances.
  • Consent: For individuals under 19, parental or guardian consent is required, and the consent forms must be filled out correctly.

Required Documents for Obtaining a Marriage License

  • Identification: Both parties must provide valid government-issued photo ID (such as a passport or driver’s license) to prove their age.
  • Proof of Marital Status: If previously married, proof of divorce or death of a spouse (e.g., divorce decree or death certificate) may be required.

Conditions for Foreigners and Non-residents

  • No Residency Requirement: BC does not require couples to be residents to marry there. However, the process for obtaining a marriage license is the same for residents and non-residents.
  • Valid Passport: Foreign nationals typically must present a valid passport as identification.

Special Considerations for Divorced Individuals

  • Divorce Documentation: Individuals who have been previously married and divorced need to provide proof of divorce before they can obtain a marriage license. This often means providing the original or a certified copy of the final divorce decree.
  • Waiting Period: There is generally no mandatory waiting period after a divorce in BC; once the divorce is finalized, an individual is free to remarry.

These regulations ensure that all marriages performed in BC are legally compliant and recognized, protecting the rights and obligations of all parties involved.

How to Get Married in BC Without a Ceremony in 2024

In British Columbia, Canada, all marriages must be solemnized in a ceremony, whether it is religious or civil. There is no legal provision for a marriage without a ceremony, as the act of marriage requires specific elements to be legally binding, such as the exchange of vows and the presence of an officiant and witnesses.

Here’s what the process typically involves:

Requirements for a Legal Marriage Ceremony in BC:

  1. Marriage License: You must obtain a marriage license. This can be done at any marriage license issuer throughout the province. Both parties must be present to apply, and valid identification is required.
  2. Officiant: An authorized officiant must conduct the ceremony. This can be a religious official or a marriage commissioner appointed by the province.
  3. Witnesses: At least two witnesses aged 19 or over must be present at the ceremony.

Minimum Ceremony

If you prefer a simple or minimalistic approach, you can opt for a basic civil ceremony, which can be brief and to the point. Here are a few options:

  • Private Ceremony: You can arrange for a marriage commissioner to perform a brief civil ceremony at a location of your choice, including a private home or outdoor setting, with just the required witnesses present.
  • Courthouse Wedding: Some courthouses offer the service of a marriage commissioner who can conduct a quick ceremony in the courthouse itself.
  • Marriage Commissioner’s Office: Some marriage commissioners may have an office setup where they perform simple and quick ceremonies.

These minimal ceremonies can meet the legal requirements while also respecting your preference for simplicity and privacy. It’s advisable to contact a local marriage commissioner to discuss your preferences and arrange a ceremony that suits your needs.

Getting a marriage license in British Columbia

Getting a marriage license in British Columbia involves a straightforward process, but it’s important to follow the steps carefully to ensure everything is in order for your wedding day.

Detailed Application Process

  1. Complete the Application: Both parties must fill out a marriage license application form. This form can be obtained online from the website of the British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency or in person from a marriage license issuer.
  2. Submit in Person: The application must be submitted in person by at least one of the parties involved. Both parties need to provide their personal information and the details of their previous marital status if applicable.
  3. Provide Identification: Both parties must present acceptable identification such as a birth certificate, passport, or driver’s license.

Cost and Validity of the License

  • Cost: The fee for a marriage license in BC typically ranges around CAD $100, though this can vary slightly depending on the municipality.
  • Validity: Once issued, the marriage license is valid for 90 days and can only be used within British Columbia. If the marriage does not take place within these 90 days, the license expires and a new one must be purchased.

Places to Obtain a License

  • Marriage License Issuers: Licenses can be obtained from designated marriage license issuers throughout the province. These are typically found in locations such as drug stores, municipal offices, or registry services.
  • Vital Statistics Agency: Some couples choose to obtain their licenses directly from the Vital Statistics Agency offices located in various cities across British Columbia.

It’s recommended to start this process well in advance of your intended wedding date to ensure all paperwork is in order and any potential issues can be addressed without stress.

Choosing the right officiant for your wedding ceremony in British Columbia

Criteria for Choosing an Officiant

  1. Type of Ceremony: Decide whether you want a religious or civil ceremony, as this will dictate the type of officiant you choose.
  2. Legal Authorization: Ensure the officiant is legally authorized to perform marriages in British Columbia.
  3. Personal Connection: Consider someone who resonates with your personal beliefs and values, and with whom you feel comfortable.
  4. Experience: Look for an officiant who is experienced and can provide guidance on crafting your ceremony.

List of Authorized Persons

  • Civil Officiants: Marriage commissioners appointed by the province of British Columbia. They perform non-religious ceremonies.
  • Religious Officiants: Individuals authorized by religious organizations registered with the Vital Statistics Agency of British Columbia to perform marriages, including priests, rabbis, imams, etc.

Conducting a Ceremony with a Religious Officiant

  • Religious Elements: A ceremony conducted by a religious officiant can include specific religious rituals and traditions important to the couple’s faith.
  • Venue: Religious ceremonies are often held in places of worship, but they can also be conducted in other locations, provided the officiant agrees.
  • Customization: Discuss with the officiant the extent to which the ceremony can be personalized in terms of readings, vows, and other elements.

When planning your wedding, it’s advisable to meet with potential officiants to discuss your vision for the ceremony and ensure they can meet your expectations. Additionally, confirm that they are available on your wedding date and understand any legal obligations they must fulfill to ensure your marriage is legally recognized.

Planning the Location and Time of the Ceremony

  1. Venue Selection: Choose a venue that reflects the style and tone of the wedding you envision. This could be indoors or outdoors, in a formal venue or a more casual setting.
  2. Booking Early: Popular venues and dates can book up quickly, especially in peak wedding seasons, so it’s wise to reserve your venue well in advance.
  3. Time of Day: Consider the time of day that best fits the style of the ceremony and the comfort of your guests, as well as the lighting for photography.

Role of Witnesses in the Ceremony

  • Legal Requirement: In British Columbia, you must have two witnesses present at the ceremony who are at least 19 years of age.
  • Participation: Witnesses typically play a role in the ceremony by observing the exchange of vows and signing the marriage registration forms to confirm that the marriage has been conducted legally.

Legal Requirements During the Ceremony

  • Declaration of Intent: Both parties must declare that they take each other as spouses freely.
  • Conduct of the Officiant: The officiant must ensure that the marriage complies with the legal standards of British Columbia, including the proper declaration of marriage and signing of documents.
  • Prohibited Marriages: The ceremony must adhere to legal standards, avoiding prohibited degrees of consanguinity (marriage between close relatives).

Registration of Marriage

Process of Submitting Documents After the Ceremony

  • Completion of Marriage License: After the ceremony, the officiant completes the marriage license with details of the marriage, including the signatures of the couple and witnesses.
  • Submission by Officiant: The officiant is responsible for submitting the completed and signed marriage license to the Vital Statistics Agency within 48 hours of the ceremony.

Timelines and Responsibilities for Registration

  • Officiant’s Responsibility: The officiant must ensure that the marriage is registered with the Vital Statistics Agency of British Columbia promptly to legalize the marriage.
  • Timeliness: Failing to submit the documentation on time can delay the processing of the marriage certificate and legal recognition of the marriage.

The process of planning and executing a wedding ceremony in British Columbia involves careful attention to legal details, personal preferences, and logistical planning to ensure that the day goes smoothly and the marriage is validly recognized.

Obtaining a Marriage Certificate

How and Where to Obtain

  1. Application: After your marriage is registered by the Vital Statistics Agency, you can order a marriage certificate online, by mail, or in person at their office.
  2. Fee: There is a fee for obtaining a marriage certificate, which may vary.

Significance of the Marriage Certificate

  • Legal Recognition: The marriage certificate is the official document confirming the fact of marriage.
  • Document Use: It is necessary for changing names, accessing social benefits, and proving marital status in legal and financial matters.

Legal Aspects After Marriage

Impact of Marriage on Property Rights, Inheritance, and Other Legal Aspects

  • Property Rights: Marriage can change how property is owned and divided, especially in the case of dissolution of the marriage.
  • Inheritance: Spouses typically have rights to inherit from each other, even without a will.
  • Legal and Financial: Being married can affect tax status, entitlement to pensions, social security benefits, and responsibilities for debts.

Tips for Consulting with a Lawyer

  • Pre-marital Counseling: Consulting a lawyer before marriage can help understand the legal implications of marriage, including prenuptial agreements.
  • Estate Planning: It’s advisable to discuss estate planning to ensure assets are distributed as desired in the event of one spouse’s death.
  • Legal Rights and Obligations: A lawyer can provide detailed guidance on the rights and obligations that arise with marriage in your jurisdiction.

Understanding these legal aspects is crucial for protecting your rights and responsibilities within a marriage.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage in British Columbia

1. How long does it take to get a marriage license in British Columbia?

  • You can obtain a marriage license immediately upon applying at a marriage license issuer, as there is no waiting period, provided all required documents are in order.

2. Can we get married immediately after receiving our marriage license?

  • Yes, the marriage license is valid immediately upon issuance and remains valid for 90 days.

3. Are same-sex marriages legal in British Columbia?

  • Yes, same-sex marriages are legal and have been since July 2003.

4. What if one or both of us are not Canadian citizens?

  • Non-Canadians can marry in British Columbia without any additional requirements beyond those expected of residents.

5. Do we need a witness for our wedding ceremony?

  • Yes, you need two witnesses who are at least 19 years of age to be present at your wedding ceremony.

6. What should we do if our marriage license expires?

  • If your marriage license expires before you get married, you will need to apply for a new license.

Useful Resources

Official Websites and Contact Information for Further Assistance:

  • Vital Statistics Agency: For marriage licenses, certificates, and registration.
  • Marriage Commissioners: List and contact information for commissioners who can officiate civil ceremonies.
  • Service BC: For general inquiries and additional guidance on government services.
    • Website: Service BC
    • Call Service BC: 1-800-663-7867

These resources can provide comprehensive information and assistance for planning your marriage in British Columbia, ensuring you meet all legal requirements and have a memorable ceremony.