Marriage is a significant legal and social institution in Canada, encompassing various rights and responsibilities. This article provides an overview of the marriage process in Ontario, highlighting the legal implications and the importance of marriage in Canadian society.

Overview of the Marriage Process in Ontario

The process of getting married in Ontario involves several key steps that couples must follow to ensure their union is legally recognized. These steps include obtaining a marriage license, choosing an appropriate officiant, and fulfilling the requirements for a legally binding ceremony.

  1. Marriage License: Couples must apply for a marriage license, which can be obtained from most municipal offices in Ontario. The license is valid for 90 days from the date of issue.
  2. Choosing an Officiant: The ceremony must be conducted by an officiant legally authorized to perform marriages in Ontario. This includes religious officials, judges, justices of the peace, and municipal clerks.
  3. Ceremony Requirements: The marriage ceremony, whether religious or civil, must be witnessed by two individuals aged 18 or older. The ceremony itself can be customized to suit the couple’s personal beliefs and preferences, as long as it includes the legal declaration of marriage.

Legal Significance of Marriage in Canada

In Canada, marriage is not only a personal commitment between partners but also a legally binding agreement that affects numerous aspects of life. Understanding the legal implications of marriage is crucial for couples planning to marry:

  • Rights and Responsibilities: Married couples gain certain legal rights and obligations regarding property ownership, inheritance, and support duties.
  • Financial Implications: Marriage can impact various financial aspects, including tax obligations, entitlement to government benefits, and responsibilities for debts.
  • Family Law: In case of separation or divorce, Canadian family law governs issues related to the division of property, spousal support, and child custody.

Marriage is a deeply personal yet legally structured institution that has lasting implications on a couple’s social and legal status in Canada. As such, understanding both the procedural and substantive legal aspects of marriage in Ontario is essential for any couple contemplating this commitment.

Legal Requirements for Marriage in Ontario in 2024

Age Restrictions

  • General Rule: The minimum age to marry in Ontario is 18 years.
  • Exceptions: Individuals aged 16 or 17 can marry with the written consent of both parents. Marriages involving anyone under 16 are not legally permitted under any circumstances.

Capacity and Free Consent

  • Capacity: Both parties must have the mental capacity to understand the nature of the marriage contract and the duties and responsibilities it entails.
  • Free Consent: Both individuals must enter into the marriage voluntarily and without coercion or duress.

Restrictions for Those Already Married

  • Prohibition: It is illegal to marry someone while already married to another person. Marrying while still legally married to another individual constitutes bigamy, which is a criminal offense in Canada.

Obtaining a Marriage License

Steps to Apply for a License

  1. Application Form: Both parties must complete an application form, which can be obtained from any municipal office or online from some municipalities’ websites.
  2. Submission: The application must be submitted in person by at least one of the applicants to a municipal office that issues marriage licenses.

Required Documents

  • Identification: Valid identification such as a birth certificate, passport, or driver’s license for both parties is required.
  • Proof of Current Marital Status: If previously married, applicants must provide documents proving that previous marriages have been legally terminated (divorce decree, death certificate of the previous spouse).

Cost and Validity of the License

  • Cost: The fee for a marriage license in Ontario varies by municipality but typically ranges from CAD $100 to CAD $150.
  • Validity: The license is valid for use anywhere in Ontario for 90 days from the date of issue.

These legal requirements and procedures ensure that all marriages in Ontario are conducted in compliance with the law, safeguarding the rights and well-being of all individuals involved.

Choosing an Officiant in Ontario

List of Possible Officiants

  • Judges or Justices of the Peace: Authorized to perform civil ceremonies.
  • Municipal Clerks: Certain clerks are designated to perform marriage ceremonies in their municipality.
  • Religious Leaders: Priests, ministers, rabbis, imams, and other religious officials authorized by their respective religious organizations.

Requirements for Officiant Registration in Ontario

  • Legal Authorization: Officiants must be registered with the Office of the Registrar General in Ontario to perform marriages.
  • Training and Credentials: Religious officiants need to be in good standing with their religious organization, while civil officiants often undergo specific training or must meet certain qualifications outlined by the province.

Planning the Ceremony

Discussing Possible Locations for the Ceremony

  • Venue Types: Couples can choose from a variety of venues such as parks, banquet halls, private homes, or specialized wedding venues. Religious ceremonies are typically held in places of worship.
  • Considerations: When selecting a location, consider factors such as capacity, accessibility, cost, and the venue’s rules regarding decorations and catering.

Role of Witnesses, Number, and Requirements

  • Number of Witnesses: Ontario law requires two witnesses present at the marriage ceremony.
  • Requirements for Witnesses: Witnesses must be at least 18 years old and must be mentally capable of understanding the nature of the ceremony.
  • Role in the Ceremony: Witnesses observe the exchange of vows and sign the marriage register, affirming that the ceremony was conducted legally.

These elements—the choice of officiant, the venue, and the role of witnesses—are crucial in shaping the wedding ceremony and ensuring it meets legal standards. Each choice reflects personal preferences and legal requirements, helping to make the ceremony both meaningful and compliant with Ontario laws.

Registration Process After the Wedding Ceremony

Details of the Registration Process

  • Completing the Marriage License: Immediately after the ceremony, the officiant, the couple, and the witnesses must sign the marriage license. This document contains vital information about the couple and the ceremony.
  • Submission by Officiant: The officiant is responsible for submitting the signed marriage license to the Office of the Registrar General for Ontario. This must be done within 48 hours after the ceremony to ensure the marriage is legally recorded.

Duties and Responsibilities of the Officiant

  • Ensure All Signatures: The officiant must ensure that all parties (the couple and the witnesses) sign the marriage license.
  • Record Keeping: The officiant may need to keep a record of the marriage ceremony, which can be requested by the Registrar General for verification.
  • Legal Compliance: The officiant must ensure the ceremony complies with Ontario laws and that the marriage license is completed accurately and submitted on time.

Obtaining a Marriage Certificate

Process of Ordering and Receiving the Official Marriage Certificate

  • Application: After the marriage is registered, the couple can apply for the official marriage certificate. This application can be submitted online, by mail, or in person.
    • Online: The fastest and most convenient way, accessible through the ServiceOntario website.
    • Mail: Downloading and completing an application form from the ServiceOntario website, then mailing it to the address provided.
    • In Person: Visiting a ServiceOntario centre.
  • Payment: There is a fee for processing the marriage certificate application. The fee varies depending on how quickly the certificate is needed and the method of delivery.
  • Processing Time: Regular processing times can vary from 6 to 8 weeks, though faster processing options are available for an additional fee.
  • Delivery: Once processed, the marriage certificate will be mailed to the address specified in the application.

This official marriage certificate serves as a legal document for proof of marriage and is required for various administrative and legal purposes, such as changing one’s name, applying for certain benefits, or legal proof of marriage.

Legal Consequences of Marriage

Impact on Legal Rights and Duties Including Property and Inheritance

  • Property Rights: Upon marriage, spouses acquire rights to a share in the value of each other’s property acquired during the marriage, known as “equalization of net family property.” This does not necessarily mean physical sharing or ownership but a financial adjustment upon separation or divorce.
  • Inheritance: Spouses automatically become entitled under the law to a portion of the deceased’s estate if there is no will. Even if there is a will, a spouse may still claim a statutory share if the will provides less than the law would allow.
  • Debts and Liabilities: In Ontario, each spouse generally remains responsible for their own debts unless agreed otherwise. However, both might be responsible for debts incurred jointly or for family-related purposes.

Recommendations for Consulting with a Lawyer

  • Clarification of Legal Aspects: It is advisable for couples, especially those with substantial assets or children from previous relationships, to consult a lawyer to discuss prenuptial agreements and the full legal implications of marriage.
  • Legal Protection: A lawyer can help structure affairs in a manner that protects both parties’ interests, particularly in complex financial situations.

Tips for Non-residents

Special Requirements and Advice for Non-residents Wishing to Marry in Ontario

  • No Residency Requirement: Non-residents can marry in Ontario without residing in the province. The process to obtain a marriage license is the same as for residents.
  • Legal Validity of Marriage: Marriages that are legally performed in Ontario are generally recognized worldwide. However, non-residents should check with their local jurisdictions to ensure the marriage will be recognized and if additional documentation is needed when they return home.
  • Documentation: Non-residents need to provide the same identification and proof of previous marital status (if applicable) as residents when applying for a marriage license. This includes valid passports and, where necessary, divorce decrees or death certificates from previous marriages.

General Advice

  • Plan Ahead: Since non-residents might be unfamiliar with the local laws and procedures, it’s wise to contact a marriage license issuer or a legal advisor in Ontario well before the planned wedding date to ensure all paperwork and requirements are correctly understood and met.
  • Legal Advice: Consulting with a lawyer about international marriage laws can be crucial for understanding how marriage in Ontario might affect legal status or property rights in the couple’s home country.

Marriage brings significant legal changes, particularly regarding rights and responsibilities toward each other and in relation to third parties. Non-residents and residents alike should be well-informed and possibly seek legal counsel to ensure all aspects of their marriage comply with the law and protect their interests.

Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage in Ontario

1. How long before the wedding should we apply for a marriage license?

  • It is advisable to apply for a marriage license at least one month before the wedding to ensure there is enough time to process the application. The license is valid for 90 days from the date of issue.

2. Can we get married anywhere in Ontario with a license obtained from any city in Ontario?

  • Yes, a marriage license obtained from any municipality in Ontario can be used to marry anywhere within the province.

3. What documents do we need to bring to obtain a marriage license?

  • Both parties must bring two pieces of government-issued identification such as a birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, etc. If previously married, documentation proving that the marriage has been legally dissolved (like a divorce decree) is required.

4. Is a blood test required to get married in Ontario?

  • No, blood tests are not required to obtain a marriage license in Ontario.

5. Can we have a friend or family member officiate our wedding?

  • Only if they are a registered officiant in Ontario. This includes judges, justices of the peace, and religious officials authorized by their organization. Friends or family members can become temporarily authorized if they meet specific criteria and undergo the application process through the Office of the Registrar General.

6. What is the process if one or both of us are not Canadian citizens?

  • Non-Canadian citizens can marry in Ontario just like Canadian residents, provided they meet all legal requirements for marriage in the province.

Additional Resources

Useful Web Resources and Contact Information:


For information about obtaining marriage licenses, certificates, and other related services.

Website: ServiceOntario

Phone: 1-800-267-8097

For more information, call:

Toll-free: 1-800-461-2156 if you’re outside of Toronto but within North America

416-325-8305 if you’re within the Greater Toronto Area or outside of North America

TTY: 416-325-3408

These resources can help guide you through the legal processes associated with getting married in Ontario, ensuring that all aspects of your marriage are legally covered and recognized.