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MARRIAGE LICENSE

How to obtain a marriage license in Ontario:

To be married in Ontario, you must obtain a marriage license from the municipal clerk office of a city, town, village or township in Ontario. Getting a licence usually takes 10 minutes, if there are no complications. (COVID is a complication. a previous marriage is a complication). 

During COVID, all the procedures for obtaining a Marriage Licence have been changed and are much more challenging! You might have to "shop around" to see if and when you can actually apply for the licence. 

The marriage license is valid anywhere in Ontario for 90 days from the date of purchase.

Here is a Useful link:

Government of Ontario - Getting Married in Ontario

I have a list of Ontario municipalities and their individual rules here.

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Legal Concerns for your Wedding

A valid Marriage License is needed at the time of the wedding.

In addition, you also require 2 witnesses. These witnesses are simply witnessing your willing declaration to be married - they do not have to know you. Michael can provide 2 witnesses if required.

And of course, you need a bride and a groom !

Can we just 'sign the documents"?

Michael sometimes gets calls for a wedding that has no ceremony but just "signing the licence". These weddings are not legal.

According to the Marriage Act of Ontario, at least a minimal wedding ceremony is required, to include two declarations by the bride and groom, saying (1) that they know of no lawful impediment why they cannot be joined in marriage, and (2) that they each take the other as their lawful wedded spouse/partner.

Vows and other additions to the ceremony are optional.

After the wedding ceremony, the Marriage License and the Official Marriage Register (provided by Michael) must be signed by the bride, the groom, and the 2 witnesses, plus Michael.

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How to register a marriage in Ontario:

Right after the wedding, Michael will give the married couple a Record of Solemnization of Marriage; we used to call this a Marriage Certificate but these days it is simply a souvenir.

This document includes the couple’s names, the date and place of the marriage, the signatures of the official witnesses and the officiant. This is NOT a marriage certificate or a legal record.

Michael is required to mail the completed and signed marriage license to the Office of the Registrar General in Thunder Bay for registration. It then takes Thunder Bay about 12 weeks to register the marriage. After that, you can apply for an official Marriage Certificate. You need the Marriage Certificate if you want to change your last name on your driver's license, health card, or passport.

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Q: After the marriage is registered, how do I get an "official" marriage certificate?

A: You will NOT 'automatically' be sent a marriage certificate. Once 12 weeks have elapsed after the wedding, you can apply for the marriage certificate online from the Government of Ontario.

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Q: What is legally "married?"

A: If you are getting married in Ontario, you may have a religious wedding or a civil marriage in order to be legally married.

Religious wedding or Non-denominational wedding:

A religious wedding or non-denominational wedding is performed by a member of a recognized religious organization recognized and authorized by the Government of Ontario to perform marriages in Ontario under the Marriage Act. (This is not the same as being married by Father in your RC parish church!) The marriage can be solemnized under the authority of a marriage license or the publication of banns, depending on the denomination. Michael is recognized and authorized by the Government of Ontario to perform weddings.

Civil marriage:
A judge, justice of the peace or municipal clerk, or other person authorized by the Government of Ontario may perform a marriage under the authority of a marriage license.

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Q: Do we have to get married in a church?

A: No, once you have your wedding license, you can get married just about anywhere in the province of Ontario. That includes all public and private buildings, parks and gardens, not just churches. Bodies of water are also acceptable (lakes, rivers, etc.). You might need a permit for certain locations.

If you would like to get married in a church, and don't happen to have one handy, ask Michael.

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Q: Do you require premarital counseling?

A: No, premarital counseling is not required. (Although Michael thinks it is a good idea.)

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Q: Can we write our own vows?

A: Yes, it is your wedding, and should be exactly what you want. Of course, if you need guidance, with any aspect of your wedding ceremony, Michael will be glad to help with suggestions.

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Q: What do you wear for the ceremony?

A: Michael will usually 'dress up' for weddings and wear his gown; on occasion, he has worn a dark suit. On rare occasions (and very hot), he has worn shorts! He will discuss this with you in advance.

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Q: Will Michael come to my home to meet with me and/or to perform the wedding?

A: Yes.

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Q: What is included in your fee?

A: The wedding fee of $ 400 includes the pre-wedding interviews, and the wedding ceremony. A wedding rehearsal is an additional $ 250.

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Q: Are there any extra charges?

A: If the rehearsal and/or wedding location is more than an hour's round trip drive from Hamilton, Michael asks for $ 50 an hour for time and expenses for driving to the rehearsal and/or wedding.

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Q: Do you ask for a deposit?

A: Yes, he asks for a $ 100 non-refundable deposit at the time of booking to reserve the date, and the balance to paid at least a week before the wedding, usually when the marriage licence is turned over to him for safekeeping.

Q: Do you supply a sound system?

A: No, music or musical performance is your choice. There is no requirement. You may choose to bring a CD player or check to see if there is a sound system available at the location, if you like. You may also decide to have a soloist or a musician or an orchestra if you wish.

Q: Do you participate in the rehearsal?

A: That is up to you. While he does not require a rehearsal, there will be a $ 250 rehearsal fee if he is involved, plus travel costs if applicable.

Q: Do you need to be included in the reception?

A: No he does not. During the busier seasons, time may not allow him to participate.

Q: We’re having a big fancy wedding later. Can you perform a private ceremony for us now that will meet the legal requirements?

A: Of course! This happens frequently when couples want a "destination" wedding in the Caribbean or somewhere but are not certain such a wedding would be legal.

Q: We already had a traditional ceremony but it didn’t meet legal requirements. Can you perform a small, private ceremony for us now - one that is legal?

A: Yes, a short ceremony can be performed privately, at any location. If you do not have 2 witnesses, we can also provide those.

Q: Do you accept credit card payments?

A: No. But he does accept cash or cheque or bank etransfer to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Q: Do you need to see our marriage license?

A: Michael prefers to have the marriage license in hand well before the ceremony; he needs about 30 minutes to copy the information into the Marriage Register and prepare the Marriage Licence for the ceremony, and it is better that he does this in advance rather than make your guests wait while he fills out the forms! You are not married until the forms are filled out completely.

Also, he has had experiences where the couple have forgotten to bring the license, or it got lost. To perform a legal marriage, it must be there on the day of the wedding. We can do a lot of things on your wedding day without a marriage license; getting married just isn't one of them.

Q: What does "Officiant" mean?

A: Someone like Michael who is legally authorized to preside over/perform a couple's wedding ceremony.

Q: How old must you be to marry in Ontario?

A: You must be at least 18 years old to be married in Ontario by license or under the authority of the publication of banns without authorization or parental consent. If you are 16 or 17 years old, you may marry if you have the consent in writing of both parents. Other restrictions may apply.

Q: What should we consider for a customized wedding ceremony?

A: You may consider anything you'd like. Michael's services vary from non-denominational (which will include at least one religious reference) to a full religious ceremony (like Father does in church). Romantic readings and favourite songs are always wonderful to add to the ceremony. Just remember, it’s your special day and the ceremony should consist of segments that are meaningful to you.

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ROMAN CATHOLICS

Q: Will this Marriage be recognized by the Roman Catholic Church?

Not automatically. Roman Catholics are required to observe a certain form of marriage ritual in order that their marriage be valid in the eyes of the Roman Catholic Church. Canon law—the law of the Church—requires that Catholics enter into marriage by free mutual consent that is witnessed (performed) in a Roman Catholic church by an authorized bishop, priest, or deacon and at least two other witnesses.

Marriages in which one or both parties are Catholic and which are not witnessed (performed) by an authorized bishop, priest, or deacon, or which do not receive proper permission to take place in another forum, are considered invalid in the eyes of the RC Church.

Roman Catholic clergy are not permitted to participate in weddings anywhere other than in an RC church.

The RC Church very much wants to assist these couples who later want to enter into valid Catholic marriage, and it offers them what is called a Convalidation ceremony - sometimes referred to as the blessing of a marriage.

For more information, see our article on Convalidation.

Quite often, couples ask Michael to perform their wedding ceremony at a location other than a Roman Catholic Church, and then later apply to the RC Church for Convalidation because they want to make certain that their children can be baptized Roman Catholic or for other reasons.

Michael is not a Roman Catholic priest, but he is a "Priest Substitute". He has performed weddings in Catholic churches, and other churches, and thanks to his training and experience, he can easily substitute for a Roman Catholic priest. He can even perform Mass. 

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