A Canadian Marriage Certificate is a vital record issued by a government authority that proves that the couple listed on the certificate has a legally recognized marriage. This document is used to ensure the rights of spouses and children are respected, to apply for certain social benefits, to settle an estate, to change or hyphenate a surname, to apply for a divorce, or simply to document your family history.
A Marriage Certificate is a different type of document from a Marriage Licence. Marriage Licences are issued to couples before they marry, whereas Marriage Certificates are issued as records of marriages that have already occurred.
Marriage, a legal contract for permanent union between two individuals, is recognized by the Canadian government when it has been legally registered. After applying and obtaining a Marriage Licence, a couple should use it in a wedding ceremony led by an authorized wedding celebrant and at least two witnesses. You have go through the ceremony within a certain time period after getting the Marriage Licence and register the marriage with the appropriate authority for it to be recognized. Different Provinces and Territories in Canada have different laws and regulations regarding marriage.
Immediately after the marriage ceremony, the couple may receive a Record of Solemnization of Marriage from the person who performed the ceremony. This document includes the couple’s names, the date of the marriage, the names of the witnesses and whether the marriage was performed under the authority of a licence or the publication of banns. This is not a Marriage Certificate or a legal record. You still need a Marriage Certificate.
The person who performed the marriage must forward a completed and signed Marriage Licence to the provincial Vital Statistics office for registration. The marriage must be registered before you may apply for a Marriage Certificate.
Apply for a Marriage Certificate online:
You may order a replacement Marriage Certificate in the same way as a first time Marriage Certificate (see above). The application form is the same for both types of orders.
Typically, a Marriage Certificate contains the full names of the couple, the place of marriage, the date of marriage, the registration number and the registration date. Some Provinces offer Long Form versions of Marriage Certificates that contain additional information (i.e. date and place of Marriage) required when applying for certain government identity documents.
A Certified Copy of Marriage Registration is a photocopy of the registration completed at the time of marriage, by the marriage officiant and the bride and groom. There is always an official raised seal and red stamp on the back stating it is a certified true copy of the original registration.
Photocopies are rarely needed by citizens and are, by law, for restricted use only. They are generally only required for genealogical, court or consulate purposes. They are not for use as identification.
The information contained on the photocopy depends upon the year the event occurred as Vital Statistics has changed the form and the data it collects over the years. It will however always contain the following information, and quite often more:
Marriage Certificates are issued using the information from the original Registration of Marriage, completed at the time of marriage. If you are not certain of the date of marriage, some Provinces give you the option of ordering a search letter. A search letter only states that according to the Vital Statistics office, an event either is or is not recorded in a range of years provided. No actual information is provided or confirmed. In other Provinces where search letters are not available for order, you are required to fill out the estimated date of marriage on the Marriage Certificate application. If a record cannot be found, a search will automatically be carried out and the applicant will be notified.
Yes. You must have an original government issued Marriage Certificate or Certified Copy of Marriage Registration to apply for a divorce in Canada. The certificate you received at the church (or any other place you were married) will not be accepted by the Divorce Registry.
Your Marriage Certificate will be sent to you directly from the Provincial Vital Statistics Agency. It will either arrive in the mail, or by courier, depending on the service option chosen on the order form.
Marriage Certificates range in price according to the Province or Territory, whether you want a Short Form or Long Form version, as well as the service option chosen on the order form. The only payment currently accepted is credit card (Visa and MasterCard).
Marriage Certificate processing times range according to the Province or Territory, as well as the service option chosen on the order form.
Each Marriage Certificate order form (except for Newfoundland & Labrador, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) has both a regular and rush service option. If you require your Marriage Certificate urgently, please check off the rush service option.
Bill C-38 codifies a definition of marriage for the first time in Canadian law, expanding on the traditional common-law understanding of civil marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution. Bill C-38 redefines civil marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” thus extending civil marriage to conjugal couples of the same sex.
Bill C-38 was passed by the Senate on July 19, 2005, by a vote of 47-21. The Civil Marriage Act then came into effect with Royal Assent on July 20, 2005, as Chapter 33 of the Statutes of Canada. With its enactment, Canada became the fourth country to legislate same-sex marriage, the others being the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005).
Federal vs. Provincial Jurisdiction
There is some confusion about the roles of different levels of government involved in the marriage issue.
The federal government can pass legislation to define marriage and to set out who can marry whom, which means that a Province must recognize any marriage that is valid in Canada.
Although Provinces do not have the freedom to choose which marriages may be solemnized, they are required to provide a process by which people can be married. This means that provincial governments must provide a process for the solemnization of same-sex marriages.
If you are following up on the status of an already ordered certificate, as the applicant, you will need to contact the government agency directly. They will only discuss the status of the application with the applicant. The contact information for the government agencies can be found on your order receipt or below.
Government Agency Contact Numbers
Toll Free: 1-800-663-8328 (BC only)
Toll Free: 1-800-282-8069 (Manitoba only)
Newfoundland & Labrador
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0830
Toll Free: 1-877-848-2578 (Nova Scotia only)
Toll Free: 1-800-661-0833
Toll Free: 1-800-461-2156 (Ontario only)
Prince Edward Island
Toll Free: 1-877-320-1253 (PEI only)
Toll Free: 1-855-347-5465
Eligibility requirements vary by Province or Territory. Please select a Province or Territory where the marriage occurred to confirm whether you are eligible to apply on behalf of another person.
No. Changing a last name upon marriage is a custom only and it has never been a legal requirement. When you get married, there are several options available to you. You may keep your own last name, you may take your husband’s name, or combine both of your last names into a hyphenated last name.
It is also possible to use your husband’s last name for social purposes while continuing to use your own last name for legal purposes, such as your passport, bank accounts, driver’s licence and so on. The important thing is that you must not use both names in an attempt to defraud someone.
The benefit of assuming a married name instead of doing a legal name change is that it does not change your last name on your Marriage Certificate. Later, if you wish to use your own last name again, it is already on your Marriage Certificate and you won’t have to pay to change it back.
If you do decide to use your husband’s last name, it is not necessary to inform the Department of Vital Statistics. However, you will have to arrange to have all your personal documents changed to reflect your new name. You should contact your bank to arrange to change your name on your accounts, credit cards and banking cards, and the federal government to deal with documents such as your social insurance number and passport. Your driver’s licence should also be changed. Do not forget such important documents as insurance policies and your health care number. Note also that marriage automatically invalidates a will, unless the will specifically mentions that it has been made with an upcoming marriage in mind. You should make a new will immediately after marriage.
Eligibility requirements vary by Province or Territory. Please select a Province or Territory where the marriage took place to confirm whether you are eligible to apply on behalf of another person.
Yes. You may marry in a foreign country as long as you meet all the requirements of the authority responsible for marriage in the country where you want to get married. If you are getting married overseas, most countries will require a statement in-lieu of certification of non-impediment to marriage abroad. You can apply for one by mail to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Authentication and Service of Documents section before your departure. If you are already abroad, you may obtain a “Statement in lieu of Certificate of Non-impediment” from the nearest Canadian government office abroad.
Additional information regarding marriage in a foreign country is available on the Canadian Consular Affairs website.
No. Only marriages that took place in Canada are registered by Vital Statistics. Your marriage will be registered in the country where it took place as long as you met all the local requirements. Your Marriage Certificate, issued by the country’s authority responsible for marriage, is proof of your marital status.
No. There are certain procedures that must be followed before a non-Canadian citizen can reside in Canada. For more information, see the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website.
Marriages in Canada can be either civil or religious. Marriages may be performed by members of the clergy, marriage commissioners, judges, justices of the peace or clerks of the court.