Family Life

Marriages in Canada

1. Does Canada accept marriages registered abroad?
If you brought a legal marriage certificate issued abroad with you, your marriage usually will be recognized in Canada. But your marriage must not violate any laws of the country where it was issued or the laws of Canada. For example, a marriage between close blood relatives will not be recognized in Canada. Perhaps in the country where such a marriage was issued, it was legal, but in Canada it is not. In some countries, a husband can marry two or more wives; in Canada you can marry only one person. So, marriage certificates issued abroad for more than one spouse will not be recognized in Canada. If you are in doubt as to whether your marriage will be recognized in Canada, consult with a family lawyer.

2. What types of marriages are there in Canada?
There are civil and religious marriages in Canada. However, if two people are living in common-law relationships, under certain circumstances, they will be also recognized as a married couple. Before getting married you have to apply for a marriage licence and after marriage you have to apply for a marriage certificate. To see more open

3. What is a marriage licence?
A marriage licence is a legal record that allows you to get married. It is issued by Registry Services anywhere in your province and must be used within three months of the date of issue. After receiving the marriage licence, you are not required to wait any defined period of time before marriage registration. To register your marriage, you and your partner have to come personally with identification and other supporting documentation and fill out the marriage licence application ( The price of a marriage licence varies depending on the city. In Toronto the cost is $140. There are no gender, residency, citizenship or medical requirements for obtaining a marriage licence. Usually you will get it on the same day. Review your marriage licence carefully to see if there are any errors.

4. What is a marriage certificate?
A marriage certificate is a legal record that confirms that you are married. It is issued by Service Canada. After the marriage, the person who performed the marriage, will sign and give you a Record of Solemnization of Marriage. This document includes your and your spouse’s names, the date of the marriage and the names of the witnesses and states whether the marriage was performed under the authority of a licence. This is not a marriage certificate or a legal record. The person who performed the marriage must send your marriage licence to the provincial government. In Ontario they must send it to Service Ontario for processing. Then, you can apply for a marriage certificate. You can order a marriage certificate about 6-8 weeks after the marriage. Review it carefully to see if there are any errors. The Request for Marriage Certificate form can be found using the following webpage:

5. What is a civil marriage?
Marriage is one of the most important events in the lives of many people. Getting married in Ontario requires legal documentation and compliance with Ontario laws. Additionally, the rules are different for those getting married for the first time and those who have been divorced. In Ontario, the legal age for entry into legal civil marriage is 18 years, but in some cases, with the written consent of both your parents, the age can be lowered to 16. Consent forms can be obtained where you get a marriage licence. You must get married in person. No other individual can stand in your place and you may not do so over the Internet or telephone.
Statistics reveal that most Canadians marry at a rather mature age. Statistics Canada reports that the average age of the first marriage for women is 28 years and for men 31 years.

6. How do I find the right place to have a civil marriage?
A civil marriage may be performed by a judge, justice of the peace or a municipal clerk under the authority of a marriage licence. Each municipality can offer civil marriage services and set its own fees. Contact your municipal office for more information. There are three wedding chambers in Toronto: Scarborough Civic Centre, North York Civic Centre and York Civic Centre. To book a facility, go to Also, you may arrange a marriage ceremony outside of clerk offices in any location you wish. For example, in the summer you can perform a marriage ceremony in the park and in the winter, you can get married in a greenhouse.

7. What is a religious marriage?
Statistically, 75% of Canadians prefer religious marriage ceremonies under various religious laws. Perhaps the same number applies to immigrants. In a religious ceremony, you can be married by an official who is recognized by your faith group. For example, there are ceremonies under Canon (Christian) law, Sharia (Islamic) law, Halakha (Jewish) law, as well as Hindu law, Sikh law and many other faith-based laws. A religious marriage can be registered by a priest or other religious official who has a special permit for the registration of religious marriage in Canada and has the right to issue a marriage certificate. Because religious laws do not always contain rules, which cover all the rights and duties of the spouses according to Canadian law, it is recommended that besides religious marriage, you register for civil marriage as well. Then you will be fully protected by Canadian marriage law.

8. How do I find the right place to have a religious marriage?
To find the right religious organization where you can register a religious marriage, ask your community members, as well as search in the telephone directory for names of religious organizations. In the province of Ontario to find a religious official who is entitled to the issuance of a marriage certificate, please visit the Religious marriage officials (listed by municipality) website The person who has the authority to register religious marriage will help you to find right place to perform a religious ceremony.

9. Is there common-law marriage in Canada?
If a couple lives together for one to three years (depending on the province), has a joint household and/or are raising children together, the couple can be considered to be in a common-law marriage. Since their marriage is not registered, when they decide to stop their relations, they are not required to issue a divorce certificate, but a number of provisions of Canadian family law apply to the common-law couple. Sometimes, a common-law couple can make a relationship agreement, which sets out the terms of cohabitation and actions in the event of termination of their union. This agreement should be confirmed by the signatures of witnesses and may be registered in court. It is a legal document and, if later, the couple decides to officially register their marriage, their relationship agreement can be renewed, as the marriage contract.
If a couple who lived in a common-law marriage separate, the parents are obliged to support their children and help each other, as in a registered marriage, but the automatic division of property and the house where the couple lived in a common-law marriage, is not valid. There are also no automatic inheritance rights in a common-law marriage if one of the spouses dies. The court will recognize a common-law marriage, if you and your partner write a joint statement that in a certain period you lived in a common-law marriage. Such a declaration may also require the signature of witnesses and it must be notarized. Other proof can serve as your relationship agreement. If your partner has denied his or her involvement in a common-law marriage, consult with a lawyer who specializes in family matters.

10. Is same-sex marriage legal in Canada?
Yes, same-sex marriages are legal in Canada. In Ontario, it has been possible since 2003. The same family law applies to same-sex marriages as to heterosexual marriages.
(To be continued)