Getting married

Frequently asked questions

Why do I need a marriage certificate?

A marriage certificate is a government-issued document that shows your marriage is legal. This status confers certain rights unto spouses and their children such as the sharing of government pensions and benefits, personal property like a house or car, savings and/or debts and inheritances.

What is the legal difference between marriage and common-law?

A marriage certificate automatically conveys equal rights onto both spouses for things like health insurance, social benefits, savings, property, inheritance, etc. The rights of common-law partners vary widely from province to province. Generally, common-law couples that have been together at least one year are allowed to share some federal benefits, such as pensions. After three years together common-law partners — in most provinces — can be added to their partner’s employee benefits plan. British Columbia is the only province that confers common-law relationships with all the same rights as married ones, but only after the couple has lived together for two years. Quebec is the only province where common-law relationships are not legally recognized no matter how long the couple has been together.

Who can perform marriages?

This varies from province to province, but generally members of the clergy, provincial judges, justices of the peace, municipal clerks, and marriage commissioners (retired or semi-retired individuals who are registered to perform civil marriages) can perform a marriage. Only registered religious officials may perform a religious marriage service.

Can I get married in another country?

Yes. As long as the marriage is legally performed abroad it should be valid in Canada. If you are able to plan the wedding before you leave, you can obtain a certificate issued by your province stating that there are no legal impediments to your marriage.

Is my same-sex marriage legal outside of Canada?

Not necessarily. While the marriage is legal in Canada, the same status and rights would likely not be recognized in countries that have not legalized gay marriage. In parts of the United States where same-sex marriage is legal there would be no issue, but in so called “non-recognition” states the marriage status would not be upheld.


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