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Marriage FAQ

While the federal Civil Marriage Act governs most general aspects of getting married, some marriage laws can differ slightly from province to province.

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 “proof of urgency” when requesting a marriage certificate?

If you wish to have your legal marriage expedited immediately you must first show a reason why this needs to happen, otherwise referred to as proof of urgency. Reasons could include: a medical emergency, a letter confirming new employment, airline tickets or travel reservations, a letter from a consulate or embassy confirming an appointment, a wedding invitation to your own wedding.

What is the difference between a marriage licence and a marriage certificate?

A marriage licence is a temporary permit issued by the province or territory in which you plan to be married that lasts about 90 days from the date it was issued. You must have a licence in order to be married. A marriage certificate is the legal document you receive after the wedding that proves your marriage is legal in Canada.

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.

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.

Outside of B.C., the big difference between common-law and married couples is that in the event of a breakup, a common-law partner does not automatically have equal ownership of assets such as a house. In the event of death, a common-law “spouse” would not automatically inherit any shared property, unless it was included in the deceased’s will, or in a cohabitation agreement. If the surviving partner’s name was not listed on the house title, then they would have to make a claim to prove that they contributed equally to mortgage payments, housing costs, taxes, etc.

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. For more information on overseas marriages, check out the Government of Canada website.

Does my foreign spouse automatically become a Canadian citizen?

No. You will have to apply to sponsor your non-Canadian spouse. You and your spouse may reside in Canada during the sponsorship process. The government also requires that you and your spouse live together for a minimum of two years after your foreign partner is granted permanent residence status. If you do not remain together, your spouse’s status may be revoked.

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.

Read more:

Service Canada Getting Married

B.C. Family Law Marriages, Divorces and Annulments