Getting Married in British Columbia
The Dial-A-Law library is prepared by lawyers and gives practical information on many areas of law in British Columbia. Script 160 gives information only, not legal advice. If you have a legal problem or need legal advice, you should speak to a lawyer. For the name of a lawyer to consult, call the Lawyer Referral Service at 604.687.3221 in the lower mainland or 1.800.663.1919 elsewhere in British Columbia.
This script discusses getting married. If you plan to get married in British Columbia, there are a number of formalities that are required and procedures you should know about.
Before you can get married in BC, certain qualifications must first be met
They are as follows:
- Each of you has to be unmarried; in other words, you can’t be in a marriage with someone else.
- You must not be too closely related to each other: you cannot marry anyone in your immediate family or any near relation.
- Each of you has to be 19 years of age or older. If you’re under 19, you may still get married, but you need the agreement of both your parents or of your guardians. If you’re under 16, you need a court order to get married.
In BC, and in the rest of Canada, opposite- as well as same-sex couples can marry, and the rules that apply to same-sex couples are exactly the same as the rules that apply to opposite-sex couples.
Assuming you meet the qualifications, you’ll need a marriage licence
In order to apply for a marriage licence, one of you has to go, in person, to a Vital Statistics Agency office, which is the office of the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. In the lower mainland, the office is at 250 - 605 Robson Street, and in Greater Victoria, the office is at 818 Fort Street. There are also many other government agent offices in Vancouver, Victoria and all around the province. To find out the location of a Marriage License Issuer in the area closest to you, call 604.660.2937 in Vancouver, 250.952.2681 in Victoria, or toll-free 1.800.663.8328 elsewhere in BC.
What does a marriage licence cost?
There’s a fee of $100 for the marriage license that must be paid at the time of your application. If one or both of you was previously married, you must provide proof of the divorce before you can get the license, usually by providing a copy of your divorce order or certificate of divorce. The marriage license is valid when you get it but expires if you don’t get married within three months.
Next, you need to get married in a religious or civil ceremony
In either case, the person performing the ceremony must be licensed under the provincial Marriage Act to perform marriages, and not all religious officials are licensed under the Act. For civil ceremonies, this person is known as a “marriage commissioner”. The marriage ceremony must be held in the presence of at least two witnesses, in addition to the marriage commissioner or religious official.
If you wish, you can be married in a civil ceremony and then have a religious ceremony afterwards as well. If you have your religious ceremony second, it doesn’t matter whether the religious official is licensed to perform marriages, since you will have been legally married at the civil ceremony.
It is not necessary that banns or another public announcement of the marriage be published before the marriage ceremony takes place.
What if someone objects to the marriage?
Any person who believes there is some reason why two people should not marry can file a “caveat” with the Vital Statistics Agency. If this happens, a marriage licence will not be issued until the agency is satisfied that the issuing of the licence shouldn’t be prevented or the caveat is withdrawn by the person who filed it. If a caveat has been filed, you should speak to a lawyer.
If a couple wishes to get married, they must be qualified to marry. If they can marry, they must obtain a marriage licence. Then, they must have the marriage ceremony performed by a religious representative or marriage commissioner licensed to do so, and the ceremony must be witnessed by at least two other witnesses.
Where can you get more information?
[updated August 2017]
The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Thomas E. Wallwork.
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