Canadian citizens, residents, and international visitors have the right to get married in British Columbia. However, for your marriage to be valid and registered in your country of origin (which is preferable), you may have to comply with particular requirements. Check with your country’s consulate as early as possible.
Getting married is simple! In most cases, for both a religious and a civil ceremony, the first required step is obtaining a marriage license. To get one, you or your spouse simply goes to a local marriage license issuers. To find an issuer, you can use this convenient vital statistics search tool. Be sure to bring with you a government-issued photo ID, and $100 for the license fee. You will also need to provide, your full name, address, date and place of birth, along with the same info about your partner. Additionally, provide info about your and your partner’s present marital status. You’ll need to show proof of divorce if you or our partner divorced within 31 days of your application. This license is valid for three months.
Next comes getting married! You can choose to have a civil or religious marriage. In the case of a civil marriage, it needs to be conducted by a marriage commissioner who is registered with the Vital Statistics Agency. In the case of a religious ceremony, the religious officiant also needs to be registered with the Vital Statistics Agency as well. Here’s an important piece of advice: if you decide to go with a marriage commissioner, be sure to look for one early. They are very busy and finding a last-minute option won’t likely be possible. Their fee is $75.
After the ceremony is performed, the person who conducted your ceremony helps you fill out a Marriage Registration form, which needs to be sent to Vital Statistics Agency within 48 hours of the ceremony. Soon after, you will receive a certificate of marriage. Hold on to this! You may need proof of your marriage in the future.
You have freedom regarding the organization of the ceremony. It can be performed in a public or private venue The few requirements are, according to the government:
- You must have two witnesses.
- You must have a marriage licence.
- Each of you must consent that there is no legal impediment preventing the marriage and that you take the person to be your lawful, wedded partner.
The next step is to consider the legal aspects of marriage, which means agreeing to the principles of this special union: those of equality between the spouses, and agreement about how marital life will be conducted. According to the British Columbia government:
- Both partners have an equal right to stay in the family residence.
- If you live together, there is equal responsibility to care for and financially support the children.
- There is economic partnership, with both parties contributing according to their means.
- Only debts in both names are shared.
- Together, spouses decide how they want to divide the value of total pensions earned by the couple.
- Both parties must comply with the legal agreements governing the dividing of the family assets if the couple legally separates, or if the marriage is dissolved (and a prenuptial agreement has not been signed).
- You have the right to choose the same last name as your new spouse, keep a last name from a previous marriage, or keep your last name as it appears on your birth certificate.
Getting married gives you rights and protection for purposes of immigration (sponsorship), family life (adoption, inheritance, succession) and banking (life insurance, mortgage). For more information on marriage in British Columbia, read the Marriage Act or visit the Department of Vital Statistics website.
And by the way, congratulations!