Everything you need to know about marriage in Canada

13 Feb 2023·16 min to read
Everything you need to know about marriage in Canada 01

About 300,000 people get married annually in Canada, and marriages are either civil or religious/traditional. Canadian marriages may only be conducted by authorized officiants such as marriage commissioners, court clerks, members of the clergy, and judges. 

Couples are allowed to decide who will conduct their wedding ceremony according to the laws of their province. Religious weddings account for over half of the weddings in Canada. This implies that more people getting married opt for religious and traditional weddings. However, some couples usually hold both civil and religious marriages. 

Religious marriages in Canada are quite similar to those in the United States, and there are just a few slight differences in the way the traditions and rites take place. These differences are shown in either the pre-wedding phase or the post-wedding phase. A member of the clergy, such as a priest, rabbi, minister, or other recognized religious practitioner, can conduct the wedding. On the other hand, civil marriages in Canada are more about the law and less about partying and celebration. 
Couples who plan on having a civil marriage service are required to do so in the city hall, town hall, or municipal court. The wedding is usually conducted by a judge, clerk, or justice of the peace. Let’s go straight to the types of marriages in Canada and what they entail.

Civil Marriage in Canada

As previously stated, a civil marriage is held in any of the city halls, town halls, or municipal halls. Before couples can get married officially, they are required to present two forms, namely, a banns form and a marriage license.

Banns Form and Marriage License

Banns refer to a traditional religious ritual that takes place when two partners are getting married for the first time.
 The places of worship of the couples planning to get married will make a public announcement or publication of the couple’s intention to get married. It is customary for some Christian partners to make an announcement to the congregation during a church service. The banns form must be duly signed by an authorized officiant as well as the spouses to be official. 
The second requirement is a marriage license. A marriage license in Canada is valid for only 90 days after the date it was issued. Couples must make all the necessary arrangements and make sure everything is in order when applying for a marriage license. A person can apply for a marriage license at the municipal court, town hall, or city hall. Nevertheless, there are some official documents that will be requested before the marriage license application can be processed. These documents are stated below:

A government-issued birth certificate 
A valid ID or passport is 
A valid driver’s license 
Canadian Citizenship Card
A valid Ontario photo card 
The Record of Immigration

Couples are also required to pay a fee. The amount of this payment depends on the Canadian province where the marriage license is being applied for. Couples should note that the marriage license is valid for only three months from the date it was issued.

Everything you need to know about marriage in Canada 02

Religious Marriage in Canada

A religious Canadian marriage is largely based on the religious beliefs of couples as well as the customs and traditions of their region and community. They are usually held in two parts. The first part involves a ceremony in the place of worship of the couple where a minister or authorized celebrant joins the bride and groom together as husband and wife. The second part is the wedding reception and honeymoon.

Christian Religious Marriage

Christian religious marriages take place in the church or respective place of worship of the couples. During the ceremony, the bride and groom exchange vows and share their commitment to each other. They can use vows provided by the church or their own written vows. The officiating priest asks the family and friends, as well as all the attending guests, if anyone has an objection to the union between the partners. If nobody objects to the marriage, the couples then exchange their wedding rings as a symbol of their everlasting love for each other. 

The couples are then pronounced husband and wife for the first time in public. After this, they share a kiss, and all the attendees stand up to celebrate the couple. This later leads to the wedding reception in another venue. During the reception, the maid of honor and best man propose a toast, and the couples usually do their first dance. Different gifts and blessings are received by the couples from the guests. The final stage is the honeymoon, where the couple goes on a vacation for about two weeks or more.

Muslim Religious Marriage

Muslim weddings are held in ways that are slightly different from each other depending on the cultural background of the bride and groom. One of the marriage rites is for the couples to declare their intention that they are getting married for the sake of Allah and to build a Muslim family and grow together. Islamic weddings are governed by laws as well as rights and obligations, and the couples are expected to read about their duties and rights to their families and each other. 

Muslim couples can contact a local masjid to find an authorized officiant for their wedding ceremony. One of the marriage rites is for the groom to offer a gift to his bride. Both partners are required to mutually agree on the official marriage date, dowry, and the home they will live in. The couples request the marriage officiant to apply for a marriage license on their behalf. They are required to give a verbal agreement to the wali, usually the bride’s father, and at least two other witnesses. 
The marriage official gives a sermon to the couples, advising them about the dos and don'ts of marriage while wishing them a prosperous and happy life together. 

The bride and groom are officially declared spouses after the marriage is announced. The spouses usually get a marriage certificate after two to five weeks.

Marriage Traditions in Canada

The ceremonial sites for marriages in Canada are quite similar to those in the US. However, there are some variations that set Canadian marriage traditions apart, such as the alcohol bars or the sock dance. These traditions are elaborated below.

Vehicle Processional

This is a popular tradition in Quebec where the couples meet with each other at the bride’s family house so they can travel together with their families. Processional cars are usually decorated with ribbons, bells, flowers, and different types of ornaments. The procession usually blows their horns and makes loud noises to attract the attention of people on their way to the wedding venue. During the course of the trip, they are usually joined by family and friends and various guests on their way to the ceremony.

Wedding Reception

Canadian wedding receptions are the same as the popular western receptions. It involves celebrations and the sharing of gifts. Other rites such as the first dance, cocktail hour, music, eating and drinking are popular during the wedding reception.


It is customary for the maid of honor and best man to give a toast during the wedding reception. Canadian marriages are usually quite long and toasts are shared by members of the family and friends where the wedding party gets to say beautiful things about the couples and wish them a prosperous marriage filled with happiness.

The Bar

Most Canadian marriages have alcohol served during the ceremony. Cash bars are often available where guests have access to different alcoholic drinks for a nice time.

Sock Dance

This is a fun tradition in Canadian marriages where unmarried siblings get to dance with the bride and groom and offer them money and gifts. The siblings often wear funny-looking socks and perform a dance while they are showered with money by the guests.

Same-sex Marriage in Canada

Same-sex marriage was first introduced in Canada in 2003 and became fully legal in 2005. Canada became the fourth country in the world to federally recognize same-sex marriages. Same-sex marriages hold equal rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex marriages. Churches and other religious houses are allowed to hold same-sex marriage services provided the priest or manners are not opposed to the act.

Canadian Marriage Restrictions

There are some laws guiding and protecting marriages in Canada. When such laws are broken, it leads to the termination of the wedding and the marriage certificate is rendered void or invalid. Both spouses in a marriage must freely consent. Forcing a person into marriage is a punishable crime under the law, and marriages that were held in this instance will be nullified. According to Canadian law, no person under the age of 16 is legally allowed to enter into a marriage contract. The minimum age of marriage in Canada varies according to different provinces and territories. People related by blood are not allowed to get married, even if they are half-siblings. Polygamy is also a criminal offense in Canada, and people who engage in this act will be prosecuted.

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Marriage Laws, Rights, Costs, and Duties

Laws and Rights

The minimum age to get married in Canada is 18 or 19, depending on the region or province. People of ages 16 or 17 are also allowed to get married, provided there is parental and court consent. Marriages between members of the family or relatives are prohibited by law in Canada. Furthermore, people related by affinity or adoption are allowed to get married under the law. The last name change is regarded as a custom and is not a legal requirement. For a marriage to be considered official, it must be conducted by an authorized minister or judge. Couples planning to get married must have a marriage license before the wedding is held. Polygamous relationships are prohibited by law in Canada, and one may be married to only one spouse. 

It is the right of a Canadian to choose the type of wedding they want. The wading ceremony will either be a civil or religious one. Forcing or coercing a partner into marriage is prohibited by law. Both spouses are allowed to draw up prenuptial agreements to decide the use of their assets and various properties. Married people are entitled to some financial benefits, such as the transferring of certain credits.


Weddings in Canada often range between $25,000 and $30,000. This is the average cost, but couples are allowed to scale up or down depending on their personal preferences. Major wedding expenses include flowers and decorations; photography; transportation; catering; beauty; and music. 
The number of guests as well as the choice of rings and various ornaments is to be determined by the couple, as these can make up for a large part of the expenses involved with the ceremony.


The duty of the husband in a Canadian marriage is to be the head of the family to protect and provide for his wife and children. The husband is meant to meet the financial needs of his family and make sure they are comfortable. Both the husband and the wife have a duty to offer financial support to each other. The wife’s duty is to make contributions to the family and fake cards for her husband and children. Various roles and responsibilities such as the payment of bills and maintenance can be decided and agreed upon by the partners. There may be child and spousal support by the partner who earns the larger income.

Final Thoughts

Civil marriages and religious marriages are the two forms of marriage in Canada. They are both recognized and protected by law. Civil marriages are often conducted by a judge, while religious marriages are officiated by an authorized minister or priest based on the couples' religion. 
Marriage rites and traditions have some distinguishing characteristics that make them unique and joyful. The cost of weddings in Canada depends on how far the couples are willing to go. Couples who decide to have a destination wedding may end up spending a lot due to the transportation costs as well as hotels and other required provisions. This article is a complete guide to everything you need to know about marriages in Canada.


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