Content updated Nov 30, 2022.
Getting married in BC is simpler than in many other places in the world.
How do we get a Marriage Licence?
Getting a marriage license in BC is simple and easy. They are available at selected London Drugs customer service counters, Insurance offices, Service BC locations, or Notaries Public. To find one near you, click here.
Only one person needs to apply, but they must take identification for both. According to the BC government website:
The current fee for a Marriage Licence is $100.00 and must be paid at the time of application. To ensure accuracy of marriage certificates issued after registration and to verify legal age to apply for a marriage licence, primary identification in the form of a birth certificate, IMM/Immigration form, Permanent Resident or Citizenship card confirming 1) full legal names 2) birth date 3) place of birth should be provided for both parties. You will also be asked to provide information on your current marital status and address.
If the applicant does not have primary identification for the parties then the following documents may be utilized in a descending order of preference:
- Driver’s Licence
- Credit Card
- Bank Card
Other documents may also be accepted.
The marriage licence is issued at the time of application. The marriage licence is non-refundable, valid for three months and may not be extended.
The official site has more in-depth information.
Chris Boar Photography
How long does it take to get a marriage licence in BC?
There’s no waiting period here like there is in some other parts of the world. You can get your licence the same day you are married (but you might want to be careful of that…not all licencing offices are open every day.
We are eloping. Do we need witnesses?
Every ceremony, to be legal, needs 2 witnesses. But even if you are eloping…you are never alone…everybody loves a wedding…:)
I can also (depending upon the location) provide a couple of enthusiastic seniors who will come and witness your ceremony (and give you a big hug, if you want).
Chelsea Dawn Photography
What if we are divorced? Do we need paperwork?
Some parts of the world want to see your divorce papers in order to provide a licence. Here in BC, you will be asked if you are recently divorced, and licences will not be granted to people who have been legally divorced for less than a month. If you are planning a date now, avoid stress by finding out how long the processing wait is…don’t make any assumptions.
Darshan Alexander Photography
How long do we need to wait to get the final certificate?
I’ll send you a PDF of the completed licence, so you have it in a pinch.
Vital Stats says expect to wait 3 weeks for the final certificate to arrive….which is pretty fast…:) A bit longer in the summer, and shorter in off/shoulder season. Please note: the process cannot be rushed/expedited if you have emigration issues.
The official site has more information.
Neville Black Photography
We want Uncle Harry to marry us. How can he legally do that?
Unlike in the USA, Uncle Harry can’t get a magic piece of paper that will transform him into either a JP or a Minister for a day. But here are a couple of options.
I’ve used my normal process of co-creating with couples, and then delivered the ceremony in front of their “officiant”. Most stand-ins appreciate this since delivering a ceremony is very different than public speaking, and it can be uber stressful for folks with no experience. Then I hand my script over and off you go.
If your heart (or your wallet) is really set on writing your own ceremony, then perhaps a Marriage Commissioner can look after the legal part of the ceremony while Uncle does the ceremonial aspect. (ask first if s/he is open to it…summer Saturdays tend to be uber-busy and s/he simply may not be able to help you. There are also restrictions to what s/he can/can’t do…best to ask a Marriage Commissioner to explain.)
We want to get married without a ceremony.
Planning to skip directly to the party? (giggle) Well, what marries you IS the ceremony…It’s the only thing you need to get married (along with the licence), someone who wants to marry you, and 2 witnesses. The quickest and easiest route to a legal marriage ceremony might be a Marriage Commissioner, because they are plentiful and in every community. Just google that term and your town/city and the local list should pop up.
How far ahead should we be booking an officiant?
Well, there’s nothing more stressful after you’ve sent out the invitations than to find that you can’t find anyone to marry you…that everyone is booked already. Surprisingly, that happens a LOT. Even if the ceremony is not that important to you, it’s the ONLY thing you need to have (well, and a licence and someone who wants to marry you, too..:)
Prime times (Saturday afternoons between 2 and 5) are snapped up pretty quickly by early birds…popular officiants can easily be booked a year in advance. That said, if you are outside those times, you can breathe a little easier. (But still, to save yourself time, grief, and $$, get your ceremony arranged when you book your venue.)
Kim Kalyn Photography
Can a Celebrant legally marry you?
Yes, if s/he is also licensed wedding officiant/minister, approved by the province. You can ask to see our credentials, but I can offer you this: a website, testimonials, and reviews will all help you verify if someone is legit. But if you are unsure, ask. I once got a phone call from a bride, in tears b/c she booked “a wedding officiant” off Craigslist (no offense meant to this excellent site), who disappeared with her deposit. Fly-by-nighters don’t put up websites..:(
Just a note: Celebrants tend to charge more because of our specialized training and level of service. If someone says they are a celebrant, check to ensure that they have the credentials to justify the cost (like this).
Chris Boar Photography
How do I change my name?
Regardless of sex or gender, you can choose to take one partner’s last name after marriage. There’s no legal paperwork required.
However, you will need to provide a copy of your wedding documentation in order to change major identity items such as bank accounts, SIN and Driver’s Licence. Other service providers may simply require a phone call or allow a change to be made via their website.
If you and your spouse are planning hyphenated names, alas – such simplicity is not to be had. You will have to undertake a legal name change process.
Licence or License?
Americans use license as both a noun and a verb.
The rest of the world uses license (verb) and licence (noun). Kind of like practise (v) /practice (n).
This is, of course, for you grammar nuts….:)
Question not answered here?