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BC Marriage Licence FAQs

BC Marriage Licence FAQs
January 18, 2023 Riana Ang-Canning
marriage licence, vancouver wedding, young hip & married

Need a BC marriage licence for your legal wedding in BC but confused about the process? Wondering how to get one, where and when? We’ve got you covered! Below we’re diving into the most frequently asked questions our couples have about getting their marriage licence and ensuring their BC marriage certificate is correct.

For more information, check out our guide to BC marriage licences and certificates.

Getting married in Alberta or Ontario? Check out our Alberta marriage licence guide or Ontario marriage licence guide

signing marriage licence at vancouver wedding with young hip and married

by Sambajoy

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

A marriage licence is the paper you obtain before your wedding and sign at your ceremony. A marriage certificate is the paper you receive after your wedding to show that your marriage was registered and that you are legally married.

Do we need a marriage licence?

Yes. If you want to get legally married, you need to obtain a marriage licence and sign it at your wedding ceremony. If you are getting married in BC, you need to obtain a marriage licence in British Columbia.

Who can get a BC marriage licence? Can our planner or officiant get the licence for us?

Only the couple getting married can apply for and receive a marriage licence in British Columbia. This is not a task that your wedding planner, wedding officiant, friend or family member can do for you.

In BC, only one member of the couple needs to be present to apply for and receive the licence, but they must have ID for both parties. In some other provinces, both members of the couple must be present.

signing bc marriage licence and vancouver wedding

by John Bello Photography

What do we need to get a marriage licence?

In order to apply for a marriage licence you must have primary ID for both members of the couple. Primary ID includes birth certificates, IMM/immigration forms, permanent resident cards and citizenship cards. Driver’s licences and passports may be accepted at the issuer’s discretion.

You will also need to have the following information for both parties: full legal names, birth dates, place(s) of birth, and address.

Where do we get a BC marriage licence? Can we get a marriage licence online? 

You must apply for and buy your BC marriage licence in person at an issuing location in BC. You can buy a marriage licence anywhere in the province; you don’t have to buy your licence in the same city that your wedding is taking place. To find an issuing location near you, visit https://connect.health.gov.bc.ca/marriage-offices.

But you must go in person to get your licence. You cannot get a BC marriage licence online. 

Conveniently, many London Drugs locations sell marriage licences. To find a London Drugs near you that issues marriage licences, visit https://www.ldinsurance.ca/marriage-license-locations.

How long does it take to get a marriage licence in BC?

Marriage licences in British Columbia are received immediately. You apply in person where an issuer will check your ID and verify your details. You will then pay the fee and leave with your marriage licence in hand. If there’s no line, the whole process will only take a few minutes!

signing bc marriage licence

by The Macleans

signing bc marriage licence

by The Macleans

How fast can you get married in BC?

There is no waiting period in BC – as soon as you have your marriage licence, you can get married. To get married, you will also need someone who can legally marry you (like a wedding officiant!) and two witnesses to attend your ceremony and sign the paperwork.

At Young Hip & Married, we’ve had couples reach out to us on a Friday to get married that same weekend. So a wedding ceremony can come together quickly! Of course, we appreciate a little bit more notice to process your booking and get you matched with an officiant. But if you’re in a rush, don’t hesitate to reach out.

How much does a marriage licence cost in BC? 

Currently, a BC marriage licence costs $100 and is non-refundable. If you lose your licence, you may return to the issuing location and ask for a replacement.

When should we get our marriage licence?

The earliest you can get a marriage licence is three months before your wedding; wedding licences are valid for three months from the day you apply and receive your licence. So you could pick up your licence from 90 days in advance all the way up to the morning of your ceremony.

We recommend not picking up your licence right at the beginning of the 90 day period. Just in case something happens, like your wedding gets delayed or you forget to bring your licence and have to sign it at another time, you want to give yourself a buffer after your wedding date. Picking it up three months in advance also gives you lots of time to forget and misplace your licence!

We also recommend not waiting until the very last minute to get your licence. The last thing you want to do on the morning or even week of your wedding is stress about getting to a licence issuing location. And just in case a location is closed or you forget to bring your ID, you don’t want to run out of time to try again.

We suggest picking up your licence 4-6 weeks before your wedding date. That way, you have enough time to fix any mistakes but not so much time that things get lost.

signing wedding licence, marriage license

by Jesse Holland Photo

*IMPORTANT* Double check your marriage licence is 100% accurate!

It is critical that the information on your marriage licence is 100% accurate. The person issuing your licence should ask you to double and triple check all of the information before they print the licence. While it may feel silly to check your own name, take your time reading through everything. Is your name spelled correctly? Is it in the right order? Is your birth date right?

Sadly, we’ve seen situations where an innocent mistake is made on a marriage licence but a couple doesn’t catch the error until their marriage certificate arrives in the mail. Unfortunately, at that point, you will have to go through a tedious process to change your marriage record, since the marriage has been registered with Vital Statistics. This includes filling out forms, getting certified copies of your ID, paying fees and working with a notary or lawyer.

Don’t let something as simple as a missing middle name create a huge headache in your first weeks of newlywed life!

You also want to make sure the address you provide on your licence is your accurate mailing address. This is where your marriage certificate will be mailed to after your marriage is registered.

What other information is needed? 

In addition to the information you provided to get your licence (full names, birth dates, places of birth, address), you are also asked to provide information about your parents. This information is collected by your officiant ahead of time and reported to Vital Statistics.

Vital Statistics asks for the following information for both partners (unfortunately in heteronormative terms):

Father’s Surname and Given name(s) and Birth PLACE (city/town/province/country)
Mother’s Birth (Maiden name) and Given name(s) and Birth PLACE (city/town/province/country)

If you don’t know some or all of the above information and can’t find out, you can respond with “unknown.” If you feel uncomfortable providing this information or have a different family situation, please speak with your wedding officiant.

Who signs the marriage licence at the wedding ceremony?

At your wedding, your marriage licence will be signed by you, your partner, your wedding officiant and your two witnesses. NOTE: You need to sign your marriage licence with your current, legal name. So even if you’re planning to change your last name after marriage, you must sign the licence with your legal name at the time.

signing marriage license at vancouver wedding

by Sambajoy

Bonus: How to not forget your marriage licence on the big day

Worried you might forget your marriage licence on the big day? Try this trick: Leave your marriage licence with your wedding rings! No way you forget your rings, right? We also suggest leaving the licence and rings somewhere out in the open where you can’t miss it, like on a table you pass by often.

You also have the option of bringing your marriage licence to your wedding rehearsal and asking your officiant to hold onto it ahead of your upcoming ceremony. Please double check with your officiant that this is something they’d be happy to do for you.

How do we get our BC marriage certificate after our wedding? Do we have to pay or apply for it?

Every couple who gets married in BC will automatically receive a marriage certificate from Vital Statistics in the mail. This certificate comes automatically – you don’t have to apply for it – and it’s free of charge. It is sent to the address listed on your marriage licence (which is why it’s important your address is correct!).

Note that in many other provinces and countries, you are required to apply and pay for your marriage certificate. So if you’re getting married somewhere other than BC, you’ll need to look into how to obtain your certificate.

How long does it take to get our marriage certificate? 

The Vital Statistics Agency states that couples receive their marriage certificate, on average, three weeks after their wedding. However, please keep in mind that this is just an average; we generally tell our couples it could take 3-6 weeks to receive your marriage certificate. If your mailing address is more remote or you get married during a busy mail time, such as the December holidays, your certificate may arrive later than that.

signing wedding license, marriage license at backyard wedding

by Erica Miller Photography

What happens if we never get our marriage certificate?

If it has been much longer than 3-6 weeks, please feel free to reach out to your wedding officiant. They can confirm that your signed licence was mailed to Vital Statistics and help guide you through the process of tracking down your certificate. Your officiant may also be able to provide you with a document number that you can use to confirm your certificate directly with Vital Statistics.

From there, you’ll want to reach out to Vital Statistics to inquire about your marriage certificate. You can do so via phone (Victoria: 250 952-2681 or toll-free within BC: 1 888 876-1633) or online form.

What happens if we lose our marriage certificate?

If you lose your marriage certificate or need an additional copy, you can order a new certificate in person, by mail or online. Certificates cost $27 or $60 for rush service. Please view this webpage for more information: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/life-events/marriage/marriage-certificates.

Do we need our marriage certificate to change our last names?

Yes, you will need your marriage certificate if you’re planning to take your partner’s last name after you’re married. For a thorough walk through of the name change process in BC, please check out our guide:

How to change your last name in BC after marriage

Alternatively, you can let the pros handle the paperwork for you:

Get everything you need to change your last name for just $35! 

For just $35 (as of writing, check the website for the most up to date prices), you get access to over 750 government agencies and companies, personalized forms and letters, and everything you need to easily and quickly change your last name.

Check out Easy Name Change to get started today!


Have any other questions about BC marriage licenses? Ready to book your BC wedding officiant? Get in touch!

 

feature image by Amber Leigh Photography