To get married, all you need is yourself, a willing partner, someone who can marry you (like us!), witnesses and a marriage licence. That’s it! Everything else, like the four-tier cake or cathedral length veil, is totally optional. Most couples getting married have no trouble finding flowers, favours and friends to stand by their side. But when it comes to licences and certificates, they’re stumped. How does that whole legal part of the marriage actually work?
Don’t worry. We’ve got your back.
Here’s everything you need to make sure you’re actually getting legally married in Alberta:
Licence VS Certificate?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s quickly pause to explain the difference between the marriage licence and the marriage certificate.
The marriage licence is the piece of paper you bring to your ceremony and sign with your officiant and witnesses. You need this to legally get married. The marriage certificate is the piece of paper you receive after your ceremony that says you are legally wed.
Got it? Great, let’s move on.
Obtaining Your Marriage Licence
You must obtain your marriage licence; your officiant can’t get this for you. Neither can your mom, your wedding planner of your best friend. This one is on you.
You must obtain your marriage licence in the province in which you are getting married. Not the province where you live (if it’s different from where you’re getting married). Not your favourite province. Not the province where marriage licences are the cheapest. If you live in Saskatchewan, vacation in PEI and are getting married in Alberta, you have to obtain your licence in Alberta.
Your marriage licence is valid for 90 days. Licences must be applied for in person by BOTH members of the couple with acceptable ID. There is a $40 government fee for the licence, plus additional service fees by the registry agents. Pro tip: call around to a few registry agents in your area to find the cheapest price. We’ve found the average cost for the licence to be about $80.
To find a marriage licence registry agent, click here.
You MUST bring your marriage licence to your wedding ceremony. Pro tip: keep your wedding rings with your marriage licence so you don’t forget it! Leading up to your wedding, your officiant may ask you for some information they’ll need to complete your marriage licence. Read over your licence and ensure you have all of the info you need – for example, do you know where your parents were born? Cause the licence is going to ask you.
After the Ceremony
Phew! You did it. You got married. Congrats! Here’s what happens with your marriage licence once it has been signed by you, your officiant and your witnesses on the big day.
Your officiant will send your signed marriage licence and all other paperwork to the provincial body where marriages need to be registered. You don’t need to worry about registering your marriage – we’ll do that for you!
Receiving Your Marriage Certificate
To receive your marriage certificate, you must order it. No marriage certificate or other marriage documents will be automatically sent you.
To order your marriage certificate, you’ll need to wait 6-8 weeks after your wedding date as this is how long it takes for your marriage to be registered and paperwork processed. After the 6-8 weeks, you can download the Application for Marriage Documents and bring it to a registry agent. If you are ordering your marriage certificate from outside of Alberta, you fill out a different application and bring it to a notary public or commissioner for oaths, or mail it in.
The licence will be mailed to you 2-3 days after you submit your order. There is a $20 government fee, plus additional registry agent fees.
For more info on the marriage certificate in Alberta, including the downloadable form, mailing address and list of registry agents, click here.
Changing Your Last Name
If you’re interested in changing your last name following your wedding, check out this site for some more information about how the process works in Alberta.
Any Other Questions?
If you have any other questions about your specific circumstances or the marriage licence/certificate process, please contact the following:
If you are an international citizen, please contact your consulate for specific information. If you are getting married in another province/country, please contact the marriage licensing body in that area.
written by Riana Ang-Canning
See you at the ceremony (with your marriage licence in hand)!