To get married, all you need is yourself, a willing partner, someone who can marry you (like us!), witnesses and a BC 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? How do they get their BC marriage licence. 

Don’t worry. We’ve got your back.

Here’s everything you need to make sure you’re actually getting legally married in British Columbia:

Marriage 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.

Photo by Emily Nicole Photos
Photo by Emily Nicole Photos

How to Get Married in British Columbia: Obtaining Your BC Marriage Licence

You must obtain your BC 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 BC, you have to obtain your licence in BC.

Your BC marriage licence is valid for 90 days. Licences must be applied for in person by at least one member of the couple who has primary ID for both members of the couple. The marriage licence costs $100.

To find a BC marriage licence issuer, click here.

For more info on the marriage licence in BC, click here.

The Ceremony

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.

Photo by Erica Miller Photography
Photo by Erica Miller Photography

After the Ceremony

Phew! You did it. You got married. Congrats! Here’s what happens with your BC 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

Lucky BC couples receive their marriage certificates free of charge and automatically. There is no need to order a marriage certificate; one will be mailed to the address on your marriage licence. The certificate is put into the mail approximately three weeks after your wedding ceremony and will arrive in your mailbox shortly thereafter; please allow for longer mail delivery time if you’re outside the province.

Should you need an additional copy of your marriage certificate, you can apply online, in person, by mail or by phone. Additional copies are available for $27. For more info on ordering additional copies of your BC marriage certificate, click here.

Photo by Erica Miller Photography
Photo by Erica Miller Photography

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 British Columbia and this blog post that outlines everything you need to know about changing your name in BC! 

Get all of the paperwork you need to change your last name for just $39! 

For just $39 (as of Jun 2023, check the website for the most up to date prices), you’ll be able to choose from a list of over 750 government agencies and companies, received personalized forms and letters, and have everything you need to easily and quickly change your name.

Check out Easy Name Change to get started!  

Any Other Questions?

If you have any other questions about your specific circumstances or the BC marriage licence and certificate process, please contact the following:

British Columbia:

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 BC marriage licence in hand)!

PS: Getting married in Alberta or Ontario? Check out our marriage licence/certificate guides for those provinces.