Signing your marriage licence seems pretty straightforward…right? But do you actually know who is supposed to sign it, when and where? How about getting the licence in the first place and what happens once you’ve signed it?

Luckily, we’ve got you covered! As wedding officiants who have married thousands of couples over the years, we know a thing or two about signing your marriage licence. Keep reading for everything you need to know to be legally wed and get ready for one of the most important signatures of your life!

Getting married in BC? Check out our FAQs on BC marriage licences! 

What needs to happen to legally sign a marriage licence?

In order to sign your marriage licence and be legally married you need to have a few things in place. Firstly, you need to have a marriage licence! Check out our posts on how to obtain a marriage licence in BC, Alberta or Ontario. You’ll need to show ID and pay for your licence ahead of your wedding day. You also need to make sure you’re able to get married – you’re above the age of consent and not legally married to anyone else!

Signing your marriage licence on the big day requires you to consent to be joined in marriage. This is usually done by saying your vows and agreeing that you do, in fact, want to enter into marriage with your partner. The licence must then be signed by the proper people – more on that below!

signing your marriage licence with Vancouver wedding officiant Young Hip & Married
by Thea Loo and Jeremiah Reyes
signing your marriage licence, vancouver beach wedding
by Erica Miller Photography

Who signs the marriage licence?

The marriage licence is signed by:

  • The couple getting married
  • The wedding officiant who married them
  • 2 witnesses who observed the wedding ceremony

Each of these people have an important role to play in order to make sure the wedding is legal and the licence can be signed. The couple must both be free to marry and consent to the marriage. The officiant must be licensed and able to marry couples in the region. And the witnesses must, as the name implies, witness the ceremony and confirm that the couple has consented to marry one another.

Don’t have witnesses for your elopement? Young Hip & Married has got you covered!

If you aren’t having guests, you can ask strangers at your elopement location to sign your licence and witness your wedding. This can be a lot of fun as strangers are usually happy to help out and honoured to witness your special moment.

However, this doesn’t work for all elopements. If you’re getting married in a private location or during an off-peak time, it can be hard to find witnesses. The last thing you want to be worried about minutes before your elopement is trying to find a kind stranger to be your witness!

If you’d rather not risk it, you can also add on a witness to your Young Hip & Married ceremony package and we will provide two witnesses for your elopement for a small fee.

For some couples, there’s peace of mind knowing that we will handle everything for their ceremony. They’d rather not have to worry about finding witnesses on the day. For other couples, they’d prefer to keep their elopement private and would rather a Young Hip & Married witness attend than a stranger.

When do we sign our marriage licence?

Most couples choose to sign their marriage licence during or just after their wedding ceremony. If you choose to sign it during the ceremony, you will typically do the signing after the vows and rings. You’ll go off to the side with your officiant and witnesses, sign the licence, and then come back to finish the ceremony. Your officiant will pronounce you married and invite you to kiss!

If you choose to sign your marriage licence after your ceremony, you’ll typically meet your officiant and witnesses just after your recessional back up the aisle. The ceremony will be over, everyone will have clapped and cheered, and you’ll head off to the side or a separate room to sign the paperwork.

It’s up to you whether you want to make signing your marriage licence part of your ceremony or if you’d rather do it separately. You do not have to do the signing in front of your guests if you don’t want to. Speak with your wedding officiant about when in your ceremony script the signing makes the most sense.

sign your marriage licence, young hip and married wedding officiants
by Jesse Holland Photography

Do we have to sign our marriage licence on our wedding day?

Yes and no. You could choose to sign your licence days, weeks, months or even years before or after your big wedding day. This is known as a legal signing or legal ceremony (or as we call it at Young Hip & Married: Signed Sealed Delivered!). This is a short, elopement-style ceremony with your officiant and witnesses. You’ll consent to marriage and sign the paperwork, meaning you are legally married on this day. However, you can still hold your party (and optional non-legal ceremony) anytime you want!

Many couples choose to get legally married before their big wedding day for a variety of reasons, such as needing to be married in order to qualify for medical benefits or wanting to do the legal paperwork at home ahead of a destination wedding abroad. Bonus: If you do decide to get legally married before/after your big wedding day, you’ll have two anniversaries to celebrate!

Where do we sign the licence? Do we need a special wedding sign table?

If you are signing your marriage licence during your wedding ceremony or just after, you may choose to set up a special wedding sign table. These signing tables are usually off to the side in the ceremony space and consist of a table/desk, chair and some decor.

However, you do not have to set up a wedding sign table. We’ve helped couples sign their licences on all sorts of surfaces! You can sign on a clipboard, bench, bar top, folder or even each other’s backs!

groom signing the marriage licence on bride's back
by Sheer Joy Photography

What do we need on our signing table?

If you do decide to set up a wedding sign table or other area for signing, here are some things you’ll need:

  • Your marriage licence (duh!)
  • The officiant’s registry book where they record your marriage details
  • Pens (hint: have a few backup pens too!)
  • A table or surface with enough space to sign the licence
  • A chair or bench if needed
  • (op) Decor for the signing area

Don’t forget to discuss with your wedding officiant and wedding planner how the above items will make it to the signing table (i.e. who is responsible for bringing them to the ceremony and setting them up?). You’ll also want to ensure your officiant has access to the licence afterwards so they can get it sent off and registered.

How do we sign it?

No need to be nervous about signing your marriage licence! Your wedding officiant will have signed hundreds of licences and will guide you through the process. They will show you exactly where you need to sign, write or date. Most of the information on your licence will have been filled in when you obtained it, so you’re simply signing and dating on your wedding day.

signing your marriage licence at your wedding ceremony
by Sambajoy
sign the marriage license with young hip and married wedding officiants
by The Macleans

What happens after signing your marriage licence?

Congratulations, you’ve signed your marriage licence and you are legally married!

Once signing your marriage licence is complete (signed by yourselves, your officiant and your witnesses), your wedding officiant will mail your licence off to Vital Statistics, the agency responsible for recording and registering marriages in Canada. Vital Statistics will then process your licence and create your marriage certificate.

In BC, processing marriage licences takes apx three weeks, though we ask couples to wait 3-6 weeks as mail times can vary. BC Vital Statistics sends out marriage certificates (to the address on your marriage licence) to couples married in BC automatically and free of charge. In other provinces and countries, this process may not be automatic or free; you may have to apply and pay for your marriage certificate.

For more information about the marriage licence and certificate process in BC, check out our BC marriage licence FAQs!

Now that you know everything you need to know about signing your marriage licence, it’s time to find the officiant who can sign it with you! Meet our team of officiants and get in touch to book your ceremony package today!