These days, there’s more than one way to have a wedding ceremony. With big ceremonies, elopements, destination weddings, micro weddings and more, it’s easy to get confused! So in this post, we’re breaking down what a wedding signing ceremony is and who it might be right for.

What is a wedding signing ceremony?

A wedding signing ceremony, also called a marriage signing ceremony or just a signing, is a short wedding ceremony focused on signing your marriage licence and getting you legally married. Typically this type of ceremony is just about the paperwork and making things legal, and not about any fanfare surrounding the day.

At all legal wedding ceremonies, a marriage licence and/or registry is signed. However, a wedding signing ceremony focuses just on this aspect and includes little else beyond the paperwork and any legal requirements for marriage.

In order to fulfill the legal requirements for marriage, a signing ceremony will usually include a wedding officiant (or other person who can legally marry people), the couple and two witnesses. After the couple verbally consents to marriage, they will sign the marriage licence, along with their officiant and witnesses.

wedding signing ceremony, signing the marriage licence
by Emily Nicole Photos

Is a marriage signing the same as an elopement?

Yes and no. Both marriage signings and elopements are short wedding ceremonies where people get legally married. And while there are no strict definitions, here is how the two ceremony types usually differ:

Elopements can be a little bit more elaborate than simple signings, if the couple chooses. An elopement couple may invite a few close friends and family members to their elopement, they may dress up in special wedding outfits, and they may exchange vows and rings. They may also ask their officiant to share a few words about marriage or include a reading.

Marriage signing ceremonies, on the other hand, are quick and only include what is needed to make the marriage legal. The focus is on the paperwork. There are usually no guests (beyond the required witnesses), no vows and no officiant speech.

Is a marriage signing still a wedding?

Yes and no. If, by definition, a wedding is joining two people in legal marriage then yes, a marriage signing is still a wedding. You can also enjoy many typical wedding activities after your signing ceremony, like a photo shoot in fancy outfits or reception dinner with friends and family.

However, many couples choose to have a marriage signing ceremony because they don’t want to have a traditional wedding. These couples may not consider their signing ceremony to actually be a wedding. They may look at a different ceremony as their wedding, such as a non-legal destination wedding ceremony, or simply say that they’re married, but didn’t have a wedding.

marriage signing ceremony with young hip and married
by Erica Miller Photography

Is a marriage signing legal?

Yes. The whole point of a wedding signing ceremony is to legally marry two people. As long as the signing is being conducted by someone who can legally marry people, is witnessed by two people, and everyone signs the marriage licence, it is a legal wedding ceremony and the couple is legally married.

Who is a wedding signing ceremony right for?

Great question! A wedding signing ceremony isn’t for everyone. Here are some situations where a marriage signing ceremony might make sense:

  • You don’t want to have a big wedding but need to be legally married for insurance, visa or other logistical reasons.
  • You’re getting married in a destination wedding but need to take care of the legal marriage paperwork at home before or after. Check out this post on getting legally married before your big wedding for more info! 
  • You prefer to honour your commitment on your own terms and only want to do the legal part with an officiant and witnesses.
  • Because that’s how you want to get married!

Remember, there is no single right way to get married. A signing ceremony makes sense for some couples and not for others. You can always combine your favourite parts of a signing, elopement and big wedding into your own unique ceremony.

wedding signing ceremony with young hip & married
by Erica Miller Photography

How do you make your marriage licence signing special?

If you want to celebrate your signing ceremony, go for it! Just because it’s a short, legal ceremony doesn’t mean you can’t make it special. After all, who doesn’t like an excuse to celebrate?

Here are a few ways to make your marriage signing feel extra special:

  • Dress up! Even if your ceremony lasts a few minutes, you can still put on your best outfit.
  • Take yourselves out for dinner. After your signing, treat yourselves to a fancy night out or favourite meal.
  • Celebrate your signing anniversary. Even if you have a big wedding planned, you can always celebrate a second anniversary each year.
  • Write each other cards. While your signing ceremony may not involve too many words about love, you can put all of your thoughts into a love note for your spouse.
  • Choose a meaningful day. If possible, you can schedule your signing ceremony for a meaningful date, like your dating anniversary or favourite holiday.
  • Do the signing in a special place. While you probably won’t rent out a venue for the occasion, you can hold your signing ceremony at a place that’s important to you, like the park where you walk your dog every morning or the coffee shop where you met.

Need a wedding officiant for your wedding signing or any other type of ceremony? Get in touch! 

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