Who can perform a marriage in BC? Who can officiate a wedding? Who can legally marry us?

If your head is spinning trying to figure out who can and should marry you, you’re not alone. Most engaged couples have never planned a wedding before – it’s only naturally that you won’t have all of the answers.

Below we’re breaking down who can perform a marriage in British Columbia and what you need to get legally married!

Who can perform a marriage ceremony in BC?

In order to get legally married in British Columbia, your ceremony must be officiated by a marriage commissioner or wedding officiant. Some religious leaders are also licensed as wedding officiants, but not all. The officiant or commissioner must be licensed to perform weddings in BC.

What is the difference between a marriage commissioner and a wedding officiant?

Marriage commissioners are government officials who are appointed to their positions and perform non-religious wedding ceremonies in their specific geographic area. They must be semi-retired or retired and there is no required training or experience they need to become commissioners. Many follow a set script and have specific wording they must include in their ceremonies.

Wedding officiants, on the other hand, usually undergo specific training in performing weddings and have experience with weddings, events or public speaking. Officiants have more freedom to perform weddings throughout the province and the ability to write custom ceremonies and offer a variety of officiant services.

Wedding officiants usually cost more than marriage commissioners, though generally offer a more custom and personalized experience.

For more on the difference between a marriage commissioner and a wedding officiant, check out this blog post! 

porteau cove wedding with young hip & married
by Clint Bargen Photo
perform a marriage at Hycroft Manor in Vancouver with Young Hip & Married
by Mattie C Photography

Can a justice of the peace perform a marriage in BC? 

No, a justice of the peace cannot perform a wedding in British Columbia. While justices of the peace can officiate ceremonies in some jurisdictions, that is not the case in BC.

To learn more about what a justice of the peace is and where they can marry you, click here!

Can ordained ministers perform weddings in BC?

Yes, an ordained minister can perform a wedding ceremony if they are legally licensed to officiate weddings in BC. Many religious leaders and representatives are licensed through their religious bodies and are able to legally officiate wedding ceremonies.

If you want to be married by an ordained minister or other religious representative, check in with the religious institution of your choosing. They will be able to let you know if their clergy members are licensed to officiate weddings and what requirements their religious ceremonies must follow.

How to check if a wedding officiant is legal

The easiest way to check if a wedding officiant is legal and able to legally marry you is to work with a reputable company. For example, Young Hip & Married has been marrying couples for 10+ years with officiants across North America and thousands of weddings under our belt. When you’re working with an officiant company that is reputable and experienced, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not their officiants can legally marry you.

And if you want to double check, you can always have a conversation with your wedding officiant. A licensed officiant will be more than happy to answer any of your questions and assure you that your marriage will be legal.

If you’re getting married by a marriage commissioner in BC, you can search the BC database to ensure your commissioner is listed.

young hip and married vancouver beach wedding
by Clint Bargen Photo
VanDusen wedding with Young Hip & Married
by John Bello

Can my friend officiate my wedding in BC?

No, your friend cannot legally officiate your wedding in British Columbia or in Canada. Unlike in the movies or in the United States, there is currently not an option for someone to go online and get ordained. To legally marry a couple in BC, you must be a licensed officiant or commissioner.

However, your friends can still be involved in your wedding ceremony! They can do readings and even help lead part of the ceremony, as long as a licensed officiant is there to facilitate, witness and sign the marriage licence. If this is something you’re interested in for your wedding, get in touch!

Can I get married at city hall in British Columbia?

Yes and no. In British Columbia, many local city halls do act as wedding venues. You can rent or book one of the rooms or outdoor sites at city hall and use that as your ceremony space.

However, you cannot simply “go down to city hall and get married.” There is no one to marry you there! Again, unlike in the movies and some other jurisdictions, city halls in British Columbia do not offer marriage services.

If you want to get married at city hall, you can rent a space and book a wedding officiant to marry you there. We’ve done a number of weddings and elopements at Vancouver City Hall. Fun fact: Newlywed couples get to ring the big bell after their ceremony!

perform a marriage in BC at Vancouver City Hall with Young Hip & Married
by Jelger & Tanja
newlyweds ringing the bell at Vancouver City Hall after a Young Hip & Married elopement
by Jelger & Tanja

What do you need to get married in BC? 

To get legally married in British Columbia, you need four things:

  1. Two partners who consent to marry one another
  2. Two witnesses to observe the ceremony and sign the licence
  3. A marriage licence (learn more about getting your BC marriage licence here!)
  4. Someone who can legally perform a marriage in BC (i.e. a wedding officiant, marriage commissioner or licensed religious representative)

Now that you know what you need to get married and who can perform a wedding in British Columbia, don’t miss out on meeting our team of BC wedding officiants. We’d love to match you with an officiant and bring your dream ceremony to life!