Marriage Licenses & Marriage Certificates
A GREAT deal of confusion exists about the difference and purpose of marriage licenses and marriage certificates. Most people understand what a marriage license is but may be unsure about how to obtain one and what to do with it.
Most people who have never before been married wonder what the #@*& a marriage certificate even is!!!!
Well….we are here to cut through the legal uncertainties and explain (as best we can) what each of these documents is and what purpose it serves (beyond having you send more of your hard earned money to the Province for these pieces of paper)
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 may apply for AFTER your ceremony that says you are legally wed.
Got it? Great, let’s move on.
Obtaining Your Marriage Licence
YOU (both of you) must obtain your marriage licence; your officiant can’t get this for you. Neither can your mom, your wedding planner or your best friend. This one is on you.
You must obtain your marriage licence in Manitoba. 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 Alberta, vacation in PEI and are getting married in Manitoba, you have to obtain your licence in Manitoba.
Your marriage licence is valid for 90 days and must be obtained a MINIMUM of 24 hours prior to the ceremony. Licences must be purchased in person by BOTH members of the couple along with acceptable ID. The fee for obtaining a marriage license is $100 and vendors cannot charge any more for this document.
We are pleased to be able to assist you in obtaining a marriage license as we have a team member who is licensed to sell them. You may contact Chantalle at email@example.com to arrange an appointment to purchase your license
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! Assign a responsible person from your wedding party or family to bring the license and rings to the ceremony and ensure that your commissioner knows who will have these items.
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 to Vital Statistics Manitoba, where marriages need to be registered. You don’t need to worry about registering your marriage – we’ll do that for you!
Now you probably think that everything is complete and it is time to move on to your happy life together….but NOT SO FAST! This is where provincial regulations make everything VERY confusing!!!!
Although your marriage will be registered (this process can take several weeks), you will not receive any kind of document confirming that you are a married couple. The Province provides you with NADA and for now you will just have to take our word for it that you are legally wed.
BUT….you needn’t rely only on our word (as SOLID as that may be) as you can obtain an official document confirming your marriage by submitting an application (and more $$) to Vital Statistics MB.
Applying for Your Marriage Certificate
To receive your marriage certificate, you must order it. No marriage certificate or other marriage documents will be automatically sent you. You do not NEED to have a marriage certificate unless you plan to change your surname (or for any insurance requirements, or just to have some legal confirmation of your marriage), and you may apply for one at ANY time after the wedding.
When you purchase your marriage license, you will also receive an “Application for a Manitoba Marriage Document”. You may complete this document and bring it on the wedding day for us to submit to Vital Statistics along with your license OR rather than completing and submitting a paper application, we recommend that you opt to apply for the document online by following this link… https://vitalstats.gov.mb.ca/online_certificate_application.html
The online application process is fast and secure….and you don’t have to wonder if your application was received. Only after the marriage has been registered (from your marriage license) will your application for a marriage certificate be processed. Processing time for the marriage certificates can take from 4 to 8 months (sometimes longer)! (Don’t ask…we don’t understand either!)
Should you opt for the rush service on your application, you may expect your certificate in approximately 3 - 4 weeks.
Only when you have received the marriage certificate can you begin the process of changing a surname (if you so choose).
To summarize….you NEED your marriage license before the wedding and you CANNOT apply for your marriage certificate until after the wedding.
Hopefully you find this information helpful, and for a bit more clarification, we have included sample copies of a marriage license and application for a marriage certificate.
Now you know all that we know (which admittedly ain’t all that much) about licenses and certificates.