This is it. The big day. The long-time coming ceremony which was planned to every detail. Or the in-and-out Las-Vegas-type event. The Say-yes-to the-Dress moment. Or the casual “I was born for loving you, baby” afternoon. One thing remains. It is for better or for worse. Thus, the importance of ensuring that no matter the format or number of guests, this marriage was validly entered into, no matter what may come!
Marriage is a formal event. In Quebec, it must be celebrated by an official, with at least two witnesses present. The official is referred to as the “officiant” or the “celebrant.” It could be a member of a recognized church, or a person chosen by the couple as they may prefer. Yet, the law would set the rules and conditions under which this person could be authorized to celebrate the marriage, and what other formalities it should follow before and during the ceremony, so it be considered valid.
If the marriage is performed outside of Quebec, different rules will have to be followed so that the marriage is legal in the province or country where it takes place. More research and advice should be sought before setting foot on your wedding cruise, or jumping the wedding bungee.
First choice in Marriage: its implicated couple
That is certainly the most important choice of all!
Second choice in Marriage: its format
A marriage can be civil or religious.
It is Quebec’s Minister of Justice who allows the following people to perform a civil marriage:
• clerks and deputy clerks of the Superior Court
• notaries who are authorized by law to prepare notarial acts
• mayors, members of municipal or borough councils and municipal officers for marriages performed in the place authorized by Quebec’s justice minister (usually their municipality)
• any other person who obtains permission from the justice minister, such as a friend or family member of the future spouses
A person who wants permission to perform the ceremony must meet the following conditions:
• must be 18 years or older and not under tutorship, curatorship, or any other form of protective supervision
• has not been found guilty of a criminal offence in the last three years (or of a summary conviction offence in the last year)
• is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Quebec
• can read the articles of the Civil Code of Quebec to the spouses in either French or English
• agrees to follow all formalities for performing the marriage
For more information, visit the website of Justice Quebec:
The officiant will have to complete a form called a Request for the Designation of an Officiant of a Marriage or Civil Union and send it to the Quebec’s justice services section at least three months before the marriage. The officiant will then receive an information kit about the marriage ceremony, which shall be guiding the officiant throughout the steps leading to the event. It would be very important for the officiant to diligently follow all legal requirements for the couple to be considered legally married.
Priests and ministers authorized by a religion to perform marriages can perform religious marriage ceremonies. Yet the justice minister must also authorize them to perform marriages.
No choice in Marriage: its formalities
Formalities Before the Marriage
The future spouses must meet with the officiant before the marriage. The officiant can ask them for all the information needed to perform the marriage, for example, the future spouses’ names, addresses, age, and civil status. The officiant might also ask the future spouses to provide official documents proving their civil status. The officiant must ensure that both future spouses have given free and informed consent to the marriage. The officiant must also make sure that the future spouses meet all legal requirements, with respect to their age and civil status.
While you must be at least 18 years old to marry, the minimum age for getting married in Quebec is 16. Yet, 16- and 17-year-olds must obtain the court’s permission to marry.
The officiant will have to apply to the Registrar of the Civil Status for publication of a notice of marriage. This notice needs to be published on the Directeur’s website at least 20 days before the marriage. The notice will include the name, address, place, and year of birth of each future spouse, the date chosen for the ceremony and the name of the officiant. A witness, who doesn’t have to be one of the witnesses to the marriage, will also confirm this information. The marriage will have to take place within three months following the publication of the notice, failing which, a new notice will have to be published.
The reason for the notice is to advise people of the upcoming marriage so they can inform the officiant if there is a reason the marriage should not take place. For example, the officiant can refuse to perform the marriage if the future spouses are too closely related according to the law, or if one of them is still legally married to another person.
In some serious cases, the officiant or the Registrar of the Civil Status can decide not to publish a notice, for example, if one of the future spouses is seriously ill and in danger of dying.
Lastly, if the spouses are planning to sign a marriage contract in the presence of a notary, this is often the right time to think about which matrimonial regime to choose. If they do not choose a regime, the spouses will automatically fall under the regime of partnership of acquests.
Formalities Leading to the Marriage Ceremony
The ceremony can take place almost anywhere as long as the location is accessible to the public and be any day of the year depending on when the officiant is available.
Formalities During the Ceremony
The spouses can personalize the marriage ceremony according to their wishes and beliefs. For example, they can choose the music and readings, write their own vows, etc. The spouses are free to use their imaginations!
But some formalities must be followed. Again, the marriage must be performed by a person who is authorized to perform marriages. It must be performed in the presence of at least two witnesses. The officiant must read certain articles from the Civil Code of Quebec to the spouses that deal with their rights and obligations. They can be read in English or in French. If the spouses don’t understand either language, they must hire an interpreter at their own expense. After reading the articles, the officiant asks each spouse to consent to the marriage and then declares them to be married.
Lastly, the officiant signs a declaration of marriage. The spouses and two witnesses must sign it as well. The declaration provides written proof of the marriage. The officiant must send the declaration to the Registrar of the Civil Status within 30 days of the marriage. The Directeur then prepares the official act of marriage, which is the official document proving the marriage. If the spouses want a copy of the official document, they must apply to the Registrar of the Civil Status.
And they shall live happily ever after, since the marriage is, indeed, valid!