Brides and grooms beware – the Ontario Government is shredding your marriage license. That’s right, because of a new policy they will shred them without notice back to you. Your marriage may never be registered.
For the 12 years that I have been performing weddings, I take the completed marriage license and mail it to the Government of Ontario for registration in a postage paid envelope provided by the government. Once registered, a couple can the apply for their marriage certificate.
In December 2015, all those in the province of Ontario who are legally allowed to perform marriages under the Marriage Act received a notice. A new policy states that postage paid envelopes will no longer be honored. From now on, postage must be paid by the sender.
Here’s the kicker: if any postage paid envelopes are received, they will NOT be opened and will be immediately shredded. You will never know that your marriage license no longer exists. That is until you apply for your marriage certificate and are told that it has not been received.
For all those brides and grooms who have bought an Ontario marriage license and were given a postage paid envelope, you cannot use that envelope. Or, yes you can but need to affix the $1.80 postage to send it.
Why is the government doing this? They didn’t say in the letter but it is easy to deduce it is to save money of course. The province receives about 50,000 wedding licenses per year…at $2.00 per envelope the saving is $100,000.
Brides and grooms, I recommend three possible actions:
- make sure that whomever is performing your wedding is aware of this policy change.
- make a copy of your marriage license before you hand it over to your officiant/priest/minister.
- have your photographer take a picture of the signed marriage license during the ceremony as proof of completion.
- ask your wedding officiant/priest/minister to email you a scanned copy of the completed marriage license before they mail it.
Last thing you want is no record that you were legally married.
How will you know this happened? When you apply for your marriage certificate the registrar will respond that they have no record of your marriage. They may ask you to check with your officiant/priest/minister to make sure they mailed it.
If your officiant/priest/minister did mail it in the postage paid envelope, then the marriage license may have been shredded or lost.
What can you do? You contact the registrar and ask for a special form for lost marriage licenses. It will require you to provide proof of the marriage taking place. That is why it was important to get a copy of your marriage license before sending it off. You will need two witnesses and the officiant/priest/minister to sign it testifying that the marriage did take place. Send it back to the Government of Ontario registrar and all is good.
I want to emphasize that despite these troubles you are still married. The Marriage Act provides for these circumstances saying that if a marriage took place in front of witnesses in good faith – then you are married.
Whew – I hope this helps.
Update: Please read Warning Part 2: Ontario Government NOT Shredding Your Marriage License