All That Legal Mumble Jumble...

Josephine and Reverend Malachy Egan

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!

As exciting as the prelude to your wedding may be, do not forget about the official marriage documents you need to obtain. Make sure that the following important legal matters are included on your wedding planning to-do list.

You need to obtain a Nova Scotia Marriage License in person. In the Halifax Regional Municipality, go to an HRM Customer Service Centre. Just one of you needs to apply. You have to bring a signed piece of ID and proof of age for yourself and your fiancé. Couples who have never been married before need only provide a signed piece of ID and proof of age. If one or both of you have been divorced, final proof of divorce (original copies of the Certificate of Divorce or Decree Absolute) must be provided. If one or both of the intended parties was widowed, proof of death must be provided.

Ideally, couples should obtain their license two to six months before the big day in person (the minimum requirement is at least five full working days before the wedding day). If this is not possible, then out-of province couples may submit a long-distance application several months prior to the wedding date.

Your marriage must take place in Nova Scotia within 365 days after you apply. The license does not mean that you are married, but that you may get married. The officiate needs the license to be able to solemnize the marriage. Your marriage license has a unique number. It will also have a ‘Certificate of Marriage’ attached. Note the back of this certificate: it cannot be used as a legal proof of marriage. The marriage license will be placed in a package with a blank marriage registration form (which will eventually become your definitive legal proof of marriage), along with a receipt and Medical Services Insurance (MSI) name change form. With the exception of the last two items, the officiate will need this package ahead of time to complete the forms.

We advise couples to apply for a certified copy of the original marriage registration at least six weeks after the wedding. This gives the Nova Scotia Vital Statistics office enough time to register the marriage. It may be ordered from the Vital Statistics Office. In the meantime, you may begin the name change process a.s.a.p. with MSI (by filling in the form included with your marriage license package and faxing it in); financial institutions (by providing a copy of the certificate you receive on your wedding day which is not a legal proof of marriage but accepted by banks and sometimes by Motor Vehicles with the seal of the religious denomination); add spouse for workplace group benefits coverage; and inform Canada Revenue Agency of your change in marital status in a letter.

The marriage ceremony must be witnessed by two people who are at least 16 years of age. These individuals sign the legal documents during the ceremony, followed by the officiate. The form is then sent within 48 hours of the marriage ceremony by the officiate to the Deputy Issuer who returns it to the Vital Statistics office, where the marriage is registered and a legal record is kept.

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