Q: What is a Humanist Officiant?
A: A Humanist Officiant has trained with an organization such as the Ontario Humanist Society to conduct rite of passage ceremonies for people who wish to have a Humanist or non-denominational or secular ceremony such as a wedding, a funeral, a baby welcoming, among others. In Ontario, a Humanist Officiant is licensed by the province to solemnize marriages under the Marriage Act.
It is also worth noting that Humanists bring an ethical philosophy to any life cycle ceremony. Fundamentally, we believe in egalitarianism, equality for all, social justice, human rights and a duty of care and responsibility for all of the earth’s inhabitants. These values of course apply to marriage for instance where partners are expected to treat each other with kindness, compassion and respect and where they understand that marriage is a union of shared responsibility.
*In Ontario, you can have a civil marriage or a religious marriage. Humanists provide ceremonies similar to civil marriage ceremonies.
Q: How do I obtain a Marriage License Application?
A: You can apply for a marriage license no more than three months prior to your wedding date. The marriage license is valid anywhere in Ontario for 3 months from the date of purchase. Either or both people getting married must apply to the Marriage License Issuer to obtain the license. Here is the application through the City of Toronto. You will need to bring identification such as a birth certificate (along with any change of name certificates). Also bring a current passport, Record of Immigrant Landing or Canadian citizenship card, along with photo identification, for both applicants.
A marriage license can be obtained from the clerk of most cities, townships, towns or villages. An application can be downloaded from the Ontario Government website and this website.
The fee for purchasing a marriage license varies depending on your municipality so be sure to check ahead of time.
Q: Do we need to come to Toronto to get a license if we do not live there?
A: No. All municipalities in Ontario issue Marriage licenses. You can apply locally, but you must pick it up in-person.
Q: What do I need to do if I have been divorced?
A: If either you or your partner have been been divorced, you will have to provide documentation of your divorce(s). For instance, if you live and were divorced in Canada, you must bring the original or court-certified copy of the final decree, final judgement or certificate of divorce to your local municipal office when you are purchasing your marriage license.
If you live or were divorced outside of Canada, you may be required to submit documents to the provincial government several weeks prior to applying for a license. This website may be helpful. Contact your local municipal office or check the Ontario Government Website for additional requirements on Getting Remarried in Ontario after a Divorce.
Q: Will the Registrar General automatically notify us that our marriage has been registered?
A: No. You must apply for a Certificate of Marriage. After the marriage ceremony, the Officiant will provide the marrying parties with a “Record of Solemnization of Marriage”. It gives the names of the bride and groom or marrying parties, their witnesses, the date of the marriage, and their license number. This is a souvenir document and not a legal record. The person who performed the marriage is required to forward the Statement of Marriage (Marriage License) to the Office of the Registrar General for registration. To have proof that the Province of Ontario has registered your marriage, you need to order a certificate of marriage approximately 12 weeks from the date of your marriage.
Q: How do I obtain a Marriage Certificate?
A: If you wish to have a Certificate of Marriage, as previously stated you need to wait approximately 12 weeks after the date of your marriage to apply. Here, you have two options: You can purchase a “Certificate”, which includes basic information such as name, date and place of marriage or a “Long Form”, which contains basic information plus all signatures. Complete and mail the application with necessary fees to:
Office of the Registrar General
Ministry of Consumer and Business Services
P.O. Box 4600
189 Red River Road
Thunder Bay, Ontario
Q: What are your fees and why don’t you post them online?
A: Please contact me by email or phone as rates vary a little. Some of the factors include size and location of your wedding ceremony. That said, I write and officiate very personalized ceremonies that are very unique to each couple. No two are the same. This means that they are more labour intensive and time consuming. While my fees are generally in line with other Humanist Officiants serving a larger travel area (which also adds to my costs), my fees may be slightly higher than some officiants hired by large all-service wedding companies for instance where the overhead is already covered. If you are looking for a “bargain” officiant or basing the hiring of an officiant on the “cheapest rate”, I may not be right for you. That said my clients tell me that based on their experience with me and the ceremony I helped them create, that my fees are fair and reasonable.
* Please note I may offer reduced rates for purely legal weddings that take place outside of traditional wedding dates and times and require less travel time.
Q: But I’m really working within a tight budget. Can you not help me with that?
A: I appreciate that we all have budgets to work with. That said, there are many choices we make for our wedding ceremonies and there are some costs associated with getting married. Even with smaller budgets, there is the location, the clothes, the cake, the food, the flowers, the officiant and so on. Indeed there are those who argue that couples would be a lot better off if they saved all that money they spend on a wedding day for the costs of married life (Canadians actually are some of the biggest spenders on average on weddings). That said, if you are on a tighter budget, in terms of priorities, you will likely be more satisfied with a wedding day that is a reflection of you — your beliefs, your values, your style. Your wedding ceremony in my humble opinion can do that better than anything else — particularly when it’s personalized to reflect who you are and what is important to you in a wedding ceremony, even a little. In that sense, it reflects your choices. It might also be helpful to remember that the thing guests and couples remember more than anything else on a wedding day is the ceremony. So…better to get that part right and perhaps consider re-allocating some funds from elsewhere to make that happen. With that in mind, please refer to the last answer I wrote (just above) which deals with issues of labour and costs for an officiant like myself.
*Please note that you might be able to break up the costs a little if that helps. A small deposit paid upon securing my services helps break things up a bit.
Q: I just want to have my wedding registered but I don’t want a ceremony. Can you do that?
A: I am often asked to just sign the papers for couples who either don’t want a ceremony or are having a destination wedding or who want a friend or family member to conduct the ceremony and so on. Please note that for your marriage to actually be legal, The Marriage Act of Ontario requires a specific verbal legal ceremony that takes place front of at least two witnesses and, that is conducted by a licensed officiant. The ‘signing’ or ‘registering’ of your wedding is simply filling out the papers after the ceremony as a way of proving to the Government and other legal bodies that the verbal, legal ceremony took place. There is no way around this.
Please note that even a religious officiant must be licensed by the province in order to ensure your ceremony is legal. If you are planning another celebration at a later date, the date of your legal ceremony is still the date you legally married. Anyone who offers to simply sign the papers for you is breaking the law. Also, a non-licensed officiant who agrees to sign papers is also breaking the law.
While a Humanist ceremony can involve all kinds of beautiful rituals and traditions (rings, wine, personal vows, readings, many other rituals) that is weaved into a legal ceremony, if indeed you only want a purely legal ceremony, then please know that the required verbal ceremony is very short, but that it complies with the requirements of the Marriage Act. These requirements INCLUDE that each of you must speak (repeat) your Mandatory Declarations, saying essentially who you are, that you choose your partner freely, and that there is no impediment to your being legally married. You must repeat these legal vows/mandatory declarations to each other in front of witnesses, and the Officiant must properly pronounce you married. The witnesses are signing the ‘papers’ to indicate they saw and heard you do and say the things that are required by law.
Q: What if we don’t want to say the “Mandatory Declarations”. They sound so formal!
A: If you want a legal wedding, then Mandatory Declarations just prior to signing legal documentation are necessary. Anyone who does not follow the regulations is breaking the law. Remember also, if a wedding is not properly conducted, both the officiant and certifying body can be sued. That being said, if it is important to you to keep more formal statements out of the most public part of the ceremony, we can always take care of mandatory declarations with just your two witnesses when signing the paperwork off to the side. I cannot declare you married however, until you speak the Mandatory Declarations. Do keep in mind that these statements are a very small part of an otherwise highly personalized, beautiful ceremony. And, you do have the option of holding a commitment ceremony that is not a legal wedding ceremony but is very meaningful for some couples.
Q: How exactly do you work and what do you mean by a personalized ceremony?
A: I work creatively and collaboratively with the couple or family to create the kind of ceremony that reflects their style, beliefs and values. If, after a conversation, we decide to work together, I will have you fill out a form and pay a deposit via interac e-transfer (usually) to secure my services. The balance is to be paid on your wedding day in cash or in the week leading up to it via interac e-transfer. From there, I will usually have you fill out an in-depth questionnaire that asks for your story as a couple, some funny or sweet stories, your trajectory, people you’d like to acknowledge, possible rituals or readings, the things you love about the other person, any symbolism around the location or date of your wedding and so on. This is the area where I can find out more about you and also the kind of ceremony you envision. Once I have all of that information, in the case of weddings, I then take that information and write up your personal story and other responses which I weave in and out of the more formal, legal aspects of the ceremony. Why stories? Stories help us make sense of our lives — both as individuals and as a couple. Couples, in the day of day of living, often forget or no longer think about the profound moments that have shaped their lives and decisions. Couples tell me they find that going through their stories, both alone and together, is extremely moving and helps them connect with each other — particularly in the stress of wedding planning. Once I have all this information, we then go back and forth by email with ceremony drafts (with lots of examples I provide to you for ideas and inspiration) that I write and you help build until you are happy and sign off on the ceremony that I will then read at your wedding. We do this as a team with me writing, facilitating and of course leading on your wedding day! Couples tell me over and over that they have loved the experience and the investment they made into their weddings. They felt that they had creative ownership and control over the things that matter most to them in a ceremony.
Q: What if I don’t want all that personalized detail? What if I want just a straight up, traditional or conventional ceremony?
A: Personalization means personalizing to your wants and needs. While families and couples usually love the idea of having a narrative weaved in, other couples prefer much less of that. Still, they are given choices and that is also a way of personalizing a ceremony. This might mean something as simple as a reading or a short ritual that might resonate with them. It might also just involve thanking or acknowledging a few people. I am happy to provide more simple samples once I know what a couple might want.
Q: I thought rituals and readings were for religious ceremonies.
A: It is true that religion has used rituals for as long as anyone can remember. However, it might be helpful to regard rituals not as “religious” but as an intentional part of any ceremony; as a profound part of belonging to a community or institution (marriage for example). Rituals (and readings) can work to engage us on a physical and emotional level and can be highly effective in terms of bringing us into the present moment during our wedding ceremony. Some couples, while highly emotional and nervous (even though they don’t anticipate they will be) during their ceremony, report that rituals and readings that feel meaningful to them, however small, help combat distracting nerves; they help ground them so they can be “in the moment” and truly present with their partners during their ceremony. All that said, I am here to facilitate options and there is absolutely no pressure on couples to use rituals or readings during their ceremony. Couples usually do appreciate having these options however — particularly if they hadn’t considered them before.
Q: Will you join the party at the reception after the ceremony?
A: A wedding day is a very important time for you and your family. While I am touched by the gesture, I have many commitments, not the least of which is the time I spend with my two children. So I’ll raise a glass…of grape juice…when I get home!
Q: Do you have any video samples of the weddings you have officiated?
A: Here is a Wedding Sample of a slightly longer than average, beautiful wedding (broken up into chunks) I officiated at the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto. This is an example of a highly personalized wedding — the story or narrative, the acknowledgements, readings they chose, cultural rituals (coin, rope and veil), completely secular rituals (plant ceremony) — within the lovely Humanist philosophy of compassion, respect and egalitarianism.
I am working on adding more links to my page so stay tuned! On a side note please know that my background is in broadcasting and teaching so I can easily project my voice, am at ease with a microphone and have been told I have a warm, clear and relaxed delivery and presence.