As a wedding officiant in Vancouver, I meet a lot of couples who don’t actually know their legal options for getting married. Many think they’ll be stuck being married by someone they don’t know or feel connected to, when in reality we have some amazing options here. In B.C., the provincial government’s Vital Statistics Agency oversees marriage registration ensuring they track who is married, when they get married and all the related legal details. The agency has invested two groups with the power to legally process marriages in this province: religious representatives and marriage commissioners.
This scene will look familiar to you from movies: a priest, a rabbi or a pastor performing a traditional wedding ceremony in their place of worship. But if you go this route, keep in mind that some religious venues require pre-marital counselling and some will refuse couples who are currently living together. There is usually a set amount of content, typically religious in nature, and the ceremony averages about an hour in duration. The cost may be a donation to the place of worship, or you may need to become a member of that particular religious body or have a family member who is connected to it.
In B.C., if you’re planning a civil ceremony rather than a religious one, you’ll need a marriage commissioner (known elsewhere as a Justice of the Peace) to make it legal. The B.C. government appoints marriage commissioners from applicants who are active in their community, retired or semi-retired, and have their own transportation. There are marriage commissioners in each community and you can find them by searching the Vital Statistics Agency website. Marriage commissioners generally follow a short and sweet order of service and do a handful of ceremonies a day, so they won’t be too happy if a ceremony runs late. But they’re professionals who love what they do, which is fortunate because you can’t beat the price point. The fee is currently $75 plus travel.
A subgroup of the religious representatives category, officiants have been ordained and are registered with the Vital Statistics Agency, but they provide non-denominational ceremonies. They do this as a way to connect with the community, spread the love and ensure couples have more options for getting married. Most officiants have posted videos, set up Facebook pages and created micro-businesses out of their services, so it’s easier to get to know them online than it is to research a particular marriage commissioner. Officiants charge from $250 to about $1,250 and offer a wide range of experience, background, professionalism and creativity.
The Creative Option
You and your partner can hire a marriage commissioner to take care of the legalities. Then you can feel free to choose a friend, actor, magician, clown or anyone else to perform your ceremony, allowing you to get as creative or as slick as you like with it. Here in B.C., you have the choice to do it your way.