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Nova Scotia Marriage FAQs
Why do I need a Marriage Certificate?

A Canadian Marriage Certificate is a vital record issued by a government authority that proves that the couple listed on the certificate has a legally recognized marriage. This document is used to ensure the rights of spouses and children are respected, to apply for certain social benefits, to settle an estate, to change or hyphenate a surname, to apply for a divorce, or simply to document your family history. 

Is a Marriage Certificate the same thing as a Marriage Licence?

A Marriage Certificate is a different type of document from a Marriage Licence.  Marriage Licences are issued to couples before they marry, whereas Marriage Certificates are issued as records of marriages that have already occurred. 

How do I apply for a Nova Scotia Marriage Licence?

The Solemnization of Marriage Act requires that you obtain a Marriage Licence before getting married in Nova Scotia. The licence does not mean that you are married, but that you may get married. The licence will expire one year from date of issuance.

In Halifax Regional Municipality, a Marriage License can be purchased by appointment with a Deputy Issuer, or from a Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) Customer Service Centre during regular business hours. See link below for location and address information. Please note: in HRM, Marriage Licenses are not sold at the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Halifax or Dartmouth Access Centres.

In all other areas of Nova Scotia, a Marriage License can be purchased by appointment with a Deputy Issuer, or from a Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Access Centre. See links below for location and address information.

Here is a list of Deputy Issuers, by County:

Annapolis County
Antigonish County
Cape Breton County
Colchester County
Cumberland County
Digby County
Guysborough County
Halifax Regional Municipality
Hants County
Inverness County
Kings County
Lunenburg County
Pictou County
Queens County
Richmond County
Shelburne County
Victoria County
Yarmouth County

Only one member of the couple needs to apply for the license, but you will be asked to provide a signed piece of identification and proof of age for both parties to the intended marriage. Documents must be either originals or certified copies and must include the following information:

    • Full name, including given names
    • Age
    • Current address
    • Proof of marital status is required if either party is widowed or divorced

The fee for a marriage licence is $121.78.

There is a five day waiting period between the day of application for the licence and the date of issuance. 

How do I order a first time Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate?

Immediately after the marriage ceremony, the couple may receive a Record of Solemnization of Marriage from the person who performed the ceremony.  This document includes the couple’s names, the date of the marriage, the names of the witnesses and whether the marriage was performed under the authority of a licence or the publication of banns.  This is not a Marriage Certificate or a legal record.  You still need a Marriage Certificate. 

The person who performed the marriage must forward a completed and signed Marriage Licence to the provincial Vital Statistics office for registration.  The marriage must be registered before you may apply for a Marriage Certificate.

Apply for a Marriage Certificate online:

1.   Click "Select Certificate Type" or "Get It Now" button on home page.  Follow the prompts to select the proper certificate and Province/Territory ythe marriage occurred in.

2.   Click the "Apply Online" button.

3.   Complete the information on the Online Application which will guide you through several Steps and pay using your credit card.

4.   You will receive an order confirmation email from us within an hour.  We will then go on to process your application according to the service option you have chosen.  If there are any problems with your application, a representative will contact you via email with the required corrections.

5.   Your Marriage Certificate will either arrive in the mail, or by courier, depending on the service option chosen.

Please note:  Marriage Certificates are issued using the information from the original Registration of Marriage, completed at the time of Marriage.  If a record cannot be found, a search for a three year period is carried out automatically and the applicant will be notified. 

How do I order a replacement Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate?

You may order a replacement Marriage Certificate in the same way as a first time Marriage Certificate (see above).  The application form is the same for both types of orders. 

How will my Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate be sent to me?

Your Marriage Certificate will be sent to you directly from Nova Scotia Vital Statistics Agency.  It will arrive in the mail with the Regular Service option, or by courier with the Rush Service option. 

What is the minimum age to get married in Nova Scotia?

You must be at least 19 years old to be married in Nova Scotia without parental consent.  If you are between the ages of 16 to 18, you may marry if you have the written consent of both parents.  Your local Deputy Issuer of Marriage Licences has the required consent forms.  No one under the age of 16 years can be married without the consent of the Court. 

What types of Marriage Certificates are available to order in Nova Scotia?

Short Form Marriage Certificate:
The Short Form Marriage Certificate contains basic information:  names of parties to the marriage, date of marriage, place of marriage, registration number, registration date and date issued. 

Long Form Marriage Certificate (Certified Copy):
The Long Form Marriage Certificate is a restricted and certified photographic copy of the original Marriage Registration which is available to either party to the marriage or to another person upon written consent from either party to the marriage.

The Long Form Marriage Certificate contains all of the information on a Short Form Certificate and may contain the following information of both parties to the marriage: marital status, age, religious denomination, residence, place of birth, full name of parents, birthplace of parents and marriage officiant. 

What if I am uncertain of the date of marriage?

Marriage Certificates are issued using the information from the original Registration of Marriage, completed at the time of marriage.  If you are not certain of the date of marriage, you are required to fill out the estimated date of marriage on the Marriage Certificate application.  If a record cannot be found, a search will automatically be carried out and the applicant will be notified. 

Is a Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate required to apply for a divorce?

Yes.  You must have an original government issued Marriage Certificate or Certified Copy of Marriage Registration to apply for a divorce in Canada.  The certificate you received at the church (or any other place you were married) will not be accepted by the Divorce Registry. 

How much does a Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate cost and how can I pay?

Regular Service (15-20 business days):

  • Short Form Marriage Certificate:            $65.29
  • Long Form Marriage Certificate:             $71.62

Rush Service (8-12 business days):

  • Short Form Marriage Certificate:            $85.29
  • Long Form Marriage Certificate:             $91.62

The only payment currently accepted is credit card (Visa and MasterCard). 

How long will it take to receive my Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate?

It will take 15-20 business days with the Regular Service option or 8-12 business days with the Rush Service option. 

What is the law in Nova Scotia regarding same-sex marriage?

Bill C-38 codifies a definition of marriage for the first time in Canadian law, expanding on the traditional common-law understanding of civil marriage as an exclusively heterosexual institution.  Bill C-38 redefines civil marriage as “the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others,” thus extending civil marriage to conjugal couples of the same sex.

Bill C-38 was passed by the Senate on July 19, 2005, by a vote of 47-21.  The Civil Marriage Act then came into effect with Royal Assent on July 20, 2005, as Chapter 33 of the Statutes of Canada.  With its enactment, Canada became the fourth country to legislate same-sex marriage, the others being the Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003) and Spain (2005). 

Federal vs. Provincial Jurisdiction

There is some confusion about the roles of different levels of government involved in the marriage issue.

The federal government can pass legislation to define marriage and to set out who can marry whom, which means that a Province must recognize any marriage that is valid in Canada.

Although Provinces do not have the freedom to choose which marriages may be solemnized, they are required to provide a process by which people can be married.  This means that provincial governments must provide a process for the solemnization of same-sex marriages. 

How do I find the status of a Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate application?

If you are following up on the status of an already ordered certificate, as the applicant, you will need to contact the government agency directly.  They will only discuss the status of the application with the applicant.  Please contact Nova Scotia Vital Statistics at:

Toll Free: 1-877-848-2578 (Nova Scotia only)
Telephone: 902-424-4381 

Who is entitled to apply for a Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate?

You can apply for a Nova Scotia Marriage Certificate if you are either party to the marriage. 

When I get married, do I have to take my husband’s last name?

No.  Changing a last name upon marriage is a custom only and it has never been a legal requirement.  When you get married, there are several options available to you.  You may keep your own last name, you may take your husband's name, or combine both of your last names into a hyphenated last name.

It is also possible to use your husband's last name for social purposes while continuing to use your own last name for legal purposes, such as your passport, bank accounts, driver's licence and so on.  The important thing is that you must not use both names in an attempt to defraud someone.

The benefit of assuming a married name instead of doing a legal name change is that it does not change your last name on your Marriage Certificate.  Later, if you wish to use your own last name again, it is already on your Marriage Certificate and you won’t have to pay to change it back.

If you do decide to use your husband's last name, it is not necessary to inform the Department of Vital Statistics.  However, you will have to arrange to have all your personal documents changed to reflect your new name.  You should contact your bank to arrange to change your name on your accounts, credit cards and banking cards, and the federal government to deal with documents such as your social insurance number and passport.  Your driver's licence should also be changed.  Do not forget such important documents as insurance policies and your health care number.  Note also that marriage automatically invalidates a will, unless the will specifically mentions that it has been made with an upcoming marriage in mind.  You should make a new will immediately after marriage. 

My fiancé and I want to get married in a foreign country. Can we do this?

Yes.  You may marry in a foreign country as long as you meet all the requirements of the authority responsible for marriage in the country where you want to get married.  If you are getting married overseas, most countries will require a statement in-lieu of certification of non-impediment to marriage abroad.  You can apply for one by mail to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Authentication and Service of Documents section before your departure. If you are already abroad, you may obtain a "Statement in lieu of Certificate of Non-impediment" from the nearest Canadian government office abroad.

Additional information regarding marriage in a foreign country is available on the Canadian Consular Affairs website.

Please note, only marriages that took place in Nova Scotia are registered by Nova Scotia Vital Statistics.  Your marriage will be registered in the country where it took place as long as you met all the local requirements.  Your Marriage Certificate, issued by the country's authority responsible for marriage, is proof of your marital status. 

I married someone who is a foreign citizen. Can my spouse automatically enter Nova Scotia?

No.  There are certain procedures that must be followed before a non-Canadian citizen can reside in Canada.  For more information, see the Citizenship and Immigration Canada website

Who is allowed to perform marriages in Nova Scotia?

Marriages in Canada can be either civil or religious.  Marriages may be performed by members of the clergy, marriage commissioners, judges, justices of the peace or clerks of the court.