Legal Handfastings

British Columbia; Alberta; Saskatchewan; Manitoba; Ontario; Québec; New Brunswick; Nova Scotia; Prince Edward Island; Newfoundland; Yukon; Northwest Territories; Nunavut

Legal handfastings are a matter of concern to many Canadian Pagans. Anyone — priest, priestess, or simply a friend — can handfast you. Religious matters are concerns only of one's faith group and not 'legalized' by the government. What is 'legal' in the matter of handfastings is a marriage certificate, a species of contract filed with the provincial government, which protects the parties with respect to support, inheritance rights, etc. This must be signed by a government official, such as a judge. For the sake of convenience, so that people don't need to visit both a church and a courthouse, the province deputizes some clergy to act as their agent in this matter. This is a matter of contracts, not a matter of religion.

For a clergyperson to be deputized by the provincial government, they must be nominated by a 'church' or similar religious body that meets certain qualifications (number of people belonging, length of time in existence, etc. — which to ensure certain reliability and continuity, not to 'legitimize' religious activities). Each province has its own specifics, and we will post information, or links to same, as we locate them.

In the meantime, the only province with Pagan clergy duly deputized to fulfil this function is B.C., with the Aquarian Tablernacle Church.

In Alberta, the Grove of Danu Pagan Church of Alberta has fulfilled the provincial requirements, and we expect they will soon have clergy able to do the legal there.

In Ontario and Quebec, the AllSeasonsChurch has Pagans in their group of 'credentialed' clergy, and if they are not available the other people on staff are happy to do handfastings or any kind of marriage ceremony you specify.

If you are interested in doing legally recognized marriages as Pagan clergy, here are the requirements you must meet:-


Division of Vital Statistics Ministry of Health
818 Fort Street P.O. Box 967,
Station Provincial Government Victoria, BC V8W 9P3
Toll Free: 1-800-663-8328 (BC only)
Tel: (250) 952-2681
Fax: (250) 952-2527

A denomination must be functioning within the province of British Columbia for a period of at least five years; or alternatively, demonstrate that they have been established in Canada for a minimum of five years, have been recognized for the purposes of solemnizing marriages in at least one other province and have a church or congregation established in British Columbia at the time of applications.

Some other requirements —


Societies act certificate (if a formal non-profit)


sampling of five years' worth of minutes (your own, or your Canadian parent body)


constitution and bylaws


sample Marriage ceremony


list of names proposed as 'religious representatives'


ordination or appointment for each


Registration Services Alberta Registries
3rd floor, 10365 — 97 Street
Edmonton, AB T5K 2P2
Tel: (780) 427-7013 Fax: (780) 423-2567

The following information and documents are needed in order to determine if the applying organization is eligible to be registered for the purpose of performing marriage ceremonies by its authorized ministers/clergy.

Certificate of Incorporation, and related incorporation documents from the Alberta Corporate Registry, Division of Alberta Registries, issued according to the Societies Act, the Religious Societies' land Act, or Companies Act.

Date and place of incorporation of founding of the religious body, and length of time in continuous operation in Alberta. (Note: If presently, or previously, affiliated with another religious group, please indicate the name of the group, address and length of association.)

Constitution and by-laws of the religious body, including provisions for ordination, appointment and dismissal of ministers or clergy.

Religious sacraments, including the marriage ceremony.

Proposed Marriage Statement to be given to couples at time of marriage ceremony.

Address of the regular meeting place; scheduled days and hours of worship.

Names and addresses of members/believers 18 years of age or older and living in this Province. (Minimum of 100 members)

Names, addresses and telephone numbers of clergy living in Alberta to be registered to perform marriages.

Name, address and telephone number of Governing Authority (e.g. Chairman, President, Elder — elected to represent the organization to Vital Statistics), including executive minutes, appointment documents confirming their representation.

Alberta also has provision for temporary Marriage Commissioners. This might be an easier route.

Individuals seeking a temporary marriage commissioner appointment must meet eligibility criteria. Temporary marriage commissioners are appointed to permit couples, who are getting married, to select someone who is special to them to perform the marriage ceremony. These appointments are for one day only (24 hours).

Persons applying for a temporary appointment must submit an Application for Temporary Appointment as an Alberta Marriage Commission to:

Alberta Registries, Box 2023, Edmonton, AB, T5J 4W7
Or fax the application to (780) 422-4225

Upon receipt, Alberta Registries will process the application within three weeks. The candidate must be a permanent Alberta resident. For the purpose of becoming a temporary marriage commissioner, a resident is defined as a person:

Lawfully entitled to be in Alberta, who makes their home in Alberta and is ordinarily present in Alberta for 6 months or more a year

Who would ordinarily pay Alberta income tax

Who is eligible for Alberta Health Care Insurance

Who is eligible to vote in Alberta

The Candidate must be an adult (18 years of age or older).

Temporary marriage commissioners are not permitted to represent themselves as permanent marriage commissioners, nor are they permitted to solicit business of this nature.

An individual will not be granted a temporary appointment more than three times per year. Appointing an individual as temporary marriage commission is meant to be an occasional occurrence as there are permanent commissioners appointed to meet the ongoing social demands for civil ceremonies.


Vital Statistics
1942 Hamilton Street
Regina, SK S4P 3V7
Tel: (306) 787-3092 Fax: (306) 787-2288



Vital Statistics Agency
Consumer and Corporate Affairs
254 Portage Avenue, Main Floor
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0B6
Tel: (204) 945-3701 Fax: (204) 948-3128


Application for recognition as a religious denomination including a petition signed by members of the organization who reside in Manitoba. The petition may take the format shown below:














etc. to 25




A statement of religious doctrines, dogma or creed.


An example of a marriage ceremony used by the organization must be submitted.


Evidence that the members of the organization are closely associated for the purpose of religious worship must be prepared and might consist of one or more of:


date and place of founding of the organization in Manitoba;


papers of incorporation under The Manitoba Corporations Act;


registration as a charitable or non-profit organization with Revenue Canada;


description of the structure of the organization, including names and addresses of officers in Manitoba and any affiliation with a larger religious group;


statement identifying Manitoba clergy for whom registration is requested including names, addresses, place of worship and membership.


Please indicate the name, address, phone number, and title of the individual to be designated as the local "governing authority" for the organization in Manitoba, who will be responsible to complete forms for registering clergy.

Regarding registering Clergy with our office to perform weddings, the clergy member needs to contact the signing authority for their denomination and then they will make application to be registered with our office. Members of the Clergy also have the option of "one-day" permits. If they are from out of province, or country, they contact the signing authority for their denomination here in Manitoba and they will apply for them. There is no cost. Processing is generally between 1 to 3 weeks.

An easier route would seem to be to bypass the religious 'recognition' thing altogether and apply to be a permanent or one-time Marriage Commissioner. That way any priest or priestess (or anyone) could perform a handfasting.

In Manitoba, any resident who is over the age of 18, a Canadian Citizen and a permanent resident of Manitoba, can apply to become a permanent marriage commissioner. We also have "one-day" permits; again the person would have to meet the previous requirements stated.

For the "one-day" permit, the person simply sends us a letter stating who they are, indicating that they meet the stated requirements and providing us with the names of the bride and groom and where the wedding will occur. There is no cost involved and processing is anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks.

When applying a to be a permanent marriage commissioner there is a short application to be filled in. The applicant returns it to us with their resume and 3 letters of reference. Again, there is no cost; however processing takes a little longer, generally 2 to 3 months.


Office of the Registrar General
Ministry of Consumer & Business Services
189 Red River Road, 3rd Floor
Thunder Bay, ON P7B 6L8
Tel: 1-800-461-2156 — (Ontario Residents Only)
Tel: (416) 325-8305 Fax: (807) 343-7459

From the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations
Registration Division
Office of the Register General
P.O. Box 4600
189 Red River Road
Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7B 6L8
Telephone: 1-800-461-2156 or 416-325-8305

Dear Sir / Madam:


Please find enclosed an application form (11259) for registration as a person authorized to solemnize marriage in Ontario.

The completed application form should be returned to this office together with the following documentation:

- Proof of Ordination/ Appointment. (Copy of Certificate)
— Copy of Renewal / Fellowship card for the current year if applicable.
— Letter of authorization from the governing official (for Ontario) of your denomination.

The letter must indicate the following:
a) Your current status with the denomination.
b) The denomination's recognition of your entitlement to perform marriage in accordance with its rites and usages.
c) The name and mailing address of Church / congregation to be served.
d) The name, address and current status of your predecessor (if any) at the particular church / congregation being served.

We cannot accept faxes or photocopies of application or governing officials' letters as we must have original signatures.

Yours truly,
Team representative
Marriage office

Second Letter:
From the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations
Registration Division
Office of the Registrar General
P.O. Box 4600
189 Red River Road
Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7B 6L8
Telephone: 1-800-461-2156 or 416-325-8305


Please number all correspondence to match the requirements at assist this office in reviewing your file. When applying to this office, the following information is required:

1. Appointment and dismissal of Clergy: supply us with the bylaws or rules of your denomination which clearly set out how your clergy member are appointed and dismissed.

2. A copy of your denomination's rites and usages respecting solemnization of marriage. An actual copy of your marriage ceremony is required.

3. A copy of the form of worship, namely actions or practices of displaying reverence or veneration paid to a being or power regarded as supernatural or divine displayed by appropriate acts, rites, and ceremonies.

4. A registration package for each clergy is required to include:
a) a completed application;
b) a copy of your ordination or proof of appointment;
c) a letter of authorization from the governing official of your denomination permitting your to solemnize marriages according to that denomination's rites and usages.

5. A letter stating who will be the governing official for the denomination. The governing official shall be responsible for keeping the records of all clergy registered under the denomination and report to the office of the Registrar General any changes in status or addresses of clergy registered under their denomination.

6. A certified copy of the incorporation papers for your denomination is required. This will reflect the date and place of incorporation or founding of the religious body. A copy of your registration as a charity with Revenue Canada is also needed.*

7. A statement is required which reflects information about the congregation. Please show the name(s) and location(s) of the church(es) and the number of members and adherents showing the extent and continuous growth of the membership of the body. Include evidence that would indicate the length of time the denomination has been functioning inside or outside of Ontario.

8. A statement showing the organizational structure of your denomination explaining the procedure by which your governing official would be appointed or relieved of jurisdictional authority.

9. Signatures and address of at least 25 members of the denomination, excluding clergy and their families, petitioning us to register the denomination.

Re tax exemptions for clergy —


Ministère de la justice
Direction de l'état civil Service à la Clientèle
205, rue Montmagny
Québec, PQ G1N 4T2
Tel: (418) 643-3900 Fax: (418) 646-3255



Department of Health and Community Services
Centennial Building
670 King Street P. O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
Tel: (506) 453-7411 Fax: (506) 444-4139



Registrar General Division of Vital Statistics
1690 Hollis Street P. O. Box 157
Halifax, NS B3J 2M9
Tel: (902) 424-4381 Fax: (902) 424-0678



Vital Statistics
Department of Health and Social Services
35 Douses Road P. O. Box 3000
Montague, PEI C0A 1R0
Tel: (902) 838-0880 Fax: (902) 838-0883



Vital Statistics Division
Government Services and Land
5 Mews Place, P. O. Box 8700
St. John's, NF A1B 4J6
Tel: (709) 729-3308 Fax: (709) 729-0946



Department of Health and Human Resources
Government of Yukon P. O. Box 2703
Whitehorse, YT Y1A 2C6
Tel: (867) 667-5207 Fax: (867) 393-6486



Department of Health and Social Services
Government of Northwest Territories
Bag #9
Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0
Tel: (867) 777-7420 Fax: (867) 777-3197



Nunavut Health & Social Services
Bag #3
Rankin Inlet, Nunavut X0C 0G0
Tel: (867) 645-8001 Fax: (867) 645-8092


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