Marry Your Sweetheart in a Foreign Country

Marrying in a foreign country sounds so romantic. Sipping coconut rum in Bangkok, cruising on the Rhine, on safari at Kruger National Park. Now you’re living the dream.

Love is in the Air

Sebastian and Han are determined to get married overseas. When Han’s medical sales job takes him to Switzerland for a surgical convention, Sebastian tags along. Something about the alpine air says this is the time. Too bad about that five-week wait for publication of the bans for a civil partnership. No luck this time around.

Get Legal Permission to Marry

Sebastian and Hans may have made a false start, but they did learn something valuable at the local marriage registry. Next time the Windsor couple goes abroad, they’ll bring a certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad. The legal document is required to participate in a civil partnership or marriage in a foreign country.

Same-Sex Unions as Old as Civilization 

Same-sex unions are nothing new. The legend of the Shared Pillow Tree tells the tale of a  fourth or third century BC Chinese ruler who fell in love with a young male scholar. Wang Zhongxian and Pan Zhang lived together in “unbounded intimacy” the rest of their lives (“10 Intriguing Same-Sex Relationships in History”, The entwined twigs of a tree buried on their shared grave on Mount Luofu are said to commemorate their love.

Straight Facts on Same-Sex Marriage in Ontario

Same-sex marriage has been legal in Ontario since the 2003 Ontario Court of Appeal decision Halpern v Canada ruled defining marriage as a union between a man and woman violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The province was the first North American jurisdiction and third in the world after the Netherlands and Belgium to legally endorse same-sex marriage. Canada’s Divorce Act was updated to include same-sex couples in 2004.

Countries That Welcome Same-Sex Couples

Same-sex marriage is legal across most of Europe and many other countries but some, including Switzerland, Greece and Italy, only allow civil partnerships. Same-sex marriages are welcomed in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Ecuador, England and Wales, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland,  Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Malta, some Mexican states, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, U.S. and Uruguay. Central and Eastern Europe lag far behind, although the Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary and a few others permit civil unions. 

A Different Experience Marrying Overseas

Helga and Becky are veteran, if informal, wedding planners. They’ve been helping LGBTQ2S+ friends get hitched for years. When they tie the knot, they’re heading for a same-sex friendly country. Helga’s Lutheran, Becky belongs to the Metropolitan Community Church of Toronto. Their destination of choice: Denmark. They expect smooth sailing.

Making an Enlightened Choice

Same-sex marriage has been legal in the Kingdom of Denmark since 2012 and its autonomous territory, Greenland, since 2016. Couples can marry in a same-sex civil ceremony (72% do) or religious ceremony at the Church of Denmark. While individual priests can decline LGBTQ2S+ requests at the church (Evangelical Lutheran), local bishops are required by law to make alternate arrangements. Unlike Switzerland, Denmark does not require declarations of single status or a certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad. 

Marriage Requirements Vary by Country

Sebastian and Hans, on the other hand, have switched their nuptials to neighbouring Germany. This time, they’ll be taking:

  • an Ontario long-form birth certificate showing their parentage (African-American and Chinese) 
  • and Ledigkeitsbescheinigung, the certificate of non-impediment to marriage stating  they are single. 

They’ll collect a Standesamt certificate from the Bonn civil registration office, where the civil part of their ceremony will take place. Germany requires all marriages to be witnessed by a local registrar at a Standesamt. Unlike Helga and Becky, they won’t have a church wedding, although they could organize one after the civil ceremony.

Getting Your Legal Documents in Order

Ontarians planning to marry abroad can get a statement in lieu of certificate of non-impediment to marriage abroad from the nearest Canadian embassy. Depending on the country, you may be able to get your papers overseas from an embassy, high commission or consulate. Since some countries require the documents to be issued in Canada, do your research ahead of time.

What You’ll Need to Apply 

Documents to bring to the embassy office include:

  • a notarized declaration
  • certified copy of your birth certificate or passport
  • for immigrants, certified copy of your Canadian citizenship certificate, permanent resident card or passport
  • certified copy of death certificates for deceased spouses
  • or certified copy of divorce certificates.

Ask an Axess Law virtual notary for assistance with making your application.

Get a Notarized Declaration to Marry Abroad

Axess Law Ontario notary publics can provide notarized declarations and stamp birth, death or divorce certificates. Online video conferencing is available anywhere in Ontario, day or evening, 7 days a week for your convenience. Dial toll-free to 1-877-522-9377 or in Greater Toronto at 647-479-0118 or use our online booking form. In person meetings are available at our Ottawa, Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices.

Click here to learn more about Axess Law’s notary public services.