Can you get married during COVID-19?
COVID-19 has changed our daily lives. The rules and ways of doing things have changed in many areas. Since March 2020, several media have reported cases of contamination and deaths due to COVID-19 for people who have participated in wedding celebrations.
A time of joy and celebration par excellence, a civil or religious marriage is automatically an event that makes us less attentive to respect for the new health rules. There are many social and emotional contacts. A wedding often takes place in an enclosed environment (place of worship, lounge, reception hall, ceremony hall, courthouse, etc.), which favours propagation of bacteria and viruses.
It seems unlikely that the authorities will prohibit wedding ceremonies. However, the authorities could limit the number of participants in civil or religious weddings to the spouses, their witnesses and the celebrant.
To get married safely during COVID-19, you must:
- Reduce the number of guests to allow social distancing and good ventilation;
- Wear a mask;
- Limit the time people are present;
- Limit social interactions.
Government rules to follow during a wedding
Since March 2020, the governments of Canada and Quebec have put in place rules to be followed, whether for citizens, businesses or institutions. These rules are changing and evolving according to the situation in Canada and Quebec, as well as according to the pandemic situation in other countries.
The COVID-19 sections of the websites of the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec are updated daily to inform citizens and businesses. Future spouses should consult these sites regularly because the information on them could affect the organization of their wedding.
Health rules to be followed during a wedding
At this time, during a wedding celebration, it is mandatory and essential to respect certain rules:
- Wearing a mask is mandatory
- A visitor’s register must be kept
- The number of guests is limited
- A distance of two metres must be maintained between each person
- Adequate aeration and ventilation of the wedding ceremony room
- Regular disinfection of contact surfaces
Following these rules helps ensure a safe wedding ceremony.
Uniting with a spouse to get married in Canada
People’s mobility has been greatly impeded by the pandemic. There are many travel restrictions, which vary according to the health situation in each country.
Canada has put extraordinary measures in place to allow families and future spouses to unite despite everything.
Time delays to getting married
The time delays to get married varies according to two elements.
The first element is the legal obligation to publish a notice of marriage with the Quebec Director of Civil Status. This first time delay of 20 days cannot be compressed or shortened, except in a few very specific cases (for example, if one of the future spouses is at the end of their life or a soldier has to leave on a campaign abroad).
The second element is the availability of your marriage celebrant. A large majority of couples prefer a wedding celebration on a Saturday. So the time delay may be longer for a marriage on the weekend compared to a marriage during the week.
Time delay to receive the marriage deed or certificate
A marriage deed or certificate is an official document issued by the Quebec Director of Civil Status. On its website, it indicates that the delays for registering a civil status event such as a civil status varies between 30 to 40 working days on average.
These delays could be longer due to the impact of the pandemic on the organization of the work of officials of the Ministère de l’emploi, du travail et de la solidarité sociale to which the Director of Civil Status reports.
Finally, to process your marriage deed after it is registered, the citizen’s service declaration of the Ministère de l’emploi, du travail et de la solidarité sociale mentions “a delay of ten working days following receipt of the required documents for a request for normal processing and three working days for a request for expedited processing”.
Cancelling, delaying or changing the form of your marriage
Depending on the health situation and the government rules to be respected, the future spouses may decide to cancel, delay or change the form of their marriage plans.
If the couple does not wish to celebrate their wedding during the time of pandemic and if the rules to be followed to fight COVID-19 distort the concept of the marriage that the two fiancés had, cancelling the plans may be a choice, especially if another date or period to celebrate the wedding cannot be chosen. Your celebrant will then send a notice of cancellation of the civil marriage to the Quebec Director of Civil Status.
Delaying the wedding is the best solution when you wish to get married a few weeks or months later and adapt to the new realities caused by COVID-19. Depending on the postponement time, it may be necessary to republish a marriage notice.
Changing the form of your marriage is the option that allows you to officially start your life as a couple while adapting your wedding to the new realities caused by COVID-19. This translates into a reduction in the number of guests since it is no longer possible to meet under the same conditions as before.
Weddings with hundreds of guests in the reception halls of large hotels are temporarily no longer possible. More and more spouses are therefore choosing an intimate marriage, even if it means having a wedding party later, when the pandemic situation will be a thing of the past.
Getting reimbursed by service providers in the event of cancellation
If you decide to cancel or postpone your wedding, you will have to postpone your service contracts signed with your service providers. In the absence of formal contracts, the rules of the Quebec Civil Code will apply.
There are various sections of the Quebec Civil Code, such as 2098, 2125 and 2129 and sections 2, 11.4 and 13 of the Consumer Protection Act.
The Quebec Civil Code provides that in the event of force majeur, the obligations of the parties are set aside. This means that a contract would no longer bind the parties.
In the event of cancellation, a merchant or a professional is not required to reimburse the portion of expenses already incurred in rendering the service to you, such as fees or materials already purchased.
For example, a wedding planner who has already worked on organizing your wedding will have to be paid for their hours worked. A civil marriage notary celebrant is not required to refund you for the portion of legal consultation and administrative formalities that have already been completed.
In the event of a dispute, consult a lawyer and favour mediation to reach an agreement satisfactory to both parties.
Preparing a Plan B for your wedding
As we have seen, the current situation is a game changer for major life events as well as our workplaces.
It is important to plan for different scenarios (wedding in a small group, intimate wedding, postponement of nuptials, etc.) to adapt to the government and health rules and their evolution.
Keep your guests informed
The family and loved ones, as we observe every day, are very happy to share this unique and strong moment with the spouses.
Given the context, the challenges of a wedding and the uncertainty that can weigh on certain weddings or their forms, your wedding guests will appreciate being kept informed of any changes that could affect your wedding, both with respect of the date, organization, and the conduct of the wedding itself.
Your guests could also join your wedding ceremony virtually via Skype, Team or Zoom.
In the event of a long postponement or cancellation of a wedding, handing over the gifts or refunding the money received as a participation or gift would be appropriate.
Notaries for a civil marriage even in times of COVID-19
Mtre Mona Salehi’s notarial team has been available, continuously and since the very beginning of the pandemic, to celebrate civil marriages in accordance with health and government rules.
Our rigorous protocols allow us to welcome future spouses and their guests in our real wedding ceremony rooms in complete safety.
National Library and Archives of Quebec, ISBN 978-2-9818892-1-8
Mona Salehi Notaire Inc. – Notary and wedding celebrant in Montreal