Saturday, July 20, 2024

Marry me! Rideau Lakes Township to offer civil marriage services

Rideau Lakes Township will soon offer civil marriage ceremonies after a resolution was recommended by the municipal services committee on March 25, 2024. – Laurie Weir photo

Rideau Lakes Township may soon offer civil marriage services.

Chief Administrative Officer Shellee Fournier brought a recommendation to the municipal services committee on March 25 that would allow her and the clerk to perform civil services as a revenue-generating stream.

“In my previous life, I was a wedding officiant,” Fournier said, as she performed civil services in the Town of Gananoque, where she was the CAO. “People know that and they’ve been reaching out to me. I’d like to continue … I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t be bringing revenue to Rideau Lakes.”

Fournier said the clerk, Mary Ellen Truelove, would be on the list as well, and they could discuss availability between themselves.

“We can always say no if we’re not available,” Fournier said.

Coun. Paula Banks said she was happy to see this come forward, “with so many nieces and nephews in this area, it is a struggle to find people.”

Coun. Joan Delaney said it was an “excellent idea.” She said she felt not only would it bring revenue to the township, but also to accompanying businesses, like caterers.

“I always wondered why we didn’t perform civil marriages,” Delaney said. “It’s about time.”

Ceremony fees during regular business hours would be $325, plus HST. Outside business hours, the fee would be $425 with a $50 cancellation fee (prior to consolation meeting), or $175 after consultation. A witness fee is listed at $50 per witness, subject to availability.

In a follow-up email with the CAO, Fournier said she would train the clerk to officiate, and that would take about one hour’s time. There is no cost for this.

As for where they will conduct ceremonies, Fournier said, “The bylaw will say Rideau Lakes and area. There’s no strict boundary but we want to keep it generally near/around the Rideau Lakes area.”

What’s involved in the process?

“Most of the work is done by email,” she said. “The couple fills out a questionnaire, selects from pre-determined scripts. We will offer four options. We meet for about 30 minutes to review/confirm identification and go over the details.”

The civil marriage ceremony lasts about 20 minutes.

Fournier said she expects to do about a dozen services a year. The township currently offers marriage licensing.

The cost of the ceremony will “easily cover the staff time and generate some revenue for the township,” she noted; about $4,000 per year (at least to start).

“The real revenue generated will be creating more wedding opportunities as economic drivers for the township businesses for related things like facility bookings, photographers, meals, flowers, accommodations, etc.”

OTHER MUNICIPALITIES

Gananoque has performed 67 civil ceremonies since 2019.

According to clerk Penny Kelly, the municipality has performed seven so far this year. Last year, they had 22. The Gananoque rate is $325 plus HST (2024 rates).

According to the City of Quinte West, they temporarily stopped performing civil services during the COVID-19 pandemic as they didn’t have the resources.

“Recently and with appropriate resources, the Clerk’s Department resumed its civil ceremony program. It is a revenue-generating opportunity the city is proud to offer. The city also recently ran a successful Valentine’s Day civil ceremony promotional event and will be exploring future opportunities to host similar events.”

In Quinte West, marriage licenses are $160, and ceremonies are $450, to be performed Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. “subject to staff and room availability.”

BACKGROUND

Civil marriage solemnization services offer local residents the option to legally marry without the necessity of attending a place of worship. Before 2004, only judges or justices of the peace could officiate civil marriages. In 2004, the Government of Ontario amended regulations under the Marriage Act to grant municipal clerks the authority to solemnize civil marriages. This change aimed to improve access to civil marriage services and alleviate the workload on the judiciary.

Starting in 2004, municipalities have been empowered to provide civil marriage services and establish fees to offset the expenses incurred in delivering these services. Municipalities interested in offering civil marriage solemnization services are mandated by the Registrar General of Ontario to enact a By-Law granting authorization to the municipal clerk or their appointed representative to officiate civil marriages.

Civil marriages offer personalized ceremonies by an officiant who conducts a meeting, performs the marriage, and manages paperwork. Couples book officiants through municipal offices, handle payments, schedule weddings, and provide officiant agreements. Officiants register marriages at municipal offices and send paperwork to the Registrar General. Municipalities can create their own processes for providing civil marriage services, tailored to local needs, pending council approval.

The recommendation was fully supported by the committee and will return to a future council meeting for final approval.

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