Vital Statistics - Marriage Database

Detailed information for 2008





Record number:


This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all marriages in Canada.

Data release - July 13, 2011 (2008 is the last year for which these data were collected.)


This is an administrative survey that collects demographic information annually from all provincial and territorial vital statistics registries on all new marriages in Canada.

The data are used to calculate basic indicators (such as counts and rates) on marriages occurring in Canada. Information from this database is also used in the calculation of statistics, such as age-specific marriage rates.

For Canada as a whole, it was impossible to compile a satisfactory series of vital statistics prior to 1921. Eight provinces initially joined the cooperative Canadian vital statistics system, leading to the publication of the first annual report for Canada in 1921; that report included Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Quebec began to participate in 1926 and Newfoundland in 1949 (after joining Confederation) and their data were included in the tabulations from those years onward. Basic data from the Yukon and Northwest Territories were published as appendices to the national tables from 1924 to 1955; their data were first included in the regular tabulations in 1956. Nunavut came into being officially as a Territory of Canada on April 1, 1999. The name Northwest Territories applies to a Territory with different geographic boundaries before and after April 1, 1999.

Prior to 1944 all vital events were classified by place of occurrence. Since 1944, births, stillbirths, and deaths have been classified by area of reported residence, with births and stillbirths according to the residence of the mother. Marriages continue to be classified by place of occurrence (that is, where the marriage was solemnized).

Reference period: Calendar year

Collection period: From the beginning of the reference period until six months after the end of the reference period


  • Families, households and housing
  • Marriage and common-law unions

Data sources and methodology

Target population

The conceptual universe of the Marriage database is new marriages of Canadian residents anywhere in the world.

The target population of the Marriage database is new marriages of Canadian residents in Canada.

The actual (survey) population of the Marriage database is new marriages of Canadian and non-Canadian residents in Canada.

Other types of unions such as common-law relationships, civil unions, and partnerships registered with partnerships registries are excluded.

Instrument design

This methodology does not apply.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

No sampling is done.

Data sources

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are extracted from administrative files.

Provincial and territorial Vital Statistics Acts (or equivalent legislation) render compulsory the registration of all live births, stillbirths, deaths and marriages within their jurisdictions. These Acts follow, as closely as possible, a Model Vital Statistics Act that was developed to promote uniformity of legislation and reporting practices among the provinces and territories.

The Canadian Vital Statistics system operates under an agreement between the Government of Canada and governments of the provinces and territories. The Vital Statistics Council for Canada, an advisory committee set up by an Order-in-Council, oversees policy and operational matters. All provincial and territorial jurisdictions and Statistics Canada are represented on the Vital Statistics Council. Under the agreement, all registrars collect a specified set of data elements, although any of them may decide to collect additional information.

The bride and groom or same-sex spouses complete the form for the registration of a marriage, and the officiant is responsible for filing it with the local registrar.

The central Vital Statistics Registry in each province and territory provides data from marriage registrations to Statistics Canada. The following statistical data items are reported for each marriage for inclusion in the Canadian Vital Statistics system:

- Age or date of birth of bride, groom, female spouse and male spouse
- Marital status of bride, groom, female spouse and male spouse.
- Birthplace of bride, groom, female spouse and male spouse. (except Nova Scotia for 2005 to 2008 and Alberta for 2007 and 2008)
- Type of officiant

All provinces and territories supply microfilm, paper copies or optical images of marriage registration forms to Statistics Canada. In addition, all provinces supply machine-readable abstracts of registrations, which contain the required standard information. For the territories, the required standard information on paper is converted to machine-readable format at Statistics Canada. Subsequent changes to registrations due to errors, amendments or omissions are transmitted to Statistics Canada as the information becomes available. However, changes received after a cut-off date are not reflected in published tabulations.


This administrative survey does not produce estimates

Quality evaluation

Upon completion of the annual national marriage data base, Statistics Canada carries out a series of quality checks that include: 1) producing a set of verification tables which consist of basic tabulations for the majority of variables in the data base by province or territory of occurrence; 2) sending the verification tables to each provincial/territorial registrar of vital statistics for their review and approval that Statistics Canada and the registry obtain the same results; 3) checking for internal consistencies, for example, running frequencies and looking for outliers on certain data elements; and 4) comparing the most recent data year with past data years to detect any unusual or unexpected changes. Comparisons of tabulated data are made with vital statistics data published by the provinces and territories, where available.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects that could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

Since the registration of marriages is a legal requirement in each Canadian province and territory, reporting is virtually complete. Under-coverage is thought to be minimal, but is being monitored. Under-coverage may occur because of late registration. Some marriages are registered by local authorities, but the paperwork is not forwarded to provincial or territorial registrars before a cut-off date. These cases for 1996 represent approximately 430 marriages, 9 years after the year of marriage (accumulated late records), or three-tenths of one percent of the total records.

Under-coverage will occur when Canadian residents marry outside of Canada. There are no estimates for this, but is thought to be relatively small. Statistics Canada does not receive any data from other countries for these marriages. Over-coverage occurs when non-Canadian resident couples marry in Canada and when there are duplicate marriage records.

Unlike the other vital statistics databases, marriage data are presented only by province of occurrence, and not by province of residence. The variable "province of residence" has not been captured by several provinces over the years, the largest being Ontario. Without complete reporting, records for non-residents cannot be consistently excluded from the Canadian marriage statistics. This type of overcoverage, however, can be estimated by studying the resident status for records from the provinces and territories that do capture these variables. Using 2004 data, 4.7% of the records had the groom and/or bride, or one or both of the same-sex spouses as non-resident. In over one-half of these marriages (or 2.8% of all records), both the groom and bride or both same-sex spouses were non-residents. These might be tourists or recent emigrants who return to Canada to wed. Where both spouses were non-residents and residents of the same country, 69% were from the United States. Assuming that all the non-resident couples continued to reside outside of Canada after the marriage, and that some percentage of the non resident/resident couples decided to reside in Canada, this type of over-coverage can be estimated at approximately 2% to 5% percent of all marriages in Canada. This estimation assumes that those provinces that do not report the residence of each spouse have the same proportion of non-residents than the ones that do report it. This proportion, however, may vary from one jurisdiction to another. As such, it is important to note that some provinces have a greater percentage of marriages that take place between non-Canadian residents.

Over-coverage from duplicate records is minimal to none. Duplicate marriage registrations are identified as part of the regular processing operation on each provincial and territorial subset, as well as by additional inter-provincial checks. Possible duplicate registrations are verified against microfilmed registrations or optical images, or by consulting with the provinces and territories.

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