I often get asked, how many witnesses do I need, what is their role, and what do they sign, so here it is!
Regardless if you are eloping or planning a large wedding event, in Ontario you will need two witnesses from anywhere in the world who are preferably over the age of 15. The age, residence, and relation of the witnesses are not as relevant as simply having people who are of sound mind and body. They do not even need to know you as they are simply acknowledging that they saw you make a statement of consent to marry your spouse and they heard my declaration of your marriage.
They must be able to sign their names three times and write their address in the Officiant's Wedding Register, otherwise known as the Blue Book. The Wedding Register is the Officiant's copy of the marriage licence and should be completed exactly as the information has been presented in the marriage licence. The Marriage Licence and the Record of Solemnization are provided by city hall and should not be completed without the Officiant.
Even if only one of you went to pick up the the Marriage Licence and the Record of Solemnization, and only one of you signed in front of the city hall clerk, do not have your spouse sign Part 2: Marriage Affidavit (Form 4), as your licence will be rejected by the Registrar's Office. Once you leave City Hall, no one, not even the Officiant, should write on any part of the licence above Part 3. If it any of the information above Part 3 is incorrect, return to the City Hall to get the error corrected before signing the licence with the Officiant.
The signing, which takes place after the couple has agreed to marry each other and the Officiant proclaims the couple married, confirms that the marriage has taken place and that the couple, the witnesses, and the Officiant have all performed their duties accordingly.
During the signing, the Officiant will first direct the witnesses where they should sign: the Marriage Licence, the Record of Solemnization, and the Officiant's Marriage Register. The witnesses must also write in their addresses in the Marriage Register.
This whole process can take some time depending on whether the couple wants the photographer to capture the moment, and how long it takes for all the different individuals to fill in their signatures and addresses. I usually tell couples that for the signing, they will need a small table and at least one chair. Cruiser tables are less awkward to stand behind, do not require chairs and work best if anyone is wearing a strapless dress.