The Process to Getting a Certified Mixed Marriage

Most couples will eventually take the big step towards marriage. What is the process involved in getting cross-cultural marriage certificates?

John and I dated for years before we decided to get married. For him, life would not be different because of a piece of paper that certifies our marriage. Under Canadian Law, depending on the province, if you live together for two to three years, you are considered married. (The exception to this is Quebec, which does not recognize common law marriage.)

For me, it was a way out from all the pressure exerted by my parents and extended family members. In China, you are labeled as unwanted, strange or eccentric if you do not get married after you turn 25 years old.

My friends told me it was easy. Just go to the Civil Affairs Bureau with your IDs on a workday, pay 9 RMB for the certificate and 20 RMB for the photo, but for a mixed marriage, it was more complicated. John had to go to the Canadian Consulate and apply for his proof of non-marriage record. It took about a month.

We arranged a trip back to my hometown, a small city near Chengdu, after finding out that we were required to go to the Provincial Civil Affairs Bureau in Chengdu instead of the one in Dongguan.

“We should do something for a different look in our marriage certificate photo. It will be fun if you shave your hair,” I said, jokingly.

“Why not?” John replied, followed by the unsettling sound of John’s electric razor. I rushed into the bathroom and saw John’s half-shaved head.

I figured going bald was slightly better than wearing a wig, so off we went to Chengdu on the second workday after the national holiday. I did not run the normal superstitious process to check if it was a lucky day.

Some Chinese couples go to extremes to pick a lucky day to get married, such as February 2, 2020, showing good luck due to 2020.02.02 being palindrome and 2020 in Chinese sounds like “love you.” Although it landed on a Sunday, eager people around China submitted petitions to their local Civil Affairs Bureaus, hoping the governing department would be open.

John and I could have married faster if we prepared the official translated copies of our IDs and other documents when we arrived in the morning. The staff sent us to a far- away translation center, telling us it must be translated and authorized there. After an hour taxi ride, we paid 300 RMB and waited no more than five minutes to get our copies. When we returned to the Civil Affairs Bureau, it was closed for lunch.

Fortunately, we were the second couple to arrive in the afternoon. The staff checked our documents and asked some routine questions. We were directed to a small office down the hall after we got our certificates.

“What for?” I wondered. It turned out to be a one-stop service, to get our marriage certificates notarized. Although it was optional, we decided to spend the 398 RMB to get it done. The end of the day was a relief.