The license and the marriage are two different things. It's like how you need both a driver's license and to have your vehicle registered in order to drive -- the marriage license attests that you are legally able to marry (you aren't already married to someone else, you aren't each other's siblings, etc.) -- but just getting the license doesn't make you married.
You actually have to have your intention to married solemnized by someone who is legally able to do so. You don't have to make vows, you don't have to speak aloud, it does not have to be formal -- but you have to take your license to someone who is able to validly marry you, tell them your intention to marry each other, and have them and you sign marriage forms.
When you obtain a marriage license you are essentially swearing out an affidavit that you are eligible to marry each other; and you are pre-paying the administrative cost to the province of legally registering your marriage after it has been performed. (To OP - You will not be pleased to know that in some provinces it will cost another small sum to get a copy of the marriage certificate. About $20 in Ontario)
But as MoneyGal points out you still need to pay a qualified person to perform the ceremony. Depending on where it is done you have to consider the value of their time; the value of any space they provide if it is done on their premises; and the cost of their travel time of it is done off-premises.
In Ottawa you can still get married by a Justice of the Peace in his offices for about $160. In a brief search of Toronto's web site it appears to me that TO has privatized the ceremony - they just refer you to private agencies that will conduct civil weddings. But they will rent space at City Hall to you for the purpose.
Seeing as this is a financial forum...I can add a little financial spin on this.
Originally Posted by Saniokca
Not all marriages are as simple and straight forward as you are thinking. When you look at the potential finances involved when a couple gets married, or on the negative side, when they potentially separate. Wouldn't you want to know that the other person is legally separated, and has the proper documentation. The person that solemnizes the marriage will verify this for you. I know it sounds crazy but some people do actually try to get married before they are divorced and/or despite the fact that they are still married to someone else.
Can they actually verify this? I was under the impression that the license application takes care of that (but I am not sure).
Originally Posted by Cal
I'll call ServceOntario to find out more - will keep you posted
Also, I found this on the Ontario website:
"Is my marriage legal if I have an Ontario marriage certificate?
Only a court can determine if your marriage is valid. The Office of the Registrar General registers marriages that
occur in Ontario according to the Marriage Act. The marriage certificate is an official record of the registration of
the event but does not confer validity. If you have questions about validity, you need to speak with a lawyer."
Neither the City Clerk nor the officiant are going to do a world-wide search to determine if either of the parties has lied about their marital status - especially not for $150.