Please don't Go looking for the loopholes

April 9 2020


For those whom I have not met, please let me introduce myself. I am Rev Dr. Jodi Hall, founder of Something New. I am an inclusive, ordained spiritualist minister* licenced to perform weddings in the province of Ontario. I work alongside two incredible co-officiants,Rev Tori Taylor and Rev Marci Easton.

I’d like to start by acknowledging the grief you’re likely experiencing at the thought that you’re dream wedding day is collapsing. This grief may also be accompanied by very real fears related to your health, the health of your loved ones, and the financial impact this pandemic is having on your life.

I hear you.

I’m in this with you.

My partner and middle child were laid off 3 weeks ago; my youngest is finishing her first year of high school in her bedroom; and my oldest is completing his first co-op placement isolated from his beloved colleagues and mentors. And at least half of my wedding season has postponed to later in 2020/2021.

All this to say, your fears are mirrored by my own, and your fellow vendors. And collectively we want nothing more than to see your wedding day dreams realized.


This post is in response to questions I've seen online about ‘home based elopements’, back yard ceremonies, or ceremonies held in parks etc. (and "we will have a small ceremony, and hold the party later!"). I've also read posts with questions about where one can obtain their wedding licence.

Short answer: It may be possible for you to get a licence as each municipality is responsible for issuing wedding licences and are handling differently. Some are issuing online and by appointment. However, getting a licence isn't a golden ticket to a wedding ceremony.

Longer answer: My caution here is that while you may be able to get your licence, you still will not get the wedding ceremony, and if you go ahead, you will be in violation of provincial and federal health directives to self-distance, to stay home with only members of your immediate household, and only leave home to retrieve needed items when absolutely essential. At Something New, have been directed by our own Ministry where we are ordained not to perform ceremonies.

“Medical Health Officer's Plea to Religious Communities In accordance with the plea for help from the BC Provincial Medical Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, to religious communities, [we are] asking all members to not gather physically for any form of service or ceremony until the risk of COVID-19 Virus has passed and the Provincial & Federal Health Authorities have instructed us that it is safe to do so. Please restrict Ministry related activities, services, or ceremony to virtual forms, online, video, or audio”

Performing a wedding is not an essential service, no matter where that ceremony is taking place – in your home or otherwise. Parks and green spaces are to be used for walking and biking through only. We are subject to the same legislation, fines and consequences as other non-essential workers ordered to cease working, and our actions to hold ceremony encourage gathering by their very nature.

Additionally, I have loved ones who are working at the front lines as nurses, support staff, and allied workers. Anything I can do, for as long as I need to do it to lessen the burden on our health care system is my greatest priority.

This is what being in service right now looks like to me.

Now in spite of the warnings, if you locate an officiate willing to perform a ceremony and decide to go ahead, only the spouses-to-be, two witnesses, and the officiant should be in attendance.

But you should know, there is no effective way to sanitize the licence or marriage register which will pass through the hands of all 5 people (as well as the person who would have issued the licence, and the postal staff who will eventually deliver it). Covid-19 is spread through droplets, and as such can also move through the air and attach itself to various surfaces. And the 6 foot distance? It isn’t a magic number that we're safe at - it’s a minimum and it’s subject to the environment you’re in, such as wind changes and can travel via coughing, laughter, and breath.

And given the likelihood that not everyone in attendance will have been on complete home isolation, we can’t control who in the space has or has not been exposed to the virus. I couldn’t live with knowing I put any one of my beloved clients at risk. Your safety and protection matters most. And as colourful as my homemade mask is (thank you mom), it’s not the look I want showing up to perform your wedding.

And enforcing 6 feet social distancing is not practical in this situation. As your officiant I do not want to be put into the position of policing my clients on their wedding day. I want to celebrate you, loudly and unapologetically. Performing a ceremony, no matter how intimate and small would mean forever more, we’d carry the knowledge that we'd found a way to get away with it - that we'd found a loophole and had stepped into it.

We took advantage of the 'grey zone'.

There are particular situations that would be deemed an emergency and therefore essential. For instance, there was a situation where someone was dying and they wanted to be married before their death. There are legal rights that extend to a legal spouse that may not apply to common law spouses. This would be one of the rare exceptions that’d I be showing up to conduct a wedding.*

I would like to defer to wedding planners for support in coordinating your postponement date. They are the experts at the overall logistics and many local planners have generously shared resources and their wisdom for free. If you're getting anxious, start by reaching out to your vendors (if you haven't already), and sort through the logistics of what's involved in moving your date. You might also pop onto a zoom meeting every Wednesday evening hosted by Music Central Entertainment. They bring industry experts together to answer your questions.

The officiant is an integral part of the day, I mean it’s the only legal component of the day, but I wholeheartedly understand clients need to make decisions that balance priorities like overall costs, guests and fellow vendor availability.

You will never be judged at our end for any decisions you need to make.

If you are a client of Something New, we will work with each of you on a case by case basis, urging wherever possible to postpone to a later date in 2020 or 2021/2022. Your retainer will travel with you and fees will stay the same as you negotiated. Please note, our financial policies should not be expected of other wedding vendors. If you need further financial accommodation, just reach out. If we can’t accommodate your new date, please know we won’t leave you behind. I’ll work with you to find another officiant, starting with my co-officiants Tori and Marci.

We will follow your lead. We are here in whatever ways you need us, in any capacity - to talk weddings or otherwise. I trust this to be the case with all the incredible wedding vendors in our community, who continue to be tremendously nimble, collaborative and accommodating.

We are always here for the love, but equally so for the hard, the sorrow and the grief.

And can you imagine how sweet life will taste on the other side of this?

​I can. And wow, it's glorious.

Reach out. We are a Zoom, FaceTime, or call away.

You can also check out my video on IG for more information.

*Please note: In the province of Ontario only religious officials who are ordained by an approved ministry and licenced by the province, city clerks, judges or justice of the peace can perform legal weddings or solemn a wedding. No one is “just” a wedding officiant. For those who are not city clerks, justice of the peace or judges, our licences that grants us approval to perform legal weddings is an extension of our Ministry. This is why as a couple you may come across officiants that have strict mandates about who they will or will not perform ceremony for and the language they require within the ceremony (beyond the language of the Marriage Act) – this is a reflection of their Religious/Spiritual Ministry’s mandate. We all take direction for the Ministry we are responsible to, and at the end of the day making our own judgement calls in accordance with best available evidence.

*Funerals and celebrations of life are being accommodated on a case by case basis.