Weddings 101 in the Philippines
MANILA, Philippines – Planning a wedding in the Philippines is a formidable undertaking that’s definitely not for the faint of heart. There’s the wedding ceremony itself, the church, the guest list, the flowers, the gowns for the bride and her entourage, the caterer, invitations, cake, wedding rings, honeymoon and itinerary, and a thousand and one details that make wedding planners a necessity these days.
And we’re not even talking legal requirements, a veritable thicket of confusing terms that only lawyers can untangle. Some of the legalese a couple has to sort out are stern words like consent, legal capacity, solemnizing officer, special contract, and in articulo mortis.
But don’t get intimidated. Unlike many things in the Philippines, getting married legally is fairly simple because our laws protect it as an institution. Under our Family Code, marriage is defined as “a special contract of permanent union between a man and a woman entered into in accordance with the law for the establishment of conjugal and family life.” The state has an interest in what happens at the altar. As a result, getting married requires compliance with legal formalities, such as:
1. Legal Capacity and Consent
Marriage is a special contract. As with any contract, it can only be valid if the parties are at least 18 years of age and do not have the impediments indicated in the Family Code. They must also freely give their consent to enter into such a contract.
No legal impediments means that neither of the two parties are presently married or legally separated. “Legally separated” means you’re still married in this country and can’t contract another marriage―unless you file for an annulment which, when granted, frees you to enter into another conjugal union. The couple must not also be incestuously related to one another, meaning no first cousins, half brothers, etc.
The other requirements can be gleaned from the definition of marriage itself: a) the contracting parties must be a man and a woman; b) the marriage is not only expressed in a legal document but must also happen through a marriage ceremony under the valid authority of a solemnizing officer; and c) the contracting parties must have a valid license from the state. Simply stated, the Philippines does not recognize same sex marriages or marriage by proxy; there must be a wedding ceremony in some shape or form; and the parties need to be licensed by the State, through the local Civil Registry. Exceptions to the license apply, but this requirement is the general rule.
2. Solemnizing Officer
The ceremony is officiated by a solemnizing officer, who may be a judge within his court’s jurisdiction, a mayor within his territorial jurisdiction, or a priest or minister who is authorized by his church or sect and registered with the local civil registrar. In special cases, such as when one party is “in articulo mortis” or at the point of death, then military commanders, ship captains, and airplane chiefs may officiate a wedding. Consuls are also allowed to officiate weddings between two Filipinos abroad.
3. The Marriage License
You need a marriage license before you can get married in the Philippines the same way you need a license to drive. There is no practical or written test to obtain the marriage license but you need documents to prove your identity, civil status, and legal capacity to marry. There are exceptions such as when either of the parties is at the point of death. In addition, if either one of the parties is between the age of 18 and 21, the couple needs the written consent of their parents to the marriage; and if between the age of 21 and 25, the written advice of their parents. Those required to obtain parental consent or advice must undergo marriage counseling. Failure to obtain favorable parental advice or undergo marriage counseling suspends the issuance of the marriage license for three months counted from the time the application is published.
Marriage license forms may be obtained at the Civil Registry of the place where the man or woman has resided for the last six months. Apart from the application form, which must be signed, sworn, and subscribed to, the following should also be submitted:
- Certified True Copies of the contracting parties’ birth certificates from the National Statistics Office (NSO)
- Valid IDs with the addresses of the contracting parties
- Community tax certificates (cedula) of the contracting parties
- Barangay Certificate
- Parental Consent Affidavit (for contracting parties aged 18 to 20) or parental advice (for contracting parties between 21 and 25)
- Certificate of Attendance in a Marriage Counseling Seminar and a Family Planning Seminar
- For foreign nationals who are divorced or widowed, a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Marry and a photocopy of their passport
- Final Decree of Absolute Divorce, if one of the parties is divorced
- Certified Copy of the Death Certificate of the late spouse, if one of the parties has been widowed.
After applying for the license, the information in the application will be posted for 10 consecutive days in the city hall or the municipality where at least one of the spouses habitually resides. The license will be issued after the completion of this 10-day period. Once issued, it is valid in any part of the Philippines for 120 days, and automatically expires after that period.
Among foreigners, the “Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” affirms that there are no legal impediments to the foreigner marrying a Filipino. The Philippine government also accepts an “Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage,” which must be issued by the relevant embassy in the Philippines. Philippine authorities will not accept any substitute documents initiated outside the country.
Couples who want to avoid the formal requirements of Philippine law can do so by getting married abroad. The Family Code recognizes the validity of marriages solemnized outside the Philippines, although Filipino citizens must remember that their legal capacity to marry is still governed by Philippine law, and must therefore follow the legal requirements imposed by local laws. (i.e. no incestuous marriages, no same-sex unions, etc.)
The legal terms can sound intimidating, but trust me, this legal mumbo-jumbo is easy. What’s really challenging is finding the Right Person to marry.