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Requirements for Having a Civil Wedding in the Philippines

Eastward has worked and traveled in SE Asia for years and married his lovely wife in Cebu, Philippines.

Weddings can be complicated!

Weddings can be complicated!

Why We Chose to Have a Civil Wedding

My wife and I wanted to get married during my winter break from work at a university in China. She would have preferred a church wedding. But unfortunately, there are a lot of requirements around church weddings in the Philippines that would take longer than my holiday time allowed.

So, we opted for a simpler and less time-consuming civil wedding. We'll save the church wedding for later on when we have more time available and can renew our vows. Here's what you need to know about having a civil wedding of your own.

Asking for Permission

Given you've gotten to know your significant other thoroughly and have thoughtfully decided to get married, the next step is to ask your partner's parents for permission. This applies to both men and women. In traditional Filipino culture, the parents of the man should visit the parents of the woman, and the groom-to-be should ask for the woman's hand in marriage in their presence. This is called Pamanhikan in Tagalog. The man's family usually brings edible gifts as well.

These traditions are somewhat fading and might be even less expected when a foreigner is involved. Being abroad with limited time, I asked my father-in-law for his blessing via messenger online. It wasn't the most traditional method, but he did seem to appreciate the thought behind it.

Documents Required by Law

To get started, we both needed to have our birth certificates ready. In addition, as a foreigner, I also needed to prove (somewhat) that I had the legal capacity to marry. As the US doesn't provide such a certificate, I had to get an Affidavit in Lieu of Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage from the US consulate in Cebu.

This was a fairly simple process that consisted of a walk-in appointment, my passport, filling out a form, and paying a $50 fee. The Filipino citizen doesn't need to be present. For divorcees or those with deceased spouses, be sure to bring the associated documents with you.

You can read more in detail about the affidavit at the US Embassy in the Philippines website. As the website mentions, it is up to the local registrar to accept or deny your affidavit.

Filing for Marriage in the Local Municipality

With our IDs, birth certificates, and the affidavit in hand, we were then ready to file for our civil marriage in the local municipality. Because my wife was under 25 at the time, we also needed her parents to appear and give their consent via signature. We filled out the appropriate paperwork and paid a fee of 5,000 Philippine Pesos (about $96).

Department of Social Welfare and Development and City Health Department Seminar

Next, we needed to attend a DSWD and City Health Department marriage seminar. The City Health Department was mostly focused on contraception, pregnancy, and the like whereas the DSWD portion of the seminar included a paper test. The officer looked at our answers, but we never received any kind of grade or feedback on the test results.

Most of the test questions seemed geared to making sure we had thought of all the aspects of marriage before making a decision, specifically, our relationship compatibility. The officer did ask us some questions orally, and everything went smoothly. We received a certificate proving that we completed the seminar.

Save the Date!

With all the other steps out of the way, we were finally ready to visit our local legislative building and choose a date for our civil wedding. The wedding proceedings were handled by a local judge, and we needed to have a witness. My wife arranged sponsors for us.

The ceremony was short and sweet, and we celebrated with my in-laws, sponsors, and friends at the house we were renting afterward. We finished the process happily married and with our bellies full of lechon (roasted suckling pig).

While the civil wedding was simpler and faster than a church wedding, it was still a bit of a process. My wife and I hope this outline will help point you brides and grooms to be out there in the right direction! Best wishes!

Questions & Answers

Question: How long did the marriage license process take?

Answer: The process, from filing with the local municipality to receiving our license took about 3-4 weeks. This could vary by municipality and appointment openings.

Question: Are sponsors required for a civil wedding ceremony?

Answer: Yes. You must have a sponsor or sponsors for your civil wedding ceremony. The sponsor acts as your witness.

Question: What if one of the spouses doesn't have a valid ID?

Answer: A Filipino will need to contact the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) for a Taxpayer Identification Number(TIN)/ID and a foreigner will need to contact their respective embassy or consulate for a replacement passport.

Question: How many days does it take to receive the Affidavit In Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage?

Answer: I was able to receive my Affidavit In Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage the day of my appointment with the U.S. Consulate in Cebu. It's a simple process that basically consists of a notarization of your signed statement. More information is available at

© 2018 Eastward


Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on April 24, 2019:

That much I suspect is true. In my experience in Asia, it can take a long time for bureaucratic processes to be reformed or revised (if they are reformed or revised at all). I guess we could use our fair share of improvement back home too but it does seem more pronounced on this side of the world.

Robert Sacchi on April 24, 2019:

I see. Do you think the tests may have been a leftover from an earlier time? New York was the last state to drop the blood test requirement. It was a case of poor timing because they did this shortly before AIDS came on the scene. So instead of a blood test they gave people pamphlets about AIDS.

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on April 24, 2019:

Thanks for reading and commenting, Robert. My expert consultant (my wife) says that the tests are not a new requirement.

Robert Sacchi on April 24, 2019:

Interesting the differences between the requirements in the Philippines and America. Do you know if the tests are a relatively new requirement?

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on January 01, 2019:

Hi, Jcaleb, did someone access your Whatsapp account without you knowing? Please tell us more about the situation.

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on December 29, 2018:

Listening is definitely important, Samantha! Thanks for your thoughts and comments.

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on December 28, 2018:

Thanks for the comment, Samantha! I'm sure you will find the right person in time. For us and most couples we know, it happens when it's least expected. Good luck to you as well!

Eastward (author) from Bangkok, Thailand on December 27, 2018:

Thank you, Liz! We wish you and yours well also!

Liz Westwood from UK on December 24, 2018:

This is a helpful guide for anyone planning a similar civil marriage. I wish you both well.