How to Have a Civil Marriage in the Philippines
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; however, there are a lot of associated requirements 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. Now, let me outline the steps we followed for our civil wedding.
Asking for Permission
Given you've gotten to know your significant other thoroughly and have thoughtfully made the decision 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 may 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. Obviously, it wasn't the most traditional method, but he did seem to appreciate the thought behind it.
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 here. 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.
Setting 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 having 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
Are sponsors required for a civil wedding ceremony?
Yes. You must have a sponsor or sponsors for your civil wedding ceremony. The sponsor acts as your witness.
© 2018 Eastward