Overview of Marriage In The Philippines
QUICK SUMMARY- Steps To Get Married In The Philippines
More and more expats are finding their soulmates and deciding to get married in the Philippines. Aside from spending the rest of your life with someone you love and who laughs at your bad jokes, marriage in the Philippines also gives you an easy path to permanent residency through the Philippines spousal visa.
But tying the knot in the Philippines isn't as simple as eloping in Las Vegas. Sure, there is often a huge celebration, complete with a food buffet, but the process is different, and I wouldn't describe it as easy. In fact, it's quite complicated, with what expats would describe as bizarre requirements and customs. Also, Philippine authorities consider divorce illegal, so "till death do us part" really means something in this country.
Before you say "I do," you should first understand everything involved with how to get married in the Philippines.
Some requirements make perfect sense, including having a birth certificate, valid ID, and a marriage license from the local government office. Other conditions could be utterly alien to a foreigner, such as a notarized affidavit of parental approval in some cases and, in the case of a church wedding, several interviews with a priest.
As an expat, you'll also have additional requirements before proceeding with the wedding ceremony. To help out foreigners getting married in the Philippines, I pulled together this article to document the entire process, with all the requirements for marriage in the Philippines, in one place.
Other Guides On Expat Life In The Philippines
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What marriage documents are needed for a civil wedding in the Philippines?
PSA Birth Certificate
You will need a copy of your Philippine partner's birth certificate issued by the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), formerly known as the National Statistics Office. The Filipino spouse or an authorized representative can request a copy at a Census Serbilis Center. But the easiest way is to simply apply online at PSA Serbilis. You can also avoid the mailing time by getting the document delivered by courier to a local address.
Foreigner's Birth Certificate
Foreign country's official birth certificate. Apostilled and translated, if not in English.
PSA Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR)
A CENOMAR is used to prove that a Philippine citizen has never been married. Filipino citizens can acquire copies of a Certificate of No Marriage online just as you would the PSA birth certificate above. Use the online application or request a copy at a Census Serbilis Center.
Death Certificate (only if applicable)
If either of you is widowed, you must provide a death certificate of the previous spouse. Philippines death certificates can be ordered from the same PSA website.
Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage (Foreign Citizens)
Foreign expats need a substitute document equivalent to their country's CENOMAR to marry in the Philippines. These official statements are sometimes referred to as a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage (CLCC), Certificate of No Impediment to Marriage (CNI), or Legal Capacity Certificate (LCC). Some countries use a Statement or Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage.
You will need to contact your Embassy or check your government website for specifics and find out what original documents are required. The Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage is valid for 4-6 months, depending on the country.
If the Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage is not in English, you will need to contact the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) to have it translated and notarized.
INSIDER TIP : US Citizens Getting Married In The Philippines- The US Embassy in Manila and Cebu Consulate no longer provides notary service for “Affidavits in Lieu of the Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage.”
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Americans marrying in the Philippines can use a local notary public for Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage affidavits.
NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST-AMERICAN MARRIED IN THE PHILIPPINES
Getting the LCC was highly confusing and frustrating. PSA put out a statement saying a “Statement or Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” from a local notary was fine.
The local municipality initially accepted it but did so without understanding the requirements of the notarized statement. They didn't care about a notary signature even when being shown the space for the signature, but then three weeks later, they all of a sudden needed one!
There was more trouble since this was a Church wedding. The wedding coordinator at the Catholic church in the city refused to accept the Statement or Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage, even after being shown the PSA advisory repeatedly that indicated it was valid. He insisted on an official document from an embassy, even when the US Embassy in Manila and consular officials in Cebu won't do LCCs anymore.
My fiance and I eventually had to arrange a meeting with the wedding coordinator and the Church priest to discuss the issue. However, on the walk over to the meeting with the priest, the coordinator suddenly understood the PSA advisory! (Our guess was he probably knew the whole time).
That was one of about five significant issues created over four months by the Church wedding coordinator. So just be prepared for the unexpected and know that not everything on paper is accepted or understood by local authorities, even when authorized by official government statements.
Lean on the expertise of citizens who understand how to get things done when government bureaucracies are involved and heed warnings about corruption and confusing processes!
To get married in the Philippines, citizens must submit valid identification (see the list of accepted government-issued ids below). Be sure to bring two different IDs that are up to date.
|ID Type||Issuing Agency|
|Driver's License||Land Transportation Office (LTO)|
|National ID||Philippine Identification System|
|NBI Clearance||National Bureau of Investigation Office (NBI)|
|OWWA OFW e-Card||Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)|
|Passport||Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)|
|PhilHealth ID||Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, PhilHealth|
|Postal ID||Postal Office, PHLPost|
|PRC ID||Professional Regulation Commission (PRC)|
|PWD ID||Persons with Disability Office (PDAO), City Municipal Health Office, Office of the Mayor|
|Senior Citizen ID||Municipal Office of the Senior Citizen Affairs|
|TIN ID||Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR)|
|UMID- Unified Multi-Purpose ID||Social Security System (SSS)|
Community Tax Certificate or Cedula
A Community Tax Certificate (CTC) or residence certificate acts as proof of resident status in a specific city or town. Every legal adult is required to have a valid CTC (also known as a cedula). The CTC is not just a marriage requirement but is used anytime an official government ID is required (notarization, licensing, permitting, or paying taxes, etc.). Unlike other documents needed to get married in the Philippines, a CTC is cheap and easy to get from the local municipal, barangay, or city hall, depending on where you live.
Each party must submit two current passport-sized photos that are 1-inch x 1-inch, but 2" x 2" sized photos are also accepted. The photo must be clear with a plain white background.
A barangay certificate is a legal document that proves your Philippine partner is a legitimate resident of a barangay. As stated above, obtaining a barangay certificate is easy and can be done at the local barangay hall for a small fee. Note: the barangay certificate is not to be confused with a barangay clearance that states a resident is a moral citizen of good character with no negative records from the neighborhood.
Pre-Marriage Counseling Certificate
After attending the Family Planning and Pre-Marriage Counseling class (see the section below), you will pay a small fee to get a seminar certificate of attendance from your local Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Each city names its department slightly differently but look for the key term "Social Welfare" to find the right office.
Judicial Decree of Annulment (if applicable)
Remember that divorce is illegal in the Philippines, so if your Philippine partner was previously married, they would need an official Declaration of Nullity of Previous marriage to prove the marriage was annulled.
Copies of Divorce Papers (if applicable)
If you were previously married, you'd need a judicial decree of your absolute divorce.
Foreign citizens should contact their embassy or consulate for specific requirements. As with all foreign government documents, you will need an apostille and potentially require a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) certification of authenticity.
A Filipino spouse divorced in another country requires a Petition for Judicial Recognition of Foreign Divorce from a Philippine court. This petition is complicated and requires legal advice. I recommend hiring a Philippine lawyer.
INSIDER TIP : Foreign Divorce Decree- Philippine authorities do not always recognize foreign divorce papers. Foreign partners previously married in the Philippines, but divorced in their home country should verify with the Philippine Statistics Authority (previously known as the National Statistics Office) that their foreign divorce decree was accepted.
Marriage License Application
Both bride and groom must complete a Marriage License Application Form. Both forms are submitted to the local Philippine Civil Registrar where you or your intended spouse reside.
Remember, you will need to make an appointment to attend pre-marriage counseling and submit the license. For complete details, check my article on "How to get a marriage license in the Philippines" XXX
INSIDER TIP : How long is a marriage license valid in the Philippines? A Philippine marriage license is valid for 120 days. Note that when scheduling your wedding day, a marriage license requirement includes a ten-day waiting period. After ten days from the date on the receipt for marriage license, you may use it anywhere in the Philippines within 120 days.
What additional documents and requirements are needed to get married in the Philippines?
1) Age Requirements
The minimum age for marriage in the Philippines is 18 years old, with no exceptions. There are additional age requirements above the age of 18. Filipino citizens ages 18-21 years old can only marry provided they obtain an Affidavit of Parental Consent. For ages 22-25 years, an Affidavit of Parental Advice is required.
2) Affidavit of Parental Consent
Parents of contracting parties aged 18-21 must sign a notarized affidavit of parental consent. Both parents, along with two witnesses, will need to be present to sign the affidavit. If one parent is absent or has passed away, the other parent can still sign the affidavit.
3)Affidavit of Parental Advice
Similar to the Affidavit of Parental Consent, all Philippines citizens between 22 to 25 years old must get their parent’s acknowledgment that their child is getting married.
The affidavit, considered “parental advice” in this case, can be a sworn statement given in person to the local registrar or a notarized statement acknowledging the marriage.
If parents disapprove of the marriage, your Philippine partner will need a sworn statement stating that they informed their parents but that their parents are against the union.
If you need an Affidavit of Parental Advice, expect delays of up to 3 months to get your marriage license.
INSIDER TIP : Parental Advice vs. Parental Consent- Aside from the ages, the primary difference is that, without giving consent, a Philippine parent or guardian can potentially void your marriage by filing for a petition for annulment.
On the other hand, if you cannot get Parental Advice, you can still get married in the Philippines. However, you will need additional time due to an extended waiting period of up to 3 months.
Parents can no longer request an annulment if you marry after the age of 21.
Two witnesses (of legal age) are required for getting married in the Philippines for the wedding ceremony and for an Affidavit of Parental Consent (if applicable). Note that you can have different witnesses for the ceremony and the affidavit.
INSIDER TIP : Have BackUp Witnesses- Especially with Filipino cultural inclination for being late or just being a little loose with appointment obligations, you should have people ready to fill in, in case something happens to your witness on your wedding day.
5) Waiting Period
There is a 10-day waiting period in the Philippines before the marriage can be legally conducted. After the 10-day waiting period, the marriage license is valid for 120 days. It may be used in any part of the Philippines.
6) Pre-Marriage Counseling Class
To get married in the Philippines, you must receive marriage counseling seminar on family planning and responsible parenthood from a certified provider. The pre-marriage seminar is usually conducted by the Church or the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Check the section below on the steps to complete the marriage preparation seminar.
INSIDER TIP : Receipt For Marriage License- Depending on your Local Civil Registrar, it is possible to process your without completing the pre-marriage seminar. However, your registrar will only release your marriage license after you receive your certificate for attendance for marriage counseling.
Just bring your receipt for marriage license to the LCR where you or your intended spouse are a resident to schedule your marriage counseling seminar. This allows you to apply for the wedding license and then schedule your seminar while waiting for the 10-day period to pass.
What are the steps on how to get married in the Philippines?
Step 1: Decide on a Church or Civil Wedding
There can be significant differences in requirements for each type of service. The section below details the different requirements of a church vs. civil wedding in the Philippines.
Step 2: The Philippine partner must gather the necessary documents
- PSA documents (Birth Certificate, CENOMAR, Death Certificate)
- Barangay Certificate
- Valid ID
- CEDULA or Community Tax Certificate
- Valid Passport Photo
- Parental Consent or Parental Advice Affidavits (if applicable)
Step 3: The foreign spouse must gather the necessary documents
- Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage
- Foreign National's Original Birth Certificate or Apostilled Copy
- PSA Certificate of No Marriage
- Valid Passport or Citizenship certificate
- Passport-sized Photo
- Church Confirmation and Baptismal records, according to Church standards (if applicable for Church weddings)
- Copies of Divorce Papers, Certificate, or Decree (if applicable)
- Declaration of Previous Marriage Annulment (if applicable)
- Death Certificate (if applicable for widowers)
Step 4: Apply for a Marriage License
The bride and groom must each complete a Marriage License Application Form. Then visit your local civil registry office and pay the marriage license fee.
For complete instructions on applying for a marriage certificate in the Philippines, read this article xxx
Step 5: Attend Pre-Marriage Counseling Class
You'll see different names for these sessions. They are sometimes called "Pre-marriage Counseling" programs or "Seminars on Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning". For Civil Weddings, the process is relatively straightforward and takes about a day.
To get started:
- Submit your Pre-marriage Counseling application form, which takes about 10 minutes at a Local Social Welfare Office.
- Pay seminar fees, which takes about 5 minutes at a Local Civil Registrant Treasury Office.
- Attend Pre-Marriage Counseling and Family Planning Seminars, which takes about 4 hours at a Local Social Welfare Office.
- Receive an Certificate of Attendance For Marriage counseling, which takes about 20 minutes at a Local Social Welfare Office.
Step 6: Decide Who Will Officiate Your Wedding
To get married in the Philippines, you will need an officiant. Once you have chosen an officiant, make an appointment with your chosen officiant.
If you choose a civil wedding, your Local Civil Registrar can assign you a judge or mayor to officiate. Make sure you have already received your marriage license.
You'll need a priest, authorized minister, or registered church pastor for a church wedding.
INSIDER TIP : If you decide on a Catholic ceremony, you'll have additional church wedding requirements, including a Baptismal Certificate of Bride and Groom, Confirmation Certificate, permit to marry (for those outside of the parish), Pre-Cana Seminar, and Pre-Nuptial Investigation by the priest.
Step 7: Invite Your Witnesses
Two witnesses are required for weddings in the Philippines; witnesses must be of legal age and informed of the wedding details. Remember to notify your backup witnesses, just in case.
Step 8: Say "I Do"
Time to tie the knot.
Attend your marriage ceremony in the presence of the solemnizing officer and 2 witnesses of legal age. Say your I DOs and sign the marriage contract (also called a marriage certificate). Congratulations! You are official!
But not totally official. Your marriage contract will usually take a few months before it is available, depending on backlog and current processing time. Once you get an official copy of your marriage certificate, the foreign spouse must register the marriage at their country's Embassy or Consulate.
Here’s a guide on How-To Get A Marriage Certificate xxx.
Step 9: Register Your Philippine Marriage Contract
After wedding rings are exchanged, the champagne has been drunk, and all the lumpia is eaten, you need to register your Marriage Certificate, sometimes referred to as a Marriage Contract, to make everything legal.
A duly registered marriage certificate is a document that proves a couple's union is legal and valid. To register, you'll need your marriage license, a filled-out Certificate of Marriage, and a copy of the Pre-Nuptial Agreement (optional), submitted to the Local Civil Registrar's office for endorsement and submission to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Your wedding officiant must submit your marriage certificate documents and report the marriage to your LCR office within 15 days after your wedding.
Step 10: Pick Up A Copy Of Your Marriage Certificate
Your PSA-certified copy of your marriage certificate will be ready in a few months. You, your spouse, or an authorized representative can pick up a certified true copy of your Marriage Contact from your LCR. Additionally, you can get an authenticated copy of your Marriage Certificate printed on security paper from the PSA.
You can use either document to officially change your civil status from single to married. Congratulations!
INSIDER TIP : Security Paper (SECPA) Certificates- If you plan on applying for any foreign visas, then get the PSA copy on SECPA. When submitting visa applications (such as the US CR-1 visa petition or K-3 visa), most foreign government officials only accept official foreign marriage certificates printed on security paper.
What are the additional requirements for a Catholic church wedding in the Philippines?
To get married in a church in the Philippines in 2023, you will need to attend several events:
- Participate in a canonical interview
- Undergo a pre-Nuptial Investigation of the Priest
- Attend a pre-marriage seminar
Additional documents required for a church wedding in the Philippines:
- Published marriage banns
- Certificate of freedom to marry
- Baptismal Certificate of bride and groom (Keep in mind that some churches may require particular wording on the baptismal and confirmation certificates, so be proactive with this process in both the Philippine church and the church from the foreigner’s home country)
- Confirmation Certificate for bride and groom
- Permit to Marry (for those outside of the Parish, the bride or groom must also contact the Archbishop's Office to obtain a Dispensation of Approval or Permit to Marry from the Parish Priest where they currently reside)
- List of principal sponsors and entourage members
Other important notes for a church wedding in the Philippines:
- You will also need an annulment clearance if you have been married in a Catholic Church before. (Keep in mind that the annulment process is different from the civil annulment process, which legally changes the status of your previous marriage to invalid).
Foreigners in mixed marriages (where one partner is Catholic and the other is not) who want to get married in a Philippine Catholic Church need to follow specific requirements.
- Mixed marriages where one party is a non-Catholic must go through the clearance process from the Archdiocesan Chancery Office.
- Non-Catholics must have a Letter of Approval from the Pastor of the non-Catholic sect they are marrying in and a Legal Capacity to be Married issued by the embassy (or, if currently required, an Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage)
INSIDER TIP : Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage- An LLC is supposed to be accepted by the church, but might not be depending on the church or individual at the church where you are marrying. Verify with your church representative to confirm their specific requirements.
What types of marriages are not allowed in the Philippines?
Cousin marriage is not allowed in the Philippines. Section 1, Article 38 of the Family Code prohibits the marriage of relatives up to the fourth civil degree (first cousins).
Marriage applicants aged 18 to 21 must have written parental consent, and marriage applicants aged 22 to 25 must receive parental advice. The Philippines' Family Code forbids the marriage of individuals under 18.
The Philippine Family Code does not consider homosexual relationships as a family unit. In fact, it is not legal in the Philippines to marry someone of the same sex.
Proxy marriage is a term for a type of marriage where one person gets married to another person who is not physically present. This kind of marriage might occur if you cannot travel to the Philippines for the marriage ceremony. However, proxy marriage in the Philippines is illegal.
INSIDER TIP : Can't Travel To The Philippines To Get Married? Marriage by proxy is not allowed in the Philippines, but according to Article 26 of the Family Code of the Philippines, a proxy marriage is RECOGNIZED in the Philippines IF a proxy marriage is valid in the countries where the proxy wedding is performed. For example, a US citizen can marry a Philippine citizen even while not living in the same country by having a legal proxy wedding in California, Montana, Colorado, and Texas. A proxy wedding in those states is a valid marriage and is recognized by Philippine authorities.
Another option is a “Virtual Wedding,” a remote ceremony done via video conference, currently accepted as a valid marriage in Utah
Manipulation due to money, power, or influence could cause the marriage contract to become void once it has been discovered. This discovery wipes the relationship from legal records because it is considered never to have been legitimate.
The Philippines is the only country besides the Vatican to outlaw legal divorce. Once married in the Philippines, you stay married unless your spouse dies or you get a lengthy and expensive annulment.
Does the Philippines have common-law marriage?
Article 34 of the Family Code of the Philippines states "No license shall be necessary for the marriage of a man and a woman who have lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other."
So, suppose you and your partner have lived together for at least five years and have no legal impediment. In that case, you can be considered married without a license. Limitations include being a same-sex couple, under 18 years old, and already married. For proof of common-law marriage, a solemnizing officer must verify that both partners are qualified to marry and find no legal impediment.
Can two foreigners get married in the Philippines?
You don't have to be a Filipino citizen to get married in the Philippines. Two foreigners can get married in the Philippines. You will need to meet the legal requirements:
- Prove that your civil status is single. If you were previously married, you would need a copies of divorce papers, a declaration of nullity from your previous spouse, or a deceased spouse's death certificate.
- Obtain a certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage
- Complete all the legal documents and marriage license requirements
- Pay the marriage license fee
- Finally, choose a church or civil wedding
- Tie the knot
- Register the union with your foreign government officials
Key Takeaway: How-To Get Married In The Philippines
Give yourself plenty of time. Getting married in the Philippines is a challenging process. It requires paperwork before and after the wedding that many expats may be unfamiliar with, even for a civil wedding. If the couple wishes for a Church wedding, the requirements are even more intense, with additional documents required and events to attend.
It is essential to understand the steps and requirements for marriage for the process to go smoothly and to ensure that every bit of your paperwork is officially accepted by Philippine government authorities. Many things can go wrong in the process, from you simply forgetting a step to someone else (such as a municipal hall representative) giving you false information or doing their job incorrectly.
Double-check everything. Be proactive and have backup plans. Once you finally exchange wedding rings- take a break, settle with your intended spouse, and enjoy your lives together in this beautiful country.
Other helpful resources on getting married in the Philippines
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FAQs: Marriage In The Philippines
A domestic partnership is regulated by the Family Code of the Philippines, which provides for specific rights and obligations. Domestic partnerships are not recognized by law in the same way as marriages, but they do have specific property rights.
A "cohabitation agreement" can govern aspects of a relationship before it becomes a marriage or domestic partnership. This type of agreement can be used to govern certain aspects of the relationship, such as property ownership and inheritance rights.
The Philippines is the only country besides the Vatican that legally forbids divorce. Annulment is generally the only way for Filipinos to remarry legally. There is an exception for divorce outside the Philippines for couples with a foreign spouse.
Only if the foreign partner's country considers the divorce valid. In that case, a foreign divorce decree can be submitted to Philippine authorities for consideration.
The legal marriage age in the Philippines is set at 18. For those above 18, there are further prerequisites. Between 18 and 21, adults must have parental consent to marry. Without written consent, parents may annul the union.
Those between the ages of 22 and 25 must get an Affidavit of Parental Advice (written or sworn acknowledgment by parents of the marriage). However, anyone over 22 can still get married, even without parental acknowledgment.
A married Filipina may use her maiden first name or her husband's last name. She may also use her husband's full name with a prefix such as "Mrs." to indicate that she is his wife. However, there are no specific requirements for changing one's last name after getting married in the Philippines.
Consider any name changes before updating your civil status.
Since divorce is illegal, getting remarried in the Philippines only applies for people who were divorced outside the Philippines, had their previous marriages annulled, or are widowers with a deceased former spouse.