Planning to get married? If you prefer economy and expediency over spending and spectacle, look no further. W. and I got hitched last month, and we chose to go the civil route with a judge — just the two of us and with court employees as witnesses — to the tune of only 300 pesos. A civil wedding was the choice for us because:
- We are nonbelievers. We were adamant on declaring “None” under Religion on our marriage certificate.
- We dislike fanfare. As a miser, I couldn’t fathom the thought of blowing tons of cash on clothes that will be worn only once, among other myriad expenses.
- We would rather spend the money on things and experiences we value more. Contrary to popular expectation by relatives and friends, a grand ceremony isn’t a requirement to get married. W. and I were already committed to each other, which is the most important thing. The marriage was just to make it official on paper.
For a non-church wedding, any member of the judiciary as stated in the Family Code of the Philippines and any city or municipal mayor as stated in the Local Government Code of 1991 are legally authorized to solemnize marriages in the country. Other authorized persons include ship captains, airplane chiefs, military commanders, and consuls, but only under special circumstances which are not really relevant to the average Filipino residing in the Philippines.
Armed with your marriage license, you can marry anywhere in the Philippines anytime within 120 days from the date of issue. Especially for couples where either one will only be in the country for a limited time, here’s the tip to make it quick: don’t go to a judge or mayor in a big city. The mayor is likely busy, and you may have to wait for days for an opening in his/her schedule. Same with the judge — in a big city there are usually multiple judges, and you will be entered into a raffle, which could take a while, and be assigned to a judge who will find time to squeeze you in between his/her hearings. (Once upon a time, you can approach a judge directly, but those days are long gone, ever since public revelations that many judges abused their authority and engaged in wedding rackets for personal profit. There are now strict rules regarding solemnization of marriages by judges.) In a big city, you are also more likely to encounter scammers.
Your best bet for a quick and stress-free civil wedding is at a Municipal Trial Court (MTC) in a small municipality. In these places, there’s usually only a single judge, so there’s no need for a raffle. And with a smaller population, there’s likely no other couple ahead of you in the schedule. Also, the Local Civil Registry Office (LCRO) in these places likely isn’t busy, and you may be able to get your personal copy of your marriage certificate a few hours after marriage.
And that’s it. W. and I did exactly this, and we paid only 300 pesos. This is the standard nationwide legal fee for the solemnization of marriage by a judge.
Q: I see people advertising online that they can facilitate a “rush civil wedding” anywhere in the Philippines for “as low as 5,000 pesos”. Are these people, who are obviously not judges or mayors, legit?
A: They are most likely ministers of little-known religious sects, such as First Fruit Family Church, Palawan Rock of Wisdom Church, and many more. They seem to be a popular choice among couples who want beach or garden weddings, because it’s difficult to get a judge or mayor for those. According to the Family Code of the Philippines, “any priest, rabbi, imam, or minister of any church or religious sect duly authorized by his church or religious sect and registered with the civil registrar general, acting within the limits of the written authority granted by his church or religious sect and provided that at least one of the contracting parties belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect.” (It seems these solemnizing officers have stepped into the shoes of the judges of yesteryear and turned their authority into a moneymaking enterprise.)
TL;DR: Yes, they are probably legit. To verify, you can search for their name online on the Solemnizing Officers Information System database of the Philippine Statistics Authority. BUT, if you choose to go this route, one of you will have to declare their religion as your own in the marriage certificate.