A Quick Guide to Planning a Civil Wedding

There are many reasons–whether practical or personal–why people choose to marry civilly. You may be cutting back on expenses, or perhaps you are pressed for time, or maybe you and your partner are from different religious backgrounds or even not religious at all.

Whatever the reason, civil weddings are a legitimate option for those seeking to join together in marriage, reap the benefits that the State offers married persons, and of course to publicly declare your commitment and love for one another.

Here’s a quick guide to understanding civil weddings and how to go about putting one together.

A Quick Guide of Planning a Civil Wedding

Are civil weddings legal?

Yes, as legal as it gets. As long as you comply with the requisites set forth by law, a civil wedding is binding, recognized by the State, and allows you to avail of the legal benefits of marriage (tax benefits, medical care, etc.). Religious ceremonies, which we are most accustomed to witnessing and attending in the Philippines, are not automatically legally binding and still require a marriage license to legally bind the marriage.

The essentials to make a civil wedding legal? Capacity, consent, authority of the person performing the marriage, and a marriage license. You will also need two witnesses to be present at the ceremony and to sign the marriage certificate.


Who can officiate?

In the Philippines, the following persons may officiate a civil wedding:

  1. The Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court
  2. The Presiding Justice and the Justices of the Court of Appeals
  3. Judges of the Courts of First Instance
  4. Mayors of cities and municipalities
  5. Municipal judges and justices of the peace
  6. Priests, rabbis, ministers of the gospel of any denomination, church, religion, or sect who are duly registered
  7. Ship captains, airplane chiefs, military commanders, and consuls and vice-consuls in special cases (marriages on the verge of death and marriages between Filipino citizens abroad)

Most commonly, municipal and city judges or mayors will preside. Unless you have a specific person in mind, your local civil registrar will assign an officiant to you based on your requested wedding date and the availability of the officiant.


Where are civil weddings held?

Civil weddings must be held in a public place. Most often they take place in the presiding judge’s chambers, or in the mayor’s office.

It is possible to have the wedding in a place of your preference, especially if you prefer to marry on a weekend (when government offices are closed). Your officiant will likely demand a higher fee for this.


How to put it together?

These are the technical steps to take in preparing for your civil wedding:

Step 1: Apply for your marriage license

You can apply at the Civil Registrar’s Office of the municipality or city where either you or your partner reside. Here is a checklist of the documents and items you will need for your application:

(Layout entire checklist: Marriage License Checklist) Marriage license application form from your local civil registrar NSO certified birth certificates (1 original and 2 photocopies) CENOMAR (1 original and 2 photocopies) Cedula or Community Tax Certificate (1 original and 2 photocopies) Certificate of attendance in a pre-marriage counselling seminar Aff. of parental consent (if the bride and/or groom is 18-21 years old) or advice (if the bride and/or groom is 22-25 years old) 2 valid IDs (photocopied) Recent 1x1 Photo Barangay Clearance (1 original and 2 photocopies)

Step 2: Pay the necessary fees

These can vary from city to city, but are never exorbitant.


Step 3: Pick a date for your wedding

Note that the marriage license is only valid for 120 days (4 months) from the day it is issued, so don’t apply too far ahead of your wedding date.


Step 4: Inform and invite your two witnesses

Make sure that both of them are available on the date of your civil wedding. You can also assign back up witnesses just in case the original ones you assigned suddenly can’t make it.


Stay organized with your documents and this preparation phase will go by extremely fast. Some more minor requirements may vary depending on the city where you will marry, so try to call ahead if you can find their contact number. For example, many cities require that you and your future spouse submit the application for marriage license personally and together— no proxies allowed. Asking the right questions ahead can save you some time and energy.


Make it your own!

While civil weddings are popular because of the relatively low costs and “express service,” that doesn’t mean you can’t make them personal by adding elements of your own. You can choose to bring in elements from more traditional or religious ceremonies, such as wearing a white dress and carrying flowers. You can also choose to do away with all that and wear a unitard while carrying a pumpkin in your arms if that suits you! You get the picture.

If anything, the total freedom of choice can be a bit daunting. Often we’ll see civil weddings that look a lot like your typical religious weddings anyway. The key is to go with what suits you and makes you happy on your special day. Enjoy making it a personal expression of you and your partner’s love.

It’s true that a wedding doesn’t have to be showy, complicated, or expensive to be beautiful. It just has to be your own.

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    1. He will need a Certificate of Legal Capacity to marry, issued by his Consulate in the Philippines. So, it will vary according to the country. In my case (Spain) is pretty horrible, as they take 7-10 months between giving you an “audience” and issuing the damn paper.

      1. Hiii I’m pauline and my boyfriend is also spanish we’re planning to get married by 2021. Im still not familiar with processing and requirements, can you share you experience with me.

      2. June 2021 I am not certain about Spain, by UK no longer issues capacity to marry documents and state that you should go to notary in your city and swear oath that you are free to marry. it worked for me.

      3. All it takes in a civil wedding are two witnesses.
        (Excerpts quoted from Atty. Cristifil Check Baluma, CPA on “The Supreme Court Rules on Marriages by Judges”, Oct. 7, 2007, The Bohol Standard).
        So if there is no JUDGE available or refused to go to your wedding venue to solemnize it, we are your 2nd legal option stated under Art. 7 (2) of our Family Code. You just need to submit:
        1. Birth certificate issued by the PSA or CTC
        2. Certificate of No Marriage (CENOMAR) from PSA
        3. 1 x 1 ID picture (colored or black and white)
        4. Affidavit of parental consent (if the bride and/or groom is 18-21 years old)
        5. Affidavit of parental advice (if the bride and/or groom is 22-25 years old)
        For inquiries, please call our hotlines at Tel.No. (+632) 8-800-3368 or Globe +63915-3745663.
        BCIDP Law Group Philippines (www.bcidplawgroup.com)

  1. My partner and I have different religions, and as such, we’re considering a civil wedding. We still want a sort of traditional wedding (bridesmaids, groomsmen, a garden where we can hold the ceremony). Will this be possible with a civil wedding officiant?

    I’m also wondering about the details—since there are only two witnesses allowed, do we just settle for one groomsman/best man and one bridesmaid/maid of honor?

    We really want our special day to be as magical as other religious weddings, but we do want our families to be able to get together without beliefs getting in the way.

    Any tip is appreciated!

    1. Hi Star, it will be best if you inquire directly with your officiant if the setup that you want is possible. I have seen many civil weddings that are as gorgeous as religious weddings so I thing it is possible!

  2. Is it possible for a couple to get married outside the municipality where they reside/or in another municipality outside their habitual municipal/city residence?

    1. Gud day. If either the bride/groom is an OFW, do we still need a CEDULA?? If not, what document serves as an alternative for this requirement?

  3. just want to ask if lets say a mayor or judge or any authorize officiant from makati can solemnized on a wedding ceremony in Taguig? thank you

  4. We are from Manila but we are planning to have our civil wedding ceremony in QC, since the reception is in QC. Is it posible?

  5. Hello. I have a question.
    We ate both living in Bulacan but planning our wedding to be in QC, where are we going to apply for the marriage license?

  6. I’m confused with #6 – Priests, rabbis, ministers of the gospel of any denomination, church, religion, or sect who are duly registered. Isn’t this no longer considered a civil wedding?

    1. Hi Dim, it just means that aside from officiating a religious ceremony, they also have the authority to do a civil wedding under the law if they are registered.

  7. Can wedding officiants process marriage licenses and certificates? And why are their rates different if my fiance is dual citizen 🙁

    1. Hope someone notices this. As I an an OFW, it will take a while to process marriage license given my limited annual leave.

    1. Hi Bella, it’s best to check with your municipality and church to be sure. What we know is that the presider should be registered in the Philippines in order to officiate.

    1. Hi Criselle! Civil weddings are usually held in a public place, most often they take place in the city hall’s courtrooms, presiding judge’s chambers, or in the mayor’s office. However, if you have an authorized officiant (city mayor, judge, pastor, etc.) who is willing to officiate the civil ceremony from your home, then this is also possible. Thanks!

  8. If its a wedding outside our municipality or residence, where do we register for the marriage? Is it at our municipality or at the municipality where we will wed?

    Also, how do we get an officiant for a beach wedding if we do not know anyone whom we can invite?

    1. Hi Jas! Thanks for your inquiry. Yes, the requirement is to have at least two witnesses present. You can have more than two for your civil wedding, if desired.

  9. After processing the required documents for the marriage license, where or how do I contact a judge that can officiate the wedding? What’s the process to this?

    1. Hi Troy! Your local civil registrar will assign an officiant to you based on your requested wedding date and the availability of the officiant. Hope this helps your wedding planning!

  10. Hello my boyfriend is American but he only have 1 week vacation here we’re to get marry within one week is that possible or not? Help me please. 😞😕

    1. Hi Catherine! Thank you for your inquiry. It actually depends on a number of things. First of all, have you already secured a marriage license? The marriage license, along with some of the documentary requirements, have lead times longer than 1 week. You will need to have all of these in order prior to the wedding. Next, have you secured the availability of your presiding officiant/priest? This is another requirement for the ceremony. Once you have both in order, you can quickly put together your plans and any other details you want present in your wedding. Good luck with the planning!

  11. Hi Mariana

    Is the process the same if the civil wedding is for renewal of vows? I guess, a CENOMAR would no longer be needed? Thanks.

    1. Hi AJ. After completing the requirements for your marriage license, your Local Civil Registry typically assigns an officiant depending on your requested wedding date.

    1. Hi Kensio! According to the 1987 Family Code of the Philippines, at least one of the contracting parties should belong to the solemnizing officer’s/pastor’s Church or religious sect. Thanks for your inquiry!

  12. Hi my partner is a police officer and naka destino sya sa ibang place. Pwede ba proxy or zoom meeting yung sa pre wedding seminar? Thank you.

    1. Hi Abegail, thanks for your inquiry! Yes, many municipalities offer online/virtual options for the pre-wedding seminar. Give a call to the Local Civil Registry where you plan to apply for your Marriage License for the latest schedule and availability for the online seminars. Good luck with the wedding planning!

  13. Hi, so my partner and I are planning to have a beach wedding is it considered as a civil wedding since it’s outdoor ? And also who do you think can officiate beach wedding because my partner is a Japanese (Shintoism) and I’m Filipino (Catholic)

    Thank you !

    1. Hi Stephanie, thanks for your inquiry! Yes, you can plan to have a civil wedding on the beach. You can ask a judge or registered solemnizing officer to officiate the ceremony, but do note that there is typically a larger fee when asking them to officiate a wedding outside office hours and/or at farther locations.

  14. Hi me and my partner are planning to get married. our marriage license is going to realease by tomorrow and were planning to get married as soon as possible… the thing is justice office in our municipality is still close due to pandemic. Is anyone knows any private or pubic that we can ask for civil ceremony anytime soon or within a week…. thank you
    hoping for your kind reply

  15. Hi I would like to ask what if I’m 23 yes old ..and I will be married to a Indonesian.here in secret.? What requirements are needed.

  16. Hi! Both the groom and I are Catholics and we’re planning to have a Civil wedding due to the pandemic. With regard to the solemnizing officer, does he have to be Catholic too? Or the religious sect wouldn’t matter since it’s a civil wedding? The person who is supposed to marry us is registered though. Please enlighten me. Thank you!

    1. Hi Dee, thanks for your inquiry! No, the solemnizing offer does not have to be Catholic. He/she just needs to be authorized by his/her church and/or registered with the civil registrar general to solemnize marriage. Thank you!

    2. Hi Dee! I am not part of Bride and Breakfast, however, as per my readings if your officiant is under a religious sector (a priest, rabbi, imam or minister) then they should be Catholic. However, if it would be the judge, mayor, etc. I don’t think it would matter. But if I’m wrong, I hope somebody can correct me.

  17. Hi! Our marriage license will be released soon! But because of the ECQ our LGU doesn’t allow weddings or they don’t schedule any with our local judge. (my partner’s leaving the philippines on aug 18) Is it okay that I hire a solemnizing officer from a different city? And may I know if what’s the process for that?

  18. Hi, I reside here in Canada but still a PH citizen, my boyfriend is living in PH and we are planning to process all the application forms while i’m here in Canada so we don’t have to worry about them when I got home. Is it possible?

  19. Hi! May I ask if we can have two weddings – one civil, with all the legalities and another for a more personal one. My fiancé and I are both agnostic, we want to be officiated by our pastor friend, for the wedding to be more personal, however, we are not affiliated with our pastor friend’s religion. What can we do? Thank you!

  20. Hello! My fiancé and I are both US citizens living in Korea. We plan to officially get married in Korea but still want to have a wedding ceremony in the Philippines. (I am a former Filipino citizen). Would it be possible for us to have a civil wedding in the Philippines even though neither of us resides there? So far, I’ve only seen information regarding wedding requirements between a foreigner and a Filipino citizen so I am not quiet sure what the requirements are for two US citizens. Thank you in advance. If all goes well, we also plan to get married in Montemar Beach Club (I am from Bataan).

  21. Assuming all the proper documentation is presented when you apply, how long does it take the municipality to issue the marriage license from the time of application?

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