The Filipinos, known for its strong love for family, see marriage as a seal of lifetime togetherness. It is more than a mere contract, but a lasting commitment to love one’s spouse and children. That’s why it is quite important for couples to be well-prepared spiritually, emotionally, financially, and even physically before tying the knot. They have to be mature enough in all aspects of their lives to enable them to carry the big responsibility of building a family.

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Even the Family Code of the Philippines impliedly advocates maturity when it included in its provisions “legal capacity” as one of the essential requisites of marriage. Before delving further on the definition of said legal capacity, the following are the two (2) essential requisites of marriage as stated in Article 2 of the Family Code:

Art.2 No marriage shall be valid, unless these essential requisites are present:

(1)   Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female; and

(2)   Consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer

Legal capacity here refers to the fitness to be the subject of legal relations which is dictated by the age of majority. Eighteen (18) years of age is the age of majority in the country since it is an age perceived to be the beginning of maturity. Individuals belonging to this age are capable among others, to validly enter into contracts such as marriage and can be held accountable for doing so.

As regards consent, such is valid if marriage is entered into based on the couple’s own decision and commitment.  Extraneous circumstances such as force, intimidation, strategy, or stealth must be absent.

Absence of any of the above essential requisites renders the marriage null and void. The effect will be as if no marriage was celebrated. Note must be taken though that nullity of the marriage on this ground still requires a court declaration before the couple can remarry. Simply stated, if the couple discovers that any of those essential requisites are absent thus making their marriage null and void, they cannot simply remarry without a court declaration of such nullity. They cannot declare the nullity of their marriage by themselves alone.

In the Philippines, it is not enough that two people in love declare each other as husband and wife. Of course, it is possible but as far as Philippine Family Law is concerned, it is not recognized as legal.

Aside from the essential requisites of marriage, there are also formal requisites that must be complied with. Article 2 of the Family Code of the Philippines, quoted as follows, explicitly provides the enumeration of said formal requisites:

Art 2. The formal requisites of marriage are:

(1)   Authority of the solemnizing officer;

(2)   A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of this Title; and

(3)   A marriage ceremony which takes place with the appearance of the contracting parties before the solemnizing officer and their personal declaration that they take each other as husband and wife in the presence of not less than two witnesses of legal age.

Looking at the above provision, it is clear that proxy marriages are not allowed in the country. Couples should manifest their consent to the marriage by being physically present during their declaration of vows before the solemnizing officer and the witnesses.

Further, it can be inferred from the provision that the important part of the ceremony is the public declaration of vows; hence there is no need for a more elaborate celebration.

As regards the marriage license requirement, special rules apply both to foreigners who desire to marry Filipinos or those foreigners desiring to get married in the Philippines, to wit:

Art. 21. When either or both of the contracting parties are citizens of a foreign country, it shall be necessary for them before a marriage license can be obtained, to submit a certificate of legal capacity to contract marriage, issued by their respective diplomatic or consular officials.

Stateless persons or refugees from other countries shall, in lieu of the certificate of legal capacity herein required, submit an affidavit stating the circumstances showing such capacity to contract marriage.

There are also cases enumerated in the Family Code where couples are exempted from securing such license due to the surrounding circumstances at the time of the marriage:

a)      If either or both parties are at the point of death;

b)      If the residence of either party is so obscure as to be devoid of any means of transportation to enable the party to personally appear before the local civil registrar;

c)      If the parties are Muslims or members of other ethic cultural communities and the marriage is celebrated according to their customs;

d)     If a man and a woman lived together as husband and wife for at least five years and without any legal impediment to marry each other

In the above cases, the exemption merely refers to the license requirement, but all other formal requisites need to be complied with.

Absence of any of the formal requisites also renders the marriage null and void, similar to the effect of absence of any of the essential requisites. Therefore, unless falling under any of the allowed exemptions, couples must strictly adhere to the rules above.