Wedding Photographer

Do I Have To Get Married In A Church?

What is foremost to remember about the Catholic’s perception of marriage is about its public solemnization of the church, which identifies the exclusive and lifetime agreement of a couple. Where the wedding vows are made public, the church community present in the event characterizes to support, witness, and confirm the marriage and married life of the couple. Therefore, the church in general, and the witnessing community in particular, are both greatly and responsibly involved in the sacrament of marriage. And, in a sacramental point of view, it is a mistaken notion that the universal concept of marriage is foremost the romantic affair of only the couple.

Thus, for the validity of marriage, Catholics shall marry under strict canonical conditions. In short, a couple is required to undergoa Catholic wedding rite, celebrated by either the parish priest or a deputized substitute. So, if a Catholic desires to wed a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic rite, which relatively would not be performed in a Catholic church, he/she must secure ahead a clearance from the archdiocese’s office. However, prior to receiving such clearance, it must be understood that there may be difficulties arising upon undergoing a typical Catholic church wedding ceremony. Chances are, the non-Catholic party’s family may decline to participate in the wedding, especially when held in a Catholic church. As such, the archdiocese expedites granting clearance to have a non-Catholic wedding outside of the church for th esake of keeping a harmonious family relationship.

Nevertheless, what does the canon stipulates when spouses are both Catholics who wish to undergo the canonical proceedings of marriage, yet, they just wanted the ceremony held in a different place other than the parish church? This may include choices of holding the event in a beach setting, or in a garden, perhaps. The canon implies that the archdiocese, in practice, approves such request for a Catholic marriage to take place in some other suitable place.

Now, the bottom line is that, a couple only needs to get permission from the archdiocesan office to avail for a priest or his deputized substitute to conduct a canonical form of marriage outside the church’s premises. Whatever the canon may imply, obtaining a clearance or approval may not still be a breeze. The canon leaves the prerogatives solely upto the diocesan head.

In the Philippine context, especially covered under the 1987 Family Code of the Philippines, the validity of marriage— civil orreligious— is only duly recognized when these following essential and formal requisites are presented and met: 

  I.     A legal capacity of the contracting parties, who must be a male and a female; either of whom shall be at least eighteen (18) - years of age or upwards, as mentioned in Article 37-38 of the country’s family code;

II.    Mutual consent freely accorded under oath, presence, and authority of a solemnizing officer, who, as stated and recognized by Article 7 of the 1987 Family Code of the Philippines, shall be either of the following:

  1. Any current member of the judiciary. He/she is duly authorized to solemnize marriages only within his/her court's jurisdiction. Thus, a Supreme Court justice could solemnize marriages anywhere in the Philippines, while a Municipal Trial Court judge of a certain place is prohibited to solemnize a marriage in another place);
  2. Any religious leader— rabbi, priest, pastor, minister, or imam. He should be officially registered with the civil registrar and perform within the restrictions of the authorization vested upon him by his religious sect or church to solemnize marriages. Availing their authority requires that, at least one of the contracting parties should belong to the solemnizing officer's religious sect or church;
  3. Any airplane chief pilot or ship captain. He is restrictive to solemnizing marriages only in the case of in articulo mortis— between plane crew members or ship passengers— and, not only during the plane is in flight or the ship is at sea, but also during stopovers at ports of call;
  4. Any military commander of a unit to which a military chaplain is assigned. The commander is duly authorized to solemnize marriages in the absence of the chaplain, or during a military operation. Also, in the case of marriages in articulo mortis, between persons within the zone of the military operation, regardless of being members of the armed forces or civilians;
  5. Any consular official— consul-general, consul or vice-consul. He/she is duly authorized to solemnize marriages in the case of marriages between Filipino citizens overseas. He shall also perform the issuance of the marriage license, and the duties of the local civil registrar. 

III.    A valid marriage license, which is personally applied as a couple and secured from the local civil registry after complying a list of pertinent documents, such as birth certificate, parent’s consent, pre-marriage seminar certificate, and valid ID’s and pictures;  and,

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

Although a predominantly Catholic country, a Filipino couple’s marriage can be solemnized without the participation of the Catholic Church. The legality and validity of marriage inthe Philippines, therefore, are not necessarily bounded by the Catholic canon law.  On hindsight, this is a clear manifestation of the separation of the government and the church by virtue of promulgation of civil laws under the Family Code of the Philippines.