Family Law: Who are Legally Authorized to Solemnize Marriages?

Under Article 7 of the Family Code of the Philippines, Marriage may be solemnized by:

  1. Any incumbent MEMBER OF THE JUDICIARY within the court’s jurisdiction;

  2. 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 him by his church, or religious sect and provided that at least one of the contracting parties to the marriage belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect;

  3. Any SHIP CAPTAIN or AIRPLAINE CHIEF only in the cases mentioned in Article 31, i.e. in cases of Marriages in articulo mortis (or where one of the parties is at the point of death) between passengers or crew members not only while the ship is at sea or the plane is in flight, but also during stopovers at ports of call;

  4. Any MILITARY COMMANDER of a unit, who is a commissioned officer, to which a chaplain is assigned, in the absence of the latter, during a military operation, likewise only in the cases mentioned in Article 32, i.e. in cases of Marriages in articulo mortis between persons within the zone of military operation, whether members of the armed forces or civilians; or

  5. Any CONSUL-GENERAL, CONSUL, or VICE-CONSUL in the case provided in Article 10, i.e. Marriages between Filipino citizens abroad.

In addition, the Municpial or City MAYOR or, in case of temporary vacancy, the VICE-MAYOR may now solemnize marriages pursuant to Section 444(xviii) and 445(4) of R.A. No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991. In the case of the VICE-MAYOR, who solemnizes a marriage in proper cases, it is immaterial whether he is the Acting Mayor or “merely acting as mayor” for, in both instances, he discharges all the duties and wields the power appurtenant to the Office of the Mayor (People vs. Bustamante [1959] citing Laxamana vs. Baltazar [1952]).

Any other person NOT included in the enumeration above is NOT legally authorized to perform marriages. Marriages solemnized by any such person not legally authorized to perform marriages shall be void ab initio UNLESS such marriages were contracted with EITHER or BOTH parties to the marriage BELIEVING IN GOOD FAITH that the Solemnizing Officer had the legal authority to do so (Article 35, Family Code of the Philippines).

Note that it is not the presence or absence of the Solemnizing Officer which constitutes the formal requisite of marriage BUT the absence or presence of his LEGAL AUTHORITY to perform marriages (Navarro vs. Domagtoy [1996]). The TOTAL ABSENCE of said legal authority of the Solemnizing Officer at the time of the celebration of the marriage renders the marriage void ab initio. An IRREGULARITY in the legal authority of the Solemnizing Officer, on the other hand, does NOT affect the validity of the marriage but renders the party or parties responsible for the irregularity civilly, criminally, and administratively liable (Article 4, supra).

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