Is A Virtual Wedding Considered Valid In The Philippines?

Is virtual wedding legal in the Philippines

When the pandemic hit in 2020, gatherings and social occasions had to be suspended indefinitely. This included wedding ceremonies, baptisms, and other milestone events that would normally be celebrated with friends and family. Later, however, people found a way to still be able to celebrate without the need to gather in one place. Instead of physically going to where the celebration is to be held, “guests” simply go online.

That’s right. Filipinos adopted the safer and more affordable way of celebrating life’s milestones by hosting live online broadcasts and video conferences of their important events. Birthdays, graduations, even family and friends’ reunions were held online, and invitees are provided with access to the online platform where they can privately meet and celebrate virtually. This ensures that everyone stays safe while having fun and catching up.

Yes, even weddings were broadcasted online so that the couple’s families and friends may be allowed to witness the ceremony from the safety of their homes. Life, indeed, had to go on despite a raging global pandemic.

With these adjustments on how we celebrate life’s milestones, some have started to ask if it is legal to hold a virtual wedding ceremony – where the bride, groom, and solemnizing officer are in separate places and only brought together through live online feed? Furthermore, would it be possible and legally permissible to hold an online wedding where the couple are together in one area and the solemnizing officer, priest, or pastor is in another place celebrating the ceremony remotely?

For now, the answer to these questions is no. Please put a pin on the phrase for now as we will get back to that later. Meanwhile, let us review the requirements that need to be met for a marriage to be considered legal and valid.

The Family Code of the Philippines (Executive Order No. 209) specifies that there are Essential and Formal requisites for a marriage to be legal and binding.

Family code of the Philippines

The essential requisites (Article 2 of the Family Code) are:

  1. Legal capacity of the contracting parties who must be a male and a female
  2. Consent freely given in the presence of the solemnizing officer

The formal requisites (Article 3 of the Family Code) are:

  1. Authority of the solemnizing officer
  2. A valid marriage license except in the cases provided for in Chapter 2 of the Family Code
  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. (53a, 55a)

Article 4 clearly mentions: The absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio except as stated in Article 35 (2).

Therefore, for a marriage to be legally valid, the bride, groom, witnesses, and solemnizing officer must all be physically present in one place to hold the wedding ceremony. If any one of them could not be present at the wedding venue, and would instead be joining virtually, the marriage is non-binding.

Now, remember when we said that online weddings and virtual marriage ceremonies are not allowed for now? We meant that in the literal sense because of a bill filed to legalize virtual weddings.

House Bill No. 7042

During the latter part of 2020, the Virtual Marriage Act (or House Bill No. 742) was filed by the House Committee on Revision of Laws to lobby the legalization of wedding ceremonies held through videoconferencing. This was primarily driven by the restrictions on mass gatherings and observance of physical distancing due to the pandemic. During that time, holding important life events online such as birthdays, graduations, reunions, even classes and courtroom hearings have become the new normal of conducting essential gatherings without the risk of exposing oneself to the virus.

What we know so far about the bill are:

  • The bride and groom must both be present at the same place while a live video and audio transmission allows them to be seen and heard in a different location.
  • The witnesses and solemnizing officers may be present elsewhere with the same live feed.
  • The solemnizing officer conducts the wedding virtually.
  • The certificate of marriage must be notarized prior to its registration with the local civil registry to ensure its authenticity and to properly ascertain the identity of the parties.

Essentially, House Bill No. 7042 seeks to amend the essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage as specified in the Family Code. Should the bill be approved, the legal meaning of appearance before the solemnizing officer shall be expanded to also mean virtual appearance to accommodate couples who choose to wed through a videoconference.

Until the Virtual Marriage Act is approved and the current provisions on the essential and formal requisites of a valid marriage are amended, Filipino weddings must be done in the flesh before a solemnizing officer and other witnesses.

Virtual marriage or internet wedding is not yet honored in the country.

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