We received a query if a marriage is rendered invalid by reason of a perceived problem in the authority of the solemnizing officer, which is the legal term for the person who “officiates” or “presides” over the marriage ceremony. There are a number of variations of this query and we’ll be using this as an illustration, with a general discussion below (as always, please be reminded that this is not a legal opinion and check with your retained counsel for specific legal advice). The query goes:
The mayor was absent during the marriage ceremony and only his assistant conducted the marriage (proxy). However, the mayor has a signature on the marriage certificate. Is the marriage valid even if the mayor was absent?
As usual, we shall allow everyone to have a free range in having an academic discussion on this topic. We shall come back later to give our own view on the matter. In the meantime, we note that Article 7 of the Family Code enumerates the solemnizing officers in marriage. It reads:
Art. 7. 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 belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect;
(3) Any ship captain or airplane chief only in the cases mentioned in Article 31;
(4) Any military commander of a unit 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; or
(5) Any consul general, consul or vice consul in the case provided in Article 10.
The authority of the solemnizing officer is a formal requisite of marriage. As previously noted, the absence of any of the essential or formal requisites shall render the marriage void ab initio, while an irregularity in the formal requisites shall not affect the validity of the marriage but the party or parties responsible for the irregularity shall be civilly, criminally and administratively liable.
In other words, based on the question posed above, the central issue is this: Is the absence of the mayor a mere irregularity or is it considered an absence of a formal requisite of marriage?
We will expand the discussions on each of the solemnizing officers (could be in this post or a separate post). Let’s have the basic points for each:
Member of the Judiciary
Any incumbent member of the judiciary within the court’s jurisdiction.
Priest, Rabbi, Imam, or Minister
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 belongs to the solemnizing officer’s church or religious sect.
Ship Captain or Airplane Pilot
Any ship captain or airplane chief can solemnize a marriage ONLY when the following circumstances concur: (a) the marriage is between passengers or crew member; (b) the marriage is in articulo mortis; and (c) the ship is at sea or the plane is in flight, or during stopovers at ports of call. (Family Code, Art. 31)
Any military commander of a unit can solemnize marriages in two situations: (1) when a chaplain is assigned and the chaplain is absent, during a military operation; or (2) a military commander who is a commissioned officer, in marriage in articulo mortis between persons within the zone of military operation, whether members of the armed forces or civilians. (Family Code, Art. 32)
Marriages between Filipino citizens abroad may be solemnized by a consul general, consul or vice consul of the Republic of the Philippines. The issuance of the marriage license and the duties of the local civil registrar and of the solemnizing officer with regard to the celebration of marriage shall be performed by said consular official. (Family Code, Art. 10)