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RIC May 2004, from Mandaue City
My Experience Of Getting Married In The Philippines.
First advice: Bring as many official papers as you can possibly think of!!!
I am a Dutch citizen and my embassy stated on their highly informative website that a birth certificate and a paper stating your status (single, divorced, etc) would do the trick. I brought those two papers to the Dutch consulate here in Cebu and after two weeks I got my "Legal Capacity for Marriage" a paper that says there are no legal barriers for me to get married.
The common thing here is to marry in a church but when we talked to a priest of a local church, they demanded more papers. (My embassy did not tell me about that!) I think the church wanted some baptismal papers, which I did not have and probably would take very long to get. I am a Catholic but didn't go in a church since I was 10 or so. I emailed the office of the Bishop of the place I was born but never got a reply. I got a bit pissed off as I thought that God (if he exists) would not be such a bureaucrat and would welcome everyone who wanted to marry in his church. But I was relieved too because I did not want to get married in a church but on a nice tropical beach. My future wife agreed on this as she could clearly see that I was not welcome in the Catholic church of the Philippines.
So when we went to the city hall of Mandaue (because we live in Mandaue not in Cebu) for a civil wedding but they told me they needed my divorce papers as well. (Not mentioned on the embassy web site) I had some fax copies of those papers but only in Dutch. They told us we could not get married in Mandaue without those papers but advised us to go to the province administration of Cebu as they are less strict. So we went to the Capitol (the name of the provincial offices here).
You really need some help with this preferably from someone with some experience in governmental administration. In our case a councilor of a barangay in Mandaue helped us through the whole process. This councilor is a friend of the sister of my wife. Not only did he help us with the paperwork but he is now also one of our "Ninongs", a godfather and/or witness on the wedding.
Your future wife will probably know someone who can help you getting papers arranged. If you really don't know anyone you could probably ask the barangay captain of the barangay where you future wife grew up. Or hire a lawyer as an alternative.
Our Ninong talked to the assistant of a Judge who has his court in the Capitol building so I guess it was a provincial court. My passport together with the embassy supplied Legal Capacity was enough for the court. My wife needed also some papers like a birth certificate and a paper stating her status. These papers are not so hard to get but they take a few weeks as everything is this country seems to be handled in Manila. We agreed on a wedding date a few weeks further, filled in some papers and paid about 16,000 peso. This is much more as a Pinoy would have to pay but the Judge would come to the beach to marry us there and wanted to bring some body guards with him! Later it turned out we had another Judge; a nice lady without body guards.
That was all it took to get all the paperwork done.
Now that we had a fixed date for our wedding, we could start planning the actual event. We went to one of the beach resorts here in Cebu called Maribago Blue Water. This is a very nice upscale resort located on Mactan Island 20 minutes from Cebu city. Maribago has a wedding package costing 75,000 peso including dinner for 100 guests, Wedding Cake, two white doves, friendly waiters and waitresses, some flower decorations and one night stay in the resort for the couple.
One of the many interesting customs here is that you have to supply the clothes of the parents of the bride together with the dresses of the bride maids. I wanted to make our wedding look like it was really a wedding in the Philippines (tropical) and not like one set in the USA. (Most weddings you see here are clones of US weddings including the awful shiny dresses in rose, mint green of other too-sweet-colors) I hope you will agree that we succeeded in that (see link for pictures below)
I found a designer who would create a nice wedding gown, the dresses for my mother and mother-in-law, a nice outfit for me and the dresses of the brides maids (4 girls), flower kids (3 girls and 3 boys). All in all I paid 37,000 peso for 14 outfits. The designer did a wonderful job and fulfilled my request to make the dresses look a bit local. He used some nice fabric from Mindanao which had a definite local look. Also the dress of my wife was made out of two pieces; underneath the normal gown she was wearing an extra, tight dress made of the same fabric so she could dance on our wedding party.
We hired a photographer from Cebu for our pictures but she also did the flower decorations (in excess of what the resort already did), the make-up of the brides maids, mothers and of course the bride. The photographer charged 19,000 including about 150 prints of the excellent pictures, a poster size enlargement and a video cd of the wedding. They came with 3 to do the pictures and video. She also turned out to be sort of a director for the whole event; telling everyone where to go and what to do. We forgot to get a ceremonial master for the event but she took up that roll without a problem.
We also hired a local band that I saw performing a few times before. The cost for that was 7000 peso including the all the equipment and transportation. The resort surprised us with five nicely dressed up acoustic guitar players singing local and Spanish songs. Very romantic!
The wedding location itself was a tiny sandbank in front of - and part of - the resort. The resort staff did an excellent job. They put up some huge tent like structures providing shade and nicely decorated the tables and chairs on the beach. The food was near perfect and plenty. The wedding, dinner and party started at 3 PM and lasted until 8 PM.
Our wedding was a great success and all our guests, pinoys and foreigners alike enjoyed it as much as we did. It was a bit expensive according to local standards but I wanted it to be better then my first wedding back in the Netherlands. The photographer is GCJ Video. The designer is Ivan.