Every now and again, we get invited to a local wedding. Over the years, we’ve attended weddings that range from really simple to the really lavish. One thing I have learned is that even a poor family can throw a lavish wedding, so be fooled not. There are an assortment of Filipino wedding traditions but a majority of them are drawn from the Catholic religion. And because approximately 80% of Filipinos are Catholic, it is customary for weddings to be held in a Catholic Church where many rituals and readings take place. Every simple Catholic ritual signifies the important values of marriage and the union of two individuals and makes the ceremony the most intriguing and sentimental part of a Filipino wedding. Even though I was raised Catholic growing up, the rituals performed in my wedding in the Philippines some 32 years ago seemed foreign to me.
Beyond the common appearance of the wedding party such as the bridesmaids and groomsmen, the Filipino wedding includes other significant members that have been a part of the couple’s life. Filipino couples often honor these important guests with the title of “Principal Sponsor” or “Secondary Sponsor.” The number of sponsors can vary from a single couple to multiple couples. During the ceremony, sponsors customarily join the bride and groom in the prayers of blessing.
In the Filipino culture, weddings are seen as very festive events, where the entire community can come together in celebration of the couple.
Because marriage is a sacrament in the Catholic church, it is taken seriously. The couple has the support of an entire community of friends and family to help promote and keep their marriage strong. And although the ceremony is serious business, the reception is all about having fun, with drinks flowing, food for everyone, and just a party atmosphere with plenty of dancing. After the customary “First Dance,” one of the main dances is where the bride and groom are pinned with money. If you plan on having a good time when attending a wedding reception, you will not come away disappointed. We always go to weddings prepared to have a good time and while some will celebrate into the early morning hours, these days, I usually throw in the towel long before the serious partying begins.
Below is the last wedding reception we attended in Barangay Tinambacan, on the island of Samar.
The Coin Ceremony (Arras).
Exactly 13 Arras, or coins, (in most cases, pesos) are presented to the altar by the coin sponsors. The Arras are then blessed for the groom to gift his bride as he promises the welfare of her and their future family. Traditionally, the promise was always made by the groom however, today’s couples are more mutually supportive than ever before. The coins are a symbol of their future children and the church becomes the witness of their vows of promise to care and love for each other. We still have our coins.
Catholic Veil Ceremony
Through the Catholic veil ceremony, two individuals are bonded and recognized as one. During the ceremony, the veil sponsors are called upon to drape one side of a white veil over the bride’s head and the other side over the groom’s shoulder as a symbol of unity. This also represents a wish for good health and protection during their life as husband and wife.
Catholic Cord Ceremony
Similar to The Veil Ceremony, the Yugal or infinity shaped cord is incorporated and symbolizes the couple’s bond and union. Sponsors place the Yugal on top of the veil as the couple receives their blessing.
Bride and Groom Attire
Traditional Filipino wedding dresses are quite unique, usually a two-piece dress with large butterfly sleeves made with fine quality fabrics, impeccable embroidery, and vibrant colors. Modern Filipino wedding dresses have evolved over time into the elegant white gowns you often see, but with a slight resemblance to the more traditional Filipiniana. Today, the majority of more contemporary Filipino brides choose white gowns with elaborate embroidery and smaller butterfly sleeves. Most Filipina brides do not purchase their wedding dress as in more western culture, but rather they will rent one.
The Groom sports the traditional Barong Tagalog, a traditional Filipino shirt that is expected to be worn by the male family members at formal events. Barongs are commonly lightweight, embroidered along the front in a U-shape pattern and often handmade. The Barong is casually worn un-tucked and over an undershirt.
Wedding Reception Traditions
Just like many other cultures, Filipino wedding receptions are fairly consistent in their dedication to celebrating the new Mr. and Mrs. It usually begins with the first dance, followed by the Father and Bride and the Mother and Groom dance. Then it’s on to feeding the guests before the other celebratory dances take place, including the money dance, and the receiving of gifts. Intertwined in the celebration will be emotional speeches by family and friends, more food, photo ops, and memories (followed by the traditional hangover, I know).
What is a Filipino wedding without Filipino food? The delicious ethnic food is a must on your wedding day. Although there is no set menu for Filipino weddings, selecting a Filipino caterer would be a treat for wedding guests. Lechon, Longanisa, Pancit Bihon, and Beef Caldereta are just a few options for a tasty dinner. And don’t forget the rice!
Filipino Money Dance
The Money Dance is also known as The Dollar Dance or The Apron Dance. No matter what you choose to call it, this tradition is a fun one that many cultures choose to include during their reception. The announcer or DJ will ask the men and women to line up in separate lines, grab a pin and wait their turn to dance with the bride and/or groom. Many times though, the money is pinned onto the bride (and sometimes the groom) while the bride and groom dance. The money received during the dances is perceived as a sign of good fortune, while also provides financial assistance to begin their journey as husband and wife.
Filipino Folk Dances
Depending on which part of the Philippines you might be attending a wedding, one aspect of rich Filipino heritage includes a unique collection of classic dances that pay tribute to Filipino history. It used to be common to include these traditional dance performances during dinner or at some point throughout the reception but seem to be losing some flavor with the more contemporary society. Some of the folk dances include the “Itik-Itik,” the “Sayaw sa Bangko” and the “Pantomina.”
If you ever have the opportunity to attend a traditional Filipino wedding, there will be no shortage of having fun with lots of memories of your own. And especially watch out for that hangover the next morning.
Oh, and that couple in the featured photo… that’s us (1986).
As a side note, I would like to say thank you to Feedspot.com for selecting the Retired in Samar blog (#13) as one of the Top 20 American Expat Blogs on the web. Check out FeedSpot for some other quality blogs from around the world.