The Philippines is made up of over 7,000 islands, 87 native languages and dialects, delicious diverse dishes, and beautiful culture. We're celebrating Filipino American History Month by highlighting the communal and familial values reflected through traditions. If you're planning a Filipino wedding, here are 8 common wedding traditions to consider!
The arrangements for a Filipino wedding typically involve the couple’s families. The Bulangan, or “the whispering,” is the conversation the families have about wedding plans and delegation. The families discuss quietly so as not to attract bad spirits. It’s common for Filipino families to acknowledge spirits and superstitions in a playful manner.
2. Church Ceremonies
While many Filipino weddings are non-denominational, many are hosted in a Catholic church or ceremony. The priest gives the couple a personalized message in the ceremony which incorporates a passage from the bible and a prayer for the couple’s marriage. Like many weddings, the couple has wedding attendants. They also normally have sponsors, which are honorable roles assigned to elders they honor. This is a secondary role to the couple’s parents who are also invited to join in prayer in the ceremony.
3. The Yugal
A sponsor’s role may include presenting a yugal, which is an infinity-shaped wedding cord, to drape over the couple. The mother of the bride is assigned the role of personally weaving the yugal for the ceremony. The shape of the yugal represents the infinite bond and commitment the couple will share. At the ceremony, the couple’s parents may kiss the backs of their hands, and then place the backs of their hands on the couple’s foreheads as they mutter a prayer.
4. Unity Candle & Coins
In addition to these traditions during the wedding, a unity candle ceremony is customary. The couple lights their own candles from the two lit on either side of the unity candle. Once the candle is lit, the couple blows out the two candles beside the unity candle to signify their new future as one and the union of their families. After the couple is blessed by the priest, the ceremony may incorporate unity coins (also known as Las Arras or Arrhae) to symbolize prosperity. There are exactly 13 coins that are presented by a coin bearer (or coin sponsor) who ushers them to the altar. Alternatively, sponsors or godparents hand over the coins tucked in a handkerchief, or the groom releases the coins from his hands into the bride’s cupped hands.
5. Wedding Attire
While brides typically wear a white wedding gown, grooms may be in a tux or ordained in a Barong Tagalog. This textile is a thin, finely embroidered, and long-sleeved tunic intended to be worn over a plain white shirt, untucked. Brides may choose to wear a traditional mestiza gown, which is a formal dress of expensive, gorgeously embroidered fabrics. The dress code for wedding guests may vary, but the norm for traditional Filipino weddings is that all guests dress conservatively. Traditional Filipino dances occur at the ceremony by performers or guests who know the dances to pay tribute to their heritage.
Either at the church exit, at the reception, or upon arrival at their home, the guests shower the couple in rice as a sign of good blessings. A modernized version of this tradition is throwing biodegradable confetti. In antiquity, the officiant pours rice over the couple’s hands in the ceremony. The same rice is used to cook the couple’s first meal together. Rice is one of the main crops in the Philippines, and as such, it’s considered sacred. Sticky rice is often the couple’s first meal together to symbolize their togetherness in marriage.
7. Money Dance
At the beginning of the reception, brides participate in a money dance wherein they exchange a dance for money pinned to her dress by the groom’s attendants. The same ritual is performed by the groom and bridal attendants. It’s a tradition in which wedding guests bring hope for prosperity to the couple.
8. Filipino Food
Couples will likely choose a caterer who is familiar with traditional Filipino dishes like Lechon, Adobo, and Pancit. Sometimes, in its own ceremony after the reception dinner or wedding day, small dishes of food are offered to loved ones who have passed on. Due to the incorporation of these traditions, the entire wedding ceremony and reception can last all day and all night.
Hero photo courtesy of Pot Tomas Photography