Unique Wedding Traditions in the Philippines
Nowadays, we often witness modern weddings. The bride wears gowns in Western designs and the groom wears a suit or a tuxedo. The theme is adopted from a Hollywood movie, and the ceremony is held in English.
Since traditions are deeply rooted in the Philippine culture, old wedding customs and practices still influence most Filipino weddings today. No matter how westernized the wedding is, a part of it will still be distinctly Filipino.
The Philippines is quite rich in cultural traditions especially those relating to weddings. In fact, there are a number of pre-wedding as well as post-wedding practices that can be experienced only in the country.
In the early times, dota (dowry) is given by the groom’s family to the bride as a form of engagement. This amount assures the future of the bride if ever the groom dies early. Today, although some parts of the country still practice the dowry system, most Filipino couples opt for the modern engagement. The groom asks for the bride’s hand in marriage by giving her a diamond engagement ring. Diamonds are preferred due to the belief that the more expensive the ring, the more sincere the groom is in marrying his bride.
If the bride accepts the marriage proposal, pamamanhikan will then take place. This ritual serves as a formal meeting between the families of the couple. The bride’s family hosts the meeting and the groom’s family in turn brings something prepared by the groom’s mother. During this get together, details of the wedding such as the budget, number of guests, venues, and similar others are discussed.
Paninilbihan comes afterwards. During the old times, the groom was required to serve his bride’s family by fetching water or cutting firewood. The tasks were given to prove his sincerity and fortitude in marrying the bride. Nowadays, the kind of service previously described already transformed into simpler forms.
Before the actual wedding day, the couple is also expected to visit their respective relatives even those residing in the provinces and ask for their blessings. This practice is called Pa-alam. Apart from showing courtesy, it is one way of getting to know the relatives of both parties. Visits to future ninongs and ninangs (sponsors) are also obligatory.
Despedida de Soltera (Goodbye to Spinsterhood) is also a unique practice by Filipina soon-to-be brides. It is a send-off party usually attended by close family and friends. Although in the old times, grooms are expected to take part, today they already have a party of their own due to the concept of “stag party” introduced by the Westerners.
For Catholic couples, there are likewise a few distinct practices. An example is the Dulog wherein the couple talks to the priest who will solemnize their marriage. The discussion is similar to a marriage encounter where they are reminded about their responsibilities to each other and to their future children.
The Kasal Kumpisal is also required. The couple must have confession prior to the wedding day so they will be pure before God and each other during the ceremony.
Another distinct practice for Catholic couples is the pag-aalay ng itlog kay Sta. Clara. This is usually done in order to prevent rainfall on the day of the wedding. Catholics believe that Sta. Clara is the patron saint of good weather and her name, Clara de Huevo, means egg white.
Indigenous cultures in the Philippines also have their own wedding traditions. For example, the Igorots of the Mountain Province have “trial marriages”. Boys live in wards called Dap-ay while girls stay in dormitories called Ebgan during the courtship stage. Every night, girls wait for their suitors and as soon as a romantic relationship starts, the couple then lives together for a trial marriage until the girl gets pregnant. If the relationship works well, the boy’s family would send gifts to the family of the girl. Omens are read while a sacrifice of chickens is made. Upon seeing good signs, the official wedding takes place.
Filipino wedding traditions do not stop after the wedding ceremony. It continues as the newly-weds leave the church amidst a shower of uncooked rice. This practice symbolizes good financial standing for the husband and wife.
During the reception, the bride tosses the bouquet while the groom tosses the garter to all the single ladies and gentlemen present. It is common belief that whoever catches the bouquet and garter will get married next.
The most famous of all these post-wedding practices is the money dance during the reception. As the newly-weds do their first dance as a married couple, bills are pinned to their clothes by the guests. The amount collected is intended to be part of their initial capital for their future family.
Indeed, wedding practices in the Philippines are quite unique. It shows distinctly the richness of the country’s culture. That is why even Filipino fiancés or fiancées of foreigners living abroad still prefer to get married the Filipino way.