Having a traditional Filipino wedding is a great way to pay homage to your Filipino heritage. Since Filipinos love to go all out on weddings, your special day will turn out to be a memorable celebration indeed. Filipino weddings are not just for the bride and groom, but also for the whole family and community.
Whether you’re going to have a traditional Filipino wedding, or you’re simply attending one, here are some traditions and practices you should definitely know about.
Barong Tagalog and Filipiniana Gowns as Traditional Attire
While modern Filipino weddings opt for the suit and tie ensemble for the groom and male guests, there are still several grooms who choose barong Tagalog for their weddings.The barong Tagalog is used in several formal events, and it’s also a great choice for weddings. Not only are they simple and comfortable to wear, they are also versatile. They come in different colors and styles, so you can definitely get a barong to fit your motif.
The bride often wears white gowns similar to Western weddings, but if you want to commit to a fully traditional wedding, you can definitely opt for a white Filipiniana gown. Just like the barong, the Filipiniana is versatile enough to fit the theme or motif of your wedding, so you can have your bridesmaids and guests wear a particular color.
While this is more of a pre-wedding affair, Filipinos still practice pamamanhikan to this very day. During pamamanhikan, the man and his family visit the woman and her family to formally ask for their permission to wed.
The man usually has to bring gifts such as food and drinks, which will be shared by everyone. This is also a way for both families to bond before the bride and groom’s union. After all – it is a Filipino belief that you don’t just marry your partner, you marry their family, too.
In Filipino, bulungan means whispering or murmuring, while kasal means wedding. Put those two words together you get bulungan ng kasal, which literally translates to whispering of wedding.
During this practice, the families of the bride and groom discuss wedding plans – from budget allocations, contributions, tasks, and other nitty gritty to make the special occasion happen. This is often done in the bride’s household where they do all the planning in whispers, so as not to attract and bad spirits.
Money Dance or Sabitan/Sayawan
The sabitan (to hang) or sayawan (to dance) is the ceremonial dance of the bride and groom, but with a twist. It is done during the reception, however in some areas in the Philippines like Batangas, it is done before the wedding.
Guests would hang bills or envelops filled with money by pinning them to the clothes of the bride and groom. This practice is a way to provide financial support to the newlyweds.
After the wedding takes place, guests would throw grains of rice to the newlyweds as they walk down the aisle together, like confetti of rice. By doing this, the guests shower the newlyweds with luck, happiness, prosperity, and even fertility.
Aside from the sabitan or sayawan, some Filipino weddings have folkdance performances as well, such as the salidsidof the Kalinga people, an ethnic group from Northern Philippines. The salidsid is a courtship dance performed by the newlyweds during the reception.
Other dances performed at weddings are itik-itik which copies the movement of ducks and the sayaw sa bangko, which is performed on wooden benches. Sometimes even the popular tinikling is performed, a dance that is done with two bamboo poles to imitate the movement of birds walking through tree branches.
Symbolic and Sticky Food
Food is present in many stages of matrimony in the Philippines – from the beginning pamamanhikan, to the reception. However, food is not just served to fill everyone’s hungry stomachs. The food served often have meanings and symbolisms behind them.
Sticky food like rice cakes or kalamay are often served during weddings to symbolize the strengthening of the couple’s bond. It is believed to help them stick together.
Community Involvement or Bayanihan
Bayanihan is a popular and unique Filipino concept. It means to be part of a community, and to cooperate with one another to achieve a goal. The spirit of bayanihan can also be felt during traditional Filipino weddings, especially in the rural areas of provinces.
The community of the bride and groom would often help set up the reception venue or even prepare food for all the guests.
Aras/Arrhae or 13 coins
The aras or arrhae is a small ornament that contains 13 coins. The groom gives this to the bride to symbolize their wealth and prosperity as a married couple. In some cases, the coins are wrapped with a handkerchief, and sometimes even individually given to the bride by the wedding sponsors. This practice was inherited by the Filipinos from Spain, and is also done by other Hispanic cultures.
Sukob or Wedding Curse
Sukob is a superstitious belief that many Filipinos have to this day. It is a belief that siblings cannot marry within the same year, or that you shouldn’t marry the same year as the death of an immediate family member. If you do so, you will have bad luck.
Lighting of the Unity Candle
As part of the wedding ceremony, the bride and groom would light the unity candle. First, the sponsors will light two candles, one on the side of the bride and one on the side of the groom. The couple will then take the candles and use them to light the unity candle together. Not only does this symbolize the union of the couple, but of their families as well.