Philippine Wedding Traditions

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Philippine wedding traditions are a combination of pre-colonial and western wedding practices. Wedding traditions have been adopted by Filipinos from their Spanish and American colonizers and combined with early Filipino practices through the centuries. While many of the older traditions are predominantly associated with Roman Catholic weddings, some of these traditions are applied in weddings of those with other beliefs as well. In some cases there is further cultural fusion, as with Chinese-Filipino Catholics.

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Early Filipino traditions

In pre-colonial times, the parents of the groom would ask for the bride's hand for their son and the groom would throw his spear at the step of his intended's house to signify that they were engaged.

The future son-in-law was expected to perform household tasks for the bride's family to gain their approval, a tradition known as paninilbihan (being of service).

A dowry would be given by the groom to his bride.

For the ceremony, the bride and groom would go to the house of a priest or babaylan, who joined their hands over a plate of raw rice and blessed the couple. Two days later, the priest would prick the chests of both bride and groom and draw a little blood. Joining their hands, the couple would declare their love for each other three times. The priest would then feed them cooked rice from the same plate and have them drink some of their blood mixed with water. Binding their hands and necks with a cord, he declared they were married.

Weddings in the Spanish colonial period

Marriages among the Tagalogs and Visayans were arranged by the parents, who were much concerned about the dowry and the prospective groom's ability to support the bride.

The groom or his family paid for the wedding feast and the young couple moved in with one set of parents for the first few years of their married life. The wife remained mistress of her property and the groom had no claim on it. The bride took the groom's surname with her maiden name appended, and the combination of two names was carried by the children (e.g. Mercado y Alonso, y being Spanish for "and").

The couple went to confession the evening before their wedding. Perhaps because at that that time fasting prior to receiving Communion was required by the Church, weddings were solemnized early, at 5 in the morning.

The wedding party, composed of relatives and close friends, would go with the bride to the church from her house. The priest would say Mass then place a mantle over the couple to symbolize their bodily union. The exchange of vows followed. A bowl of coins would be given to them as they left the church. The groom would scoop up a handful and give them to his bride who accepted them and returned them to the bowl.

For the wedding feast, called "catapusan" (not an ending but a gathering of friends), distinguished persons would be invited as well as family and friends. A buffet complete with liquor, chocolates, and cakes was prepared for the guests, who were also offered betel nuts, cigars, and cigarettes. Singing of a kundiman and dancing followed the feast.

Enduring Traditions

Pamamanhikan

The groom is expected to speak to the parents of his intended about his intentions, then his parents as well must call on the bride's parents to gain their approval and to plan the wedding, a practice called pamamanhikan. This custom appears to have been established by the Philippine pre-colonial Malayan forebears.

It is traditional for the groom's parents to pay all the wedding expenses, though some couples now pay for their own wedding. The bride's parents may also offer to assist. These arrangements can be discussed during the pamamanhikan.

Pre-wedding parties

The couple may choose to have an engagement party. The bride may be given a shower and the groom a bachelor party by friends according to the American tradition. The bride's parents give their daughter a despedida de soltera (party to bid farewell to single life), a formal dinner as a send-off to the bride near the date of the wedding.

Wedding attire

The bride usually wears a white or ecru dress with a veil. The bride prefers her dress to be made by a skilled couturier rather than be bought off the rack as superstition decrees it is bad luck for a bride to try on her wedding gown.

The groom may choose to wear either barong Tagalog, a suit, or a tuxedo depending on the theme and the formality of the wedding.

Entourage

The bride is attended by a maid or matron of honor and bridesmaids and the groom with a best man, as with the American tradition. There may also be groomsmen, junior bridesmaids and flower girls. The couple also chooses primary sponsors, called ninong and ninang from among their older relatives and friends, and secondary sponsors from among their close contemporaries. The primary sponsors' role is to give support to the couple, not only morally but materially in the form of a generous wedding gift. The secondary sponsors participate in ceremonies at the church: the placing of the cord and veil on the shoulders of the couple and the lighting of candles; thus, 2 or 3 pairs of secondary sponsors are needed. It is traditional for there to be male-female pairs of both primary and secondary sponsors.

Aside from ring bearer, there are other roles for little boys in the entourage -- Bible bearer and coin or arrhae bearer. The arrhae are thirteen coins to be given by the groom to his bride as a symbol of his commitment to her financial support.

Wedding march

Different styles of wedding march may be followed. Variations may be made depending on the entourage. For instance, there may be more or fewer sponsors, bridesmaids, etc. Some roles may be combined, such as the veil sponsors also serving as cord sponsors or the ring bearer also carrying the arrhae.

Spanish-style

Mother of Groom - Groom
Mother of Bride - Father of Groom
Primary Sponsors
Ninang 1 - Ninong 1
Ninang 2 - Ninong 2
Ninang 3 - Ninong 3
Secondary Sponsors
Candle: Female - Male
Veil: Female - Male
Cord: Female - Male
Main Bridal Party
Ring Bearer (male child)
Coin Bearer (male child)
Bible Bearer (male child)
Flower Girl/s
Bridesmaid/s
Maid/Matron of Honor
Father of the Bride - Bride

This may be modified to follow the American style of march, with the mother of the bride and the father of the groom already seated in the front pews before the march begins and the groom and best man waiting at the altar.

Modern Filipino style

Mother of Groom - Groom - Father of Groom
Primary Sponsors
Ninang 1 - Ninong 1
Ninang 2 - Ninong 2
Ninang 3 - Ninong 3
Secondary Sponsors
Candle: Female - Male
Veil: Female - Male
Cord: Female - Male
Main Bridal Party
Ring Bearer (male child)
Coin Bearer (male child)
Bible Bearer(male child)
Flower Girl/s
Bridesmaid/s
Maid/Matron of Honor
Mother of Bride - Bride - Father of Bride

Ceremony

Unlike in Western weddings, it is not traditional in Philippine weddings for the bride's parents to state that they are "giving" their daughter away in marriage.

After the wedding march, in Catholic weddings the nuptial Mass proceeds as with a regular Mass but usually with readings and a Gospel relating to marriage. The wedding rites follow the delivery of the homily. Under the scrutiny of the priest, the couple declare they have chosen to marry each other of their own free will. They exchange vows, then the rings and arrhae are brought to the priest to be blessed. The bride and groom exchange rings, then the arrhae are blessed and given by the groom to the bride. The Bible is presented and blessed. Then the Unity candle is lighted, a ceremony adopted from the Protestants.

Then usually the placing of the veil and cord follows, just before the General Intercession, as the couple is instructed to kneel side-by-side. The veil is placed over the head of the bride to signify submission and of the groom to signify his responsibility in supporting the family. Once the veil is pinned in place, the cord is looped over the bride and groom in a figure eight, the symbol of infinity. Both the veil and the cord have to remain as the couple continues kneeling until after the Communion. The veil and cord can be removed immediately after the nuptial blessing, allowing the couple to participate in the Sign of Peace.

The concluding rites take place following the prayer after Communion. The bride and groom are presented to the crowd and may kiss. They sign the marriage contract. The primary sponsors also affix their signatures as witnesses. The bride and groom leave the church and may be showered with flower petals, confetti, or rice (though the throwing of rice is currently discouraged by the Church as it is wasteful).

Reception

No matter what time of the day the wedding is, a lavish sit-down meal is usually served at the reception venue following a Filipino wedding.

The couple are toasted by the best man, maid of honor and the father or both parents. As with Western weddings, there is a cake that the bride and groom cut and feed to each other, but it is rarely served to the guests. The couple have their first dance together. The bride may throw her bouquet and the groom the bride's garter. Doves, which signify peace and harmony, may also be released.

A keepsake reflecting the theme of the wedding is given to each lady guest. Sometimes all the guests may be given favors. Pieces of cake or other edible gifts may be given but most favors are more permanent souvenirs, like fans or paperweights.

In Luzon there is a tradition of holding a money dance wherein cash gifts are pinned to the clothing of the bride and groom as they dance.

Gallery

References

Sevilla-Bernardo, Conchitina. The Compleat Filipino. Manila: Anvil, 1997.

External links

Citation

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