Some of the Filipino wedding traditions are well-known abroad, like the money dance. But there are so many wedding rituals and activities here that are not as famous. So, this article will help you find out more about the traditional wedding in the Philippines from a person who knows it all firsthand because he is married to a local woman and had a typical Filipino wedding. Let’s hear him out and learn more about unique and so different for an American or European bystander wedding customs.
Let’s talk about some of the Filipino traditions as far as wedding ceremonies go. Of course, a lot of it is really the same or very similar to a classic Western wedding. But there are some things that you would not necessarily see in an American or European wedding.
Differences in American and Filipino weddings
First of all, at an American wedding, you're going to have your entourage for the bride and groom – the groomsmen and the bridesmaids. But at a Filipino wedding, in addition to that, you're going to have people that are called your “principal sponsors” or “godparents”. In the Philippines, they are called “ninong” (males) and “ninang” (females).
It's a place of high honor in a Filipino wedding. If the bride and groom need some advice for their married life, these are the people they would turn to. Also, these people help financially in organizing the wedding. And they play an important role in the wedding ceremony. The ninong and ninang are to come in at the beginning of a wedding.
The Filipino bride and groom also have secondary sponsors and they are the ones who are responsible for handling some of the symbols or elements of the local wedding rituals. We’ll talk about these rituals later.
Another new character on a typical Filipino wedding is a coin bearer. It is a boy who is carrying a little thing with coins in it. And this is a symbol of future prosperity, it's part of the groom's entourage, and it's a male child because, presumably, the man is the breadwinner.
And one more new participant of a wedding ceremony in the Philippines is a Bible bearer. You’ll see him in many cases. And he is also going to be a male child. Sometimes, a Bible bearer is used at American weddings, too, but it isn’t common.
Main Filipino wedding traditions
When we think about wedding traditions in the Philippines, there are two elements that come to mind immediately – the veil and the cord. The bride and groom get down on their knees and the veil sponsors (secondary sponsors that we’ve mentioned) put the veil over both of them, and then the cord sponsors (secondary sponsors as well) put the cord around them. This cord is a little white rope and it forms an 8-shape with one loop for the bride and another loop for the groom. Once the veil and the cord have been placed on them, the pastor or priest says something like “the veil clothes them in dignity and the cord binds them in unity”.
Another interesting thing is that, usually, when the bride and groom are still on their knees for the veil&cord ceremony, they sign the contract. In addition, usually, that contract will be passed along to the principal sponsors – they have their own table, and all of the principal sponsors also sign the contract.
Food is an important part of a wedding in the Philippines. If the Filipino couple can afford it, they have some really, really good food at their wedding. In the US and Europe, people may just have a few snacks or something like that, but at the typical Filipino wedding, if the couple is able to, they give a real restaurant-style dinner. The wedding guests can have as much food as they want to eat, and it is really good food.
And the last but definitely not least traditional ritual at a Filipino wedding is the first dance of a newly-married couple. After the reception, the now husband and wife have their first dance together, and wedding guests share their comments and best wishes and all that kind of thing.
Also, one of the last things that you do at a Filipino wedding is called the “money dance”. This is, basically, a unique way for the attendees to give the wedding gifts to the bride and groom. They pin money to the bride and groom's clothing. If someone wants to be really generous, they just hand the groom an envelope and he puts it in his pocket. And, by the way, this tradition is very common and looks nice.