Unlike in the United States where the bride’s family pays for the wedding, in the Philippines, expenses are paid for by the groom’s family. The bride’s gown is custom-made rather than bought ready made off the rack. Both the bride and groom wear white, with the groom wearing a traditional transparent button-up shirt called the barong.
Wedding invitations cover both the ceremony and the reception; therefore reception cards are not used. Also included in the wedding invitation is a page that gives all the names and roles of those in the bridal party or the entourage card. In the Philippines, the most popular month for a wedding is December, as opposed to June in the United States, although the latest from the NSO says that it’s on May.
The wedding is usually done on Saturdays although a portion of Filipinos are now picking the weekdays for practical reasons… budget. The wedding date is chosen based on the waxing of the moon, when the moon is on the way to the full moon which would mean that more blessings would come to the couple’s way. A date with an 8 is also more popular.
On how the wedding is going to be… the decision is taken on by the bride’s parents. A dutiful bride-to-be is then expected to bow down to the whims of her parents while the groom’s side is expected to finance all of the wedding costs as opposed to that in the United States where the bride’s side cover the wedding costs. These days, a lot of couples choose to share expenses.
It is also customary for the wedding to be held at the bride’s hometown if they are not from the same state.
The bride and groom arrive separately and at different times for the ceremony. The groom arrives up to an hour before hand to receive guests. The bride however, arrives just in time for her bridal march. Both the bride and the groom march down the aisle, the groom either alone or with his parents.
The marrying couple picks a few pairs of ninongs and ninangs (godparents) to be the primary sponsors/witnesses of the ceremony. In addition to the bridesmaids and groomsmen, three pairs of wedding attendants act as secondary sponsors who manage the wedding candles, veil and cord ceremonies which make take place during the nuptial mass. The bride holds an heirloom rosary along with the bridal bouquet during the ceremony. Generally the wedding ceremony includes a full mass which runs about an hour.
In addition to exchanging rings, the groom gives his bride an arrhae, which is a monetary gift in the form of thirteen pieces of gold or silver coins. This is a pledge from the groom of his dedication to the welfare of his wife and children. The arrhae is carried by a coin bearer who walks alongside the ring bearer for both the processional and recessional.
Candles stand on each side of the couple. Candle attendants light these candles which symbolize God’s presence in the union. Some couples integrate the lighting of a Unity candle into the service. The Unity candle has its origins in the Protestant religion. After the candles are lit, veil sponsors drape a long white tulle veil on the grooms shoulder and pin it. Another veil is then draped over the bride’s head. The veils are used to symbolize two people who are ‘clothed’ as one.
The last pair of sponsors stands with a cord in the form of a figure eight and place one loop around the neck-shoulder area of the bride and the other loop around the neck-shoulder area of the groom. The cord symbolizes the infinite bond of the marriage. This cord can be a silken rope or made from a string of flowers or links of coins.
After the ceremony, during the reception, a pair of white doves is released by the newlyweds to signify peace and harmony during the marriage. Whoever catches them takes them home as a pet. Instead of tossing of the bouquet, the bride instead offers the flowers to a favorite Saint or the Virgin Mary. Some opt to place the bouquet on the grave of a lost love one.
Traditional Filipino weddings are very strong in the faith, emphasizing God in every part of the ceremony and inviting Him into their lives. Also, every part of the ceremony emphasizes the joining of two people as one in a life long commitment of love and caring.