Filipino Traditions: Marrying Into the Filipino Family

Weddings are part of a  culture’s traditions. People around the world celebrate weddings in a unique way. The Philippines also has a unique way of tying the knot.

A wedding is probably one of the most adaptable of all Filipino traditions. Over the years, as modern technology took over, there had been many changes in the way Filipinos hold their weddings. There also had been a lot of changes in terms of the pre-wedding and post-wedding activities.

Like many of the Filipino traditions, we involve our families in the wedding. In fact, when we say wedding, we usually think about the bride’s family and the groom’s family being one family. It even sometimes includes your cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents.

The wedding does not start with the preparations. Before you order your cake or wedding gown, the potential groom has to do a “pamamanhikan”. In this event, the groom may bring family members or may alone face the entire family of the potential bride. He then formally asks for her hand in marriage, usually directly speaking to the father of the bride. When he brings his family along with him, it is usually not only for a marriage proposal, but also to help lighten up the mood between the two families.

Traditionally, the groom offers a dowry to the bride’s family for taking care of her since she was little. This is one practice we do not do anymore. It also used to be the groom’s responsibility to shoulder all the expenses of the wedding. These days though, both parties can chip in.

Part of the Filipino traditions is to always rely on elders. This is why the entourage usually include Primary Sponsors who are called to witness the wedding ceremony. They are also to serve as guidance as the couple starts to build their family. People usually pick out men and women who are as old as or older than their parents.

Besides the primary sponsors, we also have the secondary sponsors. They are usually young pairs bearing witness to the ceremony. They each do a certain activity during the ceremony, signifying an important thing in the couples’ life. The first pair usually lights a candle to signify a guiding light. The second pair will secure a veil over the couple’s head and shoulders, signifying unity and loyalty to one another. The last pair secures an infinity shaped cord over the couple’s heads to signify unending relationship.

Besides the primary and secondary sponsors, the bride and groom usually take in a best man, a maid of honor, several brides maids, several groomsmen, flower girls, a ring bearer, a coin bearer (signifying prosperity in the couple’s life), and a Bible bearer (for Christians).

In early  Filipino traditions, the wedding ceremony should be done in a church. In these modern times however, couples may opt for a more special venue. For instance, it is popular to have a beach wedding during the summer season. Some couples also opt for a garden wedding or a wedding hall. Some opt to go back to their hometowns to hold the ceremony in a special place like a backyard or a farm.

Superstitions are part of the  Filipino traditions, even in these modern times. The bride can never wear anything but a white gown, because it symbolizes her purity and virginity. The groom also traditionally wears a barong tagalog, the national male costume.

The bride can be fitted for her wedding gown, but she must never wear it before the wedding because it is extremely bad luck. The groom must also not see the bride a day before the wedding for the same reason.

In order for the couple to have luck in their marriage, uncooked rice is thrown as they walk out of the wedding hall. It is also prohibited for siblings to get married within the same year. This phenomenon is called sukob, and it brings extremely bad luck. During the wedding reception, the bride and groom are to set white pigeons to fly in the air, symbolizing peace and driving all the troubles away.

In older  Filipino traditions, the couple must abstain from sex during their wedding night because it could conceive a problem child. However, this tradition is not practiced anymore, and couples may now opt to hold their honeymoon abroad.

Finally, bridesmaids can also get luck out of a wedding. A woman who is single who catches the bride’s bouquet is said to be the next one to get married. A Filipino wedding usually takes months, if not years to prepare but it is worth all the trouble to celebrate such a special occasion.