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10 Filipino Wedding Traditions Couples Need To Know Before Walking Down The Altar

Philippine wedding traditions

If there’s one thing our culture can tell about who we are as Filipinos, we are romantics. We love our love stories, as our fixation over love teams can tell, that you can expect an event such as a wedding to be held in high regard and steeped in traditions. And as Filipinos are family-oriented, weddings are held not just to celebrate the couple’s unity, but to mark the union of two families through a tradition called pamamanhikan, for example. 

To get a better idea of how our wedding traditions are held, check out these 10 wedding traditions in the Philippines listed below, starting from pamamanhikan down to performing traditional courtship dances such as Salidsid.

– Before the wedding –

1. The couple asks for the woman’s family’s blessing in a pamamanhikan ceremony

Philippines weddings - pamamanhikan
Image adapted from: @gheeenriquez

Pamamanhikan, the first step in most Filipino weddings, is where the man and his family formally ask the woman’s family for their blessing for the upcoming marriage. Sometimes, to help the families get to know each other more, playing drinking games and sharing sugarcane wine are also part of the tradition. 

Pamamanhikan is traditionally observed at home, but it has also been recently practiced in public spaces such as restaurants.  

2. After the pamamanhikan, the wedding announcement, or pa-alam, follows

Philippines weddings - pa-alam
Image credit: @theinvitationco

In pa-alam, the couple visits their relatives to inform them about their upcoming wedding and distribute official wedding invitations. 

At this point, the couple usually chooses the wedding godparents – or ninong and ninang – who will serve as important members of your wedding entourage, also referred to as sponsors of the wedding though the relationship is a spiritual, not a financial one. The godparents are usually chosen from among the couple’s closest relatives, friends, and colleagues.

3. The wedding is planned through a bulungan meeting

Philippines weddings - bulungan
Image credit: @rnepevents

To discuss the details of the wedding, a bulungan, which means whispering in English, happens between the bride’s and groom’s families.

The two families come together in this meeting to quietly lay down, everything about the wedding – from budget to task divisions – often while whispering, so as not to invite bad luck.

4. The bride’s end of singlehood is celebrated in a despedida de soltera

Philippines weddings - despedidaImage credit: Leah Beltran/Boracay Balloons & Events

To mark the end of the bride’s singlehood, the bride’s family hosts a send-off dinner or a despedida de soltera where the bride’s and groom’s closest family members and friends are invited. 

Celebrated one to three weeks before the wedding, the tradition usually consists of various games, speeches, and sometimes, the participating bridesmaids also prepare a surprise dance or song for the bride. 

It’s the equivalent of the groom’s bachelor or stag party, and it can take place in the bride’s family’s home or in public spaces such as restaurants.

– During the wedding –

5. The bride wears a white gown, while the groom wears a barong Tagalog

Philippines weddings - white gown
A lady in a white wedding gown
Image credit: @cotevents

The bride wears a white wedding gown with a veil, and there are some women who also choose to wear a traditional Filipiniana wedding gown that mixes Filipiniana and wedding motifs. 

Philippines weddings - barong Tagalog
A man in a barong Tagalog
Image credit: Dwight Geo Club

The groom wears a traditional barong Tagalog, usually made up of thin, see-through piña or jusi fabric. It is worn untucked over a plain white shirt or kamisa de chino

In Filipino-Muslim weddings, the attire varies according to the tribe of the bride and groom. For example, a bride from the Tausug tribe can showcase her tribe’s traditions with a traditional Inaul gown, and a groom from the same tribe can wear a traditional white attire known as the Kupot.

6. Symbolic objects used in rituals include arrhae, veils, a cord, and unity candles

Philippines weddings - arrhae
Image credit: @alwaysbridalstore

There are several symbolic objects used during a Filipino Catholic wedding ceremony. Held by the coin bearer while marching toward the altar, the arrhae consists of 13 pieces of gold or silver coins. The groom gives it to the bride while in front of a minister to serve as his pledge to support the bride financially.

Philippines weddings - veiling
Image credit: The Blue Leaf

One side of a white veil is also placed over the head of the bride and the other side is put over the groom’s shoulders, marking the unity of the couple.

Philippines weddings - ChordA cord over a bride and a groom
Image credit: The Blue Leaf

A cord in the shape of the number 8 is placed over the bride and groom. It is shaped after the number 8 to serve as a symbol of the infinity sign, a sign of everlasting love.

Philippines weddings - unity candle
Unity candle
Image adapted from: A&A Photography

To show the union of the couple and both their families, the bride and groom take a lighted candle each to light a unity candle together. Afterwards, they blow out the single candles, symbolically erasing their past.

7. At the end of the wedding, guests shower the couple with rice

Philippines weddings - rice shower
Image credit: @rhedsarmiento

Grains of rice are showered over the bride and groom once the ceremony ends to wish the couple happiness, luck, and prosperity. According to many elders, throwing rice grains on newlyweds expresses a wish for them to have children in the future.

– At the wedding reception –

8. A pair of white doves is released

Philippines weddings - doves
Image credit: @doveswithlove

During the wedding reception, a pair of doves, one male and one female, is released from a cage. The bride releases the female dove, while the groom releases the male. The tradition is observed to represent the beginning of a good marriage.

9. The couple performs the sabitan or money dance

Philippines weddings - sabitan
A couple who managed to receive a whopping total of P278,000 during their wedding’s money dance
Image adapted from: Alvin Growing Old 

To give the couple their best wishes as they begin to build their household, guests attach paper bills to the bride’s and groom’s attire while the two are dancing. This is also known as the sabitan or money dance event. 

In other practices, the sabitan event is held on the eve of the wedding ceremony.

10. In some weddings, the couple also performs traditional Filipino dances

Philippines weddings - Performers dancing Salidsid
Performers dancing Salidsid
Image adapted from: Man Veluz

In some weddings, couples perform traditional Filipino dances as well to color the wedding with the rich heritage of the Philippines. For example, Pangalay is a traditional dance observed in Filipino Muslim weddings. It’s a traditional dance of the Tausug tribe characterized by movements of the fingers.

Salidsid, a courtship dance of the Kalinga tribe, is also another traditional dance performed in weddings. In the dance, to impress the bride, the groom acts as a rooster while performing footwork. The bride, meanwhile, performs the movements of a hen. 

Philippine wedding traditions you need to know

Weddings in the Philippines are observed with various traditions, including those held even before and after the actual wedding ceremony. 

Not only do these weddings celebrate the couple’s commitment to love one another, but also emphasize our rich cultural traditions. 

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Cover image credit: @kissthegirlevents