All About A Filipino Wedding Culture

    By: Nila Sullivan
In every culture, there is uniqueness in everything, such as thier way of living, beliefs, practices, and even the wedding ceremony. We Filipinos also have our own wedding culture. And this is what I wish to share with you and to the world.

Initially, before the couple can get married, we have what we call, “pamanhikan,” it means imploring to the parents to allow their kids to get married. However, at this present day, it is almost not observed, especially when the partners are already beyond thirty, just like in our case. My husband is already 53 and I am 38. So, we have no need for any pamanhikan, though we still have to inform them about the wedding. Matured women and men can decide it is their wish to get married. But for the partners ages 25 and below, pamanhikan should be observed.

So, after the pamanhikan, we go through the application for license to get married, along with the few numbers of documents, as proof that partners are capable to have a wedding ceremony. These includes each birth certificate, certificate of no marriage (CENOMAR), Affidavit In Leu Of Legal Capacity To Marry, for the foreign partner, and the 4 hour seminar from the Department of Health. After you have these papers, you will wait for ten day for the release of the license. Then, the wedding can be performed.

Moreover, Filipino wedding also involve in giving bribe to the parents, and this what we called as a dowry. This symbolizes the respect of the soon to be husband to his future wife and her parents. Dowry for his wife is the ring, and a dowry for the parents could be anything that is valuable. There is also another practice on “paninilbihan” or laboring for the parents, which means that when a man will do house chores for his soon to be wife, he could be a good husband. And then, when everything is okay, wedding plan shall be started.

Wedding Planning

After the parents approval, the soon to be married should start to visit or inform their “ninang” and “ninong” (witnesses, or principal sponsors). They will play the most important role in the ceremony, to stand as second parents for them. They will be signing the marriage contract to prove that the wedding is legal and has been approved.

Next is the wedding preparations, that include the foods and the entourage. Lechon baboy (Roasted whole pig) must be served at the reception, because it is the special menu for a big banquet such as wedding. Accordingly, this symbolizes abundantcy and prosperity. Likewise, the presence of the bride’s maid, groom’s men, flower girls, ring bearer, bible bearer, treasure bearer, candle lighting, cord and veil sponsors are also important parts of the ceremony.

The Roles of Everyone in the Wedding

During the ceremony, the first part in the program is the march of the people involved in the wedding ceremony. If you will view our wedding video, you can see all the activities done during the ceremony. The marching activities is only an additional art for the event, to make it most memorable and artistic. Anyway, there is always a meaning for that. For the bride’s maid, it means for the happy moment of the bride, which is usually played by the closest family member or friend of the bride. The same with the groom’s men.

The flower girls who will be throwing the petals means, throwing love and peace for the couple to be wed. The bible symbolizes faith to God, which to be given to them. The treasure that contents new coins stands for wealth, handed to the groom then to his wife. This means, a groom should entrust his money to his wife to manage. The lighting our path (lighting the unity candle) means giving light to guide the couple.

The Importance of the Ring

In every wedding, whether you are a Filipino or not, the ring is always part of the ceremony. Like how you understand it, in our tradition it has the same meaning. This holds both the husband and wife together. The ring should be worn on the ring finger, left hand. This ring will tell everyone that the person is married.

The Veil and the Cord 

Filipino wedding, whether it is Christian or Catholic has a veil and a cord ritual. These two have meaningful purposes. For veil, which to be placed at the shoulder of the groom, and the other end is pinned at the head of the bride. It means that a groom is now given an authority over his wife, and now responsible on her. And for the bride, it represents that she is now under the control of her husband; she has to be submissive, and be supportive to him. Meanwhile, the cord which is placed around the neck of the groom and the bride, represent them as one, and will be together until death.

The contract

Signing of contract is the most important piece in any wedding. Filipino weddings always have this for security reasons, for both the husband and wife. This is legal and respected by any sector. This will be signed by the newly wed, the officiating pastor and the witnesses or sponsors. This portion will be done before the pastor or any licensed official will pronounce them as husband and wife. Not everyone has this practice, but this is one of the factors that made the Filipino wedding most unique and meaningful. Moreover, without signing of contract, the wedding could be null and void.

In my country, the wedding is the most anticipated event of every Filipino lady. There are many things that must be followed, before the ceremony happens. If we go back to the old age, there are many rituals to be done, during and after the wedding. There are breaking of glass that means to eliminate bad luck, combing hair and drinking a glass of water that means peace for the family, and throwing of rice for abundant life. Most of them still being followed, but modern world has not believe on that anymore. Well, there’s nothing wrong if you still do that, but the important thing is your faith in God, your readiness for the next chapter of your life, and of course, your love for your husband or wife.

There are also a belief about stepping on the foot of wife or husband, or if anyone shall be reached ahead of the other to enter the room, the one who do first is the most controlling. Well, in my part as a wife, these things is not necessary because if you really love your husband, you should always respect and honor him.

There are many other things about Filipino wedding culture. These are exciting and advantageous for every Filipino, when these are followed. In our wedding, most of them were exercised, and I was so thankful that, even though I have an American husband, everything is done accordingly. My husband had no problem with it, he was very accepting, which is very important, understanding and flexible. Marriage is significant, thus however it is being done, what matters most is your love for each other. There should be no pretension, but only being real and honest to yourself. 

In the other hand, for this opportunity to write, I’d like to grab this for saying thanks, first to God for making things possible in my life at age 38, to my husband Mike for making me so happy in so many ways, to his family, my family, relatives and friends. Thank you.

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