Ah, love. No one can resist its beauty and sweetness and what better event to witness it than a wedding? Filipinos are big fans of romance dramas so it’s no surprise that they love to see real-life fairy tales in the form of weddings. Most Filipinos usually go all out on their weddings. After all, you only get married once, they say, and most Filipinos are firm believers in the sanctity of marriage and monogamy.
Before the wedding itself, a lot of money is already shelled out. The well-to-do Filipino couples mostly hire a wedding coordinator and some handle the preparations on their own. This usually includes booking the church, reception, hotel, photographer, videographer, host for the reception, live band, designers for the entourage, makeup artist, decorators, to name the specifics. The couple also usually have a pre-wedding photo and video shoot. Here, the recruiting of the principal and secondary sponsors and the whole entourage also happens. The principal sponsors serve as godparents (ninong and ninang) and the secondary sponsors serve as caretakers of the accessories for the ceremony. Making sure you have the people who are flexible enough to accommodate all these responsibilities will help ease the burden of preparation and cost. By tradition, the groom is expected to cover the expenses if not most.
On the wedding day itself, the rush starts early in the morning. The bride, groom, and the rest of the entourage do their hair and makeup at the hotel or a nice location that was set up. Here, the photoshoot and video shoot continue. Yes, Filipinos love to document every single moment through photos and videos. The bride also wears accessories with the “something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue” custom. Ladies normally wear gowns or cocktail dresses while the men wear Barong Tagalogs or ‘coat and tie’.
Now, it’s time for the ceremony. The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic nation so most weddings are held in the most beautiful and traditional old churches. Some pick their local churches for convenience purposes. The secondary sponsors who are usually relatives and close friends carry the candles, coins, veil, and cord. They march through the aisle like the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and principal sponsors (godparents) ahead of the bride and groom. The 2 candles usually are lit before the ceremony begins and they represent the couples’ past as individuals and the lights need to be blown out after the wedding which symbolizes the extinguishing of their past. The secondary sponsors who are usually relatives and close friends carry the candles, coins, veil, and cord. They march through the aisle like the bridesmaids, groomsmen, and principal sponsors (godparents) ahead of the bride and groom. The 2 candles usually are lit before the ceremony begins and they represent the couples’ past as individuals and the lights need to be blown out after the wedding which symbolizes the extinguishing of their past. A coin sponsor carries 13 coins “arras” which makes the groom pass on to the bride as a promise to take care of her welfare and their future family. The veil which is pinned on the head of the bride and the shoulder of the groom symbolizes unity and represents good health and protection during their life as husband and wife. The cord that is knotted like infinity symbolizes their bond and union forever. It is a very solemn and heartfelt ceremony as Filipinos value the presence of God, their family, and friends. At the end of the wedding and church pictorial, usually, two doves are released, and the bride throws her bouquet backward and it is believed whoever catches it gets married next. Civil marriages are becoming more common but the good old traditional church wedding follows usually once they’ve saved enough. For most of us, we always define the sanctity of a wedding as it always comes from a church.
On to the best part. The reception! Most Filipinos opt for an indoor reception in a big ballroom because of unpredictable weather most especially during the rainy season. Some are getting out of the norm so they do it outdoors also. Not a lot of people show up for the wedding ceremony itself and it is common and not rude itself. The reception guarantees better attendance. You can expect relatives and friends of both the groom and bride to be present. Even those from abroad will make an effort to attend and celebrate this once in a lifetime event. There is a great expectation of using the attire required, and sharing a generous amount of money, or gifting a useful household item. The couple then has their first dance where guests pin money on the bride’s dress and some do it with the groom as well. The usual slicing of the cake in funny ways is also one of the highlights.
With the help of a lively host, great food, and upbeat live music, the reception is filled with fun, laughter, and tears of joy. The couple’s single friends and relatives (who are of age) usually play the fun, mature games and of course, the garter toss. Some become entertainers, dancers, and singers on the spot, while immediate family, close friends, and relatives to the couple give their special tribute, speeches, and well wishes. The usual clinking of glasses in between the program to demand a kiss from the couple is also a norm.
Most married couples in the Philippines always insist that despite how much money is spent on the wedding, it’s always worth every centavo. Most weddings that I’ve been to normally cost more or less PHP 500,000 (about USD 10,000) and that’s not counting the honeymoon yet! Like what people always say “the bigger, the better”, “the more, the merrier” and it is what you would expect most in Filipino weddings. However, I’ve seen some doing it the practical way also without necessarily changing the line of events itself.