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 Philippine Wedding Traditions

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Gone are the days of "pikot" (shotgun marriage) and "kasunduan" (arranged marriage by parents) where both the bride and groom had no choice but to comply. Traditionally though, even at this day and age, "ligawan" (courtship) still exists. "Harana" (suitor's serenade) use to form part of this ritual but nowadays, it's usually love letters (or emails ;-), flowers, chocolates or simply, dating! But when do they officially become a couple? Decades ago, a girl may be expected to say 'Yes' first just so that the guy would know that she agrees. Nowadays, well...they just know.  

When you are planning your wedding come check out some wonderful wedding decorations and bridal accessories, we also have many styles of wedding party favors for you to browse through.

After going on steady ("magkasintahan") for quite a time and the couple wants to crossover from being single and get married, then the following are some points to consider:

the marriage proposal

"Will you marry me?" or variations of those four significant keywords signals the possible beginning of a much-awaited grand celebration. After all, nobody wants to get married without first being asked. For would-be-grooms who may be lost for words, below can do the talking for them...

the engagement ring

Normally, an average Filipino man is wary on giving a ring as gift on ordinary occasions for he's concerned that his girlfriend might get the wrong impression because a ring (especially those of the gemstone-laden species) tend to speak of a deeper commitment. Really says a lot even without saying a word. The engagement ring is not a requisite to marriage but more of an option (that most brides surely wouldn't mind). It is both an adaptation of the western culture and a modern incarnation of an pre-colonial practice by giving dowry to his future wife (and her family) to signify his intentions. The ring is usually given simultaneously with the proposal (note: guys, don't give it until she says 'Yes'!) in a romantic ambiance. Popular choice for the 'rock' is diamond for it is the hardest wearing gemstone but a ring with her birthstone will do (read more about diamonds and other birthstones). Some traditional and sentimental Filipino families even insist and have their son offer a treasured family heirloom as an engagement ring to symbolize her acceptance and approval of his family. In cases such as the latter, it would be better to hand in the ring on the pamanhikan.

the asking of the girl's parents' permission to wed the affianced pair

The 'blueprint' of the wedding plans are drawn or made known on this occasion. The pamanhikan is often hosted by the bride's family where the groom and his parents set to visit the bride's family to formally ask her hand in marriage and discuss plans for the upcomming wedding over lunch or dinner. This can be a real uneasy situation if it's the first time for both sets of parents to meet. The groom- and bride-to-be may feel a little awkward (nervous even) seeing and listening to each parents consult each other face-to-face on matters like their wedding budget, guest list and the likes. It is customary that the the visiting family bring a gift (often, the mother's best home-cooked specialty) for the hosts. Others may opt to hold the meeting on a 'neutral ground' (a restaurant is a likely choice) or invite a mutual acquaintance to the gathering and help ease the first meeting. Why bother with all the trouble? Filipinos seek their folk's blessings for a happy and hassle-free marriage. Afterall, pamanhikan is a treasured Filipino heritage which, first and foremost, avoids an awkward situation having the parents see each other as strangers come wedding day.

service rendered by the man to woo the girl's family's approval

Paninilbihan is said to be a long forgotten tradition where the marrying man attends to some daunting chores for the family of the bride to show his worth, fortitude and responsibility. The fact is, it is still sub-conciously practiced by the modern Filipino society in a much simpler scale (thank goodness!). Since Filipinos parents prefer to see their daughter's boyfriend pay a visit in the house than date elsewhere, he is more-or-less considered a part of the household than a guest. So it comes as no surprise when the family members ask simple favors from him such as driving the mom to the supermarket or fixing busted lights in the kitchen. Come to think of it, future sons-or-daughters-in-law are expected to run some simple errands for their would-be-in-laws if he/she seeks some approval. These little favors forms part of the paninilbihan process still deeply imbibed in the Filipino psyche.

wedding announcement - the Filipino way

The practice of pa-alam (to inform) should not be confused with the Pilipino word "paalam" (goodbye). Though less formal than the pamanhikan, pa-alam is still a gesture appreciated by Filipino elders as a sign of respect. This is a practice of visiting important personages (mostly elder relatives not present during the pamanhikan) prior to the wedding. Couples may go out of their way to visit the person to inform about the upcoming wedding (they may choose to hand in the wedding invitation at this time) or approach the person in a social event (say, a family reunion) to formally let him/her know of the recent engagement. If the altar-bound couple will be visiting a prospective ninong or ninang (godparents of principal sponsors) for the wedding, it is customary to bring a little something for the person to be visited (a tropical fruit basket is a popular choice). Since the 'major hurdle' is over with after the pamanhikan, pa-alam would be a breeze. Though some elders may ask about your love story while others might give a 'litany' about married life or ask the groom-to-be about his work or family background. Basically, the practice is just a round of casual diplomatic visits to the people who matter most to the couple and inform them of the wedding and secure their blessings.

Despedida de Soltera
farewell to spinsterhood

A send-off party held close to the wedding date in honor of the daughter of the house hosted by her family. This celebrates her family's consent to the marriage and bestowal of her folk's blessings. The groom, his family, close friends & relatives from both sides and the wedding entourage are invited to meet and get to know one another before the wedding. The occasion may serve as the formal introduction of the two families or clans to each other. This affair can be anywhere from a formal sit-down dinner to a casual get-together party.

Alay ng Itlog kay Sta. Clara
egg offerings to Saint Claire

Although a rain shower is believed to bring bountiful blessings to a marrying couple, many still prefer a bright and warm wedding day. Ironic as it sounds, modern Catholic Filipino couples troop to the monastery of St. Claire to offer eggs to the patron saint and request the nuns to pray that their wedding day be 'rain-free'. Other couples may consider other food/fruit offerings for even our beloved nuns knows an egg too many is too much cholesterol.

confession before marriage

This is more of a moral obligation than a tradition that should be observed by every marrying Catholic couples. A few days prior their wedding, couples should have their final confessions as a single person with a priest (not necessarily the one who's going to marry them) since they will partake in the bread and drink the wine (the Body and Blood of Christ) during the wedding ceremony. The confession will serve as a spiritual cleansing for the sins committed during singlehood and a commitment and devotion to their lifetime partner.  

Check these two sites for wedding ideas.

Weddings at Work - Philippines

Filipina Wife's - Wedding Help


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Site last Updated: 13 April, 2007