In the old days, a Filipino wedding was an affair that lasted for three days and was officiated by a tribal priest. On the first day, the couple went to the priest’s home to be blessed as they held hands over a bowl of uncooked rice. On the second day, the priest would prick their chests to draw blood, which was then placed in a container. They would eat the rice cooked from the bowl during the blessing and drink water mixed with their blood to signify their unity. After three days of proclaiming their love for each other, their necks and hands were bound together as one.
Today, the Filipino wedding is an amalgamation of traditional, protestant, Catholic, American, and Spanish customs. When a couple decides to wed, the groom and his parents will go to the bride’s home to ask for her hand in marriage and to discuss the wedding plans, the date, the financial arrangements, and the guest list. The groom’s family usually pays for the wedding. Because there is a huge importance placed on family in their culture, the extended family will frequently go with the groom’s family to the bride’s home, giving both families an opportunity to become acquainted.
The couple will formally announce their wedding through wedding announcement invitations, whereby the couple will go to the homes of their family and friends and personally give each of them an invitation to their wedding. There will usually be a “hen party” for the bride hosted by her family that celebrates her departure from single-hood. The most popular month for weddings in the Philippines is June.
The actual ceremony is very similar to the western style with the groom and bride being married in a church with mass, an exchange of rings, and family and friends in attendance. A lovely tradition that is borrowed from the Spanish is the arrahe, which is a bag or pouch of thirteen coins that are blessed by the priest and given to the couple during the ceremony. There is a ring bearer who holds the rings for the couple during the ceremony, and there is an arrahe bearer who holds the coins for the couple until they are presented to the bride. The unity candle ceremony involves three candles; one candle for the bride and one candle for the groom are lit and together they light the third candle signifying their unity as one, or in the case of Christian couples, signifying their inclusion of Christ into their marriage. The veil ceremony involves the draping of veils over the shoulders of the bride and groom, again, signifying their unity from two individuals to a unit of one couple. The wedding cord ritual is then preformed by placing a cord in the figure 8 around the necks of the bride and groom signifying infinite fidelity.
With such a huge importance placed on family, the wedding reception is a significant and important event. There are usually two white doves that are released by the couple signifying the harmony and peace of their future together. If one of the guests catches one of the doves, he or she can take the dove home for a pet. Even though throwing the bridal bouquet is becoming more popular with younger couples, the traditional Filipino bride will take the flower bouquet and place it at the foot of a statue of a patron saint or at the gravesite of a loved one.