Philippine Traditional Weddings

Kasal .... meaning "wedding". Ikasal. ... to wed or to marry. Kasalan.... the wedding ceremony. The traditional Filipino kasalan in the Christian community is unique in that it adds three more ceremonies into the basic wedding rites. These additional ceremonies are: the veil, the cord and the arrhae or coin ceremonies. The whole wedding thus takes just a little bit longer, and a few more participants are required, but it certainly makes for a more memorable wedding day!

The Wedding Participants

Wedding participants are the Priest/Minister, the Bride, the Groom, Maid of Honor, Best Man, Bridesmaids, Groomsmen, Flower Girl/s, Ring and Coin Bearer, Bible Bearer, Parents of the Bride, Parents of the Groom, Primary Sponsors, and Secondary Sponsors.

Historical Background
Traditionally, the coin, veil and cord ceremonies were performed only in the wedding rites of the Roman Catholic church in the Philippines . Today, other Christian churches have adopted it as well, and it is up to the bride and groom to request its inclusion from the officiating Priest/Minister.

The Spanish colonization period in the Philippines (1521-1898) brought the Roman Catholic religion to the islands. These special wedding rites were part of those which were brought by the Spanish friars to the Philippines , and similar wedding rites are found in Mexico today. Spain ruled the Philippines through Mexico , and a regular schedule of merchant galleon trade ships plying the Manila-Acapulco route joined the three countries' cultures in more ways than one.

Songs for the Wedding Ceremony


What else could give more essence to the ceremony than music, especially a voice, or voices to send those "chill bumps up one's spine", and start the tears flowing from everyone?

Serenade to the Bride : The groom and his best man has marched in and standing in wait at the altar. The parents and sponsors have been seated. While the groom is awaiting thus, a song is offered as a "serenade to the bride".

Ring Ceremony : A song is usually sung just after the exchange of rings.

Offertory or Communion Song: Another song is sung during this time. Usually, the Ave Maria and the Panis Angelicus.

The Lord's Prayer : May be sung instead of recited at the appropriate place in the ceremony.

Songs after the ritual mass/service : Sometimes more songs are offered after the wedding ceremony, to serenade the wedding party during the long photo sessions which follow inside the church.

 

 

 

The Wedding March
Order of Entry

The Priest/Minister stands at the altar and the march begins. The best man leads the way, followed by the groomsmen. Then the groom follows. Marching with him, to his left side is his mother. Behind him on his same side is his father, and to his father's left, is the mother of the bride.

Behind the families are the primary sponsors, with the female sponsors marching to the left side of the male sponsors. Respectfully called Ninong (male sponsor) and Ninang (female sponsor), this is a position of honor. One cannot choose his parents, but they could choose their godparents. They are like second parents to whom the couple could depend upon encouragement and counsel in their married years to come.

Behind the primary sponsors, march the secondary sponsors, again with the female sponsors positioned to the left of the male. These secondary sponsors play a part in the wedding ceremony, and each couple has specific functions: lighting of the unity candle, putting on the veil and the cord for their respective ceremonies. They are usually chosen from friends of the bride and groom.

The bridal party then follows in the following order: ring bearer/coin bearer, bible bearer*, flower girl, bridesmaids, maid of honor, then the bride with her father. She stands to the left side of her father. All guests stand as the bride marches in.

Note that all the female members of the bridal party (with the exception of the bride), stand or walk to the left of the male members. This is in keeping with the oriental yin and yang principle. Female energy is yin , and therefore should be to the left of the male yang energy.

Order of Entry

(Standing at the altar)
Officiating Priest/Minister

Best Man
Groomsman
Groomsman

Mother of Groom - Groom
Mother of Bride - Father of Groom

Primary Sponsors
Ninang 1 - Ninong 1
Ninang 2 - Ninong 2
Ninang 3 - Ninong 3

Secondary Sponsors
Candle: Female - Male
Veil: Female - Male
Cord: Female - Male

 


Usually, the Parents, Primary and Secondary Sponsors would have taken their seats in the first
one or two designated front pews
before the rest of the party marches in, as follows:


Main Bridal Party
Ring/Coin Bearer (male child)
Bible Bearer* (male or female child)
Flower Girl
Bridesmaid 1
Bridesmaid 2
Bridesmaid 3
Maid of Honor

Father of the Bride - Bride

The Bride is on the right side of her Father (or whoever gives her away), so that when they get to the altar, he will not be in the way of the Groom who will be on her right side throughout the ceremony.
_________________________

Not traditional, but a common alternative nowadays, is that the Groom marches with both his parents, and the Bride with both her parents, hence:

Order of Entry

(Standing at the altar)
Officiating Priest/Minister

Best Man
Groomsman
Groomsman

Mother of Groom - Groom - Father of Groom

Primary Sponsors
Ninang 1 - Ninong 1
Ninang 2 - Ninong 2
Ninang 3 - Ninong 3

Secondary Sponsors
Candle: Female - Male
Veil: Female - Male
Cord: Female - Male

Main Bridal Party
Ring/Coin (Boy) Bearer
Bible (Boy or Girl) Bearer*
Flower Girl
Bridesmaid 1
Bridesmaid 2
Bridesmaid 3
Maid of Honor

Mother of Bride - Bride - Father of Bride

 


The advantage of this latter arrangement is that both parents participate equally in the wedding rites. The disadvantage is that because there are three people marching together at one time, it is crowded and there may not be enough room in the aisle.

*Bible bearer - in Protestant ceremonies, a child (either male or female, usually male) brings a bible to the altar on top of a cushion, and there is a place where the officiating Minister, blesses this bible telling everyone of the couple's wish for their home to be ruled by God's word. This bible then becomes the couple's home bible and will be used in all religious ceremonies and devotions in their household.

How they stand at the altar

Priest/Minister

Bridesmaids-Maid of Honor-Bride-Groom-Best Man-Groomsmen
Flower Girls Ring/Coin/Bible Bearer

Seated in First and Second Rows
Parents of the Bride Parents of the Groom
Primary Sponsors** Secondary Sponsors**

(**This could be evenly matched on either sides. Some put the Secondary Sponsor pairs together, as they have to go to the altar at the same time for the veil, cord and candle ceremonies.)

The Wedding Rites


The Bride and her Father marches to the altar. The Groom meets them, and all three will face the Priest/Minister. The question of who gives the bride away is asked, to which the bride's Father answers, "I do" . He then gives her daughter's hand to the groom, after which he takes his designated seat in the front row with his wife.

The Exchange of Vows follow.

Ring Ceremony: The Priest/Minister may, at this point bless the Bride, Groom and rings with holy water. He holds their hands together in unity, then they exchange rings.

Arrhae or Coin Ceremony : The Priest/Minister then drops 13 pieces of coins (silver or gold) called arras into the Groom's waiting hands, who in turn drops it into the Bride's hands. The Bride then puts her hand above the Groom's then drops the arras into his hands again. The Groom allows the coins to then be dropped into a plate held by an acolyte.

The metal tinkling of the coins being passed from one pair of hands to the other, is a distinctive reminder of the groom's promise to take care of his wife materially. The bride in return, by giving back the coins to his hands, convey that what they both earn become part of each other's. The trickling sound also signifies abundance and success in the couple's joint efforts. The husband gives his material earnings to his wife who manages, saves and invests the money wisely, as basic Filipino tradition dictates.


Veil Ceremony: In the Catholic ceremony, the Priest continues with the nuptial mass until the "Sanctus". When the bell for the Sanctus rings, it is also a signal for the veil sponsors to come up to the altar. In Protestant ceremonies, the Minister explains the veil ceremony to the congregation and this constitutes as the cue for the veil sponsors.

Together, they pin a veil from the groom's shoulders, extending it to cover the bride's head and shoulders. This is symbolic of the groom pledging his strength and protection to his bride - the wife who he promises to take care of, from this day forward.

Cord Ceremony: The Cord Ceremony follows immediately after. The Cord Sponsors come up to where the Bride and Groom are kneeling, and put a figure of eight cord over the veils that are on the heads and shoulders of the Bride and Groom. This cord symbolizes unity and infinity - a love together, forever!

Candle Ceremony: The Candle Ceremony is first and last. As soon as all the primary and secondary sponsors have been seated, the Candle Sponsors proceed to the altar where they light the two side candles beside the middle and larger (unity) candle. This represents the two lives and two spirits who will be joined together.

Towards the end of the ceremony, at a signal from the Priest/Minister, the Bride and Groom come up and approach the candles. They each take the smaller candles, and use it to light the middle unity candle. This means that from then on, their lives go together, kindled as one.

The Unity Candle is saved and kept by the couple, to be lighted on each wedding anniversary, as a reminder of this first day when they gave their promise to each other.

The rest of the wedding ceremony is the same as that in the west... the kiss after the priest or pastor introduces the couple for the first time as "Mr. and Mrs.", and the guests applauding them. The march out of the church is definitely faster and more spirited than the wedding march to the altar. Rice and flower petals are thrown gently to the couple outside the church door for luck, prosperity and marital bliss. In America , bubbles are blown.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Wedding Reception


At the reception, everything follows the usual similar western practice - the throwing of the bridal bouquet, the garter, the cake and champagne. One thing that is different however, is that during the reception, there is a bell shaped basket that hangs in the middle of the room. After the toast, the bride and the groom approached this bell-shaped basket, and pull on its ribbons to open a trapdoor, from which would fly two love birds - usually two white doves which are set free afterwards. For the birds to fly up towards the heavens when they are set free, is an omen of good luck, predicting a successful life together.

Two Filipino Traditional Reception Practices


Sayaw sa Batya - dancing inside a batya. A batya is a huge flat metal container about one meter in diameter and about 6 inches in height. It is used for hand washing clothes. In some localities in the Philippines , the couple dance inside the batya, while the guests throw money to them inside the batya. This money is the seed money which the couple will use to start their life together.

Sayaw ng Pera - the money dance. The couple dances a slow waltz and relatives of the groom pin money on his clothes, while relatives of the bride pin money on her clothes. The couple, of course, gets to keep all the money.

 

 

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Filipino Wedding Dress

The Bride typically wears white, off-white or ecru, especially if she is wearing a dress made from the expensive jusi or pina cloth, which natural color is ecru. The groom wears a barong tagalog , a traditional hand embroidered formal shirt made from specially hand-loomed jusi or pina (pineapple fiber) cloth.

The Bride chooses a color scheme for her bridesmaids, flower girl and maid of honor. Typically, the female sponsors follow this color scheme.

Wedding Expenses

In the Philippines , the Groom's family spends for everything except the bridal dress and female entourage dresses. He pays for the church, flowers, limousine, invitations, reception, etc.. The Bride only pays for her dress, and the dresses of her bridesmaids, flower girls and ring bearer.

Wedding Superstition Trivia

1. It is bad luck for the bride to be seen by the groom trying on her wedding dress at any time before the wedding.

2. It is bad luck for the groom to see the bride the night before the wedding ceremony.

3. On the wedding day, light showers are considered lucky as they will bring material blessings to the union.

4. Typhoons bring bad luck should it come on the wedding day. A sunny day means a life full of married bliss.

The End


Photos courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Andy and Pet Van Hausen who were married on June 14, 1997 at Lover's Lane Methodist Church at 2pm . Their wedding ceremony was repeated at 8:30pm that night at the concert entitled "Music and Dance from Seven Thousand Islands" presented by the Filipino Folk Arts Theatre, Inc. at the Dallas Museum of Art. Costumes are from the Basilisa Elvas Filipiniana Collection.

Filipino Wedding Rites by Tara Celeste
copyright 1997, all rights reserved