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Filipino Weddings – A Users Guide!

rice shower

A newlywed couple is showered with rice and flowers as they exit the church, symbolising prosperity and blessings.

How are weddings celebrated in the Philippines?

As you might expect we have the usual fusion of local tradition with Spanish and American influences.

The bride normally wears a Western-style white wedding gown but the groom and other males are thankfully spared heavy Western suits and adopt the more comfortable Philippine formal attire – the “Barong Tagalog” or simply “barong”.

A barong is worn over a plain white tee shirt and is traditionally made of translucent Filipino fabrics like piña (made of pineapple leaf fibres) or jusi (made of banana leaf fibres), although less delicate polyester-cotton is also common and cheaper. They can be in natural cream or pastel shades, and feature embroidery on the front. The long or short-sleeved barong  is also a popular and practical business attire, especially if you spend time outdoors. The barong is usually paired with black pants and shoes.



National clothes for men: the Barong Tagalog

Should expats wear Filipino garments? Well it’s a personal decision. Some men may prefer to wear their own culture’s or profession’s dresscode – Scotsmen in kilts and military personnel in dress uniforms etc.. Others feel that we shouldn’t ape locals. It’s a personal decision.

You could also suggest a “theme” wedding to fun-loving Filipinos: a retro wedding or colour-coded wedding could break the ice and be a novelty.

As the newlyweds exit the church after the wedding ceremony and as they head towards the bridal car, rice grains are thrown over them in another Western tradition, supposedly bringing prosperity to the bride and groom. Rice can be replaced by paper hearts, confetti, flower petals or even bubbles!

In some provinces in Luzon such as Pampanga, they practice the “money dance” tradition during the first day of the newlywed couple. Guests gather around the newlyweds and attach paper money onto their clothes of the newlyweds. Some people even put signed checks!


money-dance-tradition (1)

Cha-ching! Our first dance on the first day for the rest of our lives!


It is common for relatives visiting from overseas to stick foreign currency onto the newlywed’s clothes.


Another factor for weddings is defined in Tagalog as “sukob”. This superstitious wedding belief frowns on siblings getting married in the same calendar year. This is believed to bring bad luck and misery to both married couples. Also, if an immediate family member dies, a wedding is postponed till the following year to prevent bad luck.


Romance and sweetness apart, it is very important to understand the legal significance of marriage in the Philippines, which do not apply if you marry in other jurisdictions.


It is one of only two countries in the world where divorce is illegal – the other is the Vatican where it is not exactly relevant! A sham annulment is possible with the help of a lawyer, but the expense is prohibitive for the poor and can be blocked if one partner is uncommunicative. Sometimes expats find a partner who has a previous unloved husband or wife which hinders plans to remarry.


There are also significant differences in inheritance laws, meaning that, for example, if a spouse dies the marital home is not passed 100% to the survivor, some passes to the family-in-law.


Pre-nuptial agreements are also worth considering, especially if there are children from previous marriages or to clarify exactly what a spouse might inherit upon death.


Lastly, if you’re an expat here in Manila, it might be useful to learn some of these Tagalog words, namely:

  • kasal – “wedding”

  • asawa – “spouse”

  • kasintahan – “lover”

  • simbahan – “church”

  • magulang – “parents”

  • dambana – “altar” In Tagalog, we also use the word “altar” but with a different pronunciation which is “al-tar” where the intonation is in the syllable “-tar”.


So enjoy the wedding, but it’s about your head as well as your heart!


Author: Expatch Editorial Team


Image Sources:

10 Odd Superstitions About Food

Related post:
Philippine Pre-Wedding Traditions



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