Travel Through Time: A Reliable Guide to Filipino Wedding Traditions and Superstitions

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Getting married is a highly anticipated stage in a couple’s life. It shows the high level of commitment between two people, as well as the willingness to start and continue building a new life together. In the process of marriage, Filipino people are observed to always give great effort in preparation for and celebration of the couple’s matrimony.

Tracing back to the roots of Filipinos, however, it is interesting to figure out the wedding traditions starting from the pre-colonial period and until the changes that lead to the present practices and superstitions that Filipinos would surely recognize today.

Photo by: @eightpression on Unsplash


Pre-colonial wedding traditions

During pre-colonial times, the wedding traditions of Filipinos were usually more on physical participation and less on verbal declarations. This idea is observed in how there would be performances to show a mock fight between two men before the ceremony, as this idea is initially believed to take effect in driving away evil spirits. The actual process of matrimony is done with hand-holding over a plate of uncooked rice before the declaration of marriage.

There are also instances where the babaylan would be pricking the skin of the bride and groom to draw blood which they would mix with water and drink. There is also a process of binding the couple using a cord and if their hair is both long enough, it is braided together to symbolize their matrimony.

The whole ceremony is officiated by babaylans, who are tribal priests and priestesses or even referred to as Filipino shamans, whose houses are also used as ceremonial centers for matrimony. In taking care of a babaylan’s role when they are not available, a datu or a wise elderly among the people in the community would be the ones to officiate.

After the marital rites, there is a repeat of the wedding procession on the way to either the bride’s or the groom’s house. Along this, there would be a series of gifts that needed to be offered to the bride if they were to arrive at the groom’s house. The gifts would be a form of remedy in solution to the bride’s succeeding refusal to walk up the stairs of the groom’s house, enter the doorway, join the wedding feast held for their marriage, and proceed inside the newlywed’s shared room.

If the married couple would head to the bride’s house, however, the same offering of gifts would still happen. Although this time, it would only be before the groom enters their shared room.

As commonly known, the Filipinos before the arrival of the Spaniards were more into the worship of deities that were believed to take nature as their physical form. Inevitably, the developed practices of Filipinos in their daily worship and ceremonies give high regard to nature and spirits. This later on bloomed into known superstitions that are passed from generation to generation, albeit not as known nowadays.

Changes in wedding traditions due to the Spanish colonization

The more practiced way of marriage from the early Filipinos was soon overtaken by the arrival of the Spaniards and the implementation of Hispanic Christianity. In turn, the way of matrimony for a couple also changed to fit under the predominantly Christian or Catholic process. This was retained as years went by, eventually becoming the normal wedding that Filipinos follow through in the present times.

Despite this, there are still a few regions in the Philippines that follow pre-colonial beliefs and practices, just as the Ilonggos, or the ethnolinguistic group of native inhabitants of Iloilo.

Standard Filipino Wedding Traditions

Photo by: Joseph Gatz

Moving on to the standard Filipino traditions, it is important to note that like any other Asian culture, Filipino weddings usually tend to be big and as grand as the couple desire. A lot of people are invited to this kind of ceremony and celebration, often extending from the nuclear or immediate family to the extended families that are often selected as ninong and ninang or godparents and principal sponsors.

Friends of the bride and groom are also invited and children within the connection of the couple are invited to be the bearers of the ring, coin, and Bible. Due to this connection, wedding invitations are usually lengthy as it indicates the chosen roles of the ones attending the wedding.

Veil and Cord Ceremony
Photo by: veilpng

The veil that will be used for this part of the ceremony is different from the one already used by the bride while walking her way down the aisle. Principal sponsors would be the ones placing the veil on top of the bride’s head and around the groom’s shoulders. This practice gives the idea of a man’s command and authority within the family and the woman’s place beside him, a typical reference to the traditional Filipino belief in patriarchy. Another would be its significance regarding the formed unity of the newlyweds.

The cord ceremony is also known as Yugal in the Philippines. When placed around the necks of the bride and groom, it was made to look like an infinity sign to symbolize their infinite loyalty and devotion toward each other.

Unity Candle (Candle Ceremony)
Photo by: Lin&Jirsa

The tradition of lighting the candle requires the participation of two principal sponsors and the bride and groom themselves. First, the two principal sponsors would have a candle each and light it. This action symbolizes God’s presence providing the blessing unto the couple. Second would be giving the same candle to the bride and groom, and lastly, the couple would be lighting a unity candle together. This way, both of them are allowing God within their union.

Aras / Arrhae (Coin Ceremony)
Photo by: Peyton Rainey Bradford

In the entourage, two young boys would be walking side by side carrying the wedding ring and the bag of coins which are to be blessed by the priest, and have the groom present it to his bride. Aras/Arrhae is done to symbolize three things: first, the wealth and prosperity that would arrive within the couple’s married life, second, the promise of the groom to provide for the wife and their family, and lastly, the bag would be containing thirteen (13) coins which pertain to each month in a year and an extra for a symbol of luck.

Rice Confetti

The rice confetti or the throwing of rice among the newlyweds is done after the wedding as they both walk down the aisle. This is performed by the guests and witnesses to ensure luck, prosperity, happiness, and fertility, highly connected to being a superstitious belief. It is going to be messy from the way it sounds, so hopefully, the church or the venue does not charge any extra for cleaning!

Sabitan / Sayawan (Money Dance)
Photo by: Joe and Patience

Sabitan or sayawan is a tradition wherein the bride and groom would be dancing together while the guests and other witnesses would be pinning money on their clothes. Depending on the different sub-cultures in the Philippines, there are two versions of this tradition. On the one hand, the bridesmaids and the groomsmen would be lining up to dance with the bride and groom, the men for the bride, and the women for the groom. On the other hand, the bride and groom would solely dance with each other. During both of these versions, guests would be around to pin money on their attire.

Asking for cash gifts at Filipino weddings is not favorable and frequently frowned upon as sabitan or sayawan is already a traditional way of giving financial support to the newlyweds as they start their new lives together. On a more positive note, this tradition is considered to be a blessing regarding the couple’s finances in their wedded life.

Recognized Filipino wedding superstitions

Still being within the discussion of weddings, it is also worthy to note the different superstitions that all Filipinos may or may not still believe in today, but have been going around within different generations.

  • Sukob
    This is the most widely known Filipino superstition which prohibits siblings from marrying in the same year. It is believed that such action would divide the luck that the couple would receive in their matrimony, therefore lessening it and making more room for negative energy. It also said that if a relative dies and the wedding is still pushed through, the newlyweds would be carrying the bad luck that came with the family member’s death.
  • No traveling anywhere far.
    The couple should not be traveling anywhere for days or even weeks before the wedding, as they are more vulnerable to bad things happening. It is believed that they are more prone to accidents the closer they get to their wedding day so it is much more preferable to postpone the travel, at least until after getting married.
  • No wearing of pearls for the bride.
    It is also believed as a Filipino superstition that pears are equal to tears, therefore brides could not wear pearls as their accessory, especially on a really important day such as their wedding. It might be a form of foreshadowing of a sad future for the bride.
Other Superstitions Believed to Bring Bad Luck
  • No wearing of the wedding gown before the wedding.
  • No meetups for the bride and groom before the wedding.
  • Avoid giving sharp objects as a present.

There are other superstitions that Filipinos either brush off because they consider them outdated beliefs or consider it as “gaba” once done by the couple. Despite the growing variation in beliefs, these traditions and superstitions remain engraved in Filipino culture.

If you are willing to find a wedding coordinator in Manila, make sure to check out this article: How Reliable 4 Philippine Wedding Coordinators Make Stunning Results: A Guarantee for Couple’s Special Day

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