Filipino Weddings

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Wedding Attire

Usually, the bride wears the traditional all-white wedding gown and the groom is handsomely clad in the traditional barong. The barong is a transparent button-up shirt that is usually worn by the Filipino man during special gatherings. At a traditional Filipino wedding, many sponsors are present to witness the union of the couple. The sponsors symbolize guidance and support - a group of individuals that the couple can refer to in time of need.

Wedding Ceremony

While some of the sponsors have a "silent" participation during the wedding ceremony, two sets of sponsors play active roles. The first set of sponsors play the role of veil sponsors. The veil sponsors usually consist of one man and one woman - perhaps one from each side of the family. During a specific point in the ceremony know as the Sanctus, the veil sponsors carefully pin a large veil on top of the bride's head and onto the shoulder of the groom. The veil symbolizes unity and that the couple shall be "clothed as one." The other set of sponsors are called the cord sponsors. After the veil is placed on both the bride and groom, the cord sponsors place a white cord loosely around the necks of the couple in a "figure eight" configuration. The cord symbolizes the lifelong bond or tie between the bride and groom.

After this the bride cups her hands under the groom's cupped hands, the priest dribbles thirteen silver coins into the groom's open palms, trickling like a water falls into the brides hands, and from her palms into a plate held underneath by an acolyte or "sacristan". The trickling of the arrhae or arrets or arras (from the Spanish word Arras, "earnest money") is "... a sign of fidelity bestowed irrevocably" and completes the marriage contract. The priest recites prayers over the couple and will continue with the nuptial mass at this point.

Then comes the Yugal (nuptial tie, a silken cord or strand of flowers or coins, even diamonds) which the cord sponsors entwines loosely around the necks of both bride and groom in the form of a figure of eight. The cord or yugal symbolizes the infinity of the bond of marriage, a union that lasts a lifetime. The candles, lit by the candle sponsors, is a call for enlightenment, a reminder of God's presence in the ceremony. The cord ceremony concludes the rituals in a Filipino wedding.

On either side of the unity candle is a long stemmed candle. Both sets of parents light their respective candle. When it comes time for the wedding couple to light the unity candle, the couple will light it with the candles that were lit by both sets of parents. This symbolizes the union of these two families through the love and lifelong bond of their children.

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 #1
Groomsman #2
Groomsman #3

Mothers of Groom - Groom
Mothers 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.

How they stand at the altar


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.

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


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This site was last updated 11/07/07