6 Distinctively Filipino Wedding Traditions

Posted on
Apr 10, 2023
6 Distinctively Filipino Wedding Traditions

Wedding customs vary around the world. While some are simple and straightforward, others are more elaborate and involve unique symbols with particular meanings. In the Philippines, weddings have unique traditions that hold special meanings. Let's find out what those unique traditions are:

Formalizing the Union with Pamamanhikan

Some age-old Philippine wedding traditions don't just happen on the big day. Celebrations and preparations start way before that, during pamamanhikan, when the groom and his family visit the bride’s family and formally ask for her hand in marriage.

During this time, most couples are already engaged, and the pamamanhikan is just a formality they go through before the wedding. It is also a time for their family members and relatives to get to know each other as they will soon be part of a more extensive family.

Selecting Principal Sponsors or Ninongs and Ninangs

Principal sponsors, also called ninongs and ninangs, are older people chosen by the bride and groom to mentor and guide them in their married life. Usually, the couple selects people they are close to, mentors from church, or friends of their parents who they’ve known while growing up. Ninongs and ninangs can be single or married.

Filipino weddings are about how people come together to celebrate the union, and requesting people to be your ninongs and ninangs is a way of giving them a special part in your celebration. Most of the time, the principal sponsors usually give money to the newlyweds to help them start their new life together.

Like the groomsmen, bridesmaids, and other entourage members, the principal sponsors also walk down the aisle. This tradition is a way to honor them and show the other guests who the couple has chosen as their principal sponsors. 

Lighting the Unity Candle

Most weddings involve a special section where the bride and groom use two separate candles to light a larger candle during the ceremony. It symbolizes two distinct individuals becoming one through marriage.

Putting a Veil and Cord on the Bride and Groom

The veil and cord are another symbolic part of the wedding ceremony. A veil (different from the one the bride is wearing, if any at all) is placed over the bride's and groom's heads to signify their union and protection. The cord is looped around the couple’s shoulders to represent their eternal bond.

Dancing the Money Dance

During the wedding reception, while the bride and groom dance, guests approach them to give money as a token of their love and support. At some wedding receptions, the guests pin bills onto the clothes of the couple.

Wearing Barong Tagalog

While not a tradition per se, the groom and several guests usually wear Barong Tagalog, a formal shirt for men made of pineapple fibers, silk, or jusi material. It is considered a symbol of elegance and formality. These days, some grooms and guests prefer to wear a coat and tie, but there are some weddings where the couple asks their guests to come in Barong Tagalog for the men and modern Filipiniana for the women.