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Filipino Wedding Traditions: A  Rich Tapestry of Love and Heritage

Filipino Weddings: Weaving together History, Heritage and Culture


Filipino weddings are a vibrant fusion of traditional customs and modern influences, reflecting the country’s rich history and cultural diversity. These ceremonies are not just about the union of two individuals but also about celebrating the coming together of two families. In this section, we’ll delve into the unique and colorful traditions that make Filipino weddings truly special.

The Significance of Pre-Wedding Rituals in Filipino Culture

Regional and Indigenous Traditions

Wedding Attire: The Elegance of Terno Wedding Dresses

The Barong Tagalog: A Reflection of Filipino Dignity and Heritage at Weddings

Symbolic Filipino Wedding Traditions

A Filipina woman in a white dress holding flowers at a Brooklyn wedding.

Pre-Colonial Origins


Pre-colonial Filipino wedding practices were deeply rooted in the indigenous cultures and traditions of the various ethnic groups across the archipelago, reflecting a rich tapestry of rituals that emphasized community, family ties, and respect for nature. These ceremonies often involved elaborate rituals that could last several days, focusing on the spiritual and social union of the bride and groom. One notable practice was the exchange of gifts or dowries, which included valuable items and goods to symbolize the joining of wealth and the establishment of a new household. Another significant tradition was the “paninilbihan,” where the groom rendered service to the bride’s family, demonstrating his ability to provide and his dedication to his future wife. Rituals also included the blessing of the couple by tribal elders or community leaders, who invoked the ancestors’ spirits and the natural world’s harmony for the couple’s future life together. These pre-colonial customs showcased the communal aspect of marriage, where the union was not just between two individuals but a bond that encompassed families and the broader community, reflecting the collective ethos of Filipino society.

Post-Colonial Influences


The post-colonial period has significantly influenced Filipino weddings, integrating Western customs with indigenous traditions to create a unique blend that reflects the Philippines’ complex history. Spanish and American colonial rule introduced Christianity, changing the religious landscape and wedding ceremonies. As a result, many Filipino weddings today are held in churches, incorporating Christian rituals alongside pre-colonial practices.

Image Source: The War Brides

A filipino wedding party standing together - from the 1900s
filipino history brides

The Significance of Pre-Wedding Rituals In Filipino Culture


Before the actual wedding day, several pre-wedding rituals take place, symbolizing the start of a lifelong journey for the couple. One such tradition is the “Pamamanhikan,” where the groom and his family visit the bride’s family to formally ask for her hand in marriage. This meeting is crucial as it allows both families to discuss wedding plans and symbolizes the merging of two families. Other traditions are involve a collective sense of relationship building between families and houses: Paalam, despedida de soltera (a combined family bachelorette), pamanhikan sa simbahan (a visit to the church), pagbibigay ng pamanhikan (ritual and symbolic gifts), paninilbihan (acts of service towards the family).

Filipino weddings place a strong emphasis on the role of family and godparents, in Tagalog known as “Ninongs” and “Ninangs.” These individuals are not just sponsors but also mentors to the couple, offering guidance and support in their marital journey. Their presence in the ceremony signifies the community’s support for the union.


Regional and Indigenous Tradition


Indigenous wedding traditions in the Philippines are a fascinating study of the country’s diverse cultural landscape, with each ethnic group preserving rituals that are unique to their heritage and environment.

The Kalinga tribe performs the “salidummay,” a series of dances and songs, as part of their wedding festivities, celebrating the union with vibrant displays of community and personal bonds.

The Palawanon tribes, particularly the Tagbanwa, hold sacred the “pagdiwata” ritual, a ceremonial offering to spirits conducted by a shaman to seek blessings for the couple’s future. These indigenous practices underscore a profound respect for the spiritual and natural world, integrating these elements into the very foundation of marital life and community well-being.

Traditional Filipino Wedding Attire


The traditional Filipino wedding attire includes the “Barong Tagalog” and the “Maria Clara” gown. The Barong Tagalog is a lightweight, embroidered shirt, representing the national dress of the Philippines. Maria Clara gowns are elegant and conservative, often adorned with intricate designs and made from piña or jusi fabric. These outfits pay homage to the country’s history and craftsmanship. Their modern renditions can be paired with other Filipino accessories as homage to Filipino history and heritage.

(Images courtesy of Sinta & Co.)

The Elegance of Terno Wedding Dresses


Among the plethora of Filipino wedding traditions, the “Terno” wedding dress stands out as a symbol of elegance and national pride. The Terno is renowned for its distinct butterfly sleeves, seamlessly integrating Filipino craftsmanship with timeless fashion. This traditional dress goes beyond mere attire; it is a cultural emblem that connects the wearer to the rich history and artistic heritage of the Philippines.

The Terno’s design is not only about aesthetic appeal but also cultural significance. Its iconic butterfly sleeves represent the grace and strength of Filipinas/os, while the intricate embroidery showcases the meticulous artistry that has been passed down through generations. The dress is usually made from fine fabrics such as piña (pineapple fiber), jusi (silk), and other indigenous materials, emphasizing sustainability and the support of local weavers.

Modern interpretations of the Terno have made their way into contemporary Filipino weddings, blending traditional elements with modern styles. Designers have reimagined the Terno to suit today’s fashion sensibilities, incorporating various fabrics, patterns, and cuts while preserving the signature sleeves. This fusion of old and new ensures that the Terno remains relevant and cherished in Filipino culture.
For the wearer, choosing a Terno wedding dress is a powerful statement of identity and heritage. It is an opportunity to honor their roots and make a unique fashion statement on their special day. Wearing a Terno is not just about following tradition; it’s about celebrating one’s Filipino heritage with pride and elegance.

The Terno wedding dress exemplifies the beauty of Filipino culture, weaving together the threads of history, identity, and craftsmanship. As Filipino weddings continue to evolve, the Terno remains a timeless reminder of the nation’s rich cultural landscape and the enduring spirit of its people.


The Barong Tagalog: A Reflection of Filipino Dignity and Heritage at Weddings


The Barong Tagalog, often simply known as the “Barong,” transcends the boundaries of traditional Filipino attire to become a beacon of national identity and pride. This piece’s sophistication and historical depth have cemented its place at formal occasions, especially weddings, where it champions the Philippines’ rich cultural legacy.

Hailing from the pre-colonial period, the Barong Tagalog has navigated through centuries, gracefully adapting to shifts in time while preserving its unique attributes. Crafted from indigenous materials such as piña (pineapple fiber) and jusi (banana silk), the Barong boasts a sheer, lightweight fabric ideal for the Philippines’ warm climate. Its meticulous embroidery, featuring floral or geometric motifs, enhances its refined appearance.

The Barong embodies more than mere fashion; it is a testament to the Filipino ethos of resilience and self-respect. Historically, during Spanish rule, Filipinos were mandated to wear the Barong untucked, marking a status of subservience. Yet, this garment has risen above its colonial constraints, evolving into a proud symbol of Filipino identity and heritage. In today’s context, choosing to wear the Barong Tagalog is an act of homage to one’s roots.

At weddings, the Barong Tagalog’s role extends beyond attire for the wearer; it signifies a deep reverence for tradition and a pledge to uphold values of honor, integrity, and respect within the union. It’s common for wedding participants and guests alike to don Barongs, creating a visually cohesive tribute to Filipino heritage.

Contemporary iterations of the Barong Tagalog meld historic elements with modern design sensibilities, spanning a spectrum from formal to casual. Fashion innovators have played with various textiles, hues, and designs, rendering the Barong a flexible garment that appeals to a wide audience. Despite these modern adaptations, the Barong’s core as a symbol of Filipino identity endures.

Symbolic Filipino Wedding Traditions in the Modern Day


The Tradition of Arras Coins in Filipino Weddings


The Arras, or the tradition of exchanging 13 coins, is a deeply symbolic practice in Filipino weddings that signifies the couple’s commitment to mutual support and prosperity. Stemming from Spanish colonial influence, this ritual has been seamlessly integrated into the fabric of Filipino matrimonial ceremonies, embodying not just a promise of financial stewardship, but also representing a pledge of unwavering dedication to each other’s welfare.

This exchange is not merely a transaction but a poignant reminder of the couple’s responsibilities towards each other. It underscores the importance of trust, cooperation, and respect in the journey they are about to embark on together. By participating in this tradition, couples honor their heritage and bring into their marriage the timeless values of love, care, and mutual support that the Arras coins represent.


The Cord and Veil Ceremony


The Cord and Veil ceremony is a poignant part of Filipino wedding traditions, symbolizing the couple’s bond and the divine protection over their marriage. In this ritual, a ceremonial lace veil is draped over the couples’ head and/or shoulders by chosen sponsors or family members. This act is not just about physical unity but also represents the couple’s spiritual covering and the blessings bestowed upon their union. For couples, the veil signifies purity, enveloping the couple in a symbolic shield of love and commitment.


The Yugal or Unity Cord


Complementing the veil ceremony, the “Yugal” or unity cord, often a silken rope formed into a figure-eight, is gently placed over the couple’s shoulders. This distinct shape represents infinity, symbolizing a commitment that is designed to last for eternity. The cord is a visual representation of the couple’s everlasting bond and mutual support, highlighting the strength and permanence of their union. It serves as a reminder that in their journey through life, they are to remain interconnected, facing the world together with unwavering loyalty and love.


Modern Day Filipino Weddings


Modern Filipino weddings skillfully blend age-old traditions with contemporary elements, reflecting the evolving cultural landscape while maintaining deep-rooted values:

Integration of Technology: Modern celebrations may feature live-streaming to include distant relatives, showcasing the adaptability of traditional practices to contemporary needs.

Inclusivity and Diversity: Today’s weddings often embrace elements from various Filipino cultures and global traditions, honoring the couple’s diverse heritage and personal values in a unified celebration

Cultural Fusion in Attire: Modern Filipino couples often merge traditional wedding attire, such as the Barong Tagalog and Terno, with contemporary fashion trends, allowing for a beautiful representation of their heritage while catering to personal style and modern aesthetics.

Revival of Indigenous Practices: There’s a growing interest in incorporating indigenous Filipino wedding rituals and practices into modern ceremonies, reflecting a desire to reconnect with and celebrate the country’s rich pre-colonial history amidst contemporary settings, such as the inclusion of traditional music, dances, and ancient blessing rites.

A radiant bride in a white dress on her special day at a Filipino wedding.
NYC Wedding Photos on Rooftop with New York Skyline
A Filipino couple standing in front of a white wall at their Brooklyn wedding.

Filipino Wedding Inspiration


Cambio Co.

Cambio Co. Ethically-made, contemporary Filipino jewelry and accessories that celebrate the rich heritage of the Philippines. Embrace sustainable fashion with pieces crafted by talented Filipino artisans, perfect for those who value style, tradition, and social responsibility.

Sinta & Co.

Sinta & Co.  A curated selection of traditional Filipino wedding accessories and decor, blending timeless heritage with modern elegance for your special day. Find handcrafted, meaningful pieces that honor Filipino craftsmanship and culture, designed to make your wedding uniquely beautiful and deeply symbolic.

Vinta Gallery

Vinta Gallery. Showcasing a vibrant collection of Filipino-inspired fashion, offering a modern twist on traditional attire for every occasion. Dive into a world where heritage meets contemporary style, featuring unique, handcrafted pieces that celebrate the rich cultural tapestry of the Philippines.

Narra Studio

Narra Studio. Narra Studio is a POC, Filipina, & woman-owned brand dedicated to the artistry, weaving, and craft heritages of the Philippines and Asia. Established in New York City

Modern Filipino Weddings

The vibrant essence of Filipino weddings calls for photography that celebrates the rich tapestry of our traditions with modern sensibility. Schedule a consultation now and let’s connect on the unique spirit our Filipino heritage.

A Filipina woman gracefully accessorized with a pearl necklace during her wedding ceremony.
Filipino Wedding Inspriation Jose Melgarejo Photography