Filipino wedding traditions you should know

Cold Tea Collective writer shares five Filipino wedding traditions and what they mean
Filipino wedding elements
Photo Credit: George Ruiz

Five noteworthy Filipino wedding elements

Despite the trends that come and go annually, Asian traditions are still very common. For my wedding in 2016, I chose to incorporate a few Filipino wedding traditions subtly, because my husband and I determined that there weren’t going to be any elements from his Japanese ethnicity incorporated into the ceremony — we kept it pretty contemporary.

See also: Dear Kiki: I’m getting married and my family doesn’t approve. What should I do?

Here are five meaningful elements that you might experience at a Filipino wedding.

1. Men’s Barong Tagalog

The barong is a thin, finely embroidered tunic, worn untucked over a plain shirt at formal events, including weddings. Long sleeves are most common.

Lately, I’ve seen photos of women unconventionally wearing barongs too, instead of the Filipina Mestiza gown, a traditional formal dress made of expensive fabric adorned with embroideries.

My husband decided to have barongs made for his groomsmen for our wedding. The embroidery is beautiful, and it was a great tribute to my heritage. 

Filipino wedding traditions
Photo Credit: Tomasz Wagner

2. Lighting of candles & Unity Candle

Sponsors or parents of the wedding couple will light these candles, as is typical in Catholic ceremonies.

Some weddings include a Unity Candle that is lit with the bride and groom’s candles to signify the unison of the families and the presence of God guiding the couple into their new life.

3. Coins

Also known arras (pronounced “ahras”), arrhae (pronounced “ar-rah-heh”), or unity coins, wedding coins symbolize prosperity.

Traditionally, a priest would bless 13 portions of gold and silver coins. Sponsors gift the couple with the coins, or a coin bearer will bring them to the altar. Similar to the exchanging of the rings, the couple would pass the coins between themselves, or only from the groom to the bride.

4. Cord

The wedding cord, or Yugal, is typically a knotted, infinity-shaped cord that is presented by a sponsor and draped over the couple, to represent their bond. It can be made of silk, beads, flowers, or coins.

My parents’ wedding cord was the only physical item they kept from their wedding, and I decided to use it in a different way by placing it on our signing table during our ceremony. My wedding coordinator moved it to our head table, which was a meaningful surprise when I saw it during the reception.

While they are two separate elements, the cord ceremony usually takes place immediately after the veil ceremony, which involves a veil placed over the shoulders of the bride and groom.

Filipino wedding veil
Photo Credit: Jessica Hoang

5. Money dance

During the wedding reception, male guests line up to pin dollar bills to the bride’s veil or dress and dance with her. Female guests do the same on the groom’s clothes, to shower fortune on the newlyweds. This can also mark the start of the dancing portion of the wedding day.

Even if you and your partner don’t want an overly elaborate Asian wedding, using just a few elements can be meaningful, especially if it involves your parents or your relationship with them. “Traditions” can also seem new to your friends who have never seen or experienced them before.

Weddings are an opportunity to be thoughtful about the traditions that you’re incorporating into this new union in your life. We’d love to hear how you honoured, or are planning to honour, traditional elements at your wedding.

See also: The Fabulous Filipino Brothers: Telling authentic stories about family, Filipinos and values

This article was originally published in 2019 and was most recently updated in 2022.

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