Five common Filipino wedding traditions you will want to know

From the ceremony to the reception, these five Filipino rituals endow couples with meaningful spiritual and economic gifts.

If you’re like me, you’re at the tail end of a busy wedding season — or perhaps you’re getting ready for nuptials of your own.

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 traditions subtly, some of which are listed below, 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.

If you haven’t been to a Filipino wedding yet, or if you were curious about some of the traditions you’ve seen at one in the past, here are five meaningful elements that you might experience at a Filipino wedding.

Photo Credit: George Ruiz

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.

After wearing a three-piece suit in the summer heat at his friend’s wedding, 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. 

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 will add 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 in gold and silver, 13 portions of coins are blessed by the priest. 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 coins are passed between the couple, 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.

Since my parents’ wedding cord was the only physical item they had kept from their wedding, I used 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 made for an even more 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.

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, while 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.

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