Arrhae [ar-rah-heh] are not peculiar to Philippines; many cultures, such as Hispanic, use wedding coins or tokens to symbolise the groom's ability and promise to support his new family. In Philippines these tokens are offered by the bride like a dowry and are called Arras [ah‑rahs].
Originally, the husband's role was the provider and the wife's role the home-maker. Arras were both given and received, not in a spirit of reciprocity, but in a give/take relationship. Nowadays the coins are a reminder that the couple will dedicate themselves to one another, support each other, their children and the world around them.
Typically there are 13 gold or silver coins. Thirteen symbolises Christ and His twelve disciples. The coins may be real currency or specially struck tokens. They might be handed down from an earlier generation, or a gift from the jeweller who sold the wedding rings. Using an odd-number of coins is similar to the tradition in Japan, where the odd number is a useful reminder that it cannot be cleanly divided in two, thereby wishing that the couple will stay together forever.
In bi-cultural weddings, such as James and Nila's, an even-number of coins might be chosen; half from one country and half from the other. This mixing of coins is considered additional symbolism by some people, but others view it as focusing too much on the bi-cultural angle. The occasion is not so much a Filipina lady and American man getting married; rather two people in love, joining together to make one couple.
There can be any number of coins, except 30 - this being the number of coins accepted by Judas for betraying Jesus. (Matt. 26:15)
James and Nila have chosen the traditional 13 tokens.
The coins are offered on a pillow by the Coin Bearer:
Lord, bless these coins. Grant (groom's name) and (bride's name) not only material possessions, but abundant spiritual strength, which these coins symbolize, so that they may bless others.
Hold the coins in your hands as a sign that your blessings will no longer be held separately, but together. And may you always show that whatever gift you may have in this life is not ultimately yours but the Lord's.
As the couple exchange the coins:
(groom's name), take these coins as a pledge of our commitment to share God's gifts.
(bride's name), I accept and treasure your gift. Let us together always share God's blessings.
May God bless these arras as a sign of mutual support and responsibility.
I give you these coins as a pledge of my dedication to you, the care of our home, and the welfare of our children.
I accept them and in the same way pledge my dedication to you, the care of our home, and the welfare of our children.
The groom lets the coins fall into the hands of the bride
(bride's name), accept these coins as a pledge of my total dedication and constant concern for your welfare. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.