Weddings in Philippines

Cake design based on steeple of St. Bride's, London

Philippines has fabulous customs, especially when it comes to weddings, using a mix of earlier Filipino traditions and later Latin customs introduced by their colonial masters. The weddings reflect the strong traditions of family - and extended family. Therefore Filipino wedding ceremonies typically involve many people and the wedding rituals 'speak' to the couple personally.

A Philippine Wedding Ceremony

This page built around the true story of James and Nila, who married in Philippines and then had a Filipino wedding (Kasalan) in America.

Each part of the story links to a separate page which includes the script used by the pastor and the couple for their ceremony in America.

James is American and Nila is Filipina. They were married in a Civil Ceremony at the Pasig City Court House, Manila, Philippines, on 4 July 2007. Here are photos Jim sent us from around that time:

Click any photo
to enlarge

The participants

Guests at any wedding are often considered to be little more than spectators, but actually they are much more significant than that; they are the witnesses to a very special occasion. In James and Nila's case, because of the modest size of the venue and the distances involved, it was not possible for all their family members and friends to attend. This meant those who did attend had an even more important role to play in the ceremony.

And beyond.

Like god-parents at a baptism, the role of the attendants continues throughout the married life of the couple, helping and guiding.

The principal attendants are known as 'sponsors'; male sponsors are ninongs and female sponsors are ninangs. In Philippines, the number of sponsors can be just one couple or perhaps as many as two dozen. They are women and men whom the bride and groom respect and admire, perhaps aunts and uncles or close friends of the family. As in the early days of the Church, the sponsors attest to the couple's readiness for marriage and freedom to marry. In Philippines, they are also the official State witnesses and sign the marriage licence. Worldwide, their participation is symbolic of the wisdom and support they will offer the new couple.

The Principal sponsors are part of the bridal procession. At the nuptial blessing, they may also be invited to approach the pastor and extend their right hands to join in the prayer of blessing. In doing so, they are fulfilling their roles as sponsors. The Secondary Sponsors are women and men whom the couple choose to involve in their ceremony because of their affinity or friendship. They are typically relatives or close friends.

The Principal Sponsors are the Coin Bearers, Veil Sponsors, Cord Sponsors, and Candle Lighters. For James and Nila's wedding, these tasks were undertaken by Stephen Griffith Earnhardt as Principal Sponsor & Best Man, and Karmen Slater Earnhardt as Principal Sponsor & Matron of Honour. Both Stephen and Karmen are from Jim's side of the family. The Coin Bearer and Ring Bearer was Stephen Tyler. The Candle Lighters were Ben and Shell.


Baro-ng Tagalog
Baro-ng Tagalog

Brides in Philippines usually wear a white dress, similar to those seen in the West. Nila took one from Philippines for her wedding and also wore a white orchid in her hair. Grooms and other male guests usually wear a traditional white Baro ng Tagalog with black trousers. The baro is a thin silky embroidered shirt which is worn over a white tee-shirt. James wore a white jussi Barong Tagalog embroidered with black thread, plus a special black tie with a pearl pin, and a black & white beaded necklace, black trousers and black shoes.


James and Nila chose the following music and songs for their wedding:

  • Elsa's Wedding Procession to the Chapel from 'Lohengrin' by Richard Wagner
  • Ebb Tide Original version sung by Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers
  • Unchained Melody Original version sung by Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers
  • Lady Written by Lionel Ritchie, sung by Kenny Rodgers

All wonderful songs of course, but Western. Since James and Nila are a marriage of East and West, they included several Eastern elements. Filipino weddings have some beautiful traditions that James and Nila incorporated into their wedding, including coins, rope and candles. (Props for a conjuring trick? Read on...)

Bible Reading

Having decided on a poetic version of a Bible passage, all was now set for the start of the Ceremony.

The Ceremony

The Couple enter the chapel with the Sponsors and the Pastor announces the start of the wedding.

Blessing of the Arrhae (Arras)

The coins are blessed and exchanged.

Prayers for Couple's Veil

Veil Sponsors place a white veil over the bride's head and the groom's shoulders. The pastor explains the importance of the veil and offers a prayer.

Prayers for Couple's Cord

Cord Sponsors drape a yugal in a figure-eight shape over the couple's shoulders, rather like a lasso but with the reverence given to a rosary. The figure-eight is like the infinity symbol, meaning everlasting love.

Wedding Vows and Wedding Ring Ceremony

It is difficult to imagine a more important part of the wedding than this.

Prayers for Candles

Candles are more than just lovely ornaments; they add a bright and warm ambience to any situation. Whether scented with incense or packed with dust to emit sparks when lit, candles are alive.


The final blessing of the couple and the congregation.

Marriage Pronouncement, Wedding Kiss, and Recession

A contractual kiss. What better way is there to end the ceremony!

For your convenience, the whole script is also available in Adobe pdf icon pdf format.

Jim and Nila have kindly provided some additional notes about the legal requirements and procedures involved, plus their own experience of a Western-style wedding in Philippines. This is also in Adobe pdf icon pdf format.

See also our footnote on intercultural marriages


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