Philippine Wedding Traditions You Should Know [Gowns, Beliefs, and More]

February 9, 2023

Add a touch of Filipino culture to your wedding by incorporating Philippine wedding traditions into your big day. I’ve compiled an exhaustive list of interesting and romantic Philippine wedding traditions done before, during, and after the wedding. Read on to learn more about Filipino customs!

Before the Wedding

There are a plethora of uniquely Filipino practices done traditionally before the wedding. While some of these practices have been lost over time, many of them have evolved and are still widely practiced today.


This is one of the least practiced traditions in the entire list. Paninilbihan is when the groom performs household chores to show the bride’s family that he is a responsible man capable of taking care of a household.


This Philippine wedding tradition is considered the first official step in a Filipino wedding. Pamankihan is derived from the word “panhik, which means “to climb.” Specifically, it refers to climbing up a house’s front stairs. Traditionally, this is when the family of the groom visits the bride’s house for a meal. The specifics vary per region. In some regions, the groom and his family are meant to bring food, in others, they have to bring a dowry. The pamanhikan is a way of formally asking the bride’s parents to approve and bless the upcoming marriage. Nowadays, instead of the groom and his family visiting the bride’s house, the pamanhikan is usually done at a restaurant. 

Despedida de Soltera

Some consider the despedida de soltera as the Filipino version of a bridal shower. However, it is quite different from the bridal showers you see in Western culture. Despedida de soltera translates to “the farewell to the single woman.” Think of a despedida de soltera as a wholesome dinner hosted by the bride’s family and not a wild party planned by the maid of honor. 


This is also a tradition that is less practiced than others. The bulungan refers to when the families of the bride and groom come together to plan the wedding. However, there’s a catch, they must whisper so they do not attract bad spirits and misfortune. During the bulungan, the families discuss issues like setting the budget (in the Philippines, normally, the groom’s family pays for the wedding) and picking the date (sukob, when siblings are married in the same year, is a cause of misfortune and so must be avoided).  

During the Wedding

As Catholicism is the major religion of the Philippines, many Philippine wedding traditions are based on Catholic wedding traditions.

Filipiniana and Barong Tagalog

A list of Philippine wedding traditions wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Filipino traditional wear, the Filipiniana and the Barong Tagalog. Nowadays, many modern and even casual versions of the filipiniana and the barong tagalog exist. So, instead of the usual white ballgown and suit and tie or tuxedo, consider a filipiniana dress with its beautiful and iconic butterfly sleeves or a barong tagalog made out of piña fiber. You can even accessorize your outfit with a lacy panuelo (as seen on one of the most fashionable Filipino celebrities, Jess Wilson on her wedding day). Filipino designers Rosalyn Lagdameo, Jillian Joy, Veejay Floresca, Vania Romoff, JC Buendia, and Michael Cinco are just some of the artists who have perfected the filipiniana wedding gown. Click here to see filipiniana wedding gowns that you could wear for your big day! 


Aras or Arrhae

The aras or the arrhae is a wedding ornament with thirteen coins inside. Held by a cute coin bearer, twelve of the thirteen coins represents prosperity for each month of the year and the extra coin represents extra luck. During the ceremony, the groom puts the aras or arrhae on the bride’s hands. This Philippine wedding tradition started during the times of Spanish colonization, so it can also be seen in Spain and in Hispanic countries. 


In traditional Filipino weddings, a white veil is draped over and pinned to the groom and bride. Traditionally, this was meant to represent the authority of the man over the household and the helping role of the woman. However, the meaning of this practice has evolved, and now, it has come to represent the unity of the couple.

Cord or Rope

This is another tradition that represents the unity of the bride and groom. During the ceremony, after the wedding vows, the godparents or the ninang and ninong of the wedding loosely wrap the bride and groom in a cord or rope shaped like an infinity sign. In the past, a silken cord personally woven by the mother of the bride was used.

Throwing of Rice Grains

Throwing flowers is overrated. When the newlywed couple walks out of the church, they are instead showered with rice grains that symbolize the guests’ well wishes towards the bride and groom. This is an old tradition that originates from ancient times. In ancient Rome, they used wheat or oat seeds instead of rice. The only downside to this tradition is that tiny rice grains scattered all over the floor are a bit of a pain to clean up. 

During the Reception

Sabitan or Sayawan

This is a Philippine wedding tradition that every newlywed couple loves. The sabitan or sayawan is also known as the Money Dance. During the reception, the bride and groom dance and the guests pin paper bills on the clothes of the couple. This is a fun way of giving financial help to the newlyweds. In Filipino-Chinese culture, an angpao, or red envelope filled with money, is pinned instead. 


Aside from a regular wedding cake, kalamay, or sticky rice cake, is also served for dessert. The couple eats this Filipino delicacy together to symbolize that they will stick together throughout their married life.

Mixing Tradition and Modernity

Mix and match Philippine wedding traditions with modern practices to curate a celebration that is unique and distinctly representative of you. One informal modern wedding practice, which makes for a great movie montage, is pampering yourself before your wedding! Get a facial, mani-pedi, and a haircut, and get your teeth whitened! This is an important modern wedding practice because it helps you present yourself confidently during your big day and it ensures that you look beautiful or handsome in your wedding photos. In the Philippines, visit The Smile Bar in Ayala Malls Vertis North or in Uptown BGC for a teeth whitening appointment!


The Smile Bar – Uptown Parade BGC

Address: 2/f Uptown Parade, 9th Avenue, corner 36th St, Taguig

Opening hours: 10 AM – 10 PM

Telephone: 02 8541 2853

Instagram: @ thesmilebarph

The Smile Bar – Ayala Malls, Vertis North

Address: 4/f, Cinema level, Ayala Mall, Vertis North 173, Quezon City

Opening hours: 11 AM – 8 PM

Telephone: 0917 590 0792

Instagram: @ thesmilebarph


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