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Weddings In The Philippines: Civil or Church Wedding?

Updated on January 18, 2016

A New Wedding Tradition

Witness a new wedding tradition being born.

Joking aside, weddings are no laughing matter. From the months of preparation to the lifetime of marriage that follows, it is a very important chapter in the lives of those affected: the bride, the groom, and their families.

In the process of planning my own wedding, I have learned some things about weddings here in the Philippines. And although the basic events are standard for any marriage - ceremony then wedding reception - I have found certain nuances that I find interesting.

#1. Who's Invited?

Filipinos and Chinese-Filipinos (like myself) are known to have close-knit extended families. News travels quickly around this tight yet large circle, and news about a wedding ranks high in the list of gossip-worthy topics (next to premarital pregnancies). This brings us to the question of inviting guests to the wedding.

If we invited all our relatives to our wedding, the guest list could easily reach 500 or more. My father had 5 brothers and 6 sisters, all but 2 married with children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. Toss in the relatives from my mother's side and my fiance's relatives from both parents (by the way, his parents have big families, too) and we have ourselves a serious budget problem.

We could of course just not invite some of them, but that I was told would "hurt the feelings" of those uninvited. I suggested just inviting immediate family but was told that that was out of the question. It seems that there's an unwritten rule about it: All relatives MUST be invited to every wedding in the clan.

#2. What? No Church Wedding?

That is the most likely reaction you will get if you opt not to have a church wedding. And then everyone starts wondering if you've converted to Satanism. They give you those odd looks, and the older conservative religious people in the family (no offense) may even attempt to exorcise the devil out of you.

#3. Will You Dance With Me?

I have attended quite a few weddings in my life and I have never been to one where the people danced like in the movies. You know, when the DJ or band plays a cool tune and everyone gets up and lets loose? Here, it seems that people prefer to sit at their table and talk about / size up the bride (if they're a friend of the groom) or talk about / size up the groom (if they're a friend of the bride).

Wedding Thriller Dance

Watch this world-famous wedding reception dance.

#4. Tossing Of The Bouquet

Our version of the "Tossing Of The Bouquet" is probably one of the most pathetic in the world. I don't know how it is in other cities here in the Philippines, but in Cebu where I live it's usually very lame. First, the emcee has to coerce the ladies to join the activity because nobody ever wants to be part of it. And second, when the bride tosses the bouquet, nobody makes any effort to catch it at all. Some even make a subtle movement away from the flower-missile's trajectory. So the bouquet lands where it lands, sometimes on the floor.

And the countdown to my wedding continues...

Post-Wedding Reflections

I got my way and didn't have a church wedding. Instead, we had a civil wedding with immediate family and friends and then, to compromise with Princeton, we had a casual wedding dinner with relatives and close friends. Even though we tried to keep the number of guests to a maximum of 150, we ended up with 200+. But I enjoyed it. I'll write more about it when I get over the post-two-week-honeymoon laziness.


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    • Susan Ng profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Ng Yu 

      7 years ago

      Hi, mariefe. Best wishes on your wedding! I'm sorry but I've never been to Macau so I can't compare...

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      i am marie we are planning to hve our wedding?which is nice phils or macau.?

    • profile image

      Robert Haighton 

      7 years ago

      I enjoyed reading. If I (Dutch) will ever marry my current Philippine girlfriend then I will choose for a civil wedding and only inviting the closest of friends.

      @Thelma. I know a lot about the Phili culture & traditions but so far no one took the time to explain me why it is so different compared to the rest of the world. I can only understand when it is explained why.


      the Netherlands

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      8 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      I know what you are talking about because I was married in the Philippines. It was difficult at that time for me to answer my husband how many guests we were having. Lol, it is always difficult for a foreigner to understand our culture and tradition. Great hub. Thanks for sharing.

    • imjason707 profile image


      9 years ago from Napa California

      I chose to elope, kind of regret it now. Best of luch to you.

    • Susan Ng profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Ng Yu 

      10 years ago

      Hehe... :) Actually, we just had our first anniversary this July, but thanks Charia. :)

    • Charia Samher profile image

      Charia Samher 

      10 years ago

      I saw u on my hubtivity and followed you here. I too had a civil wedding and in the reception we have invited the closest relatives and friends. So I guess you are heading on your 2nd year anniv. Happy anniversary! =)

      Oh may I just add that I have heard this line so many times before my wedding "What? No church wedding?" LOL!

    • Susan Ng profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Ng Yu 

      10 years ago

      Hehe... I had forgotten about this hub. Looking back now, it all seems really funny, but at the time it was very stressing. Haha! :D Thanks, everyone. And congratulations, bryguy1. :)

    • bryguy1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Thanks for the information Susan. I'm currently engaged to a filipino Woman so this is very informative for me. We don't plan to have a BIG wedding but it's still nice to learn more about the Filipino Culture. Great post and very entertaining also with the videos. Thank you.

    • JosefS profile image


      10 years ago from Lisa Wellington from Canada

      Nice hub, well written and informative. It's always interesting to learn about different wedding traditions. Thanks.

    • profile image

      yu yan chuew 

      10 years ago

      i don't wanna invite too many only one in my family..i just invite my parents and 2 close chinese friends...for his side..i l suggest him to invite the important ppl only...not more than 58. hahha...and i m not christian. i don't know if i need make it in the church...thinking about it now....

    • profile image

      wedding photographer gold coast 

      10 years ago

      @Susan Ng there seems to be a growing trend of couples eloping between Philippines and the Gold Coast in the last few years. Some come here and some go there. Couples seem not to like their own backyards these days.

    • stylezink profile image


      11 years ago from Atlanta, GA.

      You forgot to mention the men must where barongs, lol. And to serve Lumpia at the reception.

      Great hub!

    • doncarlin profile image


      11 years ago from Tempe Arizona

      A very excellent hub! I enjoyed reading it.

      I don't think there are any finer women than Filipina women. The smartest thing I ever did was to marry one; the stupidest thing by far was to lose her. Great work!

    • cgull8m profile image


      11 years ago from North Carolina

      Great dancing, weddings should be like this lots of fun. Cheers :)

    • stevemark122000 profile image


      11 years ago from Southern California

      Interesting Hub, thanks.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      11 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Reading about the things we do makes me smile. I guess our customs and traditions have gone way over our head. I am sure now in this time and age, and depending on the openess, it is okay to do what we feel we should do. And the relatives should be able to grin and bear it? LOL

    • Susan Ng profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Ng Yu 

      11 years ago

      Thank goodness, Charmaine, I am not alone! Haha! :D

    • Susan Ng profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Ng Yu 

      11 years ago

      Thanks, Grandma Johnson. :) You know, it actually would be a lot less stressful to elope. If only... hehe. :P

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hahahaha! Tinuod gyud, sis. I still thank my sister for being my wedding coordinator. She had this incredible ideas on how to "empower" guests to participate during the reception. I also had a hard time figuring out whom to invite since everyone wants to be invited. I hate it that most Filipinos are too conservative (kuno. That is why planning weddings here in the Philippines is quite difficult. Lahi ra gyud ang pinoy uy.

    • G-Ma Johnson profile image

      Merle Ann Johnson 

      11 years ago from NW in the land of the Free

      Loved the line dancing..:o) Good luck sweetie and best wishes..I have no advise for you since I eloped years ago and after 15 yrs. divorced and then after a 33 year affair got dumped....God Bless You G-Ma :o) hugs


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