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History of Wedding

Philippine Wedding | Wedding History

A lot of us get married without really knowing how these ceremonies come about, where it started, how it started. The wedding and every part of it has a rich history – from the wedding gown, the ring and the honeymoon. Here you get a glimpse of how this thing called wedding came about.

A lot of us would surely know the first couple: Adam and Eve. The first man and woman ordained by God to be husband and wife. Their union is the first record in history depicting unification between and man and a woman.

Marriage is viewed as an expression of love for one another and wanting to spend the rest of your life together. However, things were different in ancient times. Marriages then were about politics and survival. For centuries, matrimony has been a very public institution influenced by culture, tradition, religion and laws. Like most things, marriage has evolved over the centuries.

Wedding in Ancient Times

In early times, the women get kidnapped by the man and some of his trusted friends and/or relatives. Once the woman gets kidnapped, she becomes the property of the groom and a member of his tribe. The woman and the man would then stay away as long as possible to avoid retaliation.

The man’s companions later become the Best Man and Grooms Men. The period of time that the couples are away is now what is known as the honeymoon.

In other places, weddings are held to bring two tribes or high ranking families together. For some, the brides were sold or bartered for money, livestock, land or other goods. In some cases, marriages are used to elevate the social standing for one or both couples. Unlike now where the couples date first before marriage; couples then might not have even seen each other before their wedding day.

Weddings in the Medieval Times (452 AD to 1600 AD)

Philippine Wedding | Wedding History

In this period, a priestly blessing is required before couples are allowed to get married. Secret wedding ceremonies are also considered illegal. In spite of these developments, weddings were still arranged in many cases. Contracts, terms and rights are still drawn between the parties. Among royalty, weddings were arranged when the bride and groom were as young as ten or twelve years old. This kind of set-up is more about wealth, power and inheritance than love.

It may be conceived that marriages during the medieval times is all about money and power, but marriages based on love also happened during this period, mostly in the lower classes where possession and social standing was not so important.

Elizabethan Period (1558-1603)

During this period, you may imagine Cinderella in her nice gown with her prince charming. Weddings during this period are more like the weddings we have today, with the bridesmaids, wedding rings, and wedding vows. They already carry herbs or flowers and the setting is more like our fairy tales. However, in spite the happy ever after setting marriages during this time were also mostly arranged. The groom was also often presented with a picture of the bride before the wedding so he would know what she looked like even though they have not met before the wedding day.

One common reason for marriages in this period is the dowry. The groom was presented with a dowry which is technically similar to the barter during the medieval period but was considered as a wedding gift.

Wedding in Colonial Times (15th to 20th century)

During this period, marriages are more like closing business deals with the wealthy people where the men’s father writes a letter to the father of the women to ask for permission to court their daughter. If given the permission, the courtship will then take place, then negotiation of dowry, then the wedding.

Victorian Weddings (1837 to 1901)

This is the era where the idea on having a debut started. As soon as the woman finished school (at age seventeen or eighteen) would come out or make her debut. She was dolled up to make her look her best and attract potential suitors.

Though marriage these days have gone a long way compared to the marriages from the ancient Spartan times, the reason is still more of a business transaction than love. Land, money and family business of the women were carefully researched on since what belonged to the woman would be turned over to the man upon marrying. People from the upper classes will meet at social gatherings while the lower class meet through church and church sponsored events.

Women were already given some freedom in choosing their suitors but marriages are still considered as a business transaction. Good thing is that in this era, couples don’t marry unless they were a little fond of each other or somehow enjoyed each other’s company.

Weddings in the Philippines

Although arranged marriages had not really been part of Filipino life, weddings in the Philippines had also been greatly influenced by their western colonists. Men, however, were expected to get married to continue their bloodline. Men in their late twenties who are still unmarried were introduced to potential brides. Women, on the other hand, who reached the age of thirty-two and were still single were considered past the age of marriage. Divorce is illegal but annulment is available for the dissolution of a marriage.

Although the wedding ceremonies we see nowadays are basically the same as the rest of the world, the Philippines in pre-colonial times also had their own style in performing the wedding rites. Ceremonies during that era lasted for three days. On the first day, the couple was brought to the house of the babaylan (religious leader/shaman) who joined their hands over a plate of raw rice and blessed them. On the last day of the ceremony, the babaylan would prick the chest of the couple and drew a little blood. With joined hands, they would declare their love three times and eat cooked rice from the same plate. After eating, the bride and the groom were made to drink water mixed with their blood. The babaylan then declared them married after binding their hands and necks with a cord.

In the Philippine Muslim community, particularly the Tausugs, the wedding ceremony basically remained the same. Muslim weddings are normally arranged by the parents. The groom’s family looked for a suitable wife and drew a contract with the bride’s family – this includes a dowry. The Tausug also practice some kind of bride service where the groom-to-be would do minor chores for his future parents-in-law. The formal ceremony takes place at the house of the woman and is framed according to the Islamic law as a sacred contract between the groom and the girl’s father.