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Filipino Weddings: Beyond Bride and Groom

The two weddings I attended this past month again brought home this thought – that a Catholic Filipino wedding ritual has ramifications beyond the union of bride and groom. It’s a celebration of family solidarity, an event to strengthen alliances with friends and colleagues, an occasion to forge community ties, and a time for Holy Mother the Church to make sure the Lord becomes a partner in the couple’s wedded life.

But enough of these manifest functions.

The wedding ritual also asserts the primacy of heterosexual unions; the primacy of public rituals over private affairs; the indissolubility of marriage (and the distaste for divorce); the desirability of procreation; the superiority of men over women, and the dependence on families of orientation, now with godparents included, for guidance and support.

In short, the ritual — staged in relatively plush settings to symbolize one’s status – affirms the power of family and church to direct the couple’s life and to propagate an ideology that will sustain that power.

So much for latent functions.

The point is: weddings enable and constrain, and I feel most couples prefer a ceremony that’s more enabling than constraining. The choice of some couples to defray all wedding expenses (as was the case in the two weddings I attended) is a subtle attempt of bride and groom to lessen that constraint, wield a little power, and assert their independence. I wish the couples good luck! The power of social institutions is not as easy to break as the wine glasses we tinkled to get the groom to kiss the bride.

Archived: Department of Sociology and Anthropology blog.


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