Saturday, June 10, 2017

A Filipino Wedding

Unlike the U.S., the authority to solemnize marriages in the Philippines is strictly limited by the government.  I have never sought such authority because of the paperwork and costs.  Anyway, we have always had one or two pastors who had obtained such authority.  My preference has always been for new couples to bond with their pastor rather than with me.

It is also a known fact that many couples here in the Philippines live together out of wedlock, not because they don’t want to be married, but because of the cost.  Like in the U.S., weddings are expensive.  A lavish meal is even expected as part of the ceremony.  Also, completing a marriage license can be difficult for a couple when government officials insist on bribes before they approve the license.

So, when a sweet young couple in one of our churches asked me to officiate their wedding, I referred them to one of our pastors.  Unfortunately, that pastor was leaving for the U.S., leaving only one other pastor who had a marriage license.  “Mark,” he said, “why don’t you just officiate the wedding and I will sign the certificate.”  I agreed.

A Filipino wedding is complicated.  In addition to the traditional parts in American weddings (giving away the bride, the message, exchange of vows and rings, and the pronouncement) Filipino weddings add the recognition of sponsors, the giving of coins, the covering of the veil, and the wrapping of the cord.  But no problem, I knew there would be a rehearsal the night before the wedding and I could familiarize myself with how to conduct these parts of the ceremony.

However, other than the couple, the principle people in the ceremony didn’t show up for the rehearsal.  Most Filipinos just don’t see the need for it.  Unless there is a meal, why come?  So, the rehearsal time was cut short and since I was over 2 hours away from home, I spent the night in a cheap hotel.  

The ceremony was scheduled to begin at 9 the next morning but, in typical fashion, began closer to 10 a.m.  The view from the seaside “resort” was beautiful.  From the outdoor podium shaded by palm trees, I could see distant islands surrounded by deep blue ocean water.  When I asked, “who gives away the bride”, her parents had to be alerted and nudged that this is where they were supposed to say something.  During a special number, I even had to step aside and ask a friend to explain to me the meaning of the vail and cord.

At various points in the ceremony a few people had to be instructed ‘on the run’, but overall the event proceeded relatively well.  The message gave me an opportunity to explain God’s purposes for marriage and the difference between a contract and a covenant.  All seemed pleased with the ceremony, especially with the meal that followed.  Despite the inconveniences and lapses, I was blessed to play a small part in the union of a godly couple.

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