Filipino Weddings and Family Expectations: Here's How To Manage Both

Filipino Weddings & Family Expectations: Here’s How To Manage Both

Congratulations, you’re getting married! One thing’s for sure: it’s going to be a celebration of love between you and your partner. A joyous moment to mark the beginning of your lives as a married couple.

But as you’re swept into the full swing of wedding planning, remember, this isn’t just any event. It’s a Filipino wedding. Which means a million and one opinions out there from your well-meaning family and friends.

From a culture which highly values community and family ties it’s safe to say that couples with Filipino families should be prepared for a bittersweet deluge of questions, suggestions, and expectations.

A Filipino family might automatically expect a lavish church wedding with a reception that serves as a grand reunion. A chance to return the favor to a relative or family friend, a show of good faith, or something that a lot of Filipinos have to remember: utang na loob or “debt of prime obligation.”

You might hear phrases like, “Do you remember my cousin from Mindanao? They were your ninang sa binyag (godmother at your baptism). I invited them to your wedding!”  

From high-level planning down to the finer details, without preparing for it, you’ll start receiving a never-ending list of suggestions.

It can get stressful and overwhelming. Hang in therewe’ve got you. Keep the following in mind when dealing with your Filipino family’s expectations while wedding planning:

In Filipino culture, a wedding is a community gatheringwith all its joy and its expectations. Photo by Jesus Rocha.

Tip #1: Remember this is your Filipino wedding. Own the process.

It can be overwhelming, but own the process. If you haven’t already, sit down with your partner and set clear wedding goals. What you, as a couple, want your celebration to look like matters the most.

Don’t be shy to set your non-negotiables. Is that an intimate guest list with only the wedding party and your immediate family? Keep it small, then! Are you bringing Filipino traditions into the wedding ceremony? Identify all the important and meaningful elements that you want on your wedding day. This is the beginning of the rest of your lives together, follow your heart’s desires!

Tip #2: Focus on planning your dream Filipino wedding, not anybody else’s. 

Despite what the neighborhood tsismosa (gossip) might say, weddings shouldn’t be a competition of who had the grandest event. Plan the wedding you want.

Remember, you can still achieve your dream wedding even on a tight budget. Forget about having the most lavish or most expensive party, focus on having a meaningful and memorable wedding that speaks to your love story as a couple. 

Hit up the journal for stories of real Filipino weddings and the ways they made the day theirs, big budget or small.

Tip #3: Set clear boundaries with your friends and family. 

You don’t need to tell your titas or friends every detail of your wedding in advance. Sometimes, the more people know in advance, the more opinions they’ll feel entitled to share.

Decide on your confidantes, your entourage of closest friends and family whose opinions matter the most to you. For everyone else, communicate details on a “need to know” basis. For the nosy relatives, simply say, “We’ve already taken care of it.”

Confidantes are key to enforcing your boundaries while wedding planning.
Photo by Love Anne Joy.

Tip #4: Communication is (always) the key.

You’re not the villain or “bridezilla” if you have to turn down requests eventually. It’s totally okay if not everyone is part of the guest list. It’s okay if you can’t include all your friends in your entourage. And it’s okay if your vision of a wedding is different from your parents.

There are a lot of puzzle pieces to fit while planning your wedding, and you’rebound to encounter difficult decisions at some point. Just be ready to communicate your reasons and intentions from a place of truth and empathy. Believe everything can be settled over truthful conversations.

Tip #5: Include your family in the process. 

For the most part, involving your families in some way can alleviate many of your planning pain points. Bring them in on your vision so that everyone is aligned..

Delegate a task or project, so they feel included in the wedding planning process. Fielding questions and requests from family members is a big source of wedding stress, so choose someone you trust and designate them as the point person to direct your family's questions to.

Delegating is a nice way to bring the family together, while still maintaining control of the overall event.

Tip #6: Take breaks with your partner. 

Most important of all is to set aside time each week when you won’t talk about wedding planning. Continue to plan romantic date nights and make time to just enjoy being together! Maybe put on our Filipino love songs playlist.

When wedding planning gets overwhelming, take a break with your partner.
Photo by Taylor Hernandez.

Trust the process (and your wedding planner, especially if that’s you!). Despite your best intentions and best-laid plans, some things are bound to get complicated.

You’ll have to revise that guest list repeatedly, you’ll have to screen lots of vendors for the ones that match your vision, you’ll have to do multiple gown and suit fittings, and the list goes on. 

But everything will get better. And next thing you know, it’s your big day, you’re walking down the aisle, staring the love of your life in the eyes, and it will all have been worth it. Everything else, the overwhelming expectations and pressure, fades to the background.

Don’t get discouraged, for these are all parts of the process. Surround yourself with supportive people who’ll make your wedding planning journey less stressful and more fun!

*Cover photo by Christian Diaz

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Pia Cortez

Jerome Gagnon-Voyer

Pia Cortez is a diasporic, digital nomad currently based in the Philippines. Having grown up in Pampanga and then in the Bay Area in her teens, she is back freediving, writing, eating and traveling her way through the homeland (with a mask & face shield on). She is an editor for and Hella Pinay, and her work has appeared on New Life Quarterly, Lambda Literary, Positively Filipino, Hella Pinay,, SF Examiner and others. Follow her journey on Instagram at @_piacortez

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