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Philippines / Wedding Traditions in Asia

The Pamamanhikan Process: Rules & Script Explained

A couple’s decision to get married is a big happening for both. In the Philippines, the involved of parents are even more significant. The practice of asking the bride’s family for approval is an important one known as ‘Pamamanhikan’.

Follow the tradition of Pamamanhikan, gain the blessing of parents, and you’ll start your wedding life more happily ever after.

Pamamanhikan in English: Meaning

The meaning of the word ‘pamamanhikan’ is derived from the word ‘panhik’ (to climb) which means to ascend or climb the house’s stairs. This may sounds strange, and you perhaps wonder why this has anything to do with asking parents for your marriage approval. You’re not alone. Even many Filipinos don’t know.

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In the Philippines,  most houses in the past in  where built a flight of stairs to the entrance. As this isn’t the case anymore, the literal meaning of Pamamanhikan becomes less obvious.

Before Pamamanhikan: Paninilbihan

Before we explain the process of Pamamanhikan, there’s an important Filipino customs that happens before this event: Paninilbihan.

Paninilbihan” (Servitude) is a Filipino tradition usually done during courtship and before “pamamanhikan”. Paninilbihan is performed by the soon-to-be-groom by doing household chores such as “pagsisibak” (chopping firewood), ”pag-iigib” (fetching water), and many more. The Filipino elders say it’s a way for the groom to show that he is a responsible man. Some say paninilbihan is a dying tradition, I would say it is not since men subconsciously practice this tradition through modernized chores such as car and electrical repairs for their girlfriends and many other “modern” chores.

After this practice, you’re ready for Pamamanhikan!

The Art of Pamamanhikan

One of these customs is the Pamamanhikan and it is usually started by the Groom and his family.

Pamamanhikan process

  • During the “Pamamanhikan” the groom will first gain the approval of the bride-to-be’s parents by asking them for the daughter’s hands.
  • If the approval is given, the groom together with his family would then make a visit usually at dinner time. This is actually a way of showing courtesy.
  • Such a meeting often first starts with a basic introduction if the both families haven’t yet met.
  • Afterwards, the fundamentals of a wedding plan will be discussed such as, the wedding date, possible venues and who to invite.
  • Traditionally the groom and his parents must shoulder the wedding expenses, though some couple nowadays pays for their own wedding ceremonies, or sometimes the bride would help with some expenses. These arrangements particular can be discussed during the “Pamamanhikan”.

It’s important to note that this meeting’s program will significantly depend on whether the families already know each other. If it’s the first meeting, the focus of the event will mainly be about getting to know each other.

In some cases, the families already know each other well, and the emphasize will be placed directly on the wedding plans.

It’s important for both the groom and bride-to-be to individually share the news of engagement first. Once they each individually obtain their parents’ blessing, the meeting will be a smooth formality. If one side isn’t happy with the wedding, it’s generally not recommended to proceed with Pamamanhikan at all.


There’s no written rule whether both sides to presents gifts to each other. However, in practice this often happens. Sometimes, it’s only the visiting site to bring gifts. Other times, even the bride’s parents prepare a gift.

Preparing Food

If the meeting takes place at the bride’s parents’ home, it’s also generally the bride side who prepares the food. Sometimes, the grooms parents may bring some food as well, but this is less common.


In some cases, the location of the meeting may not take place at the bride’s home. The reason may be that the home is simply too small to host a meeting. This is especially the case if siblings tag along.

In such a case, sometimes it’s decided to host the meeting in a restaurant. If you happen to go for this option, one important consideration is to pick a restaurant with private rooms. This will allow for a more quiet environment to discuss plans.

Farewell to Single Life: Despedida de Soltera

The soon-to-be couple can also choose to have pre-wedding parties such as the Bachelors’ party and the Bridal shower. They are greatly influenced by American traditions and are only done if the couple agreed to do it. Even though traditional Filipinos are conservative in nature, these practices are now widely used due modernization and exposure to foreign countries and media. Another party which is common here in the Philippines is the “despedida de soltera” and it is done by the bride’s parents which is a way to bid farewell to single life, it is usually a formal dinner done days before the wedding.

Ethnic Group Practices

Ethnic groups also have their own unique pre-wedding practices, one would be the “Kagen” and “Taltag” done by Muslim Filipinos. It is a ceremony where the man begs for the parent’s approval, basically it is the counterpart of “Pamamanhikan”, the only distinction is the “dowry” offered.

“Palamas” also done by muslims is a spiritual cleansing done to cleanse the couple of their sins and evil spirits prior to the wedding ceremony.

In the mountainous regions of the Philippines, the Ifugaos have their traditional pre-wedding dance called the “takik”.

Other Pre-Wedding Beliefs

Determining the Wedding Date

Luckily picking a wedding date isn’t as constrained as in other Asian cultures. In China, for example, there are lucky dates known as ‘huang dao ji ri’ and a specific date may be chosen with help of a fortune teller.

In the Philippines there just important rule to keep in mind: Don’t marry in the same year as one of your siblings. If one does, it would mean bad luck for both siblings. Some families extend this rule to include cousins as well.

Buying Gifts For a Wedding

When you’re attending someone else’ wedding, don’t buy pearls or sharp gifts. Pearls symbolize tears. In fact, brides aren’t allowed to wear pearls as jewelry during the wedding day. The same reasoning applies to pear shaped gems, which are also associated with tears.

Sharp things are associated with weapons and aggression, which also don’t fit the meaning of a wedding.

No Travelling

The bride is supposed to be more careful during trips before the wedding. It’s believed that more ‘accidents’ can happen. Therefore, long trips should be avoided.

Don’t Try Out the Final Dress

The rules regarding this aspect isn’t very clear or consistent. Some families believes that the final dress shouldn’t be tried at all, while other say that one shouldn’t try the wedding dress the day before the wedding.

Ceremony Traditions

Now you know about all the pre-marriage customs! Now learn more about wedding ceremony customs & traditions in Philippines

Moving Into Your New Home

Getting married means you’ll move together under the same roof. In the Philippines, there’s a number of customs regarding this topic. Learn more about this, in the following guide:

Filipino Beliefs and Customs When Moving in to a New Home


Philippines is known for its rich culture, and some are credited to various colonizers. Filipinos incorporated foreign cultures with their own, and that is evident through almost every aspect of our way of life. From our food, the way we dress ourselves, up to our religion.

Wedding is not exempted as most of our wedding practices are influenced by Christian wedding cultures, though there are some practices which can be considered heritage and are practiced way before the first colonizers landed on the Philippines.

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Active traveller with a love for Asian food and Japanese anime.

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