This page tells the unseen side of the story of my wedding to Elsa in March 2009 and is intended to be a general guide and checklist to those of you who are thinking of getting married to your partner here in Cebu.

The costs and legal requirements mentioned were current in early 2009 and may change or increase as time passes. This check list is intended as a guide to those planning to organize their own wedding in Cebu and no liability will be accepted for incorrect or misleading information. Should you require our help on a professional basis, we would be only too pleased to help you. Click on the links below for a guide to the rules, customs and costs of getting married in Cebu.

  • Legal Requirements
  • The Wedding Ceremony
  • The Wedding Reception


This is one of the areas of service where there was the biggest variation in price from the most expensive to the least expensive. Our so called “wedding planners” were all talking of a figure around 45,000 pesos to get a photographer to cover both the wedding ceremony and the reception. This was to cover an unlimited number of still photographs and a video record of the actual day – an album was to be included for the still shots and an edited DVD would be made of the whole event.

When we decided to plan the day ourselves, we had top quote of 35,000 pesos which included an “imported” photo album to contain the pictures. After searching around we found a local photographer that Elsa had used before who offered us the same package for 7,000 pesos, although we added a further 2,000 pesos for a guest’s signature/message board. The worry with using any photographer is that if they are no good or something goes wrong on the day, you can’t just go back and do it all again – bad photos will be all the memories you will have of the day.

Our chosen photographer was there in person, on time, with a small team of assistants and the results were very good. We paid a 50% deposit and didn’t have to pay the balance until we were satisfied with the results. Elsa has uploaded the entire DVD of the day on to You tube so you can judge for yourself the quality of our “cheap” photographer – just search for “cebu1231? – be aware there are 12 ten minute episodes lasting nearly 2 hours.


The appearance of the bride in her beautiful wedding dress is one of the most important and emotional moments in the entire wedding for the woman, and a very moving moment for the man also. The woman feels so special and beautiful in her gown and every bride has a different idea of how she wants to look – the man may have some input into the choice, but it is important to remember it is her day!

However, while there are many choices concerning the type of dress the dress you may want, there are 3 basic choices about how to obtain it:

Buy ready made – most wedding stores have a range of ready made gowns and books showing the designs they can make up for you – prices that we encountered started around 15,000 pesos and went up to prices way beyond that.

Designer gowns – there are many well known local designers in Cebu, who specialize in wedding and evening gowns that will design and make anything you want – we only looked at one designer and the price quoted was 25,000 pesos

Rental gowns – Most wedding gown stores offer dresses for rental and the price will vary according to the style chosen and how many times the dress has been worn before – the first use of a dress is priced at a premium. Elsa’s beautiful wedding gown was part of a rental package which included the dresses for 1 Maid of Honour, 4 Bridesmaids and 3 Flower Girls – also included in the package were accessories such as flower baskets, cushions, garter, etc. The price of this complete rental package for the bride and attendants was 10,000 pesos.


In a traditional Filipino wedding, the groom will wear a “barong”, the embroidered formal garment of the Philippines It is very lightweight and worn untucked over an undershirt. You can buy a decent looking new barong from about 1,000 pesos but you can spend an aweful lot more for a top of the range one. Renting a barong starts at around 250 pesos.

What the groom chooses to wear is a matter of personal taste and I have attended different weddings in Cebu where the grooms wore a kilt, a western- style lounge suit and even an Hawaiian shirt with shorts. It’s up to you!!


As with the clothes for the Bride and Groom, the choice of style, whether to buy or rent and the budget available is a matter of personal choice.

We chose to rent and paid 10,000 pesos for the following:

The Wedding Gown for the Bride
8 gowns for the 5 senior and 3 junior female attendants
8 barongs for the 5 senior male and 3 junior male attendants

We didn’t use the included barongs and paid an extra 1,250 pesos for 5 “first use” barongs


This is an area of personal choice and the rings chosen will be different from one couple to the next depending on style preferences and budget. Without giving away how much I spent on our rings, the price range for an engagement ring is from about 10,000 pesos up, and for a pair of wedding rings you can count on spending a minimum of 20,000 pesos. The wedding rings are usually tied to a satin cushion and brought to the celebrant during the wedding by one of the male junior attendants. Alternatively, the best man can just keep them in his pocket until he is asked for them.


We had 3 male “Bearers, aged between 10 and 3 years old, to bring items needed for the ceremony to the celebrant. They carried them on satin cushions, each one slightly different so as to carry a particular item. Each wore a small barong like the groomsmen. One carried the wedding rings which I have discussed earlier, the other 2 carried the items below:

The “Arras” – The groom gives the bride thirteen coins, or “arras”, blessed by the priest, as a sign of his dedication to his wife’s well-being and the welfare of their future children. Symbolically, the groom is promising he will be there to protect her and will share all his worldly possessions with her. They are traditionally gold or silver, but gold or silver plated coins are now common as well. They are usually brought to the celebrant on a cushion by one of the junior male attendants (bearers).

The Bible and the Wedding Contract – our special family bible brought by one of the bearers to the priest, who blessed it.


To match with the 3 male bearers, we had 3 “Flower Girls” who went up the aisle before the Bride, throwing rose petals on the red carpets to highlight her entrance. They were aged between 8 and 3 years old and looked fantastic in small versions of the gowns worn by the bridesmaids.


Before we started planning the wedding, I had never heard of “wedding sponsors” and I thought they would be helping me to pay for part or all of the day. I had visions of the aisle of the church lined with ads promoting their restaurants, dress shops, etc – I even thought they might want me to wear a placard on my back as I walked down the aisle. However I was soon put right and no money passed hands.

We chose three couples to be our Primary sponsors It was explained to me, apart from being the witnesses who will sign the marriage contract, they are to undertake the role of advisors, quasi-guardians and spiritual mentors to the couple throughout the course of the marriage. I think it is similar to the role that godparents promise to take on during the baptism of a child.

After the celebrant has declared the couple “man and wife’, or during the ceremony, they will be the one’s to witness the signatures of the couple and the celebrant.


These are usually good friends or important people known to the couple and each would normally have a different function during the ceremony, which I have detailed below; but because we were married by a Baptist Pastor, we did not use them in any of these roles.

The Candle Sponsors – will each light wedding candles which are positioned on either side of the bride and groom. When lit, the flames from the candles symbolize the presence of God within the union. that, apart from the duties they will perform at the actual wedding.

The Veil Sponsors – they place and pin the veil, made of white tuille on the groom’s shoulder and then over the bride’s head. This symbolizes the union of the couple, “clothed” as one.

The Cord Sponsors – tie the couple with a silk cord around their necks in a loose figure of eight shape. This symbolizes the infinity of the bond of marriage.


Being a musician myself, this for me was one of the most important things to organize for the ceremony. Of course, our primary sense is sight and everyone is straining to catch sight of the wedding party as they enter the church, but the music played during the ceremony sets the mood and emotions of the gathering. The music you need to choose can generally be broken up into 3 main parts:

The Entrance (Processional) – we had 4 different pieces of music – one for the entrance of the celebrant and sponsors, one for the entrance of the groom and groomsmen, one for the entrance of the maid of Honour and other female attendants and one for the entry of the bride. Each was subtly different in style, pace and impact to reflect who was being “announced”. Click on the song title to listen to our choices.

The Celebrant, etc – “Spring” by Vivaldi – light, bright, joyous and celebratory

The Groom, etc – “Air on the G string” by Bach played on electric guitar – classical, strong, proud and masculine.

The Bridesmaids – “Canon in D major” by Pachelbel – light, dainty and peaceful

The Bride – “Trumpet Voluntary” by Clark – a graceful fanfare announcing an important event

The Interlude Music – this is the music that is used as a “fill in” during the time when the couple are signing the marriage Contract. Depending on the celebrant, you will need up to 10 minutes of music to cover this lull in the proceedings, when often the couple are out of sight of the wedding guests. Many couples use this as an opportunity to use a Wedding Singer – the right music can make this boring time, interesting. These were our choices:
“This is the day”
“Psalm 23?
“Washed in the Blood”

The Exit (Recessional) – the end of the ceremony should be a time of joy and celebration, and your choice of music here should reflect this – aim for something upbeat, joyous and celebratory. We chose “The Wedding March” from “A Mid-summer Night’s Dream” by Mendelssohn


Using a wedding singer during the ceremony is a matter of personal choice. For me, the appearance of a “performer” takes the spotlight away from the most important people on the day – the couple who are being married. We did however get quotes that ranged from 500 pesos to 1500 pesos for one or two songs. If you want one, I’ll willingly sing three songs for you for 1,000 pesos.


As I say on the previous page advertising my services, we decided to do without one. We wanted to have more say over how much money we spent,and felt that all of the co-ordinators we interviewed where trying to make money out of each of the different parts of the wedding. We were promised “wonderful” flower arrangements for 35,000 pesos but felt that the co-ordinator would pay the florist 15,000 pesos and keep the rest for themselves. This fine because they needed to be paid for their services, but they were taking a “cut” from each and every one of the service providers we needed – with their fees on top, they stood to make 50,000 to 100,000 pesos of our money.

Elsa and I can save you an awful lot of time, money and frustration in your search for these type of service providers – florists, photographers, bands, cake makers, etc.. We looked at using local wedding planners when we first set out to organize the wedding, and had quotes for the day of between 250,000 and 450,000php. Our wedding for 100 people at White Sands Beach Resort actually cost us about 150,000php

It is difficult to set a detailed fee structure for this service as some couples will want more involvement with the planning and some might want to leave most of it to us. The basic rule of our Wedding Planning Service is that we will provide receipts or quotes for each service provider we use, and will guarantee that we will not receive any payment from them in return for recommending them.

In short, we will provide the best, quality service within your budget, at the lowest price we can negotiate with no “add ons” for us. Our fee will depend on what you want, but will be a separate, declared amount. As an indication, we would charge 30,000php for a fully organized wedding. This would provide all the co-ordination prior to the actual day, organizing and controlling both the ceremony and the reception, and providing the Master of Ceremony services.


Cebu offers the couple a vast array of venues, each different in terms of cost, style and location. You can chose to hold your wedding in a hotel, a resort, a restaurant, a function centre or even at home.

Elsa and I both wanted our wedding to be held at a resort and spent many long hours driving from one to the other, looking at the venues and getting details about the packages they offered. Then when we got home, we would try to compare them to find the best value for money. This was hard because every package was slightly different from the others – some included a wedding cake, some had an overnight stay, some had white doves included, and so on and so on. The “basic” cost per head from all the places we visited ranged from about 350 pesos to one at 2,000 pesos a head.

We chose a venue which offered the package we wanted at 850 pesos a head and this included 2 nights stay at the resort. The staff there were very helpful and professional and the day went pretty much without a hitch. The wedding was held in a garden setting, but we had the choice of a beach or indoor setting if we had wanted. In the event of rain, the tables would have been moved to the indoor site.


This was one of the hitches!!! I was used to the formalities of the typical western wedding and spent a lot of time preparing a seating plan which would allow each guest a chance to enjoy the day with like minded people. I sat friends with friends, relatives with relatives and worked those people that didn’t fit into any category with people that they would be comfortable with and might find interesting. One additional complication was that some people spoke only English, some only Bisayan and some spoke both. Then just when we thought we had the perfect plan, someone would cancel and you would invite a new person who you would have to fit into the mix.

At last we had the right plan and, on the day, my groomsmen put name tags in the correct places on each table. Did anyone sit where they were supposed to? About 50% did, the rest just made their own arrangements and sat where they wanted to. Lesson, don’t expect a wedding in the Philippines to be as organized as one in the West.

The resort set up the tables for us – each table with a plain white tablecloth and each chair had a white seat cover tied with a bow in our motif clour – tangerine.

The Couple – traditionally the newly married couple sits in the middle of what I know as the “Top Table”, but some venues offer the bride and groom the option of sitting alone in a position of prominence. One resort had the couple seated at a table on a island facing the guests. We sat at our own table on a small mound, and it was so calming to be alone with each other after all the hustle and bustle of the earlier part of the day.

The Presidential Table – our “Presidential Table” was just below us and was occupied by the Parents, the Best Man and Maid of Honour, the Primary Sponsors and the Celebrants.

The Wedding Guests – these were seated around circular tables with the more important people – Bridesmaids, groomsmen and Parents – nearest the front. The resort provided large candelabras as centre pieces which our florist decorated with flowers.


Here again the options are endless. In our package we were allowed to chose from a comprehensive list of dishes in the following categories – 1 soup, 2 salads, 7 main courses, 1 vegetable dish, 2 rice dishes & 3 desserts.

One thing to be careful of – we had invited and paid for 100 guests and had agreed that we would pay for additional guests at the specified rate should any “extras” turn up. Basically they would count the number of plates used at the end of the night to work out any extra cost, so it was important for us to make sure that the children under 5, who were “free”, did not use an additional adult plate, but shared that of their parents.

The food was excellent and the food service was faultless – there was plenty left over for “late nibblers”. Our table and the Presidential table were served our food by their waiters and the rest of the guests enjoyed an “all you can eat” style, self service buffet. If you have a religious celebrant, it is probably polite to ask them to offer thanks by saying Grace before the food service starts.


Our package included a round of soft drinks for each of the guests and a bottle of champagne for the toast. We decided for several reasons, not to offer free alcoholic drinks for the guests. The main reason was budget, at some point you have to draw a line in the sand and say I can’t afford any more money; but also many of our guests didn’t drink and some of those that did would have drunk too much had the beer been free.


Wedding receptions, while exciting for the newly wed couple, can get a bit boring and long winded for the majority of wedding guests, so it is important to chose an MC who will make the evening fun and fast paced. We used a good friend, Micky, who had played with bands for many years and knew the importance of keeping an audience entertained and how to do it. He also knew that he was not the focus of the event and was careful not to become the centre of attention. I have been to many weddings and an egoistic MC can become a real bore. Micky kindly performed this task for us for free, but I know of people who have used a “professional” MC and the cost varied from 2,000 to 5,000 pesos. An MC is included In our fully planned wedding packages.


Many of the guests will have no idea of who the people on the Presidential Table are and why they are important to the newly married couple, so it is nice to introduce them to all the guests by name and by their responsibilities/position within the family group. We gave our MC a list of their names and a very brief resume of their relationship to us which he read out before the entrance of the wedding party (see below). Not only did this make them feel important and appreciated, but it formally announced the beginning of the reception celebrations.


The guests are all seated at their tables, waiting anxiously for the food service to begin. Are the wedding party already seated also? Do the Bride and Groom wander in alone? OR Does the wedding party make a formal, dramatic entrance? It’s up to each couple to decide

Being a bit of a “show pony”, we had an informal procession of the main participants of the wedding party, each being announced by the MC as they made their way down the aisle to their seats. Each Groomsman escorted a Bridesmaid and, after a dramatic pause, we entered ourselves making our first social appearance as Mr and Mrs.


As I mentioned when discussing the choice for the ceremony, music is a very individual thing but plays a vital part in setting the tone and pace of the reception. Choose carefully and try to think of the effect your music will have on the guests rather than choosing music for the simple reason that you like it. Click the links to hear our choices.

The Entrance – as most of my musical influences come from a bygone era, my choice of music reflected this. We used two pieces of music, one for the entrance of the Groomsmen and Bridesmaids and one for our own “special” entry.
“Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys for the Groomsmen and Bridesmaids.
“I got you Babe” by Sonny and Cher for the entrance of the Bride and Groom

I had seriously considered “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC for our entrance, but decided that, although it was dramatic and would have focused everyone’s attention, it might have been a bit too heavy for some of our invited guests.

The National Anthem – as a matter our courtesy to our Filipino guests, we played the national Anthem of the Philippines as soon as we arrived at our seats and before anything else began.

Music to eat food by – we choose a selection of light, mainly instrumental music, softly played in the background while we all ate our food. The band was already set up but we wanted the start of their music to signal the beginning of the completely informal part of the evening – after the speeches, cake cutting,etc.,

The First Dance – for us the choice of this piece of music was simple; we had watched a movie on TV together and. although the movie was very exciting, at the end we both said to each other, “I love that music”. Your choice will be different from ours, will have different memories but will be just as emotional.
“Answer” by Sarah McLachlan


We didn’t have one, but at some Filipino weddings, the money dance is announced; males line up in front of the Bride, pinning money on her dress or veil, then dance with her. Same with the Groom, only females line up instead. I have been to weddings where the money is just pinned to the couple with no future dancing implied. Often this is a way for those people who didn’t buy presents to wish the couple good luck.


Being a musician myself, this was an area where I already had some expertise and wanted to get just right. I wanted a band that played my sort of music AND one that would let me sing a few songs myself. I know the owner of a local expats bar very well and asked him what he paid his bands for a 4 hour set; he said it depended on the band but was usually between 3,000 and 5,000 pesos. I also asked him to give me a contact list for the best 4 or 5 bands he used, which he did. I well understand that a band will charge more for a “one off” function than they will charge a bar owner who might give them a regular gig, but was surprised at the quotes from the first 2 bands I contacted which were both well over 20,000 pesos. The fourth band I contacted were more far- sighted and once I pointed out that they would get exposure to other friends of mine who were getting married soon, offered me a price of 7,000 pesos. On the day they were punctual, not overly loud and very good; they got 2 more bookings from our wedding performance. It pays to shop around.


This is a quote from a web page I discovered:
“White doves at weddings are symbolic of celebration, new beginnings, peace, love, serenity and the Holy Spirit. They have been used in ceremonies throughout the world for centuries. Their beauty, as they soar into the sky and circle overhead is truly breathtaking. They have the ability to create a memory that guests will remember and talk about for years to come.”

Well at our wedding they were certainly created a “memory that guests will remember and talk about for years to come! Trying as hard as we could to keep costs down, we sent a friend to our local market on the morning of the wedding to buy two white doves – I believe they cost about 300pesos. Unfortunately we didn’t specify that we wanted doves that knew how to fly and when my sister threw them into the air, the first one managed a flight of about 5 metres and the second one crashed back to the ground with a sickening thud. A second attempt was no more successful, much to the amusement of the assembled guests. Still this was our only “mishap” on the day.


Who says what?

There are traditions concerning the content of the principal speeches, as follows:

The Father of the Bride or someone who can act in his place if deceased

  • Welcome all the guests to the wedding, on behalf of your wife and yourself.
  • Thank them for coming to help you celebrate the wedding of your daughter.
  • Tell them about your daughter – skills, abilities, achievements, character, reminiscences. It is common for there to be gentle teasing.
  • Tell them about your new son in law – skills, abilities, achievements, character, reminiscences. Perhaps more gentle teasing?
  • Toast the Bride and Groom. “So, ladies and gentlemen, family and friends, let us raise our glasses and join together in wishing them every happiness. I give you the toast of the Bride and Groom, … And … May God bless them.”

The Bridegroom

  • Thank the Bride’s father for proposing the toast.
  • Thank him for the wedding feast (if appropriate). Thank him for his kindness and friendship.
  • Thank him for his daughter.
  • Thank the guests for their good wishes, and for coming.
  • Thank everyone for their gifts.
  • Thank your ‘new’ wife for marrying you!
  • Thank the Bridesmaids who have helped your wife through the day. Comment on their charm & beauty. – not too much, though, as you may make your new wife jealous!
  • As well as the traditional thank-yous the Groom may wish to add a few words about how he met his wife, activities they share, etc. Gentle teasing is allowable.
  • Toast the Bridesmaids: “Ladies and gentlemen, will you join me in drinking the toast of ‘The Bridesmaids’ – thank you.”

The Best Man
The Best Man speaks on behalf of the Bridesmaids (and other helpers – ushers, etc.), and

  • Thanks the Groom for his toast. He also:
  • Toasts the Parents: “I should like to add to the thanks to the parents which (Bridegroom) has already expressed on this wonderful occasion. I ask you to join me in drinking the toast of ‘The Parents’”.
  • In addition to these two ‘official’ components, the Best Man’s speech usually includes various anecdotes about the Bride and Groom. Again it is common for there to be gentle teasing.
  • Telegrams, cards and emails may be read out from people who were not able to attend.

The Bride

In these days of gender equality, the bride may want to make a speech – Elsa didn’t want to do so though.


Here again the price you pay and the style you choose is a matter of budget and personal choice. We went to look at the cakes on offer from several of the larger “chain” bakehouses, but eventually settled on a small independent baker that Elsa had used before. We paid 9,000php for a beautiful cake which was delivered to the venue on time and set up by the bakers staff. On reflection it was probably too big for 100 people and much of it didn’t get eaten on the day – most guests just weren’t hungry after the huge buffet meal they’d just eaten. Still the local kids in the area around our house enjoyed it the next day. I have put a picture of the cake below.


These are little gifts given by the bridal couple to each guest as both a “thank you for coming” and also as something for them to keep to remember the day. What you allocate to spend on each is up to you, but there are many shops offering these small gifts. The best place we found was in Colon and don’t forget always negotiate a price for a quantity buy. We embellished our gifts, glass swan figurines, with a piece of ribbon in our motif colour orange and a tiny tag which I produced on my computer. See picture below. We had invited 100 guests but ordered 150 giveaways – giving them was a nice way to include people in the day that either couldn’t come or we could not fit into our list of invited guests.


Some stores here in Cebu, offer the couple a “bridal registry”, where you set out a list of gifts you would like to receive across a range of prices. Your friends can then choose the gift they want to give that fits their budget, the store will ensure that no gift is duplicated and deliver it to the couple. We choose not to use this system and let the guests choose what they wanted to give us – we had many wonderful surprises, gifts we would never have thought of ourselves.

Guests arriving with gifts need somewhere to put them and we designated one of our groomsmen to make sure this happened. Our venue provided a lovely horse carriage as part of the setting and we used this as our “wedding gift table”.

Opening a lot of presents at the reception can be time consuming and boring for the guests, so we opened a few just for the video, making sure we didn’t lose the tags so we could thank the right people later.


Traditionally, the bride throws her bouquet over her shoulder to a group of unmarried female guests and the lady that catches it is supposed to be the next one to be married. At our wedding, it was a fairly ordered event until Elsa’s sister came flying over the top of the other women to grab the bouquet out of the grasp of another guest.


The groom is then required to remove the garter from the leg of the bride which is supposed to symbolise publicly that the bride is relinquishing her virginal status. He then throws the garter to all the unmarried male guests. Again the person who catches it is the next to be married.

For fun, the garter catcher can place the garter on the leg of the bouquet catcher with his teeth.


We planned to organise an archway of guests for us to walk through when we were leaving the reception, the idea being that it would give us a chance to say “goodbye” and “thank you” to every one of our guests. However we were having so much fun that we abandoned the idea and stayed dancing and partying until the venue decided it was time to close.


There is no strict rule about the order of events; this is the order of events at our wedding:

Introduction by the MC of the guests on the Presidential Table
The entrance of the Bridal Party – the Bride and Groom come in la
The National Anthem
Serving of the food
The release of the doves
The speeches
The cutting of the cake
The first dance of the Bride and Groom
Open dancing for all guests
Opening of the wedding gifts
The tossing of the bouquet and garter