Travel love story: Group wedding in the Philippines

group wedding in cebu with the couples along the front pew in the Liloan church

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Ellen

Hiking volcanoes, sleeping in the Sahara desert, photographing elephants and Komodo dragons, living on a floating house; just some of the incredible experiences we’ve had as early retired, global, slow travelers. But just as neat was an event this past weekend — a group wedding in the Philippines

When we arrived in Cebu, we inquired about volunteer opportunities at the Catholic parish church of San Fernando near our temporary home in Liloan – a suburb of Cebu City. The English-fluent lady we met at the church office, Evelyn, said there were currently no ongoing volunteer programs. But she mentioned needing ‘sponsors’ for an upcoming special event where 10 to 15 cohabitating couples were being offered the chance to marry in a church ceremony at no cost to them.

Evelyn explained the couples were each participating in pre-marriage courses/counseling/coaching required by the church, and they were hoping that most of them would follow through, exchange vows, and receive the sacrament of marriage at the scheduled ceremony.

Without regard to the Catholic church’s views on cohabitation, pre-marital sex, children out of wedlock, etc., we were thrilled at the opportunity to help change these people’s lives and made a donation to sponsor this special wedding in the Philippines, and the reception luncheon.

At 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, my wife Ellen and I, along with my mother who is visiting from the U.S., assembled with a couple hundred local family members and friends to witness the joining of 12 couples in matrimony. It was a beautiful, moving and unforgettable experience.

The native Philippine couples ranged in age from late-teens to mid-sixties. Each bride wore a gorgeous white gown or dress and the grooms sported formal wear ranging from 3-piece suits to traditional embroidered tropical dress shirts. Evelyn told us the church had provided veils and flowers and rings and cake and a photographer for the ceremonies.

We were tickled to be introduced and acknowledged as sponsors – along with the Liloan Mayor and her Philippine Congressman husband. My wife even said a few congratulatory words at the reception where each couple was introduced and applauded as they took their seats at the head table for the buffet-style lunch of traditional roast pork dishes and rice.

We also got a kick out of meeting each couple and giving them a small cash gift. The average wage in the Philippines is under $500 per month, so our little present and the ‘free wedding’ itself were obviously appreciated by the recipients.

We really enjoyed being part of this festive and important day for these complete strangers. And as blessed and comparatively wealthy travelers, we will continue to watch for chances to help those who are less fortunate. In this case, for less than $200 we spread love and good cheer in the Christmas season, made some new friends, and got to experience a unique slice of local life which we will never forget. Priceless.

As always, happy trails and more beer. Life is now!

Bride, groom, and the author and his wife and mom, at the group wedding in Cebu
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