Contrary to popular belief, contemporary ethnic weddings are not simpler than their Christian counterparts: they’re just as tedious, as expensive, and as momentous, if not even more.
Take, for instance, the Bontoc or Igorot wedding rituals, which usually spans several days. It starts with the delivery of the faratong (black beans) from the girl to the bachelor signifying the bride’s intentions to marry.
Afterwards, the bride’s family sends out what is known as the khakhu (salted pork) to the groom’s family. This is countered by the sending of sapa (glutinous rice). These food items are distributed to their respective family members, including their relatives.
An important rite called insukatan nan makan (exchange of food) follows. Here, one of the groom’s parents, after receiving an invitation, must go to the bride’s house and have breakfast with them. Later, the groom’s parents also invite a bride’s parent for a similar meal.
The next step is the farey. The bride and a kaulog (girlfriend) will visit the house of the groom. This is when they ‘start entering each other’s houses’. They will have to leave immediately also, but they will be invited again on the following morning for breakfast. This is the start of the tongor (to align).
The next day, the bride’s parents, bearing rice and salted meat, will go to the groom’s house for the kamat (to sew tight). A kaulug of the bride and the groom’s best friend is likewise invited. The evening will be the start of the karang or the main marriage ritual. This is when the bride and groom are finally declared as a couple to the whole community.
The following morning is the putut (to half). Here, only the immediate relatives are invited for breakfast, signifying theend of the ritual. Two days after the putut, the couple can finally live as husband and wife, but may not sleep together for the next five days, known as the atufang period. The atufang serves to validate the marriage. The groom is instructed to bathe in a spring, taking note of every detail that comes his way, such as the characters he meets, weather changes, among others. Should anything peculiar occur, he must make his way to the mountain to cut some wood. The bride, on the other hand, is sent off to weed in the fields.
Any untoward incidents serve as warnings that the new couple must postpone their living together or mangmang. The final stage of the atufang involves covering smoldering charcoals with rice husks overnight. The marriage is considered null and void if the fire goes out the morning after.
The final step is the manmanok where the bride’s parents invite the groom and his parents and declare that the groom could officially sleep with the bride. This signifies the end of the marriage ritual for most Igorots. An optional lopis (a bigger marriage feast) could be done should the couple’s finances allow.