Praise the Lord that my future in-laws are so good. As per Chinese tradition, they are gifting me with a semi-traditional engagement party (tinghun). Whereas in many Filipino-Chinese families, tinghuns are no longer mandatory, they’re still definitely a nice to have.
For one, it shows the girl’s side just how much the boy’s side welcomes their future daughter-in-law into the family. For example, if the guy marries a girl the parents do not like, they would opt not to pay for the tinghun and go straight to the wedding instead!
Two, Tinghuns are an added expense to wedding preparations that are already quite expensive. While it does sound so simple, a tinghun party can be quite expensive for the boy’s side, as their contribution usually includes an expensive watch, a few sets of expensive jewelry and around 8-12 sets of clothes. Whereas the woman’s side also do contribute like the matching watch pair, the boy’s side usually pays for the food at the tinghun on top of the wedding preparations!
Filipino-Chinese weddings in the Philippines are damn expensive lo!
These days however, sometimes, the girl’s side do foot half of the bill. This usually happens when the boy’s side has no money, or the girl’s side wants a grander party than what the boy’s side is willing to give. If the boy’s side wants to have face however, they would insist that they would like to handle all the expense. It would be very embarrassing indeed if the boy’s side cannot afford the tinghun. It signifies a bad start to the marriage because the boy’s family signifies that they are not that well-to-do and cannot offer the woman the lifestyle she has had in her own family.
We usually call such woman, “pai mia” or bad name. Muttered under the breaths of older relatives, pai mia means that the luck has turned for the woman, and upon marriage with the other family, she would have to give up all the luxuries and comforts that her parents gave her. Westerners may better understand it as “to downgrade one’s life because of X and Y.”
That said, weddings and tinghuns in the Philippines are no piece of cake. Though organizing it may not be so difficult, paying for it usually does. And that’s where the conflict begins.
Personally I have never seen a wedding or tinghun where the couples doesn’t fight about the budget. The boy’s side always insist that the money allotted is more than enough, while the girl insists on having her dream wedding. After spending months and years looking at Pinterest and bridal magazines, the bride will usually have a lot of ideas on what she wants to happen come the time of her wedding. Of course, bespoke items do not come cheap, and when the other party needs to pay for it, conflict ensues! :)
When push comes to shove though, couples usually compromise. The woman usually has to follow the limitations given by the guy’s mother as she has to think about her future of being a daughter-in-law at the boy’s house. Harmony still needs to be kept, and it’s better to be friends with the future mother-in-law than to insist on having one’s own way. If push comes to shove and she would like to have more budget for the wedding, it never hurts to asks her more generous daddy to foot some of the bill himself. All it needs is a little bit of sweet talk and subtle manipulation. We’re not called Daddy’s Girls for nothing!
Thankfully, I have less of this problem so far as my future in-laws are quite reasonable. I really love just how rational and understanding my future mother-in-law is, and whenever there is a potential conflict, we do sit down and talk about it. Even when it comes to my own issues, she gives amazing advise. It’s truly a blessing that they too do not want to cheapen their son’s wedding so as to save a few pennies.
As for the size, an engagement party is relatively small with only around 100 to 200 people attending. This is only for very close friends and family. The word only is admittedly relative. Mind you, a party of this size is already a wedding reception in most Filipino and Western standards!
As I’ve explained earlier, costs continue to escalate especially on the boy’s side if you count the gifts they offer to the girl’s family. Including the Rolex watches (purchased separately but exchanged on both sides) and at least four sets of jewelry — diamond, pearl, emerald/ruby, and another gem stone — all of which will be purchased from the boy side, costs do go up to millions of pesos.
A cheap Rolex will already set you back at least Php 350,000 (USD 7,740), while a nice jewelry set will cost around the same price. Count around 3 to 4 sets and the costs is enough to put the boy’s side in huge debt! A nice dress would cost around Php 8,000 to Php 20,000 each, so multiply that by 8 to 12 pieces, then you can easily see how costs add up!
So how does one save on costs?
Well, as I’ve said, you can come up with a smaller party. My best friend for example had a tinghun months ago and his list had around 22 tables! That’s around 220 people. My tinghun will invite around 140 guests. This is a decent number, neither big or small. But if the budget per table of 10 pax is around Php 20,000 (USD 450), that would already be a saving of Php 160,000 (USD 4,500)!
You can also buy cheaper gifts for the woman. My other friend was given a modest budget of Php 20,000 as her clothing allowance. Jewelry and watches come in many price ranges too, and you don’t have to buy a Rolex to perform an enjoyable tinghun.
In the end, tinghuns are a significant part of Filipino-Chinese tradition and is a party where the couple declares to their elders that they want to get married. Whereas many of the symbolism at the party signify fertility, good luck and respect for elders, the tinghun is also a way to show the boy’s family financial clout and to tell the girl’s family, “You have no fear leaving your daughter with us. Financially, she is in good hands and will never go hungry.”
In the end, I am happy in going through this journey.
It’s not here yet, and we’re still preparing for it (See list below for the items that need to be prepared on each side), but I am happy going through this adventure, discovering the hidden side of Chinese tradition only open to upcoming brides. :)
For the Filipino-Chinese community, a tinghun can be a big deal. For me, it’s going to be a memorable event.
I’ve already ordered my 12 sets of clothing (bought cheaply though as I’m buying them online, and they’re coming here soon. Hopefully, everything goes smoothly.
Anyway, will keep you posted, and if there’s anything else you would like to ask me about tinghuns or Filipino-Chinese traditions, do let me know!