While western brides-to-be get bachelorette parties to say goodbye to the single life, Filipinas get their own party too. These parties are called despedida de soltera. While a despedida de soltera also celebrates the end of a woman’s single life, the traditions and themes of the party are significantly different compared to bachelorette parties. Here’s what you need to know.
What Is a Despedida de Soltera?
A despedida de soltera is a Filipino marriage tradition where a bride-to-be’s family hosts a send-off dinner a few days before the wedding. Because of its Spanish name, we can assume this is one of the things Filipinos started practicing due to Spanish influences until the late 19th century. Google Translate will tell you that a despedida de soltera is the same thing as a bachelorette party, but it’s not. Translated, a despedida de soltera is literally a “farewell of [the] single woman.” Both types of parties celebrate the end of a woman’s singlehood, but it’s generally different in terms of culture and practices. In fact, it’s much closer to the western wedding practice of a rehearsal dinner rather than a bachelorette party.
Bachelorette Party vs. Rehearsal Dinner vs. Despedida de Soltera
A bachelorette party (also known as a Hen Night) is a party where a bride-to-be spends the evening before or a few nights before her wedding celebrating her upcoming wedding and the end of her singlehood. Traditionally, the guests consist of the bride’s most inner circle of female friends and closest female family members. Because of the nature of bachelorette parties, it may be inappropriate for under-aged female guests to be invited.
Originally, only bachelor parties existed (and they’ve been around for centuries) because patriarchal standards kept women from partying the end of their singlehood the same way men did. Instead, women celebrated “hen parties,” which were all-female lunches that were much more subdued than men’s parties. By the ’60s, however, women’s views on sex and sexuality began to change. If it was acceptable for a groom and his bachelor party to go to bars, get drunk, and visit strip clubs, why couldn’t women do the same? Thus, bachelorette parties also gained the reputation as a party that involved women going to bars and male strip clubs. While these aren’t hard requirements for bachelorette parties (it can just be a simple dinner with parlor games), many parties have involved these, so the reputation stuck. In a western bachelorette party, it’s tradition for the maid of honor, with the financial assistance of the bridesmaids, to plan the bachelorette party.
Why It’s NOT a Despedida de Soltera
While bachelorette parties aren’t popular in Filipino culture, some Filipina brides-to-be arrange them weeks before their wedding. But if you want an ultra-cringe example why a bachelorette party is nothing like our own culture’s despedida de soltera, here’s why.
I attended my older cousin’s bachelorette party when I was 20. She was visiting the Philippines a few months before she got married, so my tita thought it would be a good idea to host one. Because my cousin was born and raised in the States, she didn’t have close friends outside the family in the country. Also in attendance were my sisters, my mom, and some older titas in our family. I think my tita thought it would be OK to host a bachelorette party with family members in tow – IT. WAS. NOT.
My tita managed to find a male dancer, which meant my under-aged little sister had to go inside a bedroom every time the dancer was about to perform a set so she wouldn’t see it. My mom, who is pretty conservative and believes in more traditional values, looked uncomfortable the entire time, nearly attacked the male dancer when he tried to dance/grind on me (I was the youngest adult in the party), and then walked out when he tried to dance on her. After the party, my sisters and I were tasked with cleaning up and we found a plastic bag that had a bunch of bananas and a pack of condoms. My tita explained that because the male dancer arrived late, we didn’t have time to play some games. We weren’t really sure what game my tita had planned for those, but I’m kind of relieved I never got to find out and be forced to play in front of my mom, sisters, and titas.
So yes, for the love of all things good, if you’re planning to have a bachelorette party in the Philippines, you can. But if you know it’s not going to be a family-friendly night, skip the teenage cousins and middle-aged aunts in favor of your close circle of friends.
A rehearsal dinner is a pre-wedding ceremony that takes place between the wedding rehearsal and the wedding ceremony. Some brides host their bachelorette parties the night before their wedding, but if their schedule means their ceremony rehearsal is the day before the wedding, they can choose to have their rehearsal dinner instead and then either have the bachelorette party at an earlier date or simply forego the tradition altogether. A rehearsal dinner can be held at home or any other venue can accommodate a sit-down dinner.
After the wedding rehearsals, the rehearsal dinner is meant for relatives and friends from both sides of the family to get to know one another and mingle before the actual wedding. Guests of this dinner usually comprise of those present during the rehearsal (typically their parents and members of the wedding entourage), which is why the bride and groom traditionally use this dinner to thank them for their participation in their wedding. However, it’s the bride and groom’s call if they want to invite more people, like their relatives who are in town for the wedding.
Why It’s NOT a Despedida de Soltera
A rehearsal dinner is kind of similar to a despedida de soltera in the sense that both the bride and groom’s families meet (and possibly even for the first time). However, the symbolic meaning of a despedida de soltera is not present. A rehearsal dinner is a sort-of thank you to everyone who helped with the wedding, but a despedida de soltera focuses solely on the bride-to-be and the end of her singlehood.
While the two are fairly similar, it’s OK to have both events planned leading to your wedding. Rehearsal dinners are usually scheduled up to a week before the wedding (usually the night of wedding rehearsals). The despedida de soltera can be held up to three weeks before the wedding.
Despedida de Soltera
As the name goes, this is the send-off dinner of the bride-to-be from her family. If you’ve gone the traditional route and have already had a pamanhikan, then it’s likely that your groom-to-be’s family and your family had already met. If not, then this might be the first time both families have officially been introduced. Ideally, both families should have already been introduced to one another before the wedding.
A bride-to-be’s despedida de soltera is very meaningful for two reasons. The first is because it symbolizes her leaving singlehood behind to become a married woman with her own family. This is culminated during the actual wedding ceremony when her father gives her away to the groom. The second reason is because a despedida de soltera is a sign of her and her future in-laws consenting to the marriage and blessing it. In a family-oriented country like the Philippines, most couples will want their families’ approval for their spouses. Hosting a despedida de soltera and inviting the groom and his family is a sign that the bride’s family approves of the marriage.
Hosting a Despedida de Soltera
Traditionally, the brides family plans and arranges the despedida de soltera. It can be held in the family’s home, but it can also be held in another venue like a restaurant if the house cannot accommodate all the guests. Not all those invited to the wedding have to receive an invitation to the despedida de soltera as well; usually, it’s only the bride’s and groom’s closest family members, but you can also choose to include extended family members and close friends. A despedida de soltera usually takes place one to three weeks before the wedding.
While there are no traditions or practices to perform during the despedida de soltera, having your family host one for you is a great way to get both families together and emotionally and symbolically approve of your upcoming marriage. Consider hosting one at a convenient time when both families are available so that both of your families can get to know one another before the big day.