A farewell to the single life, the Despedida de Soltera is more than a party or wedding celebration. It is an honoring of the bride through an outpouring of Filipino values such as hospitality and family ties.
In Spanish culture the Despedida de Soltera means simply the bachelorette party, in which the bride is celebrated by her female friends. The Filipino tradition, in contrast, is a family event and is known for being more wholesome than a typical bachelorette party.
What a Despedida de Soltera Represents
Ritually the Despedida de Soltera represents a showing of consent from the bride's family and a celebration of their blessing over the marriage.
The Despedida de Soltera is literally a "goodbye to spinsterhood." As the bride prepares for her upcoming wedding, the family celebrates her through a large gathering. The groom’s family, close relatives, the wedding party, and friends of the bride and groom are all invited to take part.
Not only does the Despedida de Soltera serve as a family’s honoring of the bride-to-be, but it also often serves as an opportunity for the bride and groom's families to meet for the first time. It is considered quite necessary for this meeting to happen before the wedding, so even if the parents have met, the party is a good opportunity for all of the family members from both clans to get to know one another in a celebratory setting.
What Occurs at a Despedida de Soltera
The Despedida de Soltera can vary greatly between families. It usually occurs within a week of the wedding, and is sometimes held very close to the wedding date. For some families it might be a formal sit down dinner and for others it might be a more casual party.
If a family has opted for a formal dinner, the event often takes place elsewhere besides the home, like a hotel, banquet hall or large restaurant. Often in cities the party will be catered, regardless of where it takes place. It will usually include speeches by family and friends and a blessing over the couple.
More casual parties often take place in the home of the bride’s family. The family will usually serve home-cooked food, and the Despedida de Soltera might also include loud music, karaoke, dancing, and a lot of alcohol. The event can take place in the afternoon, or might begin in the evening and run late into the night. In modern culture the time is often determined by where the event is taking place and how close it occurs to the wedding.
The Importance of the Despedida de Soltera
For the bride, the Despedida de Soltera is an opportunity for a wholesome bachelorette party with her entire family. Unlike the typical hen and stag parties that precede a wedding and are gender-specific, this event celebrates the end of her singlehood with all of her community around her and is usually thought of as a treasured time for the bride and groom.
The Despedida de Soltera is one of the last stages of Filipino preparation for marriage, and is a tradition that has remained in Filipino culture even as courtship rituals and the wedding itself have changed drastically in recent years.
While it is now also common for the bride and groom to have separate bachelor and bachelorette parties with their close friends, the celebration with family remains a more important part of the wedding festivities for most Filipino couples.