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Cultural Events at Weddings

Back in 2011 when I moved to Hawaii, I had a huge cultural shock. In 2004, I moved from Japan to Arizona, and I lived in Arizona and Oregon for 5 years. In those times, my impression was that everyone seemed to treat everybody equally no matter what ethnical background people have. So it was not a common question to ask “what are you?” (by meaning what race or ethnical background are your families from?). My first wedding in Hawaii was a Filipino wedding. When I sat down at a vendor table which was shared with some extended families, and an aunty at the table asked me, “What are you?”. I answered to her, “I am one of the photographers of the day and I will be sitting here next to you.” - and she goes, “ No no no no no, are you Filipino, Chinese, Japanese…?” and I was like, “OH.” That was not a common question I received in the mainland US from a person I met 5 seconds ago. I learned after from my coworkers that it’s a common question in Hawaii. I was surprised, but eventually, I started to like the culture here in Hawaii - that people like to ask each other questions about their backgrounds, make racial jokes or comments, for good communication. Back in the mainland, I was trying myself hardest to blend in with others - mostly white culture from where I lived in - and BOOM! I felt in Hawaii that “It’s ok to be me, who I am, where I am from, being a FOB, be truly myself!” That was a breakthrough I had back in 2011.

One of the things I like about being a wedding photographer in Hawaii is that Hawaii has a lot of different culture and more couples like to incorporate it to their wedding programs. I’ve shot American, Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Samoan, Jewish, Vietnamese… many different types of weddings here. Some had hula dancers, some had girl dancing with oil and money on the body, some had broken a glass at the end of ceremony, some toasts with shouting Banzai, some had firecrackers in the beginning of the day, some had lion dance, also lots of families brought lots of carpets to give to the bride and groom - So many interesting events at each wedding.


On this blog today, I wanted to write about this one. Does anybody know what culture this wedding is from?

Money Dance
Money Dance

The answer is Filipino wedding!

These are photos from an event called Money Dance. Usually this happens at later time in the evening - the bride and groom dance on the floor, and the guests will come greet them and put some money on their body. Often times, the bride picks the money on groom’s body with her mouth and vice versa. Sometimes on the neck, back, ear, pocket, or sometimes even in the bride’s cleavage or grooms pants! Also some people prepare beforehand the wedding - to make a big long stuck of bills or money crown for their heads too, as you can see in the first photo!

I like the idea of this moment when the guests have chance to talk to them one-on-one during the busy wedding schedule, and guests have interaction to have fun with the bride and groom :) I didn’t know about this culture until I moved to Hawaii, and I really enjoy every single time I learn new things. I hope you also enjoyed learning about Money Dance!