‘I haven’t met a FilAm bridezilla’

Bridal party goes urban chic. Photos by Kirby Calvario

By Cristina DC Pastor

A $40,000- to $80,000-wedding is not unusual for a Filipino bride in the U.S., just as a request to keep the mother out is quite common.

“Funny,” said event planner Lyna Larcia-Calvario, who has organized hundreds of matrimonials for Filipino families in New York. Along with a reminder for her to “stick to the budget,” some brides are likely to add the caveat, “Watch out for my mom, and don’t let her override my decisions.”

The FilAm bride is probably the easiest person to work with, said Lyna, owner of KasalNY, a wedding & event planner in Manhattan. “Kasal” is Tagalog for wedding. “I haven’t met a Filipino bridezilla.”

“Filipina brides are very modest, very reserved. Walang mataray,” she told the FilAm. “They would politely ask, Am I being difficult? They don’t cross the line.”

A simple yet elegant wedding is her bottom line. Many brides request a touch of Filipiniana into the theme, so there will likely be the veil-arrhae-and-cord elements in the ceremony, even if the Catholic bride is marrying a groom of a different faith.

For busy brides in the medical profession — such as nurses, doctors and PTs – the wedding is one big splurgefest.

“They’re not all wealthy and a lot of them are hardworking people and they don’t mind spending that much money,” said Lyna. “They’re willing to splurge. They just want something perfect and memorable.”

With their busy schedules, they leave everything, from planning to floral decoration to photo & video to styling to little details like ushering, to the wedding planner.

“We put together something for them, especially the creative aspects, and they’re just very grateful and appreciative because they don’t have the time to think of these things,” said Lyna.

Sometimes, the bride comes to her Gramercy shop with a magazine and asks her to recreate what’s in the pages. “For me, that’s good. It gives me a definite guidance on how the bride wants her wedding to be. I get to know her taste. I’m not offended.”

The groom and his best men

Broome Street station


A Catholic church is typically the venue, and there’s not a lot of garden weddings in the FilAm community. The reason has to do with family and tradition. The parents of the bride would sometimes suggest that a Filipino priest – usually a family friend – officiate, and most Catholic Filipino priests don’t do garden weddings.

June, according to Lyna, is still a favorite marrying month, especially in the northeast where the weather is not too wet. September is also becoming a popular altar date.

One of KasalNY’s most unique weddings has a Metrocard theme. One couldn’t get more New York than that. It merited a mention in The Knot blog: “Wedding planner Lyna Larcia-Calvario used details like Metrocard-theme stationery and Henri Bendel-inspired striped table linens to give an overall tone of modern Manhattan. Tropical floral elements like banana leaves, bamboo sticks and birds of paradise paid honor to the couple’s Filipino heritage… So chic, so modern, so New York! We’re in love.”

Lyna said she had a lot of fun with that wedding, having met the perfect open-minded couple who was aiming for a relaxed, urban chic party. Atop each floral setting was the name of a Manhattan street, like Prince, Gramercy, etc. memorable to the couple. The bridal table was captioned Central Park West because that’s where the groom proposed. The reception was held at the rooftop of a studio loft, which she dressed up in white, loungy drapes, and had a perfect view of the Empire State Building.

“The idea was to make it a New York theme, but not too cliché,” she said.

Putting together a wedding can take anywhere from eight to 10 months by Lyna’s estimate. Sometimes, the ideal amount of time does not always guarantee perfect results as in the time the DJ, who was booked by the bride, almost forgot the wedding day. Lyna improvised with iPod music during cocktail. The DJ showed up in time for the reception.

“It’s stressful job, I’m not gonna lie,” Lyna said. But give her the next wedding assignment and, “I feel rejuvenated all over again.”

Cristina DC Pastor is the founding editor of The FilAm. She is also a contributing reporter to Feet in Two Worlds.

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