Perhaps one of the most popular wedding venues in the Queen City of the South, Cebu City, is the parish church of the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus along busy D. Jakosalem Street. This church is hard to miss, with its cruciform shape uniquely designed in arches, surrounded by Japanese-inspired landscaped gardens. It is also a stone’s throw away from the Archbishop’s Palace.
The church was born out of a clamor by Chinese Catholics in Cebu. It was founded in 1952 by the Jesuits (Society of Jesus), who dedicated the church originally to Our Lady Queen of China. The church was born as a chapel serving the Cebuano Chinese at the ground floor of the Convento of the Cebu Cathedral, where the Cebu Cathedral museum is now located. This was until Fr. Arthur Baur led the purchase of a lot – at half the prevailing market price – from a certain Dr. Hilderlbrando Jurado in 1956. With God’s grace, and the donations of numerous contributors, the parish was able to celebrate its first Mass in 1960, on Christmas Eve. The church was also the first parish church in Cebu City to be fully air-conditioned.
There are compelling reasons why this church is a popular wedding venue. Aside from the spacious parking lot, the church is quite picturesque in its modern elegance. Its façade is made of two structures, the main arch featuring the image of Christ in the center, surrounded by stained glass windows with geometric designs, and the narrower, taller bell tower with a cross on top. These two are, with their modern design, described as “bullet-shaped”, and the bell tower, “like a missile.” The sides of the church are also marked with arched doorways and stained glass windows. These windows provide an interesting play of colors into the interiors especially when hit by sunlight.
Overhead curves inside the church draw the eyes towards the front where an image of Christ and His Sacred Heart is enclosed in a golden oval with tongue-shaped rays of light, beneath a big stained glass image depicting God the Father and the Holy Spirit. The sanctuary is quite spacious. The main altar where the priest celebrates mass is slightly elevated and located at the center of the crossing. The glossy marble-tiled floors, the simple wooden pews, and the simple clean colors all exude a classy, airy atmosphere. And, let’s not forget the chandeliers designed by Cebuano furniture-maker Kenneth Cobonpue.
An alternative venue to get married in is the small St. Francis Xavier chapel just beside the main church. This chapel is noted for its cozy interior, with the altar mainly highlighted by a painting of the saint set against a dark blue background and dark wooden ceiling installed with pinlights, much like a night sky filled with glowing stars.
Weddings are governed by norms of the Catholic Church, and a copy of these are handed out to the couple during application for reservation. The couple would need to reserve at least two months early, and comply with the standard requirements – documents (baptismal and confirmation certificates, etc.), interviews (canonical and pre-Cana), wedding banns from respective parishes, and written permission, in case it is a mixed marriage or a marriage to a foreigner. The whole wedding ceremony, from the processional to the end of the picture-taking, is only allowed to last one hour and 15 minutes. Songs must not be secular in nature and must be sung live. Photographers should follow a dress code and, along with the wedding coordinators and videographers, be licensed by the Committee on Worship. The attire of the entire entourage must be modest – no backless or sleeveless/spaghetti straps, no slits, and must cover the knees. At least one pair of the principal sponsors or witnesses must be practicing Catholics, while the ring and/or arrhae bearers and the flower girl/s must have taken first Communion.
The missalette must be patterned after the church’s own, submitted a month before the wedding. The couple is not allowed to compose their own vows, and lectors and psalmists are required to practice their parts beforehand. The church also does not allow other rites to be included such as unity candle and bible blessing. The wedding cord material should not be of coins or rosaries; the arrhae should be in a pouch, not in a cage. Flowers and candles are not necessary during the presentation of the gifts (also known as the offertory). They also do not allow throwing of rice, bird seed, confetti or flower petals within the church grounds. Releasing of balloons, butterflies, bubbles, and doves and singing of love songs are only allowed during the reception.
Weddings in Sacred Heart parish can be quite expensive. The fee for getting married inside the main church is P8,500 on weekdays, P10,000 on Saturdays, and P25,000 on Sundays. For those who wish to get married at the air-conditioned St. Francis Xavier Chapel, they charge P18,000 for weekdays, and P20,000 for Saturdays, limited to two hours with a charge of P1,000 for every succeeding hour. Charges cover floral decorations – which can be coordinated with the office regarding the arrangement, colors and blooms – for the church or chapel and the bridal car. The fee also covers one pair of principal sponsors; each additional sponsor costs P100. Reservation requires a 50% downpayment of the wedding fee, with the remainder paid a week before the wedding date, along with the submission of requirements and complete list of sponsors. Use of air conditioning costs another P25,000, while the use of video and other electrical devices is charged P100. A P100 penalty is also incurred for changes in the wedding schedule.
For the reception, the parish also offers the use of any of two social halls, with available tables and chairs. They charge P2,100 for maintenance and electricity, and require P500 non-refundable deposit upon reservation. The wedding party, however, has to provide for their own caterer and sound system – bands are not allowed. The party must also clean the premises after the reception. But then, this is Cebu City, where one cannot run out of other possible wedding reception venues.