25 Facts About Marriage and Weddings in Thailand

October 7th, 2015 by Norm Schriever

6No matter what religion, nationality, or culture we claim as our own, we all have one thing in common – our wedding day is a big deal, and therefore we want it to be special. An increasing number of intrepid newlyweds are choosing to tie the knot in Thailand, opting for a destination wedding experience that includes white sand beaches, tropical breezes, and plenty of sunshine. In fact, we’ve seen an influx of young couples from Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, all over Europe and the United States traveling to our island paradise of Koh Samui in Thailand to say, “We do” at Beach Republic.

  1. There are two kinds of marriages that take place in Thailand, traditional Buddhist marriages and civil unions. In this blog, we’ll cover Thai traditions and customs. Look for part 2 of this blog for information on the civil side of Thai marriages, as well as foreigners marrying Thai citizens and Westerners getting married in Thailand for beautiful destination weddings.
  1. In the Buddhist faith – prominent in Thailand – weddings don’t look like nuptials in Western cultures and other countries. Not a civil or official government ceremony, Buddhist wedding ceremonies instead consist of beautiful traditions and rituals to bless the marrying couple. Weddings are considered a sacred bond, and taken very seriously.
  1. Thai marriages have an engagement period, though it differs from most Western cultures. A traditional Thai engagement ceremony is called thong mun.
  1. In thong mun, a prospective groom gifts gold to his fiancée, with parents, friends, and relatives in attendance. Instead of a diamond ring, Thais usually give gold jewelry for thong mun, made of 96% pure gold made in Thailand in an amount that’s always an odd number.
  1. A fascinating tradition in Thailand calls for one of the groom’s best friends to formally ask the bride’s father for her hand in marriage. So the groom and the bride aren’t directly involved in the formal marriage proposal!
  1. When setting a date for the wedding, astrologers are consulted, with August being the most popular month for Thai weddings.
  1. Traditions in Thailand also call for a dowry, called son sod, to be negotiated to the bride’s family. While dowries sometimes have a negative connotation in modern society, the Thai version is actually charming, a way for the groom to express his gratitude to the bride’s parents for doing such a good job raising their daughter, sometimes called “for mother’s milk.”
  1. Son sod is rooted in practical origins, a way for families to ensure their daughter didn’t marry beneath her station and that her value is appreciated and reputation protected, as a poor suitor wouldn’t be able to afford a suitable dowry.
  1. The amount of son sod is customarily negotiated, a process where the groom’s best friend participates as his spokesperson.
  1. It’s worth noting that son sod or dowries are not required when someone is getting remarried because of a previous spouse’s death or divorce.
  1. In modern Thailand, many Thai people don’t want to discard the tradition of son sod, but don’t necessarily want to take money for their daughter’s hand in marriage. So they often first accept the dowry payment but only as a formality, returning it as a gift to the wedding couple or used to help pay for the wedding.
  1. In accordance with the Buddhist faith, to ensure a “marriage made in heaven,” a donation is given to the local Buddhist temple, or wat. Called a ‘Merit Gift’ this donation invites the temple to perform a wedding blessing ceremony.
  1. Buddhist monks are usually invited. There should always be an odd number of monks at a Thai wedding ceremony or party, usually 3, 5, 7, or commonly 9, but never more.
  1. The evening before the wedding day, the bride and groom pay their respects and honor their ancestors with a traditional Buddhist ceremony.
  1. On the morning of the wedding day, a parade of people form about a half mile from the bride’s house, including the groom, who tries to time his walk to arrive at 9:09 AM, a lucky time in Thai culture.
  1. The procession of friends and guests, including candles, special foods, young girls in traditional costumes and flags, is meant to announce the arrival of the groom’s party. A loud song is played from the bride’s house, which signals to her neighbors that a man will come marry their family’s daughter that day according to traditions.
  1. Morning ceremonies ensue at the location of the wedding ceremony, with monks saying prayers to bless the couple. The bride and groom then present each monk with an envelope containing money.
  1. To conclude the morning ceremonies, the bride and groom sit down to eat lunch with the monks.
  1. The main event of the wedding ceremony is held in the afternoon, called rod nam sang in Thai.
  1. With the most senior or respected member of the clan officiating, a chain of flowers is affixed to join the bride and groom’s hands as they are held up in wai, the Thai symbol of respect.
  1. The bride and groom are joined by a scared string that forms a circle to bond the couple, a wedding custom that originates in the Northeast of the country.
  1. Their hands are also soaked water held in a conch shell. The couple’s parents, siblings, and good friends will also follow and help soak the newlyweds’ hands, wishing them good luck.
  1. Towards evening, wedding ceremony proceeds to the much-welcomed dinner banquet, an elaborate buffet, cocktail, or formal sit-down meal. Commonly 100-300 guests attend the wedding and evening feast, although it’s impossible to tally the guest count beforehand. That’s because unlike in Western weddings, guests to Thai weddings often bring along their uninvited family and friends.
  1. Thai people love drinking and being merry during wedding parties. The drink of choice is often local Thai whiskey, like Mekhong and Sang Som, which might be polished off by the case.
  1. After the dinner party, the newlyweds are sent off with roses adorned with roses, a traditional ceremony conducted by the elders.