Complete guide to getting married in Thailand
If you are thinking about getting married in Thailand there is so much that comes to mind. How much will it cost me? Where should we do it? Will it be recognised back home? The list goes on. So what do you need to know before getting married in Thailand? Before getting married there are a number of key things that you will have to do to ensure that the marriage is legal. So how should you go about making one of the biggest decisions of your life.
Marrying a Thai partner
If you are thinking of Marrying your Thai partner there are a number of traditions that may need to be followed. These will often depend on the religious beliefs of your partner and their personal circumstances. What kind of ceremony do they want? How many people should you invite? There are so many questions that you will need to work out the answers to. Let’s start with the traditions of Thailand.
Traditions in Thailand
In every Thai family, once the children have grown up and gone off to work they will usually send money back home to support their parents. This is a way of saying thank you for caring for them growing up. Do not be alarmed if your Thai partner wants to send some money home as this is tradition. Thai’s have very close family values and you will become part of that once you are married. You will be required to look after the parents as if they were your own. Do not let this frighten you as Thai’s tend to have large families and this support is often spread out amongst several children.
Before proposing to a Thai person, especially a lady, it is customary to speak with the parents to seek approval. This will involve negotiating Sin-sod with them. Only when this has been agreed should you attempt to proceed with getting married.
It is important to note that this is part of Thai tradition and is NOT a dowry. You are not paying for a person as this is illegal in every sense. Sin sod is a payment that you should make so that in the event of the marriage breaking down the lady will have something to help with the costs back home. When Thai marriages break down, the woman is not awarded 50% of everything, unlike in many western cultures. So this money is a way of securing the her family's future. In a lot of cases nowadays, the offering of Sin Sod is more ceremonial and a lot of families will return the money to you once the ceremony is complete. Remember this is an offering to the parents and you should not expect this to be given back.
How much should you offer the parents?
This is not a simple question to answer as there are a number of factors to consider. Has your partner had any previous marriages? Do you have any children? Their age will also play a large part in the size of the fee. The fee will be much higher if your partner is from a wealthy family, so you should not be surprised if the first figure touted is 1 million Baht. But in many cases the parents will settle for the Sin-sod being around 200000 Baht. It is important during these negotiations to not cause offence by appearing cheap. You should start with a reasonable amount and be prepared to negotiate upwards. Once this is done you are free to pop the question to your partner.
How should you propose?
This is really quite easy really. Like most other cultures around the world, this should be done in a romantic setting and with you getting down on one knee. You should have a ring ready, even if it is not the final one chosen. Prices for engagement rings are a little cheaper in Thailand, although the quality can often not be the same. When it comes to the big moment it may be prudent to make this a private affair as many Thai’s do not like public displays of affection, so remember to bear that in mind when planning your proposal. All they have to do now is say Yes!
Planning your wedding
When planning a wedding in Thailand there are a number of steps that you will have to take, especially if you are a foreign national. The biggest challenge you will face is from your own government. There is a specific number of steps that you will have to take in order to ensure that your marriage will be recognised by the Thai government as well as your own government. After all, they want to ensure that this is a genuine marriage. So it is prudent to allow sufficient time when planning your wedding. Each country will have different criteria for recognising your marriage. So how do you get your marriage officially recognised.
Will your wedding be legally recognised by your country?
In order for the UK government to recognise your marriage there are a number of important steps you must take. You should consult your own embassy’s criteria for recognising your marriage if you are from outside of the UK. The UK government will only recognise a marriage if the Thai government does. This is where the challenges begin. For a UK citizen to get married in Thailand the first thing you will be required to do is obtain an affirmation to marry from the embassy in Bangkok.
Affirmation to marry.
The affirmation to marry is a document that ensures that you are free to marry and are not currently married to another person. This helps ensure that your marriage is legal in both Thailand and your home country. In order to obtain a validated affirmation to marry, you will be required to make an appointment at your embassy. The affirmation to marry can often be completed before visiting the embassy. You can download this from the gov.co.uk website and complete it before you visit the embassy.
Once you have your affirmation to marry, you will need to have this translated into Thai. There are lots of places that will do this for you for a small fee. Be patient with this as it can take up to 4 days to have this translated, although this is usually sooner. Once this is done you will need to take the translated document to the Ministry of Foreign affairs office for authentication. Thai registrar’s will not accept this unless it has been done in this way. Once you have this you will be able to register the marriage. Once you have these bits sorted you will be free to plan your actual wedding. You can read in more detail about my experice of obtain my affirmation to marry by clicking here.
As Thailand is mainly a buddhist society, it would be highly likely that your partner will want a buddhist wedding. So what does this mean for you? How do you chose you ceremony type or can you have a western style ceremony? How much will it cost? Let take a look starting with a planning a budget.
Planning your budget
Thailand is renowned for being one of the cheapest places to live in the world and weddings are no exception to this rule. You can get married on a shoestring budget, but should you? No, this is one of the biggest days of your life and you should celebrate it. But how much does a wedding cost? You will need to break this down into some fairly small chunks. Let’s start with the invitations.
With a Thai wedding there may be different events that you will need to send out invitations for. You should be aware that each event should have its own invitation. Often it is only close friends and family that will attend the morning ceremony with the remaining guests joining you in the afternoon or evening. Each invitation should have the names clearly written on the outside of the envelope. This will be used for the wedding gift later. Remember to tell your guests not to dispose of the envelope as this will be needed later. They should bring their wedding gift in the envelope to the wedding reception.
This is one of the biggest costs when planning a wedding. You should ensure that you have a venue that can cater for the number of guests. With this in mind, many hotels set their prices based on the number of Guests, the more guests, the more it costs per head. Most venues will offer wedding packages that can soon increase into hundreds of thousands of Baht. This will take some of the pressure off though, as all your guests will be in the same place all day. It is best to work out the total number of guests before deciding on a venue. This will avoid any additional costs should the number of guests increase and you go above the threshold for the venue as costs are usually based on where the number falls in the pricing structure. Going over by one person can dramatically increase the cost.
Most hotels will have a website where you can view the wedding packages, but what if you want to have your ceremony somewhere else? This is where you will need to do some ground work. It would be advisable to visit and ask to see the venue before you part with any money. You will need to have a good idea of what you want at your wedding and spend a great deal of time shopping around. This can be quite tricky if you or your partner does not live in Thailand.
You can choose to have a western style wedding in Thailand, but if you are marrying a Thai, you will probably end up having a buddhist ceremony. Some couples choose to have a mixture of ceremony types as a way of honoring both of their traditions. But in most cases it is often easier to just have one type.
There are numerous steps to a buddhist ceremony. The first of which is making merit and honouring the bride’s ancestors. This is performed with a buddhist monk and is a way of asking for good things to come into your life. This event will usually take place on the morning of the event although this can happen sooner if the couple wish it to.
The Thai Engagement Ceremony or Khan Maak Procession
This is the part where the groom to be will lead a procession to the bride's house or venue. They would carry the Khan Maak Tray on which you would find gold or coins, flowers and the leaves and nuts of a young Betel plant arranged. These have special meanings and these range from health and prosperity to fertility and long life. Upon reaching the venue the groom will perform the gated approach.
The Grooms gated approach
This is part of the ceremony that the groom must undertake to retrieve his bride. Usually he will be prevented from entering until he has performed a number of tasks. The tasks are designed to make the man more humble, although most will involve professing your love for the bride. Occasionally this can mean presenting money to the bridesmaids or family. But once you are through the gates you are all set to retrieve your bride.
Retrieving the bride
After passing through the gates you will find your bride waiting in a room away from all the guests. Usually her parents will present her to the groom in the event that he has satisfied the bridesmaids. The parents will bring the bride out to meet the groom. This is where sin-sin will be presented to the family.
Presenting the Sin-Sod
Having previously agreed the amount of the sin-sod it is now time for this to be presented to the family. The sin sod should be made up of gold bars or jewelry. The gold should be at least 96 percent pure gold from Thailand, weighing 30.4 grams. It is considered unlucky to give an odd number. The rest should be made up of cash. This should then be presented to the brides mother, who will wrap this all in a silk cloth and carry it to the ceremony.
What to expect
In Thailand, it is usually just immediate family and very close friends that attend the events on the wedding day morning including the Buddhist ceremony. The first part is the joining by thread or Sai Monkhon. Here the bride and groom will knee or sit with their hands in the prayer position. An elder member of the family will them place one the heads of the bride and groom the Mong Kol. This is a form of head dress that symbolises the couple being joined together for a long and happy marriage. This will be worn for the remainder of the ceremony. Next will come the water pouring or Rod Nam Sang ceremony.
The Rod Nam Sang ceremony
This is one of the parts of the ceremony where all of the guests will be invited to participate in. This will involve the bride and groom to sit close to each other, whist still attached by the Mong Kol. They will hold out their hands and the guests will be invited to pour water from a special shell onto them. It is customary for the guests to wish them well at this point and offer any advice on how to have a long and joyful marriage.
The reception party
This is the point where most of your guests will now join you. After all you have invited them to come and celebrate with you. There will usually be someone at the door directing your guests where to go and where to sit. They will also collect up all the gifts for the newly married couple and keep them safe for later. You can choose to cater for your gusts in a number of different ways. Most people will have a sit down menu, particularly if you are at a hotel. But occasionally you will find it is more like a buffet style if the party is held elsewhere. Either way you will need to ensure there is enough food and drink for your guests.
Food and drink
As with most parties, you will be required to feed your guests. This should not come as a surprise to most of us. But in Thailand the tradition is that you will also provide free drink for your guests too. This is an area that you do not want to appear cheap on. You will be expected to provide enough beer and spirits to cater for all of your guests. This also includes mixers and soft drinks. In order to “save face”, which will be important to your partner. There should always be some left after your guests have all gone home.
This is where the similarities with western begin. It is not uncommon for the newly wed couple to appoint a couple of bridesmaids or groomsmen to be the master of ceremonies for the party. This will include the music for the evening. The music will ranging from traditional Thai music to western style songs. The honor of introducing the new couple is usually given to one of the bride and grooms close friends. They will also oversee and games and stories that wish to be told.
Traditional Thai wedding gifts
In Thailand it is often customary to provide a gift in the form of money. The newly married couple will often use this money to pay for a large part of their wedding. This is one of the reasons that many Thai weddings will have a large number of people invited to the reception party. You may cater for 100 people at 750 per person, but often you will get back as much money as you have paid out. It is important to many Thai people do not want to be viewed as cheap and this is a way of saving face. A normal donation by a guest at an average wedding is between 100 to 500 Baht, but will be more if the guest has a higher paying or is respected in the community. This should be place into the same invitation as the wedding invitation was sent. The families will note how much has been given and will reciprocate when it comes to future weddings.
Registering your marriage
Following on from the wedding you will need to register it. The amphur will issue you with a marriage certificate in Thai. You will need to get this translated back into your native language if you wish to use it in the UK. Again use a translation service for this and be prepared for a wait. It is prudent to register your document with the consular office. This will help you in the event that you require a copy further down the road.
Planning for the future - where will you reside
An important part of the marriage process is that your partner will not automatically gain citizenship through marriage. There is a formal process that will need to be followed in the event you wish for your new family to reside in the UK. This can take several months to complete and is designed to prevent things such as arranged marriages and people trafficking. If everything is ok with embassy a visa will be issued meaning that you can all reside in the UK. The visa process is designed to be difficult to do and there are many checks that will need to be passed. It would be a good idea of providing too much information to the embassy when applying as you will need to prove that the relationship is genuine.
Once the visa has been issued you can now begin your lives together. I hope its a happy one.