So you’ve come to Pattaya for a visit and lo-and-behold you managed to find the woman of your dreams. Surely the next thing you’ll need to know about as a Farang about to marry a Thai girl is that their wedding ceremonies are far different to our own.
Thai weddings have many steps to them. Here is a brief overview of what you can expect to go through when you decide that you like it enough to “put a ring on it”:
So let’s assume that you’ve already gotten permission from the family to marry their daughter. If you’ve made it this far you are doing pretty well. The next thing to do is to start planning your special day.
Choosing a Date:
Choosing the right date for your wedding is important. That is why Thais will often consult with the Monks at the temple as to what day is a good day to be married on. This is because in Thailand there are good days to plan important events and there are bad days to plan important events. The Monks will decide what days are “good” and what days are “bad”.
Now that your date has been chosen and agreed upon the next step is deciding who you will invite to the wedding. Keep in mind, there are several ceremonies that must take place on your wedding day (in some cases the events can be spread out over 2-days). You will need to include times for each of the events on your invitations to ensure everyone knows how to be there. Thais are notorious for being late to things when you account for “Thai time” but there is a very good chance that they will be on time for your wedding to ensure that you have a blessed marriage.
Invitations are sent out and the big day is finally here. You will start the day with a religious ceremony. During this ceremony, you and your bride will serve food to 9 monks that have been invited to your special event for blessings. You will also be expected to make some kind of contribution to the Wat (Temple). Because of your gracious donations, you will be blessed with a long, happy and rich life together.
If you have made it this far, you probably have come to some sort of agreement with the girl’s parents on a “Sin Sod” or dowry. Provided you have the payment, you will then be paraded to the bride’s house by your friends and groomsmen. Generally, there will be singing and dancing to keep everyone entertained. The other members of your accompaniment will carry symbolic offerings of gold and the flowers, leaves and nut of the betel plant and other assorted items.
The Gauntlet (Barred from your Bride):
Upon arriving at the bride’s house you will be met by her family and friends who will block you from gaining access to her or the house. You must pass a gauntlet of doors or gates (commonly just long chains of gold or decorative rope) with money, performing any number of ridiculous tasks given to you, answering questions, or sometimes yelling and professing your love for your bride at the top of your lungs like an idiot.
Collecting Your Lady:
Once you have made it past the blockade of friends and family members of the bride, you will enter the house. The family of the bride will bring her in and present her to her husband to be.
Now that you have what is rightfully yours, handed over to you from her parents, there is no doubt that they will want what is rightfully theirs, the dowry. Upon accepting the dowry the bride’s parents will hoist up their collection as though it is a terribly heavy load and take it to wherever they will take it to.
During this part of the ceremony, you will kneel with your bride in front of a respected elder. You will be on the right and she will be on the left. Both of you will kneel forward while executing a wai (hands together much like the common gesture when greeting in Thai style) and the elder will connect the two of you with traditional headdresses connected with a piece of thread that has been blessed by the Monks. This symbolizes the two of you being linked together forever. Your destinies are now entwined.
Water Pouring Ceremony (Shell Ceremony):
Still connected by the blessed twine, you and your bride will kneel and wai again. This time the elder will anoint you and pour water over your hands. The rest of the wedding guests will also use the conch shell to pour water over your hands and will place gifts (usually money) in a basket.
Sai Sin (String Ceremony)
Many people will tie a small bracelet around your wrist and that of your bride. You are meant to wear these thread bracelets for a certain number of days in order for the blessings that surround them to take effect.
You and your new bride will greet guests as they arrive. The wedding party now is quite similar to the wedding parties of western weddings all the way down to having someone on a microphone making announcements and giving speeches.
The Wedding Bed:
I know what you must be thinking, it’s finally over right? Wrong! You and your new wife will be led to the bedroom where you will be met by an older married couple (often the parents but sometimes respected successful couples). They will bestow upon you all of the wisdom of their long healthy marriage and they will present you with symbolic gifts.
These gifts are typically laid out on the bed and each of them symbolize a different blessing toward your future. The gifts are often a mortar and pestle, beans, coins and or bags of rice laid out on your bed. You are expected to sleep with the items together for the next 3-nights in order to receive your blessings according to tradition.
Finally, you and your wife live happily ever after.
Now that you know what all a traditional Thai wedding consists of, are you ready to take the plunge? If so, better start off by meeting the family!
Just a side note, when you finish with the traditional wedding for her, you will more than likely be expected to do the same thing all over again for your own family back home in their traditional style!