A lot of Westerners come to Thailand, fall in love and marry a Thai person. Others come with a western boyfriend or girlfriend and get married while they’re here. Getting married in Thailand is actually not that difficult and it’s a lot cheaper than in the US or Europe. Whether you’re a foreigner living in Thailand and marrying a Thai woman or man, or whether you’re a western couple coming to Thailand to get married, the same rules pretty much apply. If you plan on getting married in Thailand, here is how to do it and what you’ll need to bring with you to make sure it happens.
Documents You Need:
ü Your passport with two copies of the photograph page and also two copies of the page showing your visa into Thailand. Your passport must be valid for at least six months.
ü Original death or divorce certificate translated into Thai if either party has been married before.
ü An Affirmation of Freedom to Marry, which you can get at your home embassy and a certified translation of this document in Thai. You’ll then have to take this document to the Legalization and Naturalization Division of the Department of Consular Affairs (see address and contact number below) to get it authenticated. It normally takes two working days and you’ll have to return there to pick it up. However with an extra fee it may be available the same day.
Thai Citizens Will Need:
ü An Identification Card.
ü A House Registration Document (a blue book).
Once you have all these documents in order, you should go to an Amphur (District Office) and apply for a Thai marriage license. Be prepared with multiple copies of everything!
If either party is under the age of twenty, written permission from both parents (with Thai translation) may be required.
Most people in Thailand will have a wedding ceremony (usually Buddhist) to celebrate the wedding. Be warned though, if you get married in a ceremony but then don’t register at the Amphur office, the marriage is not legal. It must be registered at an Amphur office and a marriage certificate issued. If you get married with one of the many package deals available in Thailand the company organising the package wedding will usually arrange to have an official from the Amphur office at the wedding so it can be registered and made legal as soon as the religious ceremony is finished. If not you must go to the local Amphur office to have the marriage registered.
Getting the Marriage Registered at the Amphur Office
There is no wedding ceremony at the Amphur office. All you do is take all your paperwork and pay the necessary fee. The Amphur office will issue your marriage certificate and that’s it, you’re married. This is why most Thai couples have a separate ceremony, as you hardly feel married if you’ve just filled in a couple of pieces of paper and been given your marriage certificate.
Getting Married With a Wedding Package
Many foreigners come to Thailand on a wedding package holiday. What that means is you pay a set amount and it will include airfare, hotel, food, traditional Thai wedding dress, traditional suit for the groom, all costs of the wedding ceremony, fees for the monks, flowers, Amphur fees and everything else included in a wedding. They’re actually a great deal as many of them are in nice hotels and the total cost is far less than any western wedding I’ve ever been to.
If you’re living in Thailand, you can get a similar package, minus the airfare, through many wedding planners. Again, it includes most of the things involved with a wedding and, if you’re not Thai and don’t speak the language, this may be for you. For only a couple of thousand US dollars, you get everything and you’ll end up getting married in a much more romantic place than in a typical American or European wedding.
It is an accepted part of Thai culture that the groom pays a dowry (sin sod) to the bride’s family. This has long been part of marriage although it is becoming less prevalent with the younger generation.
Sin sod is property given on the part of the man to the parent or guardian of the woman in return for the woman agreeing to marry. If the marriage does not take place the man may claim the return of the Sinsod. Before the man shall give or transfer the property (money, gold, ring, house, land, car etc.) which is a betrothal promise (Khongman) to the woman and evidence that the marriage shall take place.
The amount of the dowry should be arranged with the woman’s parents before the wedding, but can be anything from 10,000 baht to several million. There are also situations when after the wedding, the money is returned (ttraditionally this money is not returned but now it’s depend on the bride’s family who may return 50% or at all). In this case the payment may be seen as symbolic to prove you can support your future wife but also an indication of her ‘value’ as a wife and also pay to the bride’s family in return for their supported of the bride since was a baby.
The payment may be in cash or take the form of property, gold or any other assets, and traditionally serves to prove that the groom is in a position to take care of his new family and is generous in nature (an important trait in Thai culture). Negotiating the ‘price’ may be difficult and some families may try to milk the foreigner for as much money as they can get. It’s up to you to find a way that is ‘reasonable’ for you but also taking into account the Thai family ‘saving face’ as the amount will be discussed with the extended family members. However most families will be thankful for a modest amount and know their daughter marrying a foreigner is a bonus!
Letting Your Home Country Know You’re Married
In Bangkok, go to the embassy or consulate of your home country and give them the original marriage certificate. The embassy will then send this to whichever registration department is near your home. Make sure though that you have a photocopy of the marriage certificate in your records before you hand over your original marriage certificate. Some of them have been known to disappear and you want proof that you’re married.
Getting married in Thailand is easy. The cost of an average Thai wedding is not high and a far cry from the costs in the western countries. Getting married in Thailand is a unique experience and you’ll end up with some pretty cool photos.
Legalisation and Naturalisation Division, Department of Consular Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Address: 123 ChaengWattana Rd, Laksi District, Bangkok 10210
Tel: 02 575 1056 59
Open: 08:30-14:30 Monday to Friday
OUR THANKS TO PRANBURI LAW FOR THEIR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE AND CONSULATION.
TRADITIONAL THAI WEDDING CUSTOMS
Traditional style weddings in Thailand vary from region to region and many of the early traditions have faded. The forms of the wedding ceremony are now able to be ‘shaped’ as the families and couples wish. However here are some of the common practices for that important wedding celebration that Thai people may be expecting. This part of marriage is not about the legal status of the marriage but about symbolism, Buddhist practices and fun.
Although an engagement is expected, this may be arranged on the day of the wedding to be practical and to reduce expenses. The engagement ceremony commences with a parade (Khan Maak) accompanied by music and dancing. This was traditionally from the Groom’s family home to the Bride’s family home although in modern times this may not be practical and just start nearby the Bride’s home. Upon arrival, traditionally there are ceremonial gates to pass with young ladies as ‘guards’ requiring a form of payment before entry. There may be two gates; the golden gate (Pratoo Thong) and the silver gate (Pratoo Ngeurn). After passing through the gates the dowry is offered along with other presents to the Bride’s parents. Traditionally a pair of banana trees represents fertility; a pair of canes represents sweetness and trays of meat, fruit and desserts pays respect to ancestors.
Once the dowry and presents are accepted the traditional time for the couple to ‘meet’ is at hand and then engagement rings are exchanged. The parents then tie a holy thread (Sai Sin) on the wrists of the couple to bless them and wish them luck. These threads should be worn for at least three days.
The dress code for weddings would expect a Thai bride to wear a form of traditional dress which may vary according to her home region. The groom, including Europeans, would also normally wear a form of modified Thai dress although this is not always required. Probably the best advice would be talk this over with the bride and don’t be lazy or disrespectful to her family. The usual comment about it being her day applies. Above all black should not be worn (including when by guests) as it is reserved for funerals or other solemn occasions.
The Thai wedding ceremony is non-religious even though monks are involved. No vows are made but still strongly symbolic to ensure a good start for the couple.
To ensure happiness and prosperity, the date and time of the wedding must be chosen carefully and consultation with a monk may be involved.
Only parents and close relatives and friends attend the early monk’s blessing in the morning with other guests attending later as they are invited.
The attendance of monks is very important and will be early (5.00 – 7.00 AM). Spiritual credit for the couple requires the donation of food and other gifts. Additionally a practice of liberating caged birds or fish may also occur.
The monks will pray while a lit candle is placed above a bowl of holy water. This water will later be used to bless the couple and guests.
After praying a meal will be offered to eat before resuming prayers and the senior monk will bless the couple and may use a white powder to mark both the groom and bride’s forehead (the ‘Jerm’). The monk’s meal is finished before others in attendance eat. The monk’s then return to their temple before the ceremony proceeds.
The Water BlessingCeremony(Rod Nam Sang) is the next stage with the newlyweds sitting next to each other with the groom on the right and facing either North or East. The parents or another senior couple place the ‘circles of luck’ (Saii Monkol) made from white thread (previously blessed by monks) on the heads of the couple and flower garlands around their necks. This symbolically bonds the destiny of the pair as a couple but also maintains their individual spirit. A shell is then used to pour flower garnished holy water from their wrists to finger tips while blessing them. Guests who are older than the couple then proceed in the same manner.
The Bridal Bed Ceremony is generally only attended by family members. A bed is made and flowers and rice grains are spread over. Other meaningful items may also be placed on the bed such as a cock (you know ……… a male chicken!) for diligence; a cat for family orientation; a cane for long life; a gourd for equanimity and grain seeds for vitality. The senior couple will lie down and feign sleep for a short while then the newlyweds do the same awakening to tell their spouse of dreams of a bright future, prosperity and children.
The following wedding reception itself may not be dissimilar to Western weddings with speeches, toasts and cake cutting. Even the departure of the couple’s car suitably sabotaged is becoming ‘in vogue’! Guest may appear without invitation! Guests are expected to offer some money (always in a discrete envelope) and sign a blessings book. Money rather than other wedding gifts are usually preferred.
After the formalities it’s on with the party, including music, dancing and all the rest. The ‘drunk uncle’ is just as likely in Thailand as in other countries, but what would a wedding be without one?
OUR ADVICE? Roll with the flow and you will be steered in the right direction at each stage. You won’t be expected to know exactly what to do, if you get it wrong there is likely just to be laughter not criticism.
Above all if after a long day you start to get ‘tired and grumpy’ – keep smiling, THAT’S IMPORTANT