What You Need to Know About a Traditional Thai Wedding

A bouquet and modern wedding dress similarly worn in a Thai wedding. A traditional Thai wedding is an elaborate and exciting event for the groom and bride. Navigate through this life-changing event with this guide.

Are you looking to tie the knot with the Thai woman of your dreams? Then what better way than to get married via a traditional Thai wedding?

The only problem is that you might have zero knowledge about Thai weddings, and you are afraid of getting it wrong. You don’t want to ruin an important tradition that is at the heart of Thai culture. Will you allow your lack of knowledge to get in the way of this life-changing event?

We’ll tell you what you need to know about a Thai wedding and how you can incorporate its nuances to fit your version of a perfect wedding. Learning about Thai culture might seem overwhelming, but it’s a step in the right direction if you want to give your wife a traditional wedding.

The Thai wedding ceremony reflects the Thais’ deep respect for family and tradition. It is both complex and beautiful, and though the ceremony is mostly non-religious, it has a large amount of symbolism to ensure good luck for the newlyweds.

Before the Thai Wedding Ceremony

The actual wedding ceremony is preceded by a series of traditional pre-wedding ceremonies intended to bring the couple good luck and blessings. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to follow these practices because they are non-religious, typically taking place at the bride’s home.

1. Engagement Ceremony

The first step in the wedding ceremony is the engagement ceremony, which takes place several months before the actual wedding date. During the engagement ceremony, the groom and his family present gifts to the bride’s family. These gifts can include jewelry, gold, or other valuable items. This ceremony gives the families an opportunity to know each other and shows the groom’s commitment to the bride and her family.

2. Sinsod (Dowry Ceremony)

Much like the engagement ceremony, this pre-wedding ceremony is intended to show the groom’s commitment to the bride’s family. The groom and his family present the bride’s family with a dowry, which is typically money. The amount is negotiated between the families, showing the groom’s ability to provide for his new family.

3. Hair Cutting Ceremony

This traditional ceremony signifies the bride’s transition from childhood to adulthood. The bride’s hair is cut by her mother and then placed in a decorative container and presented to the groom’s family. This ceremony symbolizes the bride’s readiness for marriage and her willingness to take on her responsibilities as a wife.

Pieces of jewelry given to the bride as part of Thai wedding traditions. One part of Thai wedding traditions is offering a dowry in the form of jewelry and other valuables.

The Thai Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony consists of several elements and is usually performed by a Buddhist monk. Again, you don’t have to be a Buddhist to partake in this ceremony. Although monks may be present, it is essentially non-religious. Monks are invited to attend the ceremony mainly to bless the couple and enable them to make merit.

It will likely be a wedding in Thai, so make sure to anticipate that.

The wedding ceremony typically begins early in the morning with monks arriving to visit the couple. The couple can invite three, five, seven, or nine monks, as long as the number is odd. The higher the number, the greater the blessings. However, since the number nine is associated with good luck in Thai wedding traditions, most couples invite nine monks for the ceremony. The monks chant and say prayers while a lit candle is placed in a bowl of water. The water is then used to bless the couple. A bowl of white paste may also be blessed, which will be later used to anoint their foreheads.

The bride and groom offer food to the monks before leaving the room, allowing the monks to eat. Nobody is permitted to eat until the monks have finished. After eating, the monks will chant again and the senior monk blesses everybody present, including the couple with holy water. The monks then return to the temple and depending on the wedding arrangements, the Khan Maak and doors ceremony often follows next.

The Khan Maak Procession

The Khan Maak procession is a repeat of the engagement ceremony where the groom and his family present gifts to the bride’s family. The groom and his family form a procession to take the items for engagement (Khan Maak Man) to the family of the bride.

Nowadays, the Khan Maak procession takes place on the same day as the wedding ceremony and starts from where the bride is staying. In olden times, the procession used to start from the groom’s house and participants walk towards the bride’s house, but over time, the procession has been slightly changed. When the groom’s family reaches the bride’s home, symbolic doors or gates may block their way, initiating the start of the doors ceremony.

Doors Ceremony

Also known as the Gates Ceremony or “sanuk” in Thai, this ceremony involves plenty of frivolity and laughter, usually at the groom’s expense as he is teased by the bride’s family. The bride remains inside the house, wearing a Thai traditional wedding dress, when the procession arrives. To ensure the groom’s worthiness and financial ability to take care of his bride, he is tasked to open the symbolic doors.

The number of doors can vary. There is a gold and silver gate represented by a belt or ribbon held by two female members of the bride’s family. The silver gate is called the “pratoo ngoen” in Thai and the golden gate is called the “pratoo tong.” The groom must provide a “key” to open the gate, which comes in the form of an envelope containing money. It can either be the groom or his father who hands over the “key” to the gate guardians.

Once the gates are opened, the groom’s family then presents gifts to the bride’s family. According to Thai wedding tradition, the gifts include banana and sugar plants. These plants will be planted and nurtured at the bride’s house, which will provide nutrition for the couple’s first child.

A woman wearing something similar to a modern Thai wedding dress. Your bride-to-be can wear either a traditional or modern Thai wedding dress to make the event more genuine.

Sai Monkhon

The next part of the ceremony is usually conducted by an elder who is a member of the bride’s family or a respected member of the community, during which the groom wears traditional Thai clothing and the bride a Thai wedding dress, kneeling in front of the elder. The couple greets the elder with a “wai” (a gesture of respect).

Sai monkhon, a specially prepared white thread, is then looped around the bride and groom, symbolically linking their heads. The loop symbolizes continuity and linking of the bride and groom’s destinies while retaining their individual identities. The elder pours holy water over the hands of the couple while bowls of flowers are placed underneath to catch the water. Guests also bless the couple by pouring water over their hands in the “rod nam sang” ceremony.

Rod Nam Sang

During the rod nam sang ceremony, the bride and groom wear garlands around their necks and kneel and “wai” while the elder anoints them on the forehead while saying a few words. The guests pour holy water over the couple’s hands using a conch shell known in Thai as “sang” filled with water. “Rod nam” means "to soak with water.

Phiti Bai Sri Su Kwan

The couple sits together while the elder blesses them. The bride and groom are linked to the wrists by white threads soaked with holy water. The thread is then torn and whoever has the longest piece is supposed to be the one whose love is deepest. Relatives, friends, and well-wishers also tie white strings called “sai sin” around each couple’s wrist to wish them good luck. The bracelets are meant to be worn for at least three days to benefit from the good luck they bestow.

Wedding Reception

The wedding reception often starts at 6 PM. Guests present a gift to the newlyweds and may have their photo taken with the couple. About an hour later when all the guests have arrived, presented their gifts, and bestowed their blessings to the couple, they will then sit down for dinner. Just like any wedding reception, a Master of Ceremonies will entertain the newlyweds and the guests.

The bride and groom then cut the cake and serve their parents, senior relatives, and guests of honor as a sign of respect. At this point, the bride and groom are free to mingle with the guests, often obliging them with an opportunity to take photos. Friends and acquaintances toast the groom which he reciprocates. The party involves much drinking and dancing, officially finishing at around 11 PM.

Do note that performing a Buddhist ceremony does not grant legal status to your marriage. Your marriage needs to be registered at the Amphur Office (Thai Marriage Registration Office) for that to happen.

A Thai wedding might sound complicated on paper, but when you and your bride-to-be support each other, not even a complicated script will get in the way of you experiencing the beauty of a traditional wedding in Thailand. If you haven’t yet found the Thai woman to share this wonderful experience with, join us today so our expert matchmakers can find the right woman for you.

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