Western influences have continued to seep into Thailand for years now and have trickled its way into Thai weddings. You’ll find that many brides will wear traditional wedding attire and often change into a more ‘western’ wedding dress for the reception. They have adopted some western traditions such as cutting of the cake, first dance, etc that wasn’t part of old-time traditional Thai weddings. Traditionally, the wedding would be held in the bride’s family home. But nowadays, it’s more common for weddings to be held in hotels and venues.
However, there are still many Buddhist Thai traditions that are prevalent in Thai weddings today:
1. Making Merit
This is a common practice in Buddhist culture and is done before any major event or ceremony. ‘Making merit’ basically means to do something good. Buddhists believe that by doing this, they will receive good things in return. There are numerous ways to ‘make merit’ such as donating money to the temple or releasing a captive animal.
Once merit has been made, the couple will be invited to a blessing ceremony conducted by a monk who will chant and offer advice. Sometimes, this event will happen a day or two before or early in the morning of the wedding.
2. The Engagement (“Sin Sod”)
Unlike western culture where the engagement is made before the marriage, traditionally in Thai weddings, the engagement takes place on the same day as the wedding. But instead of a fancy diamond ring, the engagement involves a ‘sin sod’ (dowry) where the groom will present the bride’s family with money and gifts before given their blessing to marry their daughter.
3. Challenges for the Groom
After receiving the blessing, the groom will then make his way to collect his bride. But the challenge is far from over! He will be faced with various family members of the bride holding the ends of necklaces or belts made from silver or gold that create barriers along a path leading up to the room where the bride is waiting. The groom is given a task or a question from each member. If he doesn’t satisfy the family member with his response, they can demand money from him before allowing him to pass.
4. Retrieving the Bride
Finally, after satisfying her family, the groom can retrieve his bride from a waiting room. They exchange a private word or two before presenting themselves to their guests.
5. Joined by Thread (“Sai Monkhon”)
Now, we reach the main aspect of the wedding. The bride and groom make their way to a small padded table where they must kneel before each other with their hands in a prayer position. A monk will then place a traditional headpiece (“Sai Monkhon”) on each head that is joined by a thread as he chants and blesses the couple. This symbolizes the joining of the couple.
6. The Shell Ceremony (“Rod Nam Sang”)
Still wearing the headpieces, the wedding guests are then invited to approach the couple and pour water from a shell onto their prayer positioned hands as a symbol of unity and blessing. It’s now common for the guests to present their gifts to the couple at this time.
7. The Reception
The final event of the day is the evening reception! This is where the bride’s family has prepared food and entertainment for the wedding guests. Nowadays, the reception reflects a lot of western traditions. There may be a wedding video of how the couple met, wedding games and of course, karaoke!