Thai brides have freedom of choice in Thai marriage customs. They can choose their partners from among the men of their acquaintance.
In old times, sexual prudishness and repressive attitudes towards women was not part of the Thai tradition of courtship and marriage. The courtship was often initiated by the man. Music, dancing and going out in pairs during festive and harvest seasons was very common. Female chastity too, was not considered to be an important adjunct to a happy marriage.
However, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the culture of Thai hi ho seems to have had a negative impact on the concept of courtship and marriage in Thailand. You will note sexual values of the nobles are characteristically male dominated and directed toward female submissiveness. Thai women are literally ordered to comply with the rules defined by the men of the family, to maintain chastity before marriage and not indiscriminately mix with the men she comes across in their lives. Virginity and chastity before marriage has gained importance and this new “Culture” began to spread among the common populace in Thailand.
When Thai girls are engaged according to Thai marriage customs, they have to participate in a ceremony called the Thong Mun. During this ceremony, the grooms are required to fill Thai brides’ hands with gold—usually in the form of jewelry weighing at least two Bhats or 30.4 grams. Thai girl’s parents, relatives and friends join her for the ceremony.
The groom will also have to give Thai bride’ parents a Sinsod or compensation for having taken the bride away from them. The term sinsod or sinsot literally means “compensating for mother’s milk”. The amount of sinsod is determined by the wealth of the suitor or the value of the Thai bride. If the Thai bride is beautiful, well educated and a virgin or has a child her value will be a sum of the values of attributes for each of these qualifications! Foreigners marrying Thai girls are expected to provide the family with a huge Sinsod as the general belief is that all foreigners are wealthy. The Sinsod is sometimes waived if the bride is marrying for the second time. Sometimes Thai bride’s parents return the Sinsod back to the couple as a wedding gift or use it for wedding expenses.
Thai Marriage Customs
Thai weddings are distinguished by a very simple wedding ceremony conducted in the Buddhist style. The weddings need not be conducted by Monks. They are often conducted at the residences of the bride.
The Thai wedding tradition enjoins that “Marriages are made in heaven” and the earthly union is merely an affirmation. The couples, therefore, donate a “Merit Gift’ to the Buddhist temple. The guests at the wedding also make a donation to the temple in the name of the bride or the groom.
During the ceremony, the brides will sit on the floor with their grooms and they will be asked to raise their hands in prayer with a flower chain connecting their hands. The elders in the family will step up and soak their hands with water from a conch shell. The process is called ROD-NAM-SANG or soak—water—conch shell. This invokes the blessings on the couple. Bring a Thai bride you will note that you and your groom will be adjured not to wear black and your guests too will not wear black. Black is considered an ill omen.
If monks are to be invited to the wedding they have to be in odd numbers—3,5, 7 and so on. A maximum of 9 monks can be invited to a wedding. More than 9 monks at a wedding are generally not acceptable.
All marriages in Thailand are to be registered for legal sanction. Registration can be done at the Registrar’s office a day before or after or on the day of the wedding. However, many couples do not register the marriage as the general populace considers marriages sanctified if the Buddhist ceremony has been performed.
Thai Marriage Customs and the Wedding parties
You will find that wedding parties in Thai Marriage custom are colorful. These functions are arranged in hotels and more than 100-300 guests are invited. If you are a Thai bride or the groom you may like to place your guest book strategically, so that your guests can enter their comments and bless your marriage. They will join you for a photograph. The reception area will receive all the gifts on your behalf.
Later after dinner the Master of Ceremonies –who will be a close friend of Thai girls—will lead guests to the floor. The parents the groom will present flowers to the bride. Next, a well respected member of the community is invited as a guest of honor to give a speech and wish them luck. A toast will then be drunk in honor of the union with shouts of CHAI YO three times.
This is generally followed by fun and games in which brides and their grooms will be asked to narrate the events leading up to the marriage. Thereafter Thai bride will cut the cake and join the guests and move around with them till the last guest leaves the party!