Preparation for a traditional wedding in Thailand begins months in advance as several customs need to be followed before the final ceremony. According to the particular area’s customs and traditions, wedding preparations in Thailand may seem strange and intriguing to a person of an European origin. As each country has its own traditions to ensure that a married couple has a long and happy union, wedding customs in Thailand are also followed religiously for the same purpose. Most Thai weddings are carried out over a series of functions which last for several days.
According to Thai custom, August is the most auspicious month for weddings. During this time, you will get to see a series of interesting and amusing rituals without which a traditional wedding would be considered incomplete. Initially parents usually arranged suitable life partners for their children with the help of matchmakers. However in modern times this practice has changed and youngsters insist on choosing their life-partners on their own, while parents plan the wedding ceremony and other functions.
Pre-wedding customs and traditions
After getting the acceptance of their elders for marriage, Thai couples go with their parents to Buddhist monks to choose an auspicious day for a wedding. The monks select a date and time based on calculations derived from birth date of the bride and groom. Once the date is finalized, the marriage preparations begin in earnest at both the bride and bridegroom’s homes. Elaborate engagement functions have now been replaced by combining them with marriage rituals to save cost and time.
Sin Sot or Ransom - As per this tradition, the groom has to give ransom to his would-be wife, in the form of cash or presents which is referred to as Sin Sot. The tradition is usually carried out in a humorous manner as the groom has to present this ransom to the girl’s relatives. In Thailand the ransom ceremony is done by a traditional procession called Khan Maak during which, the groom’s relatives and friends carry gifts to the bride’s house. Though in current times with growing cost of living, people have reduced the ransom amount, but there are a few traditional gifts that have to be exchanged under any financial circumstances to make a marriage complete.
Traditional gifts - During the Sin Sot function three traditional bowls called Khaan Mun, Khaan Ngen Sinsord and Khaan Maak are exchanged. The Khaan Mun is a richly decorated bowl with beautiful flowers, which is presented by the groom to his would-be bride. Khaan Maak is the next bowl which is presented with flowers and two betel nuts representing the bride and groom.
Apart from that, the large bowl should also contain sesame seeds, rice and beans along with 12 copper, 12 silver and 12 gold leaves symbolizing wealth, prosperity and goodwill for the newlyweds. The practice is carried out to invoke god’s blessings so that the future of the couple is never short of food or wealth. The Khaan Ngern Sinsord is presented by the groom to his bride with money and gifts representing his wealth, thereby showing his financial as well as physical ability to take care of his future family. According to Thai belief, the size of this Khaan Ngern Sinsord bowl and the money and gifts presented with it shows the groom’s love for the bride.
Traditional Thai wedding rites
Khao Kwun – This is the first custom leading up to the actual wedding when the bride and groom go to a temple with their respective families with five monks to offer their prayers for peace and prosperity. This is a day-long function which is accompanied by drumbeats and chanting wherein monks offer prayers to invoke blessings for the couple's successful marriage. During lunchtime the monks take a break wherein a scrumptious lunch is provided financed by both parties. Both sides spend lavishly during this feast as it is believed that satisfied guests and monks mean a happy future for the couple.
The traditional prayers are continued post lunch and after completion the chief monk sprinkles holy water over bride, groom and guests. After this, the chief monk brings the couple's heads together and ties a ribbon around them to bless their marriage. Once a village elder or senior-most wedding guest sprinkles holy water on the bride and groom with lotus leaves, all other married guests follow the practice showering their good wishes on them. Lotus leaves are used in this custom as they represent posterity and fertility.
Pit Pi – This weird custom is carried out only if the couple has had premarital sex. In this ritual a family elder from the bride’s family addresses ghosts of the groom’s house stating the guilt of the couple after which, the groom apologizes to the bride, her family and resident ghosts for the act. After his confession the groom presents the ghosts with gifts of flowers, incenses and money which are taken to a special room. This is followed by presentation of more gifts and incense to the ghosts with a verbal apology by the elders of both families. While lighting the incense in the special room they again repeat that the couple wants to make up for the guilt and should be forgiven. The guests can begin eating after all the incenses burn out.
Puk Mea – During this custom both husband and wife stand on their knees and put their hands together on a starched pillow by holding their palms together. The guests bless the couple with happiness and prosperity by binding their wrists with lace in a special plait style. Each guest then continues the tradition by tying up more knots to continue the plait.
Dos and don’ts at a Thai wedding
Since black is a mourning color no guest or relative should arrive at a wedding in black as it is considered to bring bad luck and misfortune to the couple. Guests can gift money or gifts to the couple according to their comfort level. During ceremonies wherein monks perform the rituals it is advisable to sit in a kneeling position with a lowered head. Women should be dressed appropriately and must never sit with crossed legged position before a monk or at a temple. It will be appreciated if you give cash gift in the same envelope in which you have received the invitation card.
Since the bridegroom has to share a drink with each guest, weddings usually end with tipsy guests and an equally drunk groom who can barely walk. Usually the groom is accompanied by a host of friends and relatives with jokes till the bedroom, which is decorated with a flowers and leaves. The practice of strewing flowers and their leaves is done to symbolize love, wealth as well as harmony that will be in the house.