There are numerous types of wedding ceremonies across the world. By each continent, nationality, religion, country, their wedding ceremonies are totally different because of culture. In Thailand, they have a unique, traditional style wedding ceremony, which is influenced by Buddhism. Let’s explore the steps of a traditional Thai wedding ceremony.
Thai Wedding Ceremony Traditions
1. The Thai Marriage Proposal
In Thailand, it is important that the parents of the bride and groom be consulted together for enough time. When the groom’s parents agree with his son’s choice of wife, they visit the bride’s parents, and ask for the marriage. After both parents agree with their son’s and daughter’s marriage, the bride’s parents negotiate the ‘Sin sod’, which is a dowry that is paid by the groom to the bride’s family.
2. Choosing the Wedding Date
After both families agree with the marriage, the couple should choose a date for their wedding. Thais believe that there are favorable dates for planning significant events. Because the wedding is one of the most meaningful events for their lives, they visit a special monk, who is proficient in knowledge of astrology, for getting a suitable date.
3. Wedding Invitations
Because the Thai weddings are related to Buddhism, there is a moment when the monk visits the wedding to bless the couple’s new start. For this reason, the bride and groom invite their relatives and close friends through delivering the invitations by in-person. However, invitations for the wedding reception can be more casual and a verbal invite can suffice.
4. Honoring the Bride’s Ancestors
This buddhist ritual usually takes place the night before the wedding. It is a simple ceremony, but the couple should pay homage to the bride’s ancestors with sincerity.
5. Making Merit
Making merit is the most significant step for the wedding. This ritual is influenced by Buddhism, and people believe it calls good things into one’s life. There are various ways to make merit, such as granting an animal its freedom, donating a gift to a local temple, or inviting a monk. For the wedding, people believe donating a merit gift, such as money, to the local temple will ensure the couple’s lifetime love for the marriage. If the groom makes a generous donation to the temple in the name of the bride’s parents, it conveys great honor for both the bride and her family.
6. The Thai Wedding Dress
There are six different styles of the traditional Thai wedding dress. Some modern couples choose Western-style white dresses and suits, but the traditional wedding dress is still popular these days.
7. Khan Maak Procession
For the Thai wedding, Khan Maak refers to an engagement ceremony. Since the bride and groom discuss the ‘Sin sod’ (dowry), the engagement takes place which includes an offering of gold and gifts for the bride and her family. Then, the groom and his family plan a procession to take the ‘khan maak man’ (items for engagement) on special, traditional trays. In the past, the groom usually would leave his house and walk to the bride’s house.
During the procession, the groom and his family would sing songs, play instruments with traditional Thai long drums, and have a traveling party. However, this procession is changed a little bit as time goes by. This ritual takes place on the same day as the wedding these days, and it starts at the place where the bride is staying.
8. Doors/Gates Ceremony
This ceremony is called ‘Sanuk’, and it happens when the groom arrives at the bride’s house during the Khan Maak procession. The groom is able to open a symbolic door when he is approved of his wealth and sincerity of their wedding by the bride’s family. Each design of the door is different by regions, but typical designs are gold and silver. During the ritual, two female members from the bride’s family hold the gate, and the groom needs to pass the gate. When the groom reaches the gate, he needs a ‘key’ to open it.
For this process, money is represented as the ‘key’, and he needs to negotiate the amount with a gate guardian when he needs to pass each gate. After the groom successfully passes the gate, the groom’s family present a gift to the bride’s family, which includes banana and sugar plants. Usually, they present the symbolic foods to the bride’s family because those foods’ nutritions represent a wealthy and healthy life for them and their offspring.
9. Sai Monkhon
This ritual is conducted by an elder family member from the bride’s family or a respectful senior from the community, who can recognize the successful marriage. During this ritual, the couple wear traditional Thai clothes, and sit or kneel next to each other in front of the elder. They need to put their arms on the small table, and hold their hands together in prayer position.
After they set their position, the elder places a traditional string headpiece, which is called “Mong Kol”, on the head of both bride and groom. For the ritual, the string headpiece must be made out of one piece of cotton. Its length symbolizes the rest of the couple’s life.
10. Rod Nam Sang
‘Rod Nam Sang’ means ‘Shell Ceremony’, which occurs during the Sai Monkhon. While the groom and bride sit together with ‘Mong Kol’ on both of their heads, each guest pours holy water over their hands by using a conch shell (‘Sang’ refers to shell, and ‘Rod Nam’ means to soak with water). When the guests pour holy water, it means to wish the couple’s successful marriage and delightful life.
11. Phiti Bai Sri Su Kwan
‘Phiti Bai Sri Su Kwan’ is known as ‘White Thread Ceremony’. Both the bride and groom sit next to each other, and the elder blesses their marriage. After the elder’s word, they link their wrists with ‘Mong Kol’, and soak it in holy water until it tears. After the Mong kol is torn, whoever has the longest thread piece is supposed to be the one whose sincerity is deepest.
12. The Thai Wedding Reception
After all rituals are finished, it usually has a wedding reception or party to eat and mingle together with guests. Its scale is not important; the couple can range their reception from a simple gathering at a table to a huge party with games and dancing.
13. Preparing the Bridal Bed
This step is kind of rare in today’s modern life, but it is still occurring in the rural area. After all steps of the wedding ceremony are finished, the bride and groom are escorted to the bridal bed. In that bedroom, an older married couple would greet the new married couple with symbolic items. By meeting the older married couple, they show the path of their long and successful marriage to the newly married couple. The most common symbolic item is a bag of rice and coins; it represents prosperity and fertility for their further marriage life.
These steps of Thai wedding ceremony is a traditional wedding style from ancestors. In today’s contemporary life, younger generations might not prefer their traditional wedding style, but it is a respectful way to show their ethnicity to both families of the bride and groom. Moreover, this kind of traditional wedding style might be more unique and special for the newly married couple these days.