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Thai Buddhist Marriage

By Devik Balami at
lights at thai wedding ceremony

One of the notable Thai Buddhist cultures is marriage. Generally, Thai Buddhist marriage ceremonies are divided into two parts: a Buddhist component and non-Buddhist component. Buddhist component comprises of recitation of prayers; the offering of food and gifts to venerated monks and Thai Buddha statues while non-Buddhist components are rooted in their traditions.

Buddhist component of Thai Buddhist Marriage

As it has already been mentioned that this component of marriage has its roots in the Buddhist culture. In this aspect, of a wedding, the couple first bows before the Buddha statue and then recite basic Buddhist prayers or chants. They light incense and candles before the statue. After they light incense, their parents will then place twin loops of string or thread on the heads of the bride and groom. The general belief in this act is to connect the bride and groom not only physically but also emotionally. After this, the couple will the make offerings of food, flowers, and medicine to the venerated monks present at that time. Along with these offerings, cash gifts may also be presented.

The presented monks then hold a small length of thread between the hands which will end with the lead monk and finally to a container of water that will be sanctified for the ceremony. As they hold the thread, they recite the series of Pali scriptures. It is believed that with the recitation, it brings merit and blessings to the new couple. It is also believed that the merit will travel through the strings and then deposited to the water. This blessed water is mixed with the left out of candle residue (that is lit before the statue of Buddha), Unguents, and herbs to create a paste. This paste is then applied to the foreheads of the bride and groom reflecting the blessing for the Buddha himself.

Since there is the Vinaya custom of a prohibition against touching monks by women and vice versa, the bride gets the paste applied to the foreheads with the help of the end of the candle while for men the monk uses his thumb to apply the paste.

Lastly, at the end of the ceremony, the senior monk will deliver few words to the couple, offers advice and then finally encourages them to live happily. The couple will then make offerings of food to the monks.

Non-Buddhist component of Thai Buddhist Marriage

Basically, the non-Buddhist aspect of Thai Buddhist marriage has its roots in their traditional culture. It centers on the couple's families. There are various customs like groom gate approach (bride's maids, sisters, and other members blocks the way of the groom), presenting Thai Dowry, Rod Nam Sang ceremony or shell Ceremony (the couple holds each other's hand and the most honored guest pour water using special shell onto the hands), Thai reception, and finally the preparing the bed (arrangements with an array of items to demonstrate the path to a successful marriage).

In the past, the non-Buddhist component of marriage generally takes place away from the temple and on a separate day. But in modern times, it is recorded that these prohibitions have been significantly relaxed. Therefore we can observe the Buddhist and non-Buddhist aspects of Thai marriage on the same day.

Thai dowry system

In Thailand, the dowry system is popularly known as sin sodt custom. In this custom, the groom has to pay a certain sum of money to the bride's family. It is to compensate the family for their loss and to demonstrate that the groom is well enough to take care of their daughter. In the modern period, this tradition has changed quite a bit, like the bride's family members accept the Sin sodt but as the marriage function ends, they return the Sin sodt to the newly married couple.