The traditional Thai wedding…ritual and romance
Performers in traditional costumes enact
the rituals of a Thai Buddhist wedding ceremony.
As weddings are featured elsewhere in the paper this week, it seemed
an idea to look at the Thai wedding ceremony itself…no rushing down to the
local registry office with two friends as witnesses, signing a piece of
paper and off to the pub for our Thai sisters! Research reveals that, if you
want to get hitched the traditional Thai way, a wedding planner as provided
at wedding fairs might be a very good idea.
Given that many couples in the west do marry in registry offices and have
the marriage blessed by a church minister at a later date, we might be
tempted to make a comparison between this and the, loosely, Thai equivalent.
Certainly, there is a Buddhist wedding ceremony, after which the official
procedure of registering the marriage legally does take place, but it’s not
a simple as that sounds. The Buddhist ceremony itself has a number of unique
rituals which must be followed, step by step. A traditionally-inclined Thai
couple may well be used to such, as it all begins when they become engaged
and carries on until the wedding itself. The Thong Mun ritual takes place
when the couple announce their engagement, and involves the giving of gold
by the prospective groom to his fiancée. Family, friends and relatives are
all invited, and the gold takes the form of jewellery of a certain weight.
Plus, a party is a must!
Before the actual wedding takes place, an ancient tradition known as Sin Sod
may need to be honoured…this is where Thai weddings and their western
equivalent totally lose touch with each other…Sin Sod roughly translates as
‘dowry’, a concept usually looked upon in the west with, at the least,
suspicion. Here in Thailand, however, this concept involves the bride’s
family’s wish to ensure that their prospective son-in-law is able to take
care of his wife, and is a respectable, worthwhile character who has been
very thoroughly inspected by his prospective parents-in-law! While the
original concept was to compensate the bride’s parents for ‘the mother’s
milk’, and care throughout childhood, there was also the need to protect
one’s daughter from marrying beneath the family’s status. After all, even
now, her social, financial and professional status or reputation must be
preserved and secured!
The amount of the dowry is calculated based on the wealth of the suitor, his
position, and by the ‘value’ of his future wife. Her beauty, personality,
background, education and other qualifications, if she is a virgin, or has a
child already, etc…These days, it must be said, many parents hand back the
dowry to the couple as a wedding present, unless there is real need, and
some of the total may well be used to provide for the cost of the wedding
and its attendant parties and celebrations.
Once the above is sorted out, it’s time to plan the actual wedding. A
traditional wedding need not be held in the local temple; it’s more usually
held in the home. Although monks may well be present, they take no
significant part. If they are invited, an odd number, (5, 7 or the maximum
number, 9), must be chosen. The Buddhist ritual, interestingly, is not
recognised by the state as a legal marriage; the couple must go in person to
the local Amphur’s registration office, with all relevant documents and
present them to an official. At that point, the marriage becomes legally
binding! One small point, however, wealthy Thai women have been known to
forego the Amphur office stage, as the ‘official marriage’ registration may
lose them certain civil rights…and the Buddhist ceremony is recognised as
sacred and an inviolable lifetime commitment in the eyes of the religion
A blessing can be carried out at the local temple, and is often considered
by the bride and her family to be an essential part of the proceedings.
Traditionally, if this takes place, a Merit Gift to the temple will ensure a
loving and happy marriage. After all this, it’s hardly surprising that, for
Thais, the most important past of the wedding rituals is the lavish party
for family, friends, neighbours, long-lost uncles, cousins, etc and anyone
who’s around at the time! Having read the above, we farangs may well
consider that the ‘registry office/two friends/ signature/ pub’ route may be
a great deal easier, not to mention cheaper, but it’s surely far less
Gossip is good for you…
no surprise there, then!
There you are, girls…more bad news for men…gossip is actually
good for our health! The reason behind this might surprise you, as it
seems that lots of gossiping with girlfriends encourages your body to
produce more progesterone, the hormone which reduces anxiety and stress.
As a result, women to whom gossip is an essential part of life are
happier, healthier and have more success in social bonding with their
peers! The highly successful US television series, Sex in the City,
obviously had it right…although viewers might well have been forgiven
for thinking that maybe it was the sex that kept the girls smiling,
rather than the gossip it encouraged.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a US university that’s come up with this theory –
the University of Michigan, to be exact. This erudite establishment
paired up 160 female students, giving one group a research paper on
botany to proof-read. The other, luckier group were given topics and
chatty questions for discussion which had been deliberately chosen to
encourage gossip and bonding.
Unsurprisingly, again, the gossip group’s progesterone levels rose,
while the proof-readers’ diminished. The report of the study doesn’t
state whether any of the proof reading group were still awake after the
20 minutes allocated for the experiment!
The results of the trial were, (yes, truly), published in ‘Hormones and
Behaviour’, a US journal all about – you guessed it – hormones and how
they affect female behaviour. The professor who conducted the trials
justified the cash spent on this rather obvious project by stating that
‘It’s important to find the links between biological mechanisms and
human social behaviour’ Very true, but most of us women really don’t
need to be told exactly why we love a good gossip, and why it makes us
feel good, we’re just darn glad it does! Way to go, girlfriends!
Tragedy at the Temple
Last week, on this page, we wrote about a wonderful 3
year anniversary party held at Care for Dogs. When we received
the text below from Karin, one sentence in that story came
immediately to mind…‘sadly, not all such stories have happy
So tragically true.
This day, June 11, marks a truly sad day for all of us at Care
for Dogs, the students and co-coordinators of the Hand to Paw
Outreach program and the monks at Wat Nong Pla Mun with the
sudden loss of Mama, shot 3 times by an unknown person and left
to bleed to death. Not only did Mama lose her life, but her
daughter, Star was also brutally hit with a heavy object strong
enough to break her shoulder blade. She is now convalescing at
Care for Dogs.
(left), who was shot and left to die, with Star, who was badly
injured and is recovering at the shelter.
In summary, we all had what sadly came to be a false sense of
security for these 12 dogs, suddenly opening our eyes once again
to the reality of street and temple dogs and their daily
struggle for survival.
One starts a project like this with simple hopes, e.g. get the
dogs vaccinated, get the girls sterilized, de-tick, bath, kiss
and cuddle as often as time will allow. One forgets that animal
cruelty in all its ugly forms lies in the shadows for all these
dogs every minute of every day.
Mama, as we all came to know her, was not only the matriarch of
the temple; she also spent a fair bit of time at the Care for
Dogs shelter. She had recently given birth to a small brood of
still born pups, hence her name. Soon after, she was vaccinated
by the Hand to Paw Outreach and later driven across town for her
sterilization and convalescing at Care for Dogs. What was to be
a one-week visit turned into one month as Mama was diagnosed
with the blood parasite, e-canis. She seemed to lap up every
minute of care and kindness that was given to her during this
time - as Khun Grib commented, ‘I don’t think she wants to
Finally, re-homed at the temple with all her mates, she seemed
thrilled and back to her old self; strong and secure in her own
environs and warmly welcomed by the monks. Sadly, this lasted
but 5 days when she was brutally killed. At this time, the monks
and villagers do not know who did these cruel and cowardly acts
against Mama and Star. Both Mama and Star were kind and gentle
dogs, no threat to people at all. We will continue to look into
this matter until we are assured of the safety of the remaining
11 remaining dogs at the temple.
A poignant ending to this day was the 8 students from The Prem’s
Hand to Paw Outreach gathered at the temple to come and care for
the other dogs. Not only were the students educated into the
harsh realities of the temple dogs, but a stronger bond seemed
to grow between them and the dogs as they saw that ‘yes’, it was
up to them to make a difference.