Custom of the Thai Dowry

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How do you determine the Thai dowry? Whenever a foreign man is taking a Thai Bride, this is undoubtedly the most often discussed custom there is today.

Custom of the Thai Dowry

For some "Farangs," the Thai word for Westerners, the Thai dowry can be a rather sensitive subject. For Thai people it is merely tradition. This truth is easy to understand when you take a close look at the issue.     

"Sin Sod" is the official Thai name for The Thai dowry marriage custom. In the Thai language, "sin" means "riches." "Sod" means "storing" or "holding." Sin Sod has long been accepted custom as a staple of Thai culture. Western and Thai Grooms alike are expected to pay a dowry or sin sod to the families of Thailand women at the time of the wedding. Here's why.

In Thailand, "Family" truly comes first.

This is a real belief. It is not just words as it may be in other societies. Throughout Thailand the family unit is sacred. Being a member of a loving family is belonging to a group membership which is cherished and honored for life. The custom of the dowry shows how closely knit Thai families really are.

The Parent's Position

Financial security is one of the issues Thai parents look at closely when the time comes for the potential marriage of a daughter. Every parent across Thailand wants their daughter to marry a man who assumes an interest in the financial security of her family.

"Sin Sod" is a customary symbolic gesture designed to compensate the parents for the loss of their daughter. In just about every case, parents have invested a great deal in their daughter. In some families, she is a worker on their farm. In other cases she is actively involved in the family business. In addition many Thai families have willingly endured tremendous sacrifice in spending a great deal of their income to pay for a daughter's education.

The Grooms Get to Look Good

For a groom taking on a Thai Bride, the dowry proves various positive traits. It shows everyone involved he is a man worthy and financially capable of taking care of his bride. It demonstrates he is willing to help support the family. This also signifies her family is embracing her new husband and will help to support him in any way should the time ever come that he needs it. The dowry also allows everyone to see the groom as being generous in nature. Such a characteristic is a very important trait in Thai society.

The Big Question: How Much is a Thai Dowry?

There are usually multiple factors which determine the amount paid in a Thai dowry. The groom's personal wealth is considered. The social status of the Thai family is always a factor. The level of education and income of the bride is among the other issues involved in the equation.

A dowry figure of somewhere around 100,000 baht could normally be expected for a groom marrying a Thai Bride from a middle class family. On the high and low ends, some grooms have paid over 1,000,000 Thai baht to their bride's family, while others have only had to hand over as little as 25,000 baht for the right to marry a Thai daughter. Regardless of the agreed amount, the dowry payment is made in various ways including cash, gold, property, or other assets.

Agreeing on Terms of a Thai Dowry

It is both common and acceptable for the groom and the Thai Bride's parents to openly discuss dowry terms. It is also common and acceptable for grooms and Thai parents may have different viewpoints on what is right. Most often they find a happy medium.

The bottom line is much bigger than baht. If a groom respects the Thai tradition and the bride's parents, and is realistic about what dowry payment he can afford, the family almost always goes along with him.

Negotiating the dowry is also normal. Sometimes it is handled by a third party to the situation. Perhaps a Thai friend acts as the negotiator. In some occasions, it is actually the bride herself who serves as the "go-between." One important point in keeping with Thai tradition is that everyone involved in the dowry discussions is expected to smile a great deal, be gracious, as well as reasonable -- but generous.

Paying Thai Dowry and Saving Face

This agreed amount for the Thai dowry is paid at the time of the wedding. The groom pays it in public just prior to the official ceremony. Keep in mind the matter of "saving face" which is so important in Thai culture.

Often the dowry is paid in small denomination bills so it looks big. A chosen dignitary asks the groom how much he is prepared to give as a dowry for his Thai bride. He answers the question for all in attendance to hear. This dignitary may even count the amount if it is cash. This is merely formality and a part of the tradition. It does not at all mean the groom's integrity is being publicly challenged. The dignitary will then ask the bride's parents if the dowry is acceptable. Once they say yes for all to hear, the actual wedding ceremony proceeds as planned.

In the Thai spirit of saving face, it is quite common for the parties to publicly inflate the amount of a dowry. For example, if the agreed amount is 100,000 baht, the groom may publicly hand over 200,000 baht in order for everyone involved to look better. Following the Thai wedding, the family will privately return the extra money to the couple.

Sometimes the entire dowry is returned to the bride and groom on the wedding day by the bride's parents. This serves as further proof of the symbolism behind the Thai dowry.  

No Dowry Down

In some scenarios a dowry is not paid by a groom to take a Thai Bride. If she is divorced, a "Mia Maiy," then normally no dowry is done. Also, the groom is not expected to pay a dowry if his bride has a child from a prior marriage or relationship.

Today, if grooms and bride's families want to protect their personal interests in the event of a divorce, prenuptial agreements have now begun to surface in Thailand. Thai dowry is tradition, not law. It plays no role in the registration or proof a Thai marriage.

Cultural differences between Farang grooms and Thai parents can often create different perceptions of the traditional custom of the Thai dowry.  Some say the dowry is the major cause of family stress and marriage breakups between foreign grooms and Thai brides.

A sound strategy and a positive attitude about this tradition will always help marriages involving Thailand women to last a lifetime. If a groom wants to enjoy all of the riches of a beautiful Thai Angel, as well as receive the endless love and support of her family, he should come to realize a dowry is well worth it.
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