Scenes from a Traditional Thai Wedding ~ Bangkok

Foreground: Two elaborate bai sri (Thai floral decorations). Background: Newlyweds and their parents.

"Bai sri" ~ Bestowing blessings on newly-weds

I’m in a state of flux at the moment: we have just packed up all our belongings in one home and are in the process of transiting to a new home in another country. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale rates this as a reasonably stressful time on a number of counts: “change of residence” (+20); “change in living conditions” (+25); etc. In addition to the logistic considerations, we are coping with elements of “culture shock” and “re-entry shock” as we leave Thailand behind us – for a while, anyway.

As we’ve been preparing for our move, I’ve been reflecting on some of the things I’ll miss most about Thailand. The country’s delightful customs, especially those marking life-changes or special events, rank high on this long list. From the daily offerings to a spirit house to an elaborate ordination ceremony for monks, and beyond, specific traditional cultural rituals are closely followed.

Nothing says “change” and new beginnings like a wedding: the ceremonial recognition that two people are about to launch into life together. And, as with any other event in Thai life, a wedding offers ample opportunity for the modern practice – amid smiles and laughter – of some age-old cultural traditions.

This time last year, we were lucky enough to be guests at part of a Thai wedding ceremony.

I say “part of a ceremony” because a Thai “wedding” starts long before the  ceremony. The date chosen must be considered auspicious, and determining this often involves consulting astrologers. It is not uncommon for potential guests to have a number of weddings to chose from on particularly auspicious dates.

Early morning of the wedding day (between 6 and 7 am), monks will arrive to bless the new couple (วันสุกดิบ) in a Buddhist wedding ceremony involving candles, holy water, chanting and prayers. This is usually only attended by very close friends and family, and is followed by breakfast.

There may be a formal engagement process, in which a ritual dowry (‘sinsod’) is agreed upon and paid, but this is often included on the wedding day itself. Leading a procession of his family and friends, the groom tries to make his way to his prospective bride. He is stopped at several “gates”, represented by chains of flowers, silken ribbon, or belt, held by two of the bride’s female relatives. To pass, he must persuade the gate-keepers that he is worthy of the young woman. This involves much joking and laughing, and pretend arguments about the size of the gifts (red envelopes of money) required.

Two young Thai women hold an rope made of flowers, as two Thai men negotiate red envelopes.

The khan maak procession: The potential groom has to charm and pay his way past the gate-keepers.

Thai male in a dress suit on a balcony draped in flower arrangements.

The groom, having reached the door to his beloved, has to satisfy the guests that he is worthy.

Young Thai man and woman in formal dress descending a staircase.

The Bride and Groom together at last!

Portrait: Young Thai man and woman, smiling.

Guests Watch.

Two Thai couples, dressed in formal attire, seated on a sofa

The parents welcome the new couple.

Garlands of jasmine and roses on a plate.

At any Thai ceremony, you will find jasmine garlands.

View from above: decorative plates of Thai food and flowers.

Attention to small details: plates of food and flowers.

View from above: two young thai adults with two elder thais.

The new couple give gifts to their elders.

Kneeling thai couple lighting candles on a tiered platform.

The newly-weds join in lighting candles.

Two thai elders anoint two younger thai newlyweds.

Wearing their ‘sai monkhon’, the sacred loops that are independent, yet interlinked, symbolising how the couple are still individuals but united in destiny, the new couple are anointed by the groom's parents.

Using a conch shell, a thai woman pours holy water over the hands of a newlywed bride.

The final ceremony of a traditional wedding is the ‘Rod Nam Sang’: guest pour holy water over the hands of the newlyweds and give them gifts, while wishing them well, .

Portrait: Two young Thai men in profile, with a large camera.

Where there is a ceremony, there will be photographers!

Family portrait: a young Thai woman in formal attire seated on the floor in front of a middle aged Thai couple seated on a sofa.

The bride and her parents.

Getting married is 50 points on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, but as stressful as this, or any other change is, there is also the exciting potential of the new “beginning”.

So it is for us, as we learn about life in a new place and once again come closer to a new year…

To new beginnings!



To the Future (text)


Photos: 18/12/2010.

My thanks to the bride and her family for including us in their special day.



  • Signe Westerberg - December 16, 2011 - 12:29 am

    are we expecting you home for Christmas… or is it Eden O R OR… what ever and where ever, we hope it is fabulous.
    much love Signe & LanceReplyCancel

  • Elliot Margolies - December 27, 2011 - 6:49 am

    I really enjoy your photos and commentary on the wedding rituals. An auspicious read as we just got home from a celebration dinner of Sally’s (my partner) daughter’s engagement to her boyfriend Dan. Lots of sweet rituals in the Thai wedding.

    Also read your post about the southwest province of Laos.

    Will return to your blog again.
    Best wishes,
    Elliot (E>mar) from flickrReplyCancel

    • Ursula - December 27, 2011 - 7:00 am

      Hi Elliot,

      I’m so pleased you stopped in and enjoyed my post. I was also also please to be introduced to your blog site; I’ll be back! I’ve always liked your portraits – especially your handsome sons! 😉

      Have a wonderful holiday season.ReplyCancel

  • Wedding in Thailand - February 28, 2012 - 8:21 am

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    MarryMeThailand, Our intention is that your wedding day be as perfect as possible.ReplyCancel

    • Ursula - February 28, 2012 - 11:20 pm

      I don’t usually let advertising sites through – but I couldn’t resist this one (Marry me Thailand). It’s the romantic in me…ReplyCancel

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