I attended my best friends’ traditional wedding. During the Buddhist religious ceremony I thought I would like to share this with everyone, so here I am.
Currently the engagement ceremony and the wedding ceremony combine to a single day for simple process. Both my friend’s engagement and wedding ceremonies were held at her house. The bride had 14 bridesmaids so we had to wake up at 3 a.m. to get ready (you know…makeup, hair, dress, and all that girl stuff) because the buddhist ceremony was scheduled to start at 6 a.m. (The Buddhist ceremony usually begins early in the morning, approximately 6-7a.m.)
1. Thai Buddhist Blessing
In the past, even numbers of monks such as four or eight were invited. However, nowadays Thai people believe that number nine is a lucky number. Accordingly, nine monks are usually invited, and with one Buddha image at the ceremony this comes to ten, thus making even number. The couple also invited nine monks to their ceremony. The monks chanted whilst a lit candle was placed in a bowl of water. This lustral water was then used later to bless the couple. A bowl of white paste was also blessed which was used later to anoint the foreheads of the bride and groom.
After the chant finished, the wedding couple and their relatives offered food to the monks. Nobody else is permitted to eat until the monks have finished their meal. Then the monks left the ceremony.
2. Engagement Tray (Khan Mak)
According to Thai customs, a couple traditionally becomes engaged during a ceremony known as “Kan Maak“ (ขันหมาก /kăn-màak/). ขัน/kăn/ means ‘bowl’ and หมาก /màak/means ‘betel nut’; ‘Kan Mak’ means “bowl of betel nuts” .
Things to put in the Khan Mak tray may vary by culture in different regions. These items represent important aspects of the marriage, such as health, prosperity, fertility and longevity. Generally items in the Kan Maak tray are ;
- The young betel nuts (หมาก màak) 4 or 8 pieces
- Betel leaves (ใบพลู bai pluu)
- Silver bag (ถุงเงิน tŭng ngern) which contains money, usually coins
- Golden bag (ถุงทอง tŭng torng) which contains mung beans, popped rice, sesame seeds
- Meaningful flowers which commonly be;
– Calotropis gigantea (Crown flower) which in Thai is called ‘ดอกรัก dòrk rák’ ; ‘รัก rák’ means ‘love’
– Globe amaranth which in Thai is called ‘ดอกบานไม่รู้โรย dòrk baan mâi rúu roai’ ; the name means ‘always bloom’, so the couple’s love will always bloom.
– Marigold which in Thai is called ‘ ดอกดาวเรือง dòrk daao rueang’ , the name เรือง rueang sounds like the word ‘รุ่งเรือง rung rueang’ meaning ‘prosperous’.
Culture Note: Why betel nuts and betel leaves?
In the old time, Thai people liked to chew betel nuts and betel leaves. They were common items every household had and they were used to welcome the guests visiting the house. Therefore betel nuts and betel leaves are used as a gift to represent harmony in Thai wedding.
3. Khan Maak Procession
When the time comes for this auspicious occasion, the proceeding begins with the arrival of the groom and his entourage at the front of the bride’s house.The procession is lead by the groom’s representative or “เถ้าแก่ Thao Gae”, and his parents, relative and friends also accompany him carrying flowers, incenses, candles and gifts. The parade will be lead by drummers and traditional folk dancers, whose lively celebrations announce their arrival to all around.
Banana leaves and sugar canes are paraded like banners by some of the attendants, while others bear the traditional gifts of the Kan Maak, which includes rice, sesame seeds, Thai food for the feast and many Thai desserts, as well as monetary gifts and other precious items, such as gold and jewellery, which will make up the dowry to the bride’s parents later on in the ceremony.
Many of these gifts represent important aspects of the marriage, such as health, prosperity, fertility and longevity.
The Thai desserts to be eaten as part of the feast consists of nine different items. The number 9 is important in Thai society and it’s use on occasions such as this is regarded as very lucky.
The timing procession (ฤกษ์) is also important, as it will have been calculated to occur at the most auspicious moment for the couple. It is also common for the lucky number 9 to figure in these calculations as well. My friend’s Khan Mak procession started at 09:09 a.m.
4. Barring the Groom from approaching the Bride (พิธีกั้นประตู)
In order for the wedding to continue, the groom must bring the bride from her room to join him for the engagement ceremony. However, before this can happen, the groom must successfully pass through a number of obstacles that are put in the groom’s way by the bride’s family. These symbolic “doors” can only be entered once the groom has proved his worth to the keepers of the “locks”.
Normally, there are just 3 of these symbolic “doors”, but there may be more. Typically there are gold and silver gates represented by gold or silver belts or necklaces which is held by two female members of the bride’s family or friends. These days the doors are also represented by flower strings. At my friend’s wedding, there were nine doors and they were represented by lovely orchid.
The groom can sometimes be questioned and is occasionally teased during this activity as the family light-heartedly determined whether he can pass through each “door”. His passage to the next “door will only be granted once a “toll” has been negotiated with the keeper of the “lock”.
The toll for each subsequent “door” will increase as the groom successfully advances. I saw the doorkeepers of the few first gates got 100 Baht to open the door. I was the guard of the last door, so I accepted 1,000 Baht to let the groom passed.
Depending on circumstances it can either be the groom or his ‘Thao Gae” that hands over the money envelopes to the gate guardians.
This part of the wedding ceremony is the most ‘sanuk’ with plenty of laughter and frivolity most of which comes at the expense of the groom as he is teased and gently ribbed by the bride’s family.
5. Counting the Dowry
Once the gates have been successfully negotiated, the groom can take the bride from her room to continue the next part of Thai wedding ceremony which is the dowry ceremony.
Thai marriage at large and definitely the ceremony of traditional Thai wedding interlinked with an ancient tradition called sinsod (สินสอด). A custom of paying a dowry (dowery) to compensate a family of bride “for mother’s milk”. A concept of sinsod was initially brought in to ensure that one’s daughter does not marry below her potential standing in life. To stipulate that her social, financial and professional status and reputation is preserved and secured.
Traditionally, a downry (สินสอด /sĭn-sàwd/) will be formally presented by the groom’s parents to the bride’s parents on the Kan Maak tray. This dowry will consist of money, gold, jewellery or title deed. The dowry is then counted out onto a red cloth by the bride’s parents. The amount of the dowry is usually predetermined which is intended to represent prospective wealth for the couple.
There is no set amount, the sum of sinsod is typically determined on the one hand by suitor’s perceived wealth, and on the other hand by the “value” of the future wife. Her beauty, personality, background, education and other qualifications, if she is a virgin, or has got a child, and so forth.
Nowadays, many parents-in-law hand the dowry back to the married couple as a wedding gift, some families do not require a dowry, and some need to keep the money. Traditionally, sinsod is reciprocated by the parents-in-law. More often than not, a part of the money is used to pay for the wedding ceremonies, parties and other related expenses. Dowries or sinsod payments range from THB 50,000 to 250,000 and up.
6. The Engagement พิธีหมั้น
Traditionally, the engagement is performed well in advance of the wedding, just as in western culture, but recently, it has become common for it to be carried out on the wedding day after Counting the Dowry.
The engagement is historically a way of introducing the bride to the groom, who has been selected by her parents and gives a chance for the couple to get acquainted before the wedding, but nowadays most couples choose their own partners.
Besides an exchange of rings, the groom also put the jewellery from Sin Sod tray for the bride as well. The exchange is performed in front of the parents of both parties.
7. The Thread Ceremony & Water Pouring พิธีหลั่งน้ำพระพุทธมนต์
After Sin Sod ceremony is finished, the groom and the bride will get ready for water pouring ceremony.
The water pouring is the most important part of the Thai wedding ceremony as during this part the couple officially become husband (สามี [săa-mii]) and wife (ภรรยา [pan-rá-yaa]). Traditionally, this was all that was required to validate the marriage, but nowadays the couple are also required to obtain a marriage certificate (ทะเบียนสมรส [ta-bian som-rot]) from the Amper or local registration office.
Before the water pouring can take place the couple must seat themselves at the traditional water pouring tables (ตั่งรดน้ำ [Dtang Rot Naam]), with the bride to the left of the groom. They will each have a ceremonial headdress (มงคล [Mong Kol]) , made from one piece of cotton forming a circle and signify the joining of the couple, placed upon their heads. The Mong Kol will have previously been blessed by the Buddhist monks earlier in the wedding.
Then senior members of the family or special guests of honor perform the anointing of the couple’s foreheads with three dots of white powder to represent the shape of a pyramid. Traditionally, this powder is made of dirt or clay, ground, and mixed with holy water and blessed by Buddhist monks. As with all of the ceremony’s traditional customs, the ritual is meant to bring good fortune to the couple.
The couple will be fully prepared for the water pouring to commence once they place both hands (palms together), overhanging the water pouring table and positioned above flowers that have been arranged in a water tray, to capture the water that runs off.
Each of the elder guests in turn will take the ceremonial water pouring conch shell (สังข์รดน้ำ [Sang Rot Naam]), which has been freshly filled with holy water from the Buddhist ceremony, and pour a trickle of water from the base of the thumb to the fingertips over first the groom’s and then the bride.
8. พิธีส่งตัว Preparing the Bridal Bed
After the water pouring ceremony is completed. The couple will be sent to their bedroom. This is just a part of the wedding ceremony, they are not going to bed to sleep for real yet. : )
The bed will be prepared by a married couple who have been happily married for a long time. Their knowledge and good luck is then imparted to the newly-weds in a number of different ways. They may say how lucky the bed feels hinting that the newly married couple will have children. Nine meaningful items will be placed on the bed as symbols of prosperity and fertility.
– One big brass tray (พานทองเหลืองใหญ่)
– A mortar as a symbol of steadily love (ครกบดยา หมายถึง จิตใจหนักแน่น)
– A cane as a symbol of long life (ไม้เท้า หมายถึง อายุยืน)
– A a green squash as a symbol of happy and peaceful married life ( ฟักเขียว หมายถึง ความอยู่เย็นเป็นสุข)
– A silver bag and gold bag cantains beans, seasmi seeds and baking powder as a symbol of prosperity ถุงเงินถุงทอง บรรจุถั่ว,งา และผงฟู อย่างละ1 ถุง (หมายถึงความเจริญงอกงามและความเฟื่องฟู)
– A bowl of rain water as a symbol of harmony (ขันใส่น้ำฝน ความสามัคคี ป็นน้ำหนใจเดียวกัน)
– A white cat doll (traditionally the real old cat was used) as a symbol of liking to stay at home (ตุ๊กตาแมวสีขาว หมายถึง รักบ้านเรือน)
– A white chicken as a symbol early rise (ไก่ขาว ตื่นดึก ลุกเช้า)
Tradition states that the newly-weds share their bed with these objects for the next 3 nights.
And of course, a lot of happy photos were taken at the wedding 😀
Teacher Pear as a bridesmaid at her friend’s wedding:
Thai Culture Fact:
When a Thai couple plan to get married, they need to look for “an auspicious time” (ฤกษ์ rêrk) to get married by consulting a monk or an astrologer to determine the most auspicious day. The couple’s birthdays and time of birth are needed to use for the calculation. Astrologers use lunar calendars to fix auspicious days for weddings, journeys, the dedication of a new house, and similar important occasions.
Have you ever been to a Thai wedding before? Please share your impression. : )
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