February 20, 2024

Marriage in Thailand

In Thailand, only marriages that are registered at the local district office (called 'amphur' in Thai) are recognised under Thai family law. It is possible for couples to marry outside of the amphur process, but this will not give them legal rights in Thailand.

Arranged marriages are common in rural areas and many young girls marry so their families can receive a bride price and ease financial pressure. Girls Not Brides campaigns against child marriage.

Documents required

If both parties are of legal age (normally 17 years) they should obtain a clearance, called an Affirmation of Freedom to Marry from their respective Embassy in Thailand. The embassy may charge for this service. Afterwards the documents should be translated into Thai by a reputable translation office and authenticated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

After these steps have been taken the couple can visit their local District Office, known as 'amphur' or 'khet' in Bangkok and register their marriage. This is required under Thai law for a marriage to be legally recognised and creates the rights, duties and properties of husband and wife according to section 1457 of the Civil and Commercial Code.

Before this can be done though, both parties must express their will to marry each other publicly in front of the registrar. This is an important step and should not be overlooked!

Affirmation of Freedom to Marry

It is important to note that getting married in Thailand does not guarantee that your spouse will be allowed to return with you to your home country. You should always check with your embassy before marrying in Thailand.

If you are a foreign national it is necessary for you to have an Affirmation of Freedom to Marry which can be obtained from your Embassy in Bangkok. This is essentially an affidavit signed by the embassy stating that you are free to marry your Thai partner.

This document needs to be translated into Thai and legalised at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok before bringing it to your local District Office (Amphur). The District Registrar will then register you as husband and wife and issue a marriage certificate which is recognised worldwide. If you wish to avoid all of this paperwork then you can always have a low-key registry office wedding in your home country before coming over to Thailand for a blessing style ceremony.

The Ceremony

Before the marriage ceremony begins, nine monks will come and bless the couple and the water used in the ceremony. This is to wish the couple good luck and to make merit.

The couple then wears a garland of flowers around their neck and kneel down while an elder prays and anoints them with holy water. This is followed by family and friends tying pieces of white thread (sai sin) to their wrist. The person who has the longest piece of thread is supposed to be the one who loves the couple the most.

In Thailand, it is common for parents and close relatives to arrange their children’s marriage. Often, the groom’s family gives a dowry to the bride’s family as a sign of respect and social status. A reception then usually follows, with food, music, and dancing. There will also be speeches from guests and the newlyweds themselves. During this time, it is important to keep in mind the Thai concept of “face”. This is especially true if you are marrying someone from a different socio-economic background.

Registration

After the ceremony is complete you will need to head to a local district office, known as an amphur or khet in Thai. This is where you will register the marriage. Depending on your country of origin and how long you will be staying in Thailand this may or may not require the presence of a representative from your embassy.

The registrar will verify all the documentation and issue a marriage certificate in Thai. This will then be legally binding in Thailand and recognised all over the world. Note that common law (or de facto) marriages are NOT recognized in Thailand.

For foreigners, after the 'affirmation of freedom to marry' is verified by your embassy you will need to get it translated into Thai and have that authenticated at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok. This will cost a little extra but is still cheaper than having it done in your own country. It also makes your documents more secure.

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