Modernizing Thai Wedding Traditions

Cultural updates to traditional customs.

During your wedding planning, incorporating family customs into your ceremony may become an important element. To see the joy and surprise on your guests’ faces when sentiments are conveyed in your native language or a special custom is introduced that represents your heritage is truly heart- warming. However, there may be challenges if you and your fiancé come from different cultures or religions. In this case, you may consider weaving a mosaic of different customs that represent each of your backgrounds into one unique and meaningful ceremony.

For example, following is an excerpt of a ceremony in which the bride is Thai. Just before the vows, the bride and groom proceed to a designated area for the traditional Thai ceremony and kneel on a knee table with arms resting on pillows on an arm table, with hands in “wai” style. Two bowls filled with water and flower petals are placed under their hands to capture the water blessing.

The officiant recites a traditional blessing, “The miracle of love is like the miracle of a flower, it thrives upon the sunshine of a smile... Its roots are secured in the memories of yesterday and its petals breathe the promise of joy-filled tomorrows. To be loved is to know happiness and contentment. To give love is to know the joy of sharing oneself. It is through the miracle of love that we discover the fullness of life.”

“In a traditional Thai ceremony, as in Hawaiian ceremonies, flower garlands are exchanged in addition to rings. Rings demonstrate that we want our love to be eternal, solid and concrete, and never-ending, like a circle. Giving flowers symbolizes the fragrance of marriage and the beauty of life. And because flowers are delicate, they are also apt reminders of the fragility of life.”

The bride and groom then present the garlands to each other. The bride’s parents may bless the couple with floral garlands as well.

“Thai wedding traditions symbolically bring together the bride and groom and bestow our blessings upon them. The union of two individuals is represented by placing the sai monkonor sacred cord upon the couple’s heads. The blessing of the couple is symbolized by sacred markings and the rod-nam-sang or conch shell, considered a source of good in ancient Brahman religion and a core symbol in Buddhism. Water is also an important element and signifies cleansing and luck. By pouring water from the conch shell over the couple’s hands, we give them our blessing and wish them happiness and prosperity.”

The bride’s mother puts sacred powder markings on the couple and then she and the bride’s and groom’s fathers each pour water from a conch shell over the couple’s hands.

Next, the officiant may make a blessing such as “May each married couple here today be inspired to reaffirm the vows that they made on their own wedding day, and for others, may it bring a smile for future dreams.” The officiant removes the sacred cord from the couple’s heads and everyone returns to their original positions for the vows.

There are many beautiful rituals to be found in the wedding ceremonies of all the world’s cultures, and with a little research, you may discover elements that you wish to borrow for your own nuptials. Although the event described here is a modernized version of a Thai ceremony, the powerful and romantic sentiments may inspire you to excerpt the parts you find meaningful and include them in your own ceremony regardless of your cultural or religious heritage.

Opening photograph by Flickr user iJammin

Authored by: Robert Ringler