If you are a westerner planning on marrying a Thai woman, you may be surprised when you learn that paying a "dowry" is standard practice in Thailand. In Thai culture, a perspective groom is expected to give the bride and her family two gifts: Khong Man and sin sod.
The Khong Man: Engagement Gold
In Thai culture and under Thai law, an engagement becomes official when the groom gives his bride-to-be a present of 24 carat gold jewelry known Khong Man. Thai law does not require a groom to give his bride a Khong Man gift before he is allowed to marry her, but refusing to give your bride a Khong Man gift would violate cultural norms. Although a Khong Man gift is expected, giving your wife an engagement ring is purely optional in Thailand.
sin sod: The Thai "Dowry"
sin sod is a longstanding Thai custom where a groom ceremonially gives their bride's family a cash gift on the day of their wedding. sin sod is often mistranslated as "dowry," a word which actually refers to the custom of a bride's family making a paying the groom's family. Although sin sod is popularly referred to as "Thai Dowry," "Thai Bride Price" is a more accurate description of the practice.
Paying a sin sod for your bride's hand in marriage is a cultural custom, but not a legal requirement. When you register your marriage, the registrar will not ask you to show that you paid a bride price.
Purpose Of The sin sod
Although some foreigners may find it distasteful to "buy" a bride, the custom evolved not to enrich the wife's parents, but to ensure that the groom was financially stable. Investing in your bride shows her family that you are serious, hardworking, and there to stay.
The purpose of the sin sod is to strengthen family bonds and maintain financial stability. Although the cultural tradition of paying a sin sod persists to this day, part of the money is sometimes returned to the couple after the wedding to help them start their new life together.
How big of a sin sod is will be expected?
The price of the sin sod depends on a variety of factors. A bride's education and social standing increase the expected price. If your fiance is a high earner or a beauty queen this will also increase the price. Rural families often expect less of a sin sod than city dwellers.
Other factors will decrease the amount expected. If your Thai bride-to-be has been previously married, or already has children, her family may ask for a much smaller sin sod. In many of these cases no sin sod may be expected at all.
sin sod amounts vary widely. If your fiance is a middle class university graduate, expect to pay 100,000 - 300,000 Baht. On the upper end, you may have to pay millions of Baht if your fiance is a successful businesswoman, famous performer, or rich socialite.
Remember that giving the sin sod is a public affair which is part of the wedding day ceremonies. sin sod is an indicator of social status, and can be a major gossip topic. Even if your fiance's family does not need the money, they will be embarrassed and lose face if the sin sod is too low. Sometimes wealthy families will temporarily lend their future son-in-law millions of Baht for their Sin Son. Although the enormous sin sod they later receive is nothing more than repayment of the secret loan, it makes everyone look good.
Negotiating the sin sod Amount
You should negotiate the amount of sin sod with your fiance's parents. If there is a language barrier, have your fiance or a friend help translate. You will probably have to deal with the stereotype that all foreigners are rich. Remember to consider the cultural importance of the sin sod during your negotiations. If you are having trouble reaching an agreement, consider paying the sin sod over time, or offer to pay a large sin sod for show with the understanding that you will take part of it back after the wedding ceremony.
A lot can happen during an engagement. Brides sometimes get cold feet. To stay on the safe side you shouldn't give your fiance her Khong Man gift until the morning of the wedding. Thai law allows you to recover your Khong Man in certain situations where the bride is responsible for the cancelled engagement, but you need to prove a gift was Khong Man in order to get it back. If you wait until your wedding day to give your bride her Khong Man, you can make her day extra-special while avoiding any risk.
It is also wise to wait until the wedding day ceremonies before you give your fiance's family the sin sod. Any money or property you give your fiance and her family before your wedding day will probably be considered an irrevocable gift. If your fiance calls off the wedding, you could be left with empty pockets. You can avoid potential marriage scams by giving your bride's family their sin sod on your wedding day.
Foreigners should always negotiate a prenuptial agreement with their fiance before their wedding to make sure their assets are protected. Make sure you hire a competent attorney to ensure the prenuptial agreement is legally binding in both your home county and in Thailand.
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