What is the Thai ‘dowry’ and how much should you pay?
The Dowry is a payment made to your Thai bride’s family and tends to be the most costly part of getting married in Thailand. The payment is made as a sign of respect to your new extended family for taking care of your partner’s upbringing. As a foreigner marrying a Thai lady the cost of a traditional wedding is normally met by the bride’s family, but if an expensive hotel ceremony and party is arranged this is usually paid by the groom.
The Dowry nowadays is often returned to the groom after the wedding as a sign of good faith between the two families now joined and is expected to help set up the new home and family life. The Dowry itself is presented by the groom at the wedding as gold, jewelry and cash. Some Thai families, however, chose not to return the grooms riches and even go as far as demanding more money and regular maintenance fees. This is not Thai culture or tradition and should not be confused with such. If you find yourself in this situation you can kiss the Dowry good bye, but you are totally within your legal and moral rights to refuse further payments to your wife’s family if they demand money. It would be best to avoid them, break contact and be strong. Unless you have money to burn and don’t mind them taking advantage! If your wife gets upset that you refuse to pay the family maintenance money, maybe she was in on it all along, or she may simply have lost face with her family. (It is highly recommended that you make your position regarding money and family clear to your partner before getting married. It this way you will see how the land lies before tying the knot!)
There are 2 sides to every coin, (3 if you include the edge!) it is worth considering that your wife’s family may well be very poor and their need for financial support has been wrongly met with suspicion on your part. Your wife in this situation will feel the need to help support her family and if you refuse to do so it could very well spell doom for your relationship. You could get lucky and marry into a family that doesn’t need your money, but if you met your wife to be in a bar or A-Go-Go, money is normally number 1!
The Dowry in Thailand is known as ‘Sin Sod’ and is a way for the groom to show that he is capable of taking care of the bride to her family. This is why the Dowry is often returned to the groom. It’s also not uncommon for the Thai family to return the Dowry then demand monthly maintenance money! It could be cheaper to simply pay the Dowry and not take it back as first and final payment! But, it’s often the case if you do this that further down the line they will ask for more money. It is also often the perception that Farang (foreigners) are all very wealthy compared to Thai people. As we know, that’s not always the case.
So, how much do Thai men pay for the Dowry? This will depend on the bride’s age, her status and her family’s status too. If a woman has been married before or has children then no Dowry should be paid. Typically the cost of the Dowry is the same for Thai men and foreigners, this could explain why there are so many unmarried Thai men because they cannot afford to pay the Dowry.
Here are some typical Dowry costs based on status assuming you are to marry a ‘virginal’ bride with no children….
1,000, 000 Baht plus – Movie Star, Pop Star or daughter of high ranking Thai official.
200, 000 Baht – Well educated daughter of a middle class family.
40, 000 Baht – Typical farm girl.