One of the most frequently asked questions by some foreigner who wants to get married to a Thai women is this one “Excuse me, but how much dowry (sinsot) should I pay?” Almost as if there was a set price like you were gonna purchase some car. On the other hand though, I guess the answer is something along those lines in that you can pay from virtually zilch to tens of millions. And just like buying yerself a new automobile you can find a right bargain, a middle of the range type or if you are unlucky like… be completely ripped-off.
I don’t wanna get into too much history on the subject but it’s pretty important to have a look back at the origins of the matter…. even though they aren’t exactly too clear. What is clear however, is traditionally speaking, the dowry to get married to an ethnic Thai girl was to prove how much the geezer had to help start up the family. It was only a sign of cash-worthy evidence, which would be either handed straight back after the wedding or on the birth of the couple’s first child. Traditionally speaking therefore, paying a fancy free dowry to yer mum-in-law has no place in Thai history – only the modern one.
Paying an actual free dowry of some kind to yer bride’s parents for the privilege of getting married in Thailand is more-or-less a Chinese imported idea which has melted itself into the everyday psyche of the Thai-Thais.
Let us look at the Thai verb ‘to marry’ which is ‘taeng-ngarn’ which literally means to make a party between two sides. Historically speaking, when the couple tied the knot, it was also a binding between two families and it is that kind of Sakdhina era type thinking which is still very prevalent in Thailand today. Thais and the Thai-Chinese have traditionally only married into their own class of society, so there was no real need for the man to prove his financial clout to his future parents-in-law. Basically speaking, a man of money or class would historically never marry a woman of a lower-class than himself. In fact, it was often the man who would marry into a family with a load more cash than his. Foreign men started marrying Thai women donkey’s decades if not at least a century ago, but in those days they only married into hi-so, noble families – a much different saga to most of the inter-cultural marriages you see today.
That said, there is no historical tradition about a rich man (Thai or foreign) paying over a slapping freebie big dowry for a girl of a lower class (Contrary to myth, foreigners are held historically quite high in the class-listings). Paying a free dowry with nothing in return is a new tradition which affects a multitude of ‘foreigners’. So, if your darling turns around and claims to you that you have to pay a huge sum for the dowry (no fancy house, land, car etc… in return) as it is part of ‘Thai Culture’, then she may be taking you for one big ride.
Really, there is no such thing as a free dowry in Thailand, either Thai-Thai or Thai-Chinese as traditionally speaking (and until this day) ‘to make a party’ both sides share a lot of their assets out and the fellow sees a return on his investment (if any) one way or the other.
When you plan on getting married in Thailand (to make a party) you have to be very honest with your darling about both pre and post-marriage financial matters and responsibilities etc…. Or sadly, you may turn into one of those millions of foreigners who after a year or so, can be witnessed writing blogs and on forums pleading along the likes of “I was ripped-off, she and her family suckered all my money out of me!” Probably, the suckers weren’t ripped-off at all – they just hadn’t been bothered to agree on matters beforehand.
So after all that, you may be wondering when I am finally gonna answer the question to this blog. Well, more than likely, even though it’s quite culturally incorrect, your are probably gonna have to cough up something. But firstly, if your fiancée has ever been married before and so not a virgin, then there is theoretically no reason to pay any kind of dowry whatsoever and especially if she has kids from a previous relationship as well. Anything which you do give would be called more like ‘Katanya’ (gratefulness) to her parents than a dowry.
So, if your darling has never been married before but she is poor, say from the countryside, then you can expect to pay something but not a lot (as her side of the family isn’t bringing anything into the relationship). Foreigners often fork over hundreds of thousands of baht, you can call it a scam or part of the two-teiring price system as a local Thai guy may only pay the likes of 20-50,000. Unfortunate but true, some girls and their parents are cunning and one of the most implemented strategies to sucker as bigga dowry possible out of their so-called loved-ones is by informing him that her sister’s husband paid a dowry of say 300,000. If your darling really loves you for what you are, then she can talk to her parents explaining that you are not just a sucker money-tree.
Contrary to myth, marrying into a family with a bit of social status is very often cheaper that marrying a rural girl because much of the dowry is simply given back. In this regard the dowry is known as ‘show money’, adhering to tradition it is just evidence that the guy has enough money to start the family. So, if you hear Thai guys saying that their dowry was for example 200,000 baht then you can presume that he may have got half or most of that back after the ceremony. If Thais do kindly hand over hundred of thousands or even millions for the privilege of marrying into a wealthy family then you can be rest assured that he got in return a fancy house, loadsa land or plenty of shares etc…
I’m not kidding but I have read complaints from foreigners that they paid a free dowry of some kind before the marriage as part of a so-called deposit – only for their little darling to do a runner with some Thai lover shortly after. What complete baloney honestly, there is no need to fork over any kind of money prior to the marriage – if your darling tells you it’s part of her family tradition or something then she is one mean scammer. And I hate to say it, but being brutally honest, a lot of foreigners do fall for this type.
So, that’s the cash dowry thing out of the way, so let’s next go into the ‘gold’. Well, I wouldn’t worry too much about that as your future wife gets to keep that. Again, it’s just part of future investment as after marriage what’s hers is yours and what yours is hers. Some folk, when they get married, just borrow gold from family members as a symbol of ‘show’ which is hastily returned after. Again, if your loved-one expects you too buy her a stackful of gold which she is gonna give her mum, then perhaps it is wise to pack your bags and flee the scene.
As for the marriage ceremony and party then you may have the choice to who pays, you, both of you or her parents. If you are the one that forks out for the events then you are more than entitled to receive all the gifts in the form of cash from all the guests. It is known that some guys (or the couple) actually make a profit on the wedding day especially if most of the guests are pretty well-off. Most foreigners marry into poorer rural families, so they can’t expect to get much in return from the cash-receipts. But anyway, most poorer families are usually more than willing to pay for the events if the guy is paying a handsome free dowry, but in vice-versa to the above they will collect all the donations.
Whatever you do, don’t get scammed like a lotta foreigners into believing that unless you pay a big free dowry her family will dislike you as you made them lose face. This is more often than not just another sucker ploy tried out to squeeze as much cash out of you as heavenly possible. If her parents love you for what you are, then they will accept what you can/can’t or wish to give. Don’t forget if they can hawk plenty of money out of you on the wedding day then you can be assured that they will be wanting plenty more thereafter.
Finally, marriage in Thailand need not be a financial headache at all if you sit down with your loved-one, explain that you know the score and work out a plausible fair agreement beforehand. I hope this blog didn’t sound hard!
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