A Dowry is traditionally any amount or gift given by the bride to her future groom. In many parts of Asia, however, it is the groom who gives the dowry. Thailand still practices the dowry system, with the groom giving money or gifts to the bride's family before a marriage is celebrated.
Thai dowry: A brief overview
Thais use the term Sin Sod to refer to the act of giving a dowry to the bride. Sin connotes riches whereas Sod means "to store." In the earlier years, future grooms present cows, water buffaloes, pigs and other livestock animals as dowries. The more affluent ones even provide farmlands for the family. But with modernity at hand, Thai dowries are now given in monetary form.
Prior to giving dowries, it is a well-known custom in Thailand to perform engagement ceremonies. This is often referred to as the Thong Mun. Literally, Thong Mun means gold engagement. In this event, the soon-to-be bride receives a golden ring from her groom. Thong Mun is somehow similar to the engagement practices of the west. However, in recent years, performing Thong Mun is more of an option. Depending on the couples' decision, the wedding can push through with or without undergoing Thong Mun.
How much is required to be given?
There is no fixed amount for a Thailand dowry. The range varies. In provinces, Thai dowries usually range from 50,000 to 100,000 baht. Others are set at the 200,000 to 300,000 baht. Some ask for more. Nevertheless, this should not discourage grooms from agreeing to celebrate marriage in Thailand. Nowadays, the above-mentioned amounts are no longer imposed. More often than not, dowries of huge amounts are given only if the couple comes from the elite, or if they are celebrities or high-profile individuals. In this view, dowries demonstrate their economic power and influence, which is in stark contrast to its traditional significance. In earlier times, apart from showing the groom's financial capabilities, a Thailand dowry is one way of showing that a secure and bright future awaits the bride. In addition, dowries can be waived for practical reasons. In other cases, even if it is asked from the groom, it is returned to the couple after the marriage ceremony to serve as their initial investment for their future as husband and wife.
Factors that determine the dowry amount
Thai dowries are usually determined by the bride's social and economic status. If the bride comes from an affluent family, is well-educated and has no previous marriages, the family may expect to receive a hefty amount of dowry. Nevertheless, grooms should still be wary of families who take advantage of their financial resources. On the other hand, brides with previous marriages and children receive dowries of small amounts. Brides who were once involved in prostitution or other sex trade are not given dowry at all.
The rationale behind Thai dowries
For those who wonder why the Thailand dowry system still exists, there are several reasons that explain this custom. As mentioned, dowries exemplify the groom's financial stability. Second, it is a sign of respect for the bride's parents. It serves as a way of recognizing the parent's efforts in rearing their child. Thirdly, giving the dowry signalizes that that the bride is expected to live with her husband, and must share her husband's economic capacity and not that of her family anymore.
Giving Thai dowries is not imposed by any Thai law. It is purely rooted on culture and tradition.