Thailand is a wonderful destination for a wedding or honeymoon and it’s easy to see the appeal for couples who want to tie the knot here. Although it’s possible for couples to organise their wedding themselves, unless you or your partner speak Thai, you are probably going to need some help along the way. Many non-Thai couples opt to use the services of a specialised wedding planner to make the whole process smoother. Whichever option you use, being aware of the legal procedures should help to make everything less stressful.
If you like the appeal and charm of a Buddhist ceremony, this is best arranged by somebody who has local knowledge and can organise the blessing for you. Of course, you don’t have to have a Buddhist ceremony and it is possible to arrange Christian, Hindu and Muslim weddings in Thailand. Whichever option you choose, please pay careful attention to the legal formalities. Outlined below are the various steps you will need to take if you are marrying in Thailand.
Legal formalities for marriage in Thailand
For couples marrying in Thailand, the marriage will only be legally recognised in your home country if you have followed Thai legal procedures. Part of this process involves completing some paperwork at the Thai embassy or consulate (usually in Bangkok). If it isn’t valid under Thai law then the chances are it won’t be valid under the law in your home country.
A religious ceremony may be part of the wedding, but this ceremony by itself doesn’t make the marriage legally binding. In Thailand, a marriage is only legal once paperwork has been completed and officially registered at the district office (known as ‘amphur’ or ‘khet’). Although it might sound unromantic, in Thailand you are only legally married once the wedding has been registered at the district office.
If you want to avoid spending 4 or 5 days in Bangkok visiting embassies and filling out paperwork, you can always opt to have a low-key registry office wedding in your home country (which makes everything legal and binding) and have a wedding blessing or ceremony in Thailand. If that isn’t an option, then you will need to ensure you follow the correct legal procedures once you are in Thailand.
Visit your embassy
If you want to get married in Thailand but you are not a Thai citizen, you need to visit your own country’s embassy or consulate in Thailand. For the vast majority of people, this will mean staying a few days in Bangkok although some countries have consulate facilities in other cities in Thailand, notably Chiang Mai, who might be able to process much of the paperwork for you. Wedding planners may have arrangements with embassies to speed the process up, but generally speaking you should allow 4 or 5 days in Bangkok to sort out the paperwork and legalise the marriage.
Ensure your passport is up to date and has a minimum validity of 6 months. Also note the dates of weekends and public holidays in Thailand when embassies, consulates and government offices are closed.
It is important to note the limitations of the help available from your embassy although this may vary slightly from country to country. Your embassy in Bangkok is not authorised to perform marriages or carry out translation services for you.
Affirmation to marry
Thai authorities require that each and every foreign national wishing to marry in Thailand obtains an affirmation of freedom to marry. In most cases this affirmation cannot be obtained in your home country; you will need to apply to your country’s embassy in Bangkok. The affirmation is a form that basically confirms that you are legally free to marry. The affirmation (which should be typed out) has to be signed in the presence of a consular official from your embassy. The normal procedure is that you then return the following day to collect the affirmation which will have been countersigned by an official from the embassy. Your embassy will charge you for this service. The embassy will require your passport and evidence of termination of any previous marriages (i.e. divorce certificate, death certificate). You should take the original documents and not photocopies.
Once you have obtained the ‘affirmation of freedom to marry’, the form needs to be translated into Thai (your embassy will not do his for you). There are a number of translation services and offices to be found near the main embassies and typical cost is around 1,000 Baht.
Authentication from Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Now that you have the affirmation to marry and the Thai translation, you need to submit these forms to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (see address below) which is located in the north of Bangkok close to Don Muang airport. The ministry authenticates the forms and returns them to you the following day. A fee is payable for this service and normally an extra ‘express fee’ can be paid to have it completed the same day. Since May 2003, it’s been possible to submit the forms by post instead of going in person.
Legalisation and Naturalisation Department
Department of Consular Affairs
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
3rd Floor, 123 Chaeng Wattana Road,
Tung Song Hong, Laksi District
Hours: 08.30-14.30 Mon-Fri
Visit the amphur office (district registrar)
Once you have all the paperwork complete you need to visit the district office which is similar to a town hall or registry office. In Thailand it is known as the ‘amphur’ (called ‘khet’ in Bangkok). For the marriage to be valid under Thai law it must be registered at the amphur office. A religious ceremony on its own is not recognised as being valid under Thai law. Please be aware that you are officially married on the day that you register at the amphur office.
There is not usually any need to make an appointment, but you will need your affirmation and translated documents. You should also go with somebody who can speak Thai. Note that the marriage registration can be filed at any amphur (District Office) or Minor District Office in Thailand regardless of the birthplace of the couple; you do not have to have this done in Bangkok. As a foreigner marrying in Thailand you will be required to submit a copy of your passport and the authenticated affirmation and the certified translation. If you have a Thai partner they will be required to submit their Identification Card and their House Registration Certificate. Once the marriage registration is completed, each party will be given a copy of the Marriage Registration Certificate as confirmation.
Thai marriage certificate
The Thai marriage certificate will be in Thai only. Couples may wish to obtain a sworn translation of the certificate from a translation bureau so that the document can be used for legal purposes in your home country.
Thai law for marriage
For the marriage to be recognised in your home country, you should take into account your own country’s marriage laws as well as those of Thailand. The requirements of Thai law are listed below.
- A couple must be of legal age (17 years) upon filing for marriage registration, otherwise permission must be granted by a court.
- Permission from the parents is required for parties under legal age.
- Both parties must not be registered as married to anyone else (multiple marriage registration is prohibited).
- The parties must not be direct blood relatives nor be sister or brother through either parent.
- Adopting parents shall not be permitted to marry their own adopted child.
- No service fee is required whatsoever.
- A widow or divorcee will be permitted to remarry not less than 310 days after the previous marriage has expired, unless:
- has given birth to a child
- remarrying the same person
- not pregnant, as certified by doctor (in case of early remarriage)
- approval to remarry from a court is obtained
Buddhist wedding ceremony
Most wedding planners and hotels can organise a simple Buddhist ceremony for your wedding. If there is a particular part of the traditional Thai wedding ceremony and customs that you wish to include, make it clear to the person organising your event. A good wedding planner should be able to tailor a package to suit your individual requirements. In Thailand there are many regional variations on the wedding ceremony, but as a guideline a typical Thai wedding package offered by hotels will include a blessing by monks, a merit-making ceremony, the rod nam sang ceremony, sai monkhon and flowers and garlands. Please have a look at the traditional Thai wedding section of this site so that you have an understanding of what the different parts of the ceremony involve.
Thailand wedding etiquette
Around 95% of the Thai population are Buddhists and visitors to Thailand should note that there are certain do’s and don’ts when it comes to Buddhism. The Buddhist monk is on the highest tier of Thai society and should be accorded respect. Women should not touch monks and nor should they hand anything directly to them. Buddhist monks are not permitted to handle money, so when financial donations are made the money is placed in envelopes and offered on trays. Don’t sit cross-legged in front of monks but kneel with your feet behind you. During a wedding blessing ceremony, the guests will be sitting or kneeling on the floor whilst the monks will usually be sat on chairs or a raised stage so that their heads are at a higher level than the guests. Try to keep your head lower than those of the monks during the wedding ceremony and this is also true if you are taking photographs which should be taken from a kneeling or crouching position. Thai people at your wedding will show you the correct way to behave so try not to worry too much, but finding out in advance about manners and etiquette will gain you a lot of respect in Thailand.
Read more Thailand do’s and don’ts »
Advice for Thai wedding guests »
What to wear at a Thai wedding
Guests invited to a Thai wedding should wear something loose fitting and comfortable and the same is true for the couple being married who may elect to wear traditional Thai wedding attire. Very often this can be hired, especially if you are using the services of a wedding planner or hotel. Alternatively, you can always have something made up by hand comparatively cheaply and quickly just about anywhere in Thailand.
It’s considered unlucky to wear a black shirt or dress to a wedding in Thailand because it is the colour worn at funerals. Many Thai people tend to be superstitious and wearing black at a wedding is thought to bring bad luck to the bride and groom.
Read more advice for Thai wedding guests
Frequently asked questions
- Do we need a visa?
It depends on which country you are from and how long you are going to be in Thailand for. Visitors from most Western countries who are going to be in Thailand for less than 30 days and who have a return flight ticket don’t normally require a visa. There are some exceptions so it is always advisable to check the current situation with the Thai embassy or consulate in your home country. Also note that if you are marrying your Thai partner then marriage is not normally a guarantee that your spouse will be allowed to return with you to your home country. Always check the situation with your embassy.
- How long does it take to complete all the legal paperwork for the wedding?
Typically, this takes between 4 and 5 working days. A wedding planner may be able to speed things up for you, but as a benchmark be prepared to spend at least 4 days in Bangkok for all of the paperwork to be complete. You should also take into account the dates for Thai public holidays when offices are closed.
- Can we get married first and complete the paperwork afterwards?
The marriage is only legal when you complete the process at the Amphur Office so there is nothing to stop you from having a ceremony first and going through all the paperwork afterwards. However, a religious ceremony by itself will not make the wedding legal. It is the completion of the paperwork that makes your wedding legal.
- Can you recommend a wedding planner?
No. This site acts as an independent guide and cannot recommend any particular wedding planner. The links and information provided are there to help you compare different services available so that you can make an informed decision.
- Where is the best place to to have a suit or dress made?
As with wedding planners I cannot recommend one particular service over another. All of the main tourist areas and resorts in Thailand have tailors’ shops who can make dresses, suits and other clothing to order. The quality can vary and it really is a case of buyer beware. Every tailor shop will provide you with a catalogue to look through so that you can point out a particular style you like. However, if you’ve seen your ideal dress back home, it’s a good idea to get a picture of it and bring it with you to Thailand to give the dressmaker something to go by. Whilst clothes can be made-to-order, shoes in larger Western sizes can be difficult to find so it might be best to bring them with you. This applies equally for men and women.
- My partner is Thai and I’ve been told by friends that I will have to pay a dowry. Is this true?
The ‘dowry’ system, sinsod, is part of Thai culture and is paid to the bride’s parents. If your bride-to-be is Thai then her family may request that you pay sinsod. The circumstances will vary so it’s impossible to give a definitive answer here, but if you are marrying a Thai woman you should be aware that there is a chance that you may be obliged to pay sinsod.
Please note, I am not a wedding planner so I can’t arrange your wedding for you. The information provided has been compiled with the assistance of numerous Thai friends and colleagues. I advise anybody planning a wedding in Thailand to check the current legal requirements with your embassy or consulate. I try to keep this site as up to date and as accurate as possible but things can, and do, change quickly in Thailand.