Wedding rituals of the Thai
A wedding of the Thai, one of the three largest ethnic groups in Vietnam, goes through five formalities, namely horoscope reading, proposal, engagement, matrilocal residence and wedding.

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Ta Thi Tam

Ethnology Institute

A wedding of the Thai, one of the three largest ethnic groups in Vietnam, goes through five formalities, namely horoscope reading, proposal, engagement, matrilocal residence and wedding.

Horoscope reading

When a boy finds his future wife, he introduces her to his parents who will arrange the marriage for him. According to the Thai custom, the boy’s parents must first conduct a ceremony to read the horoscopes of the couple to see if they are a good match. A member of the boy’s family offers fruit, cakes and sweets to a sorcerer, asking him to foresee the future of the boy and the girl by reading their horoscopes.


If the couple is believed to be a good match, the boy’s family asks a matchmaker to take charge of the marriage formalities, offering him some fruits, tea and cigarettes. A matchmaker is a prestigious middle-aged man in the village who not only leads a well-off and happy family but also is smooth-tongued and good at responsive singing.

The proposal ceremony involves three steps:

On behalf of the boy’s family, the matchmaker visits the girl’s to make the proposal, bringing with him fruits, cakes, sweets, tea and cigarettes as offerings. Even though informed in advance of this visit by the girl, the girl’s family will not tell the matchmaker if it accepts the proposal or not. A couple of days later, if the girl’s family does not return the offerings, the boy’s family can proceed with the following steps.

On a good date, the matchmaker brings betel leaves, areca nuts and Artocarpus tonkinensis tree bark as betrothal gifts to the girl’s home where they discuss marriage affairs and choose a good date for the matchmaker’s third visit.

On the chosen date, the matchmaker visits the girl’s family again, offering it a rooster, a hen and two bottles of wine. The girl’s family makes a meal for offering to its ancestors, which will be later treated to the matchmaker. During the meal, the matchmaker asks the girl’s family to exact wedding presents which will be brought on the engagement day.


The boy’s family prepares betrothal offerings which include money as exacted by the girl’s family, two roosters, 30 kilos of rice, a pig, 10 liters of rice wine, cakes, sweets, fruits, sugar, betel leaves and areca nuts. The offerings are put in two baskets, one left at the girl’s family and the other brought to the girl’s maternal family. In addition to the above presents, the boy’s family must give the girl a pair of silver bracelets to “mark” its daughter-in-law.

The boy’s party visiting the girl’s family for the engagement comprises the matchmaker and another female matchmaker, the groom, a groomsman, an uncle of the groom and his wife and a group of 12-15 assistants who are not family members.

The girl’s family makes a meal for offering to its ancestors, reporting on its daughter’s marriage. It also treats the boy’s family a big party.

During the engagement ceremony, the two families reach agreement on the wedding day which will be held three years later after the groom’s matrilocal stay.

Pending the wedding, the groom’s family prepares wedding presents exacted by the bride’s family.

After the engagement ceremony, the bride’s family visits the groom in a formality for the bride to present herself before her husband’s family. The bride’s family offers the groom’s four pairs of pillows, four pairs of headdresses, two pairs of cushions together with fruits, cakes, sweets, tea and cigarettes. The groom’s family also gives the bride cloth for her to make blankets and pillows.

Matrilocal residence

If a bridal family has no son, the oldest son-in-law must stay with his wife’s family permanently and take charge of worship affairs. At the beginning of his stay, the groom is considered a stranger and must sleep in a separate room next to the ancestor altar, using his own blanket brought from his home.

In other cases, the groom must stay with his wife’s family for three years before he can take his bride home and hold the wedding. Before the groom’s stay, the bride’s family must present the bride to her husband’s family, bringing with her a pair of new pillows.


The wedding is held in the bride’s family but all the expenses are covered by the groom’s family which must prepare betrothal gifts and all the food for the wedding feast.

Before the wedding day, the bride’s family makes two trays of food for offering to the ancestors, praying for their protection of the bride’s spirit. Only when the bride’s spirit is protected, she is believed to get good luck and be happy when living in her new family.

At the chosen time, the groom’s party led by the matchmaker goes to the bride’s family to make the wedding feast as required by the latter.

The groom’s party brings with it 80 kilos of pork, 80 kilos of rice, 50 square sticky rice cakes, wine and vegetables for making the wedding feast.

It also brings betrothal gifts, including money, two packs of betel leaves and areca nuts, two packs of salt, two packs of rice, two boiled chicken, two kilos of tea, two cartons of cigarettes and two bottles of wine wrapped in white cloth called white-haired wine, implying that the couple will live happily till they are very old. An indispensable item of the betrothal gifts is bong hap, which are bamboo baskets containing dried fish and pickled fish or meat. Without bong hap, the groom’s party is not allowed to take the bride home and is fined with money or wine. The groom’s family must also present a pair of silver bracelets to the bride and her mother and a dress for the bride’s mother to show its gratitude to the mother for bringing up the bride. In return, the bride’s family will give the groom’s such gifts as cloth, pillows, scarves or money.

Before entering the bride’s home, the matchmaker must ask for its permission to bring in the wedding presents. On behalf of the groom’s family, the matchmaker asks the bride’s family to allow the groom’s to take its daughter-in-law home. Then comes the wedding feast in which people eat food, drink wine and sing cheerfully while the new couple greets the bride’s parents and her relatives.

At the chosen time, the groom’s family conducts a formality to take the bride home. The groom’s party, which comprises the matchmaker, two middle-aged women from the paternal and maternal families of the groom, and two young girls, brings a chicken, a bottle of wine and some rice as offerings to the bride’s ancestors.

The bride and groom pray before the altar, asking for the ancestors’ protection of the marriage as well as their permission for the bride to go to her husband’s home. The couple then greets the bride’s parents before leaving for the groom’s home.

The bride, wearing Thai traditional costume and jewelry, goes to her husband’s home with bare feet to show her gentleness. She is accompanied by a maternal uncle, a paternal uncle and his wife, other relatives and friends. Leaving for her new home, the bride brings with her not only dowries which include pillows, blankets, cushions and even gold or silver, but also other presents from her parents to the couple and the groom’s family, such as farming tools, furniture and cattle.

The groom’s family chooses a good time for making bed for the couple in the wish that the couple will have a happy marriage. This formality is done by four women from the paternal and maternal families of the groom and the bride, who each holds a corner of the mosquito net, muttering wishes for the couple before hanging it above the bed.

Three days after the wedding, the couple pays a visit to the bride’s home, bringing a pair of chickens, two bottles of wine, five kilos of meat, five kilos of rice, cakes, sweets and fruit as presents. The couple makes a meal for offering to the bride’s ancestors, asking for their permission to bring home the bride’s tay ho, a kind of Thai amulet made of bamboo, which is believed to protect the spirit of the holder. The bride’s tay ho will be brought to the groom’s family for conducting a rite to recognize the bride’s spirit as a new family member. If the bride gives birth to a son, her tay ho will be stuck on the roof to protect the child’s spirit.-

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