Traditionally, what might be called a dowry is paid by the groom to the bride’s family. The groom is in effect ‘paying for the mother’s milk’ or the upbringing of his bride. If the bride has had a good upbringing then the amount of sinsod will be higher. If the bride has not been married before, has no children, is well-educated, has a good career and stable family life, then this will be reflected in the amount of sinsod asked for. It also goes to show that the groom is financially capable of looking after his wife and indeed, his wife’s family if needs be. It is important to stress how crucial the concept of family is in Thai life. If you are marrying a Thai, you are also marrying in to that person’s family and everything that may entail.
It’s impossible to say how much is the right price to pay for sinsod because there are so many variables involved. Some Thai families may see their daughter marrying a foreigner as the equivalent of winning the lottery. Despite the fact that the groom may not be a rich man in his home country, he will be deemed to be a rich man in Thailand and a vast amount may be asked for. By contrast, some Thai families may appreciate that the prospective son-in-law comes from a different culture and may not ask for sinsod in return for a solemn promise to take care of their daughter. In some cases sinsod is accepted by the bride’s parents and is given back the following day as a wedding present to the newlyweds.
It can be quite a thorny issue for Western men marrying Thai women, but it should be understood that if you are marrying in Thailand it is something you will very likely have to come to terms with. If you are considering marriage to a Thai national you should already be aware that Thai culture is very different and should not feel insulted if asked for sinsod. One thing that many Thai grooms do is to pay the sinsod in small denominations (i.e. 100 Baht notes) so that the amount on show looks even more impressive when it is spread out.
The most important aspect is ‘face’. This can’t be stressed enough. Keep your cool and liaise with your wife-to-be and her family to reach a mutually agreeable amount. Sometimes the amount paid in sinsod will be returned by the bride’s family to the wedding couple. By having a large amount of sinsod paid, the Thai family don’t lose face with their friends and peers. It might not be important to you what other people think of you, but it matters to Thai people and that should never be forgotten in any aspect of Thai culture.