Thai Wedding Costs – The Cold, Hard Facts

As many know from listening to my podcast and reading my rants comments on Twitter, I’m getting married at the end of this year. For some reason, the gods have smiled on me, as I have somehow managed to navigate the minefield of finding a bride in Thailand, emerging on the other side with a girl who is beautiful, smart and funny, has a great job, speaks English at a near-native level, and is not reliant on me for money (which is a very good thing for her). So, yeah, marriage seemed liked a good option. But now we have to deal with the wedding, which is both a monumental headache and a joyous blessing. I thought I’d write a post about what the costs are looking like at this stage, both as a service to the many gents who get married here, and also as kind of a way for me to look back in ten years and laugh at what a n00b I was.

And I was a n00b – when I look back at the first days we started planning, I can’t believe how naive I was. The best advice my already-married friends have given me regarding the time-honored tradition of sticker-shock at an impeding wedding is this: just pay. Pay and smile. Pay and shut up. If you can’t pay, borrow and then pay and smile and shut up (all of this within reason of course). Because the bottom line is – you can only say “Can we do it cheaper?”, “Can we cut that part out?”, and “Jesus, how much?!” before your bride, her family, and possibly your own family, start to wonder why you’re being such a cheap douche.

So anyway, the costs I lay out here are for what is a fairly typical wedding in Thailand these days – a Thai-style morning ceremony, and a western-style evening party/dinner/dance. When I started, I thought that we could do the whole thing for 150,000, maybe 200,000 baht, a pretty large chunk of change for me, but boy was I ever off. Keep in mind: the following prices aren’t the exact costs of my wedding, merely rough approximations of what I’ve seen and experienced for what most westerners would deem a ‘traditional wedding’. If you want to get married barefoot on a beach with 20 people and have a somtam and sticky rice buffet, the costs will be much, much lower. Alternately, there is no maximum when it comes to how much you can spend.

"This marriage better be AWESOME." Credit: Richard Barrow

“This marriage better be AWESOME.” Credit: Richard Barrow

Venue. Most any nice hotel here will be able to offer you a wedding package that includes a limited number of: displays, seating, flowers, food, drinks, lights, staff, and maybe things like photographer, DJ, free room, etc. I found thatΒ hotel packages offered the bare minimum you need to have a nice wedding, but not a single petal more. If you want to beef things up, that’ll cost you. I found most of these starter packages begin at around 180,000 baht. Nicer hotels start at about 250,000 baht. The one thing we didn’t like about hotel weddings is that a hotel ballroom in Bangkok is the same as a hotel ballroom in Spain, Canada, and Urugay, and we wanted a bit more uniqueness.

We opted not to do a package deal, and instead get all the elements on our own, which would give us more control. After a lot of looking around, we found that we could rent a venue for anywhere from 2,000 baht (a plot of grass in Lumpini Park) to 60,000 baht (really nice garden/house area – but nothing else, and only for 4 hours), and up from there. We finally found a nice place that offers an inside pavillion with a nice Thai-style garden area for a surprisingly good price.

This image comes up if you Google 'Thai Wedding'. Starting to get a bit frightened now...

This image comes up if you Google ‘Thai Wedding’. Starting to get a bit frightened now…

Morning Ceremony. If you want to do a Thai-style morning ceremony (almost a necessity if you’re marrying a Thai) you’re looking at a morning affair, usually attended by close friends and family, with chanting monks, a light lunch, staff to take care of the ceremonial details, a host, and all the flowers, decorations, photography, and trinkets that go with it. Many places arrange these, and they cost anywhere from around 30,000 baht to 100,000 baht, depending on how ornate you like things. They’re usually inclusive of everything, so all the costs listed after this are for the evening ceremony.

Food. The grand poo-bah at any wedding, you have to feed your guests, and this is where the biggest cost comes in. If you want to keep your guests happy, you almost have to have a buffet-style meal, which means about 250-500 baht per person depending on how swanky you want to go. We’re having about 250 guests at our wedding, so that comes to anywhere from 62,500 to 125,000 baht. (See update below)

Booze. A friend one told me that no one remembers if the food was average or awesome, but everyone will remember if the bar ran dry. Depending on how much your friends drink, anywhere from 15,000 baht to 50,000 baht.

Flowers, decorations, etc. We hired a guy to do this for us, because there’s a million little details you never even thought about. Lamps, lights, candles, photos on display for your guests to look at, flowers in strategic locations, a nice photo backdrop for when you greet your guests, fans if it’s too hot, books to sign, speakers/microphones for speeches, a screen (or two) for a video presentation, DJ or music, and it goes on and on. I’d say anywhere from 50,000 baht to 100,000 baht, depending on how much stuff you get.

That's pure vodka. Or it will be at my wedding.

That’s pure vodka. Or it will be at my wedding.

Photographer. A no-brainer, you need one of these. Anywhere from 15,000 baht for a single camera to 80,000 baht for few cameras and a videographer. Note: If their work has been featured on TV or in magazines, or if they did a hi-so wedding, their price goes up, same for makeup and hair.

Makeup and hair. Call me naive, but I think my girlfriend looks beautiful when she does her own makeup. But try this for a laugh: suggest to a group of girls that they just do their own makeup for a wedding and see how fast you get laughed out of the room. I’m not even going to pretend I know why, but apparently there are special things that need to be done. Anywhere from 8,000 baht to 20,000 baht, depending on how many makeup artists you have.

Bride’s dresses. In most western cultures, a bride buys or gets given her dress, which she then keeps, but in Thailand it’s a bit different. The wedding dress rental business is huge, because getting one made or buying one can be very expensive. A traditional Thai dress rented for the morning ceremony: 8,000 baht to 15,000 baht. A western-style dress rented for the evening ceremony: 15,000 baht to 30,000 baht. Interesting fact: When renting a dress, you pay less for each successive time it’s been worn.

Groom’s suit. I’m keeping it simple and going for a nice suit and that’s all. 10,000 baht.

THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN AT MY WEDDING.

THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN AT MY WEDDING.

Souvenirs. I don’t get it either, but apparently each guest at a Thai wedding has to get a souvenir. I’ve been to lots of Thai weddings and have kept precisely zero souvenirs. It seems like a waste of money to me, but I’m told it’s what you have to do. 4,000 baht to 10,000 baht, depending on how nice they are.

Invitations. We looked all over the place and there doesn’t seem to be any real shortcuts. If you go simple and plain, 15 baht per card. If you go colorful and ornate, 30 baht per card. Most shops print a minimum of 300, so anywhere from 4,500 baht to 9,000 baht.

Monks always eat first. Remember that, tubby. Credit: Richard Barrow

Monks always eat first. Remember that, tubby. Credit: Richard Barrow

So, going on the minimums and maximums I’ve listed out here, the low/high ends of an average Thai/western wedding in Bangkok are 219,500 baht to 590,000 baht. I didn’t even figure in the dowry in this little summary – those can go from 0 baht to many millions of baht, depending on the bride’s family and the groom’s bank account. And of course, things like dancers, big bands, elephants, fireworks, limousines, etc, will jack up the cost even further.

Good luck everyone – when you say “I do”, make sure you mean it!

**UPDATE**

The first few comments below jogged my brain a bit, and I realized I forgot a few things:

Rings. Duh, rings, how could I forget rings? Rings in Thailand are probably around the same price as they are anywhere else, so say anywhere from 100,000 baht to 200,000 baht for her engagement ring & wedding bands for both of you. Of course, this number can go as high as you want it to.

Monks. I mentioned monks earlier, but even men of the cloth don’t work for free. Granted it’s not much – a typical hour-long chanting session with 9 monks will run you about 5,000 baht, plus transport to and from their monastery, plus food, so say 8,000 baht.

Food. I mentioned above that food will run you 250 – 500 baht per person, but I’ve been informed that’s a lowball estimate. I’ll revise that to 500-1,000 baht per person, making the cost of food for 250 people anywhere from 125,000 baht to 250,000 baht, making the total cost of this wedding anywhere from 390,000 baht to 943,000 baht.

So, that’s a lot of money, but I also forgot to mention one very important thing: Thai wedding guests don’t buy gifts – they usually just give cash in an envelope as they arrive at the evening ceremony. It really depends on who you talk to (and see Cold and Calculating’s comment below) but you can generally do fine with 1,000 baht each; so, if you and your significant other hit a Thai wedding, you can put 2,000 baht in an envelope and be fine. Some give more, some give less. I’ve pinned my future on planned to get about 1,000 baht per guest, so I’m guessing that at the end of the night I’ll have about 250,000 baht in my grubby little hands, give or take.

Essentially what it comes down to is this: you’re throwing a really expensive VIP party, and hoping that the cover charge you collect from everyone will be enough to pay for the party.

 

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2016-11-17T15:48:20+00:00 Culture, Religion, Thailand|35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Paul Salvette June 21, 2011 at 4:10 am - Reply

    My wife and I got married in her village in Isaan last year, and it only ended up setting us back about 200K. Luckily, some of my wealthier Thai colleagues were very generous with the cash gifts, and we were able to cover the cost. The food (locally catered) and drinks (Archa beer) were cheap, but we had to buy them for about 400 people in the village. If you don't provide food/beer for everyone, you'll look like a serious farang khii nok. My wife found a decent 10-person Luuk Thung band for just 20K – not bad!

    I think the cost is really dependent upon the social status of the bride's family. If she is from a well-to-do family in Bangkok, get your ATM card ready.

  2. Cold and Calculating June 21, 2011 at 8:29 am - Reply

    The most important cold, hard fact about throwing a wedding is that you only throw the party your guests will subsidize. If you have 250 guests and they're of such means that they can be counted on to average 1000 baht per envelope, 250,000 is your rough budget.

    And Thais have a way of knowing how much people will give at their weddings: by how much they gave at other people's. Many Thais keep records of such and reciprocate accordingly, to ensure not losing face when the envelope counting begins. "They only gave us 500? We gave their daughter 1000! Cheap bastards…"

  3. Kyle June 21, 2011 at 10:31 am - Reply

    How about this: instead of buying souvenirs, both of you can sign the invitations for the guests so that they can take home their very own signed wedding invitation? I just saved you a chunk of money. You can thank me later…

  4. pandit June 21, 2011 at 11:51 am - Reply

    gulp

  5. Greg June 21, 2011 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    @ Paul: Thanks for the comment, interesting to hear your experience. You're right – a hi-so girl's family will expect hi-so gifts. Thankfully, my girl and her family are very modern and very middle class, just like me. πŸ™‚

    @ Cold and Calculating: Great comment, I've amended my post to mirror your comment. That's what I'm planning on, but the damn thing is, you won't know how much your 'swag bag' will have in it until you head home that night. Wish me luck.. πŸ™‚

    @ Kyle: Great idea! Where were you last month before we bought the stupid souvenirs?!? πŸ˜›

  6. Serene June 22, 2011 at 1:56 pm - Reply

    Good luck, Greg. You probably already figured this out, but it took me until the day of the wedding itself to realise that weddings are never about the couple. Ha. They're about everybody else. I count myself lucky I only heard one of my Singapore relatives bitching about how cheap we were – naturally they think all white men are rich. LOL.

  7. francis June 25, 2011 at 12:42 am - Reply

    Try getting married in the states or even Canada, As you should know its much higher .The average is around$26,000 USD and up.Does the parents of the bride pay towards the wedding like in western culture?i have herd about a dowery is it alwayes expected?Also geting married to a Thai does it change your imagration staus like it does in the USA ?Buy the way Thailand is a very nice nation. i was there first in 1980. THen again in November of last year, and also last month. The people are very nice and kind .

  8. Snap June 25, 2011 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Far out Greg, that's a huge amount of money in any country…I guess eloping is out of the question, lol?

    It could be worse, you could be getting married in Afghanastan. Where it can take seventy years for the happy couple to pay off their wedding debt. So out of control is the cost, that the government is trying to pass a law to prevent reception venues from seating 1500 guests, culling it to 300 people at $7 per head…all in an effort to curtail the final monetary damage.

    Sincerely, best wishes to you both.

  9. Colin July 11, 2011 at 2:54 am - Reply

    MY god, that is a huge amount of money. What about a honey moon?

  10. oakley July 14, 2011 at 8:32 am - Reply

    A few things we had going for us. First of all, my folks didn't think it was right to ask an American for a dowry because it's not his culture. Secondly, we got married in the US so being on a budget is totally okay. And thirdly, we really wanted to get married by a Klingon at then-Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas, so we didn't really care what we do at the wedding done up for our parents. LOL.

    I had 3 months and US$2,000 to work with (wedding gifts from our parents) and I was totally within the budget. We had a wedding at Wat Thai in Hollywood in the morning (families and close friends only), and an American reception 30 miles away back in our neck of the woods. Kudos, however, a lot of stuff was sponsored as wedding gifts from my mom's friends: our traditional Thai costumes, wedding favors, and even our wedding rings.

  11. Greg July 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm - Reply

    Colin: Honeymoon? Calm down there, buckaroo, let's just concentrate on paying off the wedding first. Maybe I can treat M'Lady to Sizzler or something first. πŸ˜›

    Oak: Your parents sounds cool – M'Lady's parents are similar – the dowry ceremony will still be had, but it's a slightly watered-down version that's amenable to all of us. Maybe I should start making friends with really rich people so I get some fat envelopes to cover costs πŸ˜€

  12. michael September 24, 2014 at 7:10 pm - Reply

    Your first mistake was marrying a Thai. Their loyalty is Family first, you will always just be a Farang. Sorry man πŸ™

    • Greg September 24, 2014 at 9:46 pm - Reply

      Thanks Michael, what an incredibly ignorant and tone-deaf reply!

      • Alfred August 6, 2015 at 9:10 am - Reply

        55555 good replay.

        i wish you a long and happy life with your wife and family. πŸ™‚

  13. Jay November 8, 2014 at 5:22 am - Reply

    Thanks for the insight. It give me a bit of idea what to expect since everything does add up in the end. The ironic thing is I am Thai, but I was raised in Canada. I hope everything worked out for you Greg.

    • Greg November 10, 2014 at 11:21 am - Reply

      Thanks Jay, it’s going well so far. A good investment, in my mind. πŸ™‚ Good luck when your time comes!

  14. Alex December 4, 2014 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    Great read Greg, my Thai fiancΓ© and I are planning our wedding now so going through your past mind set now!! Only difference is we are planning it from another country and travelling back to get married in Thailand! πŸ™‚

    • Greg December 4, 2014 at 10:53 pm - Reply

      Thanks Alex, hope you get some good info out of it. The biggest takeaway of it for me is this: I spent wayyyyy more than I wanted to, but haven’t regretted it a single day since. Nearly 3 years later friends still say it was a fun and memorable wedding, and isn’t that what they’re supposed to be? πŸ™‚

  15. samantha July 29, 2015 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Great blogpost Greg! Counting my money already! Just got engaged a week ago (YAYY!) and we both love to have our wedding in thailand. Living in Dubai we see a lot of expensive and crazy weddings so it sets the standards high however we prefer a more romantic and casual beach wedding while still having some cherries on the cake πŸ˜‰ Now searching around what our budget should be and then it will be wedding venue hunting! got 1,5 years till the “big day” but you can never start to early hahaha! hope you had a great wedding. Samantha

    • Greg July 29, 2015 at 5:54 pm - Reply

      Hey Samantha, thanks, and congrats on getting engaged. 18 months should be enough to make it awesome, I’m sure Thailand will provide everything you need. Let me know if you have any questions!

  16. Gee Roy September 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm - Reply

    You got married by a “Klighon”? Beam me up Scotty !

  17. RickoMortis January 16, 2017 at 8:11 pm - Reply

    The biggest expense of getting married in Thailand has not been mentioned & few Farang admit this but the Thai wife does not come free or just for a huge bundle of 1000, Baht notes shown at the wedding. The brides Parents normally the Mother demands & always wants a very expensive house & if you don’t pay for it to be built for the parents to live in within a short time up to 3 years after Marriage your bride will have to return to her Family. I lived in Thailand for nine years & married a Thai & had a Son there with my Thai wife. I’ve seen this happen many times when some Farang think they can escape buying the Thai wife’s parents a very expensive home. When I look back at my time spent in Thailand I really was a fool in Paradise. Another mist item that must be paid monthly is after your marriage your wife must send enough money to pay for the family expenses & Thai family’s include all living relatives even cousins. I know all the above because I’ve done it & still paying for a house I never owned strange but true. My English mate always said Its cheaper & maybe better just to rent Bar girls by the month & you can easy exchange them for another. I mean nothing bad of the above I’ve wrote this is just Thai Culture when a Farang wants a Thai wife. Another one of those Thai Scams as if there is not already enough of them.

    • Greg January 17, 2017 at 3:37 am - Reply

      Hey RickoMortis, thanks for commenting, but I disagree with your use of “must” and “demand”. While it’s certainly common to pay a dowry, buy/build a house, and send payments to your bride’s family, it’s definitely not true of all relationships. I never paid a dowry, don’t send money to my wife’s family, and couldn’t afford to build a house even if I wanted to. The relationship we have is as close to a western one as you can have while living in Thailand, and I have many friends in similar situations.

      I think a lot of guys believe that the situation you mention above – a never-ending stream of money from you to the family for all kinds of things – is inevitable, but that’s not the case. I may be oversimplifying things but if someone demands money in return for a relationship, she probably ain’t worth your time.

    • Yui February 9, 2017 at 9:32 pm - Reply

      Hi RickoMortis. I am Thai and I just got engaged with a Swiss man. We are planing to get marry next year and you know what, my parent didn’t ask any cent for dowry. Also my dad will help us with all the cost in our wedding and will give us some extra money for us to settle down. So you can guess that they won’t ask my future husband to send them money like your wife’s family does. Not every Thai family is what you said, you just somehow chose the wrong one. I just wonder where you met your wife.

      • Greg February 10, 2017 at 9:32 am - Reply

        Thanks Yui,

        Yeah, there are plenty of women and their families who see the dowry – quite rightly, in my opinion – as an outdated vestige of times long gone. The problem when money becomes involved in marriage is that it generates expectations from whoever gets it, whoever gave it, and whoever wants it. Many of my friends have given large dorwries that were immediately returned; many gave dowries that were spent on booze and gambling; and many gave none at all. No two relationships are the same.

  18. Elisa January 30, 2017 at 1:23 pm - Reply

    Hi Greg. Nice post! May I know who you hired to do the wedding flowers and decorations? My fiancee and I are looking to do a wedding in Hua Hin but we think the hotel will up-charge us a lot for adding extra flowers etc.

    Thanks!

    • Greg February 1, 2017 at 6:54 am - Reply

      Hi Elisa, Whooo…man, that was a long time ago and I’m not sure I can find the guy’s name again. If you still want me track him down I can ask my wife, but he only speaks Thai.

  19. Yui February 9, 2017 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Greg, great article.

    Nowadays many couples choose to get marry in the morning and have a celebration at lunch time. So this way will save a lot of money compared with having the celebration at the evening. My friend just had it, she said she spent less than 300,000 bath for 250 guests.

  20. Leo April 13, 2017 at 10:12 am - Reply

    Great article running for 6 years… good advice from all my eyes are wide open now going into my future marriage.. Thanks.

    • Greg April 16, 2017 at 2:58 am - Reply

      Thanks Leo, it’s a stressful time, but I never regretted spending all that money. Well…no, nevermind, I never did. πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  21. Stephen July 14, 2017 at 2:50 pm - Reply

    Just take every one to MacDonald this would’ be a lot easeir

  22. Arturo Rivas March 31, 2018 at 4:07 am - Reply

    Gracias Greg, I am in the process, my already wife We got married legally last October) she is trying to schedule and find all that is needed. We are saving, I have a question tho, she said that we need to get married in winter, is something like a tradition; do you know anything about it?

    • Greg March 31, 2018 at 6:57 am - Reply

      Hey Arturo, glad you found the article interesting. Can’t say I know anything about wanting to get married in winter, besides the fact that it’s cooler. I can say, though, that there are a billion different superstitions, old wives’ tales, and beliefs surrounding stuff like this that I don’t even pretend to understand – maybe it has something to do with that? You’ll have to ask your soon-to-be-wife. πŸ˜‰

  23. Steve Howser February 23, 2019 at 1:28 am - Reply

    Thanks for the 411 Greg. My bride to be has no religious affiliation, so are Monks still a necessary out of respect for some of the guests. Her family is small in numbers. She is probably thinking less than 100 including college pals. She’s an only child, father is deceased. I’m not sure about Aunts, Uncles and Cousins yet. Neither is she at this time.
    When you figured 1,000 a head, was that just for the food and booze Or the whole enchilada??

    The wedding would be in Phuket, her hometown, so I don’t know about a cost variance (if any).
    I will be forever grateful to you for any 411 you can offer to my questions.

    P.S. Have you ever considered a B to B as a wedding planner????

    • Greg May 8, 2019 at 6:20 am - Reply

      Hey Steve, sorry, don’t check my comments too often. I think the 1,000 per head was for the whole thing, roughly, like “a wedding celebration including everything” for X people would be approximately (X)(1,000).

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