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When you get married to a Thai in Thailand, your wedding will work very differently than it would back home.
This is because in Thailand, when two people are married there are more traditions to uphold.
One of those traditions in sin sod, which you present to your fiancee’s parent(s) when you marry.
Usually, money is the most popular form of sin sod. But sometimes, sin sod comes in the form of gold or jewelry, property, cars, or a mix of all.
Also, since I’ve never had to offer sin sod to my Thai wife’s mother (we were married in America and then moved to Thailand), I’m going to write this guide using the experiences of my friends, ExpatDen readers, and redditors who did offer sin sod when they married.
Keep in mind that their names and locations have been changed to protect their identity.
With that said, let’s look at what sin sod is, what it isn’t, how it works in Thailand, and how much you can expect to offer – if you choose to take part in the tradition.
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What is Sin Sod?
Sin sod is the money you offer to your future Thai wife’s parents to show that you’re financially able to take care of their daughter.
Also, you offer sin sod to your Thai fiancee’s parents at your Thai wedding, and you may or may not get the money back afterwards (more about this later).
To Westerners, it may seem like an odd concept to give money to your fiancee’s parents, especially since we’re raised to believe that you get married for love.
However, sin sod is not a dowry. That is, you’re not paying for your wife. The money you offer as sin sod is used to show that you can take care of your future wife.
Who Gives Sin Sod?
In the United States, the bride’s father usually pays for his daughter’s wedding ceremony – a great benefit for the groom.
But sorry, fellas. In Thailand, the man offers the sin sod to his Thai girlfriend’s parents.
This goes for Thai men as well as non-Thai men, which means that if you get married to your Thai wife in Thailand, you’re supposed to offer sin sod to your fiancee’s parents no matter where in the world you come from.
In rare cases you may be able to avoid the tradition, but most of the time you’ll be hard-pressed not to find some form of sin sod being offered at a Thai wedding.
Out of curiosity, I asked my mother-in-law if I would have to offer her sin sod if my wife and I decided to have another ceremony in Thailand, and she jokingly said I could put a 1,000-baht note on a stack of 20-baht notes, then get it all back in the end.
Although my wife and I decided not to go through with a second wedding in Thailand, it was good to know that should we ever go through with it, I wouldn’t have to come out of pocket.
But I know many people who have offered sin sod.
As you’ll see in the sections that follow, most of the cases differ. But before we get into how much sin sod you have to offer, let’s look at how to approach the whole matter.
Who Approaches the Parent’s About Sin Sod?
When it comes to approaching your Thai fiancee’s parents about sin sod, you can do it in either one of two ways.
You can go with your wife to talk to her parents together, or you can let your wife talk to her parents without you there.
One of our readers – we’ll call him Mike – chose the latter, but first he discussed it in detail with his fiancee. Then she went to her parents’ house and talked it over with them to settle on an amount before the ceremony.
Barry, another one of our readers from the United Kingdom, married a Thai woman from a family of traditional farmers in Ubon, and he talked about sin sod only with his fiancee and not her parents.
One of my friends, Tom, did the opposite. He went with his fiancee to talk to her parents about sin sod and made a proposal of how much he could offer, which they were okay with – and which leads into the next section.
How Much Sin Sod Do You Have to Offer?
The amount of sin sod you offer to your Thai fiancee’s parents could depend on three things:
- how wealthy you are
- how wealthy your future in-laws think you are
- how wealthy your new family will be
In general, sin sod can range from 100,000 baht to one million baht (remember, it can be in the form of gold or property as well). Although, sin sod could be lower or higher in some cases.
But don’t get your bank notes into a bunch. No one’s expecting you to give your Thai fiancee’s parents millions of baht, even if you do have it laying around.
With that said, what can you expect to pay?
Steve, a British expat, gave his future in-laws 100,000 baht after negotiating the amount down, and that was only after mutually agreeing that the money had to be used for home improvements before the actual wedding ceremony.
Because he was from the United Kingdom, he also didn’t want the wedding to have any elements of money or wealth associated with it, so he chose not to offer sin sod on the day he and his fiancee were married.
He said it did confuse some of the villagers and family members, but he also felt it was important to respect both county’s traditions during the ceremony.
George, another of our readers, said that in lieu of sin sod he took his Thai wife on a trip around Europe, which came out to more than 100,000 baht.
He didn’t think it made much sense to prove he could support his Thai wife by giving her parents all that money.
A few redditors also shared their stories about sin sod, and the group had mixed experiences.
One redditor refrained from offering sin sod since it was against his culture, and his mother-in-law-to-be was fine with his choice.
Another redditor who considers him and his wife millennials said that his progressive in-laws never expected sin sod and just wanted him and his wife to be happy.
However, one redditor gave 50 thousand baht as sin sod even though his in-laws never expected him to do so.
One of our most unique stories comes from a man named Achim. He married a Thai woman but they were living in China at the time.
His fiancee dropped the bomb on him that he had to show some money at the wedding they were planning in Thailand, but he didn’t have anything to offer because they were already paying for a wedding with hundreds of guests.
His sister, a banker, suggested that he have a one of those larger-than-life checks made up (the kind from the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes TV commercials back in the day), and hand that over to his future in-laws at the wedding.
With the help of his sister, he had a giant, real bank check made out and presented it at the wedding. Luckily for him, his wife’s parents never cashed the check.
The world is changing, and with that said so are the traditions of sin sod.
It’s not out of the ordinary for a Thai woman (or her family) to let her future husband borrow money so that he can present it at the wedding as sin sod for the sake of tradition.
Other expats transfer money into Thailand from a bank account in their home country.
Who Keeps the Sin Sod?
As you’ve probably noticed in this guide to sin sod, most of the important stuff depends on the family you’re marrying into – and this goes for the actual returning of sin sod as well.
Just because you marry into a middle- or upper-class family, don’t expect to get your sin sod back. On the same token, don’t expect a family to keep your sin sod if they are hard up for cash.
Someone created a survey on Pantip, a popular website for Thais, about the returning of sin sod. The survey shows that 48 out of 75 families polled said they returned the sin sod. Ten of those families returned only a partial portion of the sin sod. And 17 of the families didn’t return the sin sod.
With that said, whether you get your sin sod back after your marriage is solely based on your in-laws.
In some other cases, the bride’s wife may return the sin sod and give additional money to the newlyweds to help them start their new life together.
One redditor didn’t like the idea of sin sod, but he did it anyway out of respect for the tradition, and he suggests that other men who marry Thai wives should do the same — or find another bride instead of making your soon-to-be wife look bad.
With that covered, let’s look at the ways in which Thai families use sin sod.
What is Sin Sod Used For?
Again, this depends on the family and what they need. If they keep the sin sod, they may use it to renovate their home, buy additional land, property, or cars, or pay off debt, as was the case of Mike.
Instead of presenting money at his wedding ceremony, he forgave his new in-laws on a loan they had taken out from him.
Sin sod may also be used to help pay for the wedding expenses.
As you can see, sin sod is used for many reasons.
But now that we know how Thais feel about sin sod, let’s see what your fellow expats have to say about it.
How Expats in Thailand Feel About Sin Sod
Sin sod may be a strange tradition for non-Thais to uphold, but as for now the custom is here to stay whether we like or it not.
Many of the people I’ve asked who either gave or didn’t give sin sod felt the same way, that it taints the idea of marriage.
One expat, Sammy, thought it was a complete waste of time and a weird. He called it an old tradition that needs to be overcome.
Another reader, Miguel, felt that the tradition shouldn’t be upheld. According to him, he buys bread, milk, and clothes – not a woman’s love.
Blaine put it simply, saying he’s never been advocate of sin sod.
What to be Aware Of
Where there’s money, there’s going to be corruption. It’s part of human nature. And there’s no difference when it comes to sin sod.
The truth is, some people will take an innocent tradition and use it to their advantage.
You can read horror stories on forums about this happening or watch unsuspecting YouTubers talk about how they’re about to hand over a wad of cash to their future Thai wife’s family, despite all the warnings in the comments.
Pritam, an expat from India, knew something was up when his girlfriend wanted to jump into a marriage with him and asked for 100,000 baht.
He knew she had been previously married and that her mom collected sin sod from that marriage. So he felt like the family had a shady business going on.
Needless to say, he called her out on it and their relationship fell apart.
When it comes to sin sod – and marriage in general – it’s best to use common sense. Otherwise, you may end up paying twice – once for the marriage, and another time for the divorce.
Sin Sod and Divorces
What happens when you marry, hand over cash, gold, or property to your in-laws, and then later on get divorced?
Simply said, don’t expect to get your money back. Once you hand it over, consider it gone – forever.
How to Have the “Sin Sod” Talk
If you’ve been dating in Thailand and feel like you’ve met the right woman and are getting more serious about your relationship, it may be time to start talking about marriage and the tradition of sin sod.
If this is the case, don’t always expect your future wife to bring up the topic first. Your Thai fiancee may be so used to the idea that it may come as an afterthought.
With that in mind, sin sod is not some taboo subject to be avoided. It’s a part of Thai tradition and something that you should embrace if you plan on getting married in the country.
You can easily approach your Thai fiancee to open up the conversation, and she’ll most likely help you from there.
Now, on to You
Like anywhere in the world, marriage is serious business.
Add sin sod to the matter and it becomes a whole lot more business-like, though.
At least you have a few firsthand experiences to help you decide if you want to take part in the tradition of sin sod or skip the custom altogether.