Have you ever dreamed of marrying the man (or woman) of your dreams, and riding off into the sunset aboard an elephant – “just married” sign and all? Have you fantasized about having fried cricket and silkworm as a selection on your wedding buffet? If you answered yes to either of these questions, a wedding in Thailand just might be perfect for you!
The first question you may have is whether a Thai marriage will be recognized and considered legal by the United States. The answer is yes. If a marriage is legally performed and is considered valid in the country you married in, the United States considers it to be valid as well.
There is a certain amount of paperwork which needs to be done to officially register a marriage in Thailand – and because this registration is separate from any religious or spiritual ceremony you might arrange, the paperwork may be done either before or after the ceremony. (You will want to remember that the date you choose to register with the Amphur Office will be the date entered onto your marriage certificate.) Following are the steps necessary to become legally married in Thailand (bear in mind that a wedding planner can do a lot of the necessary legwork for you):
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Visit the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, or the U.S. Consulate in Chiang Mai, and complete a one page “affidavit to marry”. You will need your passports for this process. (Once completed and notarized, these documents will prove to the Thai authorities that your government has no problem allowing you to marry.) Both husband and wife will need to complete individual affidavits. If you have previously been married, you will need to complete an additional form. (You may need to bring along an original copy of any divorce decrees or death certificates – it is a good idea to contact the embassy for the current requirement ahead of time.) The total cost for two affidavits will run around $50 U.S.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Have the completed affidavits translated into Thai, after which they will need to be “legalized” by the Thai Foreign Ministry in Bangkok. (This can take a few days, so plan accordingly – especially if you are mailing documents from Chiang Mai.) A copy of your passport photo pages and arrival cards will need to accompany the affidavits. The fees for “legalization” will run between $10 and $20 U.S., plus any extra mailing costs.
Ã¢Â?Â¢ Once you have received the “legalized” documents, you are ready to officially register your marriage with the local Thai Amphur (local government district office). You will need a translator for this process, as well as: your passports, written permission from parents if either of you is under 20 (this must be translated into Thai), and any relevant divorce decrees or death certificates (also with Thai translations). This process should take an hour or less. You will receive a beautiful marriage certificate printed in Thai – which you will want to get translated into English before you leave the country.
If the paperwork seems overwhelming, don’t let it discourage you. The good news is that there are wedding planners available who will complete most of the cumbersome paperwork and translation tasks for you. You’ll need to be there to complete the affidavits, and you’ll (obviously) need to be there to register at the Amphur office, but most of the steps in between can be handled by your planner. (Which will leave you even more time to explore, and most importantly, to relax and enjoy your actual ceremony!)
A wedding planner can arrange all the details of your special day, including (but not limited to) accommodations, clothing, music, transportation, religious officials, and food. She can even round up some guests, if you’re traveling alone as a couple and would like to share in your joy! You’ll just need to show up and enjoy the celebration. Many types of ceremonies are available, including Christian and Thai Buddhist, and they can be personalized to suit your idea of the perfect wedding. As mentioned above, in some areas of Thailand, it is even possible to end your wedding day atop an elephant with a “just married” sign – the perfect photo op!
Getting married in Thailand can be surprisingly affordable – there are complete packages available starting at around $1250 U.S. This price includes everything – help with paperwork and translations, transportation, the wedding venue and accommodation, the wedding meal, clothing for both bride and groom, musicians, a complete set of photos – the works. (Try finding a deal like that in the United States!) There are usually add-ons available – which could include Thai dancers, fireworks, video footage, and elephant rides. Most of the wedding arrangements can be made from home before your trip, via email – leaving you more time to relax and enjoy Thailand once you arrive.
There are many different areas of the country where you might choose to hold your ceremony. You may want to marry on a beach at sunset in the southern part of Thailand, or you may prefer the quiet jungle-covered hills of the north. Whatever area you choose, you will probably decide to explore other regions of the country after the wedding, during your honeymoon. Thailand has a lot to offer as a vacation destination – tropical beaches, lush jungles, fascinating ancient archaeological sites, and lively cities. It is quite easy to get around, it is very affordable, and you will find the Thai people to be friendly and welcoming.
The decision of where and how to marry is one of the biggest you’ll ever make, but one thing is certain: if you choose to get married in Thailand, it will be one of the most magical, unforgettable experiences you and your spouse will ever share.