Sin Sot Reflections
After my submission some time last week, which touched on the subject of my own personal discussions with regards to the sin sot, I received several emails asking me to elaborate further on the details behind the final sin sot position that I arrived
Whilst also considering some of these emails and what people where asking, it got me wondering what the TRUE cost of marrying a Thai lady actually was, sin sot or otherwise and so here are my reflections on the whole thing.
So what did it really cost me in the end for my Thai wedding?
Well, what follows is a breakdown of my wedding costs and it includes both anticipated and unexpected costs in its finality. One thing you should note, is that we actually had our wedding at my wife’s home, which does help to keep costs down but many Thai weddings are now done in hotels and reception halls which may push the price up somewhat. No matter how you decide to do it, just do yourself a favour and make sure you take ALL costs associated with the wedding into consideration when you have your sin sot discussions because this is the hidden element that many people seem to forget but could be captured with a bit of forward thinking, planning as well as some guess work.
There is no need to have a calculator ready either as I have included a summary at the end of the costs.
sin sot GOLD
Sin sot discussions usually start off something along the lines of “xx baht and xx baht Gold” and as such, it is inevitable that you will end up (maybe not so for some of you) that you will be buying some gold. I personally bought 10 baht gold for my wife, which at the time was priced as 8,200 baht per 1 baht gold, which equals 82,000 baht (circa £1,100).
I think the current prices are around 9,100 baht per baht gold so in essence it is a reasonable investment to make assuming you get the gold at the right price to start with that is.
I justified the gold, as being an investment in my wife and it plays two parts in the relationship. It shows to all the other Thais out there (especially the 98% superficial face conscious ones that form Thai society as well as the old crones in the villages) that she is a kept woman and that she has a sponsor or husband of means… and for the wife, who let’s face it, is so often constrained by the Thai face and status thing too, it goes a long way to gaining her some serious face.
It also gives your lady some security that should you bugger off at some point in the future that she has a quick cash option where she can sell it and at least recoup some sort of dignity back for you doing a runner. Already her gold has appreciated in value by 9,000 baht (assuming she can get market value) but having said that, most of the 'decent' Thai girls I know, have all said that they wouldn't dream of selling their gold but I guess it depends on the person and how desperate their situation given a point in time is.
This of course differs immensely to the bar girl mentality, who after receiving gold from you as her punter, will usually be off to the nearest pawn shop the minute you turn your back at the airport to cash in on your investment.
Most Thai ladies are insecure to one degree or other and there is a reason behind the need to give your lady security. If you speak to many Thai ladies, they will tell you that many Thai men are butterflies and tend to have Mia Nois and Giks (concubines, a bit on the side or girlfriends) and as such are not the most dependable partners to have… but of course like in all societies, this general view cannot be broad brushed against all Thai men… but it does go some way to explain the desire or request for gold as a security blanket thing, or at least that is how I interpreted it. Besides I was happy to purchase the gold. It is in our home here now so I can always run off with it too if I want!
Just so you know what 10 baht gold consists of, my wife chose a quantity 2 x 3 baht gold necklaces, and 2 x 2 baht gold bracelets. She could of course have got earrings, rings for her fingers and so forth but this is what she wanted, so this is what she got.
In reality however and on the ground, especially here in Bangkok, is that your lady won't want to wear the gold, not because she doesn’t like it, far from it, but more because she will be terrified of it being stolen, which unfortunately happens all too often by some motorbike toe rag zipping past and clutching it from their neck.
You should also note, especially for those of you who are dead against buying any sin sot gold, that the sin sot gold is made very public as part of the wedding and you also have to put ALL the gold on your new wife as part of the wedding ceremony too, so it is worth considering as it will be very obvious to all and sundry if you didn't get her any.
Having spoken to many of my married friends here, the usual guidelines for the gold is to buy 5 baht gold but the reason I paid for and bought 10 baht was because I used it as an argument for not paying sin sot directly to her parents, stating that I was investing directly in my wife and not them.
Sin Sot MONEY
Many people see the sin sot money come payment part as the most unpalatable part of the whole thing, because many of us, especially those of us who have grown up with western values of independence, see it as simply buying a daughter from the family. To some poorer (predominantly Isaan) families this statement could actually be considered true as they see the sin sot not as a purchase per se of their daughter but more as a compensation for losing a pair of ‘working hands’ from the family. They will also see it as compensating them for their lifetime’s investment in bringing up their daughter who they also consider to be their pension plan. Unfortunately, as all of us on here know, or you should at least know by now, that this sin sot price can get out of hand and you don’t need me to tell you how silly it can get sometimes, especially when some silly sod with too much money and no sense comes along and pays stupid prices.
So what did I do? Well I paid 100,000 baht cash sin sot on the day of the wedding along with a 250,000 baht “fake cheque”, which let’s face it was never going to be cashed in.
Out of the 100,000 baht, it was agreed that it would predominantly go towards the cost of the wedding. Her family made all the arrangements for the wedding itself. We just had to essentially turn up and get married. The 100,000 baht paid for 150 guests, 12 monks, a huge tent complex, tables and chairs, a stage and karaoke etc. Enough food and whisky to feed the entire moobaan (housing estate or village to you and me), as well as make-up for the ladies, bridesmaids, pageboys, wedding outfits and so forth and of course the bouquet of flowers, the sin sot flowers and all the other huge flower displays that are put out everywhere. In addition, the monks all received a food parcel, and the 'top' guests (i.e. close family, friends, bosses and local council representative/village head) all received some Thai silk and Thai style floor cushions. It was captured on camera and video and converted to DVD as well, which I think pretty much cover the wedding costs.
One interesting thing to mention is that we never asked for any bridesmaids or page boys but her family just arranged it as part of the wedding arrangements… to this day I have no idea who they where, but the bridesmaids where cute for sure. I must admit, that I was constantly getting surprised on the day about things and that's what made it all the more fun. For example, I eventually got to know about the bridesmaids because they where getting their make-up done with my wife in the morning of the wedding, but I only got to know about the page boys when I went off to do the parade thing through the village and these two tall, very handsome young guys dressed in Thai garb turned up and stood either side of me. One was carrying an umbrella to keep me shaded and the other was carrying some huge banana leaf for reasons known only to everyone else but me!
You will also receive money in envelopes throughout the wedding. The money envelopes, which essentially are gifts from your friends and family, amounted to circa 50,000 baht. This also went towards paying for the wedding.
I believe the actual cost of arranging this sort of wedding came to about 75,000 baht (but this has never been confirmed for sure – at least not to me) so I guess her family managed to get about 75,000 baht in their own pocket when all was said and done.
WEDDING RING AND ENGAGEMENT RING
Funnily enough, this is a hidden cost that most people fail to recognise or tune into when discussing the overall costs of the sin sot and one, which I encourage you to keep in mind when you start your discussions.
The TWO wedding rings (assuming you both get one) plus the engagement ring will cost, well whatever you are prepared to spend, but for me, they cost 57,000 baht TOTAL.
You will probably find that the wedding rings and engagement ring are actually cheaper in Thailand than they are in the west and to be honest diamonds tend to take a second place to Thai gold here and unless it is a 1 carat or bigger ring you are buying they tend to not be that interested from a value perspective… so if I can give you a recommendation, it is to get your wedding rings and engagement ring here and not in the west! The styles here are also better in my opinion and your lady can actually choose one she likes.
This is the price for getting through the gates into the house! I kid you not but so many people don't consider this. I got told to expect 3 gates and so had enough cash for 3, unfortunately, 3 turned into 6 and as such I ran out of spare cash on the day and had to borrow it as each one gets more and more expense – Also don't forget to add into this that TWO people man these gates so you have to pay twice, one for each person! The good thing is, is that the money should be in envelopes so the gate holders don’t know how much you are handing over, so if you are a little stingy then slipping 20 baht in each envelope would also probably suffice.
Altogether I paid the following at my gates: 2×100, 2×100, 2×100, 2×200, 2×200 and 2×500 to get through into the house = 2,400 baht
Like it or not, you need to invite people to the wedding (if only to secure a money envelope back) and this depending on the quality will cost you circa 2,000 to 3,000 baht. Now keep in mind here that Thais are all about show so they will err towards good quality. I actually got all mine for free because my wife has a friend in a design-publishing place and so this was his gift to us.
The Thais like to give all of their guests a little memento of the wedding. Again it is one of those face things and is a way of saying thanks for coming and for the money envelope, so if you go to Chinatown here in Bangkok you will see lots of places selling packs and packs of things to use for this purpose. Most people offer bottle openers, or key rings so that people will also think of them when they take their keys out or have a slug of beer etc. As for us, well we decided to take the cute line and bought everyone a little cuddly toy which really endeared to the small children and the child fun loving mentality of the Thais.. This will cost you circa 2,000 to 5,000 baht depending on how generous you want to be and the type of gift you give.
Flights, Hotels and Honeymoon
I know it seems obvious but the way I look at it is this. You would not be paying for these things had you not been marrying her so make sure you take them into consideration when you have your sin sot discussions with her family.
The flights from Bangkok to her home cost 5,500 baht and a hotel for the wedding night was 2,500 baht. Again you could cut costs here by driving up instead of flying and by having a cheaper hotel, but it’s your wedding for goodness sake!
We didn't have an evening party because the wedding (so that you know) starts at about 5am with your wife and everyone having to get up to put make-up on and so forth. The monks arrive between 6am-7am and that lasts about 45 minutes. After which there is a major photo shoot with everyone wanting to get in on it. You are then whisked off to do the parade and then the gates and eventually the wedding along with all the well wishing and bits of string being tied to your wrists etc. This lasts about another 90 minutes. BY the time you get outside for some grub, it is about 9.30am to 10am depending on how many more photo shoots you have. The celebration lasts until about 11:30am and because by then most people have drank a bottle of whisky or two they all tootle off to sleep and relax, so having an evening party makes for a hell of a long day for you and the family but each to their own.
We did have an extra party in Bangkok for all those who could not make it to the wedding, which actually turned out to be another 50 or so guests and that cost me about 8,000 baht for food, drinks and Karaoke, but it was a good party so who is complaining.
So what was the total bill to me then? I paid:
sin sot Gold 82,000 baht
sin sot 'actually' paid 100,000 baht
Wedding and Engagement Rings 57,000 baht
Wedding Invites 0 baht
Gates 2,400 baht
Wedding Mementos 3,000 baht
Bangkok Party 8,000 baht
Flights & Hotel 8,000 baht
TOTAL 260,400 baht
I know many people out there will even find paying a sum of 260,400 baht totally unacceptable, but compared to a similar style wedding in the west to what I had, you would be talking a huge chunk more than what I paid. I have a niece about to marry and her wedding is currently knocking on the doors of 720,000 baht. I know she is using western money but that’s still not cheap!
Also when you consider that her family did not actually pocket a lot from this; it goes to show how some of the costs associated with a wedding soon begin to add up.
Had I agreed to follow through and not use a fake cheque then this sin sot could easily have turned into a 500,000 baht thing even though in my mind I thought we had agreed 300,000 baht sin sot with the family. The key things to consider here are that you should take all the costs associated with a wedding into consideration on your sin sot discussions and make sure they are open and clear to everyone.
You will find that her family 'may' try and argue that the cost of the wedding rings, engagement rings and flights etc are outside the sin sot discussions. Don't let them get away with it and stand your ground stating that that no-matter what way they want to look at it, it is an actual cost you still have to pay and as such you at least need to consider it when seeing if you can afford the sin sot.
Another recommendation I can give is that you should bring up the subject of supporting her family long before you get married. It is easy to avoid this question because you are in love or caught up in the whirlwind of the romance, or simply avoiding confrontation, but please do yourself a favour (and the rest of us westerners for that matter who get affected by this too) and get this topic out in the open as quickly as you can and resolve it to both parties expectations. If she or her family has huge expectations for you to take care of her family (and I mean by sending them money each month or buying a new house or a car etc) then I can only recommend that you start running now… that you keep on running and that you don't ever look back again as it will only ultimately lead to problems somewhere down the road as well as you being considerably out of pocket and feeling sorry for yourself.
I am fortunate enough to have a wife who believes in LOVE and who is an endless romantic… she even leaves me flowers occasionally!! She and her family are not motivated by money and this makes all the difference. We have a good relationship as well as a very clear understanding that I am here to take care of her “only” which was agreed by all prior to the wedding ever taking place. Had she not agreed to this or her family gave me any untoward demands I would have most certainly have done a runner… for that she is under no illusions.
As for the question of my wife sending money home, well the answer is, "no she doesn't" because she has a brother who does that. What my wife has done is that she has taken out death insurance policies against all of her family for which she pays the premiums each month and that is her contribution to her family. I haven't checked but the chances are she is probably the beneficiary too – smart girl huh!
Finally, and for those of you who are seriously on a shoestring budget, you could always skip the wedding ceremony and go straight to the legal paperwork. The cost of which at worst would only be 10,000 baht and this at the end of the day would still have the same effect of seeing you married, and is actually worth considering especially if her parents are no longer of this world.
Failing that, you could always agree a sin sot price and then agree to pay it off over the next 50 years in instalments… there are no rules in the sin sot negotiation plan that say you can’t!
The cost of getting married in Thailand varies greatly. Generally the cost of a wedding is recovered so you have the engagement ring as a mandatory cost and sin sot as a "possible cost".
Don't know about this 10,000 baht you talk about to sign the legal papers. I think it cost me 20 baht!