Getting married in Thailand is never something we thought we’d do, but having our original wedding in the UK planned for April 2020 turned out to be a bad idea. Who knew?
More than a year later, via a madcap tour of cancellations, chocolate rabbits and brief internet fame, we decided to get legally married in Thailand.
We were a little uncertain of how we could get legally married in Thailand as foreigners and there wasn’t a great deal of clear, current information on getting married in Thailand, so here’s a quick guide and an account of our experience in 2021.
Getting married in Thailand is relatively straightforward – if heavy on paperwork – and is perfectly possible to do by yourselves even if neither of you is Thai. There are a few surprises along the way though so it’s good to understand what to expect!
As we are both British I’ll talk about the rules from the British Embassy but check in the requirements from your embassy on what you need to get married abroad.
Getting married in Thailand: agent or do it yourself?
Using an agent
There are plenty of agents who will happily assist you in getting married in Thailand. There are a number of benefits to using an agent:
- An all in service including documents and processes (but typically excluding paperwork from your own embassy)
- The tricky stuff like finding Thai witnesses
- From experience with using agents for other civic functions, they are often able to speed up the process considerably
A quick google search will bring up a host of agents who were all quite responsive to messages.
The downside of the agents was cost. Every agent we contacted quoted us between 16-18,000 THB. That’s around £400-450 and is a lot more than we were anticipating.
Adding the cost of UK documents would have brought the overall cost of getting married in Thailand to well over £600, so in the end we opted for the DIY route.
Do it yourself
If you have time and a bit of patience, it’s quite straightforward to arrange marriage in Thailand by yourself. We already live in Thailand so time was not an issue for us.
If you are both non-Thai and not fully fluent, you will want a Thai friend on hand to make absolutely sure of the arrangements with the government offices – our Thai doesn’t stretch far enough for the intricacies of Thai bureaucracy.
The overall cost for our DIY route was around £250 so you can save a lot by going it alone.
N.B. in Thailand the marriage registration and the ceremony are generally separate – the registration is the legally binding part. You can ask the local office to do the registration at your ceremony for an extra fee, but we did ours at the office itself.
The marriage registration process in Thailand
As Brits, the good thing about getting married in Thailand legally is that it’s recognised in the UK as well. Note that at present it is only for opposite sex couples to get married in Thailand.
There are a few hoops to jump through – here’s what you need to know:
1. Embassy documents – affirmation of marriage and passport
To get legally married in Thailand as a Brit (and presumably for all foreigners), you will each need to obtain an affirmation of marriage that days you intend to and are able to get married.
You can apply for and book an appointment and pay online via the British Embassy in Bangkok. Here is the link to apply.
To quote the embassy site directly:
Complete your affirmation of marital status online
Swear and sign your affirmation at the embassy in Bangkok
Your affirmation will be valid for 3 months from the date they are stamped at the Embassy.
If your partner is British they will also need to swear an affirmation. If they’re not, they might need an equivalent document.
This service costs £50. You can pay online as part of your application.
As part of the application they will ask for a wedding date, which you probably won’t know. You can put any approximate date in the next three months. The embassy will process your application in a couple of days and send you instructions to book your appointment.
The embassy were very helpful in phoning to confirm the appointment and also advised that we needed a certified passport copy, which they did as part of the affirmation appointment. Again you can pay for this online (the embassy send email instructions) and it costs £25 each.
The affirmation is quick and easy, and you will receive an email ahead of time explaining exactly what documents you need to bring.
The British Embassy is located just outside St Louis BTS station in Sathorn.
2. Translation and legalization
With your affirmation and certified passport copies in hand, your next stop is the translation shop – there are shops all over Bangkok but it’s worth googling your local one beforehand.
The key documents to translate are your affirmation and your passport – it’s also a good time to get a few photocopies of all your docs, it can be a bit hit and miss what the local office wants to see:
- Passport photo pages
- Passport visa/entry stamp pages
- Work permit (if you have)
- Landing card
- Translated and legalized affirmation and passport when they come back
We ended up needing 4 copies each of these overall. You should also sign the bottom of every page. As we have learned in Bangkok over a number of years, you really can never have too many photocopies.
The translation shop will be able to get the translated affirmation and passport documents legalized for you at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For us this took 7 days but you could hurry them along.
Our translation and legalization cost 3500 baht overall which was fairly high, we’ve heard of others getting theirs done for 1500 so it’s worth checking with a couple of places and haggling. We were completely lazy toads and just chose the nearest translation shop to our house.
3. District Office Round 1
Groaning under the weight of paperwork, we made our way to Bang Rak District Office or Amphur, which is both local to us and fairly well-regarded for marrying foreign couples. Thai people also like to get married here especially on Valentine’s Day given Bang Rak means ‘village of love’.
We had to get our photocopies and sign all the copies on the day because we didn’t know in advance. At Bang Rak there is a copy shop right round the corner.
As of 2021 there seems to be a new, additional process whereby the office will go back and check with the embassy and MFA that your documents are legitimate. This neatly defeats the object of the translation and legalization. This may only be for district offices in Bangkok, so if your wedding is elsewhere do check if your local district office has this requirement. We know of a British couple who got married literally weeks before us who didn’t have to go through this step – so it does seem brand new.
This was the real drag of the process – they told us it would take 40 days and it did. We tried ringing round other district offices and they all told us the same thing.
I imagine that if you have an agent, they might be able to get around this and vouch for the documents, but you should check with them up front.
We were able to do this part without a Thai translator as the staff at Bang Rak spoke good English, generally most other stages we had Thai friends help us making calls and checking understanding – it’s important to get these parts right.
4. District office round 2 – the big day
After waiting 40 days we called the district office, and lo and behold the documents had just come back to them and were all in order. Definitely worth ringing if you don’t hear from them. They asked if we could come in to complete the process two days later, which we politely declined. We settled on the following Friday, giving us a week to drag together the remaining documents and, importantly, the people you need for getting married in Thailand.
On the first visit to the District Office they gave us this sheet which explains what you need to bring on the day. The scribbles on the top are what we were also asked to bring!
So for clarity those things are (what’s on the sheet + what they told us on the phone):
- The marriage affirmation/certificate from your embassy (original + translation)
- The Thai translation of your passport
- Two witnesses and an interpreter (or one of your witnesses can be the interpreter). Witnesses need to bring their ID Card if Thai and passport if not. NB stating the obvious your interpreter needs to be able to read and write in Thai as well
- Your passport, work permit (if you have)
- 2x Photocopies of everything
Given that our timing options were 8am or 9am for the appointment, it can be tricky if you have a 9-5 job and this is equally true for witnesses, but we were lucky to have some awesome people to be our witnesses as well as our photographers. This being peak Covid, we didn’t have any friends or family present so it was nice to have some evidence of the day to send to people! You get some very, um, atmospheric pictures in the district office…
At the office, we had to fill in an application form each, in Thai, which our superstar interpreter-translator-photographer filled out for us.
There’s a certain comedy to being in a Thai government office in wedding garb – most people are in there for day to day stuff so it’s not exactly a romantic venue! The Covid precautions weren’t exactly pretty either…
One thing to note is that the process takes quite a long time. We had an appointment for 9am, but we didn’t sign on the dotted line until 11am. A sign in the office advised that marriage for foreigners usually takes 90 minutes – I wouldn’t recommend live-streaming it unless you really want people to fall asleep.
So mostly you’re just standing around, making sure the form is filled out properly, watching people photocopying documents. Getting married in Thailand is heaps of fun!
Eventually a very official-looking lady with an ink stamp came over, perused the mountain of papers, and printed us a marriage certificate. She also took the payment for the marriage paperwork, which was 4 baht, or 10p. We received a full printed receipt for said 4 baht payment. This seemed like a fair price for a lifetime of wedded bliss.
The certificates can be put into a rather attractive red or blue book for 390 baht (10 GBP). It’s 100x more than the wedding costs but it’s quite nice.
After all that, you are done and dusted and legally married in Thailand! At Bang Rak, you will be directed to the romance area for a celebratory picture of your nuptial joy.
And that’s it! Getting married in Thailand wasn’t what we planned, but in the end it was the best option for us. Organising it ourselves was a bit of effort and paperwork, but wasn’t too taxing or stressful in the end. Equally, an agent would almost definitely save you time and hassle for extra expense.
It was great to also have a photographer as our witness as we had some fun afterwards having some photos around Chinatown – not the usual wedding shoot for sure but something we can look back on in a few years!