Looking at the Thai Wedding Industry
By: Maria Minor
Walking through the streets of Nakhon Si Thammarat, one begins to notice the number of wedding studios on what seems like every street corner. Unlike wedding dress shops in the west where clients usually buy their wedding dresses to keep as a token of their special day, here clients typically rent their wedding attire. These studios act as a one-stop-shop for clients by offering packages for brides to be. Packages often include two wedding dresses, a wedding photographer, and a wedding planner. Prices of these packages vary depending on what and how many services the client wants included.
There exists another layer of complexity within the local wedding industry when one considers the implementation of western symbols of marriage, such as the white wedding gown and tuxedo. This project aims to address the role of globalization on localized trends, the interrelationships between wedding studios and other shops in the area, and the changing sense of identity within the wedding industry in southern Thailand. Images in this collection were created in July 2014, and include imagery from Thasala, Nakhon Si Thammarat City, and select areas on the island of Phuket.
Background on wedding traditions in Thailand
During their wedding day, Thai couples will wear two outfits: the white dress and tuxedo common that are common in the west, and the traditional Thai silk attire. The traditional style clothing will be worn in the Buddhist ceremony at a temple early in the morning, during which only the couple’s closest friends and family are in attendance. After this, the couple will change into their white gown and tuxedo and throw a huge celebration in the evening with as many guests as they desire. These celebrations are comparable to wedding receptions in the west where large parties and sit down dinners are common themes. It is not unusual for a bride and groom to invite anywhere from 100-300 guests to their celebration (“Thai Wedding Ceremony”).
According to one shop owner interviewed, the tradition of wearing the white wedding dresses and tuxedos began in Thailand around the turn of the 20th century during the reign of King Rama V. This connection posited by the shop owner is no mere coincidence. Seeking to improve and develop what was then Siam, King Rama V drew inspiration and knowledge from his travels around the world, particularly from Europe. During his reign, he adapted much of his observations to Siamese politics, social structure, and justice system so that Siam could survive on its own without being colonized by European nations (“Chulalongkorn”). Ironically, with this push for development as a means of preventing colonization came new traditions and trends from the west, including the white wedding dresses available in these shops today.
“Chulalongkorn.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6Th Edition (2013): 1. Literary Reference Center. Web. 2 Aug. 2014. “Thai Wedding Ceremony.” Thai Embassy. Siam Legal, n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2014.
Thailand. Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. National Statistical Office. Chapter 2: Major Findings. National Statistical Office, n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2014.
Thailand. Ministry of Information and Communication Technology. National Statistical Office. The gender statistics Survey. Ministry of Information and Communication, n.d. Web. 3 Aug. 2014.
“The History of Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG.” Heidelberg. Heidelberg, 06 Oct. 2000. Web. 2 Aug. 2014.
Looking at the Thai Wedding Industry
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Maria D. Minor is a senior Photocommunications major. She was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and proudly waves the flag of a true Austinite. In 2014 she studied abroad with Professor Joe Vitone and eight other students where she found a passion for travel and discovery. For about half of her undergraduate career, she interned with the local multimedia non-profit PolkaWorks documenting cultural traditions throughout Texas and her photographs have toured across the state with their current exhibition Texas Czechs: Rooted in Tradition. After graduation, she hopes to eventually move abroad and continue to make documentary work.