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Wedding Ceremonies Compared to Marriage Registration in Thailand

Transcript of the above video:

In this video as the title suggests we are discussing marriage, but there are some misconceptions here in the Kingdom made by expats and those travelling here with exactly how marriage works or the formalities necessary to create a legally recognized marriage here in the Kingdom.

A couple of things that I have seen folks get confused about is first of all I often hear people describing what is called "common law" marriage, and quite frankly Thailand doesn't utilize the common law; Thailand is a civil law jurisdiction.  Not only is it a civil law jurisdiction, it is a very unique civil law jurisdiction unlike virtually any other jurisdiction on the planet. So trying to compare the Thai legal system with the common law, it is just like comparing apples and bowling balls; it is just not the same thing. But that being said, oftentimes people have this misconception or you will hear them say "I have a common-law wife in Thailand". Well in point of fact you don't!

Now the issue of marriage ceremonies. Many people throughout the years that I have been in Thailand and beyond, will engage in marriage ceremonies. They will have the family out; they will do the whole ceremony.  Often times it is a Buddhist ceremony and they will undertake such a ceremony and often times in the eyes of the family, in the eyes of the village, in the eyes of quite frankly most of those who matter from the standpoint of family relations, that couple is married from that point forward.  That being said, legally speaking in the eyes of the law, they are not necessarily married. In fact they are not married; unequivocally they are not married. 

Thailand utilizes a civil registrar system. They require that any marriage in Thailand, for it to be legally recognized, must be registered with an Amphur or a Khet office, one of the Civil Registrar Offices here in the Kingdom. So without registration there is no marriage as far as the eyes of the law in Thailand are concerned and because this is the jurisdiction where the ceremony would have taken place, any outside jurisdiction, they essentially have to incorporate the Thai legal view on that issue so as a point of legal fact, for lack of a better term, that marriage is not recognized by anyone, it simply does not legally exist.

Now, this often comes up in the context of K-1 fiancée visas back to the United States and I have a full video discussing the ramifications of ceremony versus registration in that context, but the thing to take away from this video is marriage registration is what creates a legally binding marriage in Thailand. Simply having a ceremony without the registration component does not necessarily create a legally binding marriage and may not be used as a platform for seeking any further benefits associated with the marriage created, or in this case not created, from that ceremony.