Bangkok’s pandemic wedding boom

Photo: Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit
Photo: Hyatt Regency Bangkok Sukhumvit

It’s been over two years since Peerampa Janjumratsang decided to become a bride. Plans for a big ceremony were made; deposits were paid. Then everything was delayed, postponed, put on hold.

“We were thinking this stupid ‘Wuhan virus’ won’t be a big deal and would go away in a couple of months,” she said of their thinking in March 2020 when they paid a sizable venue deposit. “The original wedding date would have been in December, in about eight months. We thought that should be OK.”

It wasn’t. When the next appointed date came earlier this month, she went ahead and had a small, friends-only ceremony – in Singapore, where she’d been stranded by travel restrictions for over a year. “There’s been an explosion of weddings here as well,” she said. “Back-to-back weddings for the last three or four weekends.”

The stars had aligned for Pete Pasurapanya and his girlfriend of 10 years to finally tie the knot this month. Before then, she had to get through medical school and complete her residency at Siriraj Hospital. Wait any longer, and her parents might not be so cool about their cohabitation.

So last week they joined the explosion of weddings that have dominated social media feeds recently as pandemic health measures have relaxed. But instead of the grand event they’d imagined, it was scaled down to fewer than 10 people at a private venue.

“We wanted to have a big wedding now but, because of all the rules, it had to wait,” Pete said. 

While it’s true that times of crises usually see a marriage surge, the current boom owes more to pent-up demand as brides and grooms rush to deliver long-delayed vows.

Peerampa Janjumratsang tied the knot earlier this month. Photo: Peerampa Janjumratsang / Courtesy

The eruption of vows started after the government announced Thailand’s reopening late last month, particularly among “couples who’ve been waiting to plan their celebrations again,” according to Wannida Kasiwong, founder of Wonders & Weddings, a wedding planning service.

But saying “I do” right now may mean foregoing the ceremonies couples dreamed of.

“It’s really hard for couples to organize the wedding function they want right now,” said Sununtha Saetan, a senior wedding sales rep at W Bangkok on Sathorn Road. She said that after many months “dead,” weddings have been surging in recent weeks.

Due to remaining rules in place capping capacity and barring booze, they are scaled-down or dry affairs.

“You can have 300 or 400 people, or you can have alcohol,” she said. 

For big hotels like hers, that means hosting only a fraction of the people – with the same overhead costs of operating large ballrooms.

And for the couples, it means dropping some of the ritual and speeches for shorter run times, according to Pornnapa Tangkaew of Sabudbob Studio in Chiang Mai. It even means eschewing the after-vows festivities.

“Newlyweds are cutting the evening wedding party,” she said.

She noted businesses like hers have been further deprived by the travel ban, which meant no tourist clients flying in for Thai destination weddings.

There are many others hurt by the ripple effect. Freelance photographer and videographers are obvious choices to be cut from budgets, according to Atipat Phukosi of wedding presentation service Ruksukyen, as couples “tighten their belts too and reconsider if big marriage ceremonies are necessary.”

Phendao Chinmahavong of wedding and event planner Sparks Fly said she considered a very different line of work when the outbreak was raging at its worst earlier this year and no weddings were planned. 

“I thought I better sell deep-fried chicken online or something like that to kill my boredom, because things were so quiet,” she said.

Sununtha of W Bangkok said they are closely monitoring announcements in hope that the limitations will soon be lifted. Fear of the newly discovered Omicron variant has introduced fresh anxiety.

Meanwhile, some newlyweds who have opted for minimal matrimonials are planning do-overs when the time is right. After marrying before just a few people at their private function, Pete and his bride plan to have the wedding they’d imagined, likely at the Park Hyatt. Eventually.

Peerapa also plans to do it properly in Bangkok – maybe next year.

Why didn’t she just wait? It was all about the date.

“My dad went and got the date from a monk,” she said with a chuckle. “So it had to be that date.”

Additional reporting Chayanit Itthipongmaetee

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