Saturday, March 31, 2018

Bride-Price vs. Dowry

Someone asked me today about the bride-price vs. the dowry. The bride-price is a living tradition in Africa, whereby the husband-to-be presents a large gift to the bride's father. The dowry is a more or less outdated European tradition, whereby the bride's father presents a large gift to the groom. It is interesting that my father still received a dowry, while I myself presented a bride-price. OBSERVATION: Before I paid the bride-price -- called lobola in South Africa -- I was of the impression that it was a fairly arbitrary sum. I learnt that, while there is some flexibility, it is governed by tradition. If the bride's father seeks to discard tradition, the elders hold him to account. I say "sum", but it need not be a sum of money.

POSTSCRIPT: Apart from the bride-price and the dowry, there is the European dower, which is a late development of the bride-price. It survives in law today in Quebec. The bride-price in South Africa is governed by law -- it is counted as marriage. In fact we may have a form of dower, too, in the accrual system, whereby the wife receives what accrues to the husband.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

A Dowry is a gift from her parents to the Bride, to ensure her financial security after her marriage. The groom doesn't receive it.

Thomas Scarborough said...

Thank you. The meanings of these terms seem to vary a lot. Encyclopaedia Britannica describes the dowry as 'the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband or his family in marriage'.

Anonymous said...

Exactly - the woman brings it, not her father.

Anonymous said...

The dowry usually takes the form of porcelain or silverware for the bride to establish her household. Presumably in the event of divorce, were she married by antenuptual contract, she would be free to take it with her.