Bride price

Learn more about Bride price

Jump to: navigation, search

Bride price also known as bride wealth is an amount of money or property or wealth "paid" to the parents of a woman for the right to marry their daughter. (Compare dowry, which is paid to the groom, or used by the bride to help establish the new household, and dower, which is property settled on the bride by the groom at the time of marriage.) In the anthropological literature bride price has often been explained in market terms, as payment made in "exchange" for the bride's family's loss of her labor and fertility within her kin group. Compare this affinal practice with brideservice, which does not rely on a compensatory "exchange" idiom for ethnological interpretation.

The same culture may simultaneously practice both dowry and bride price.

Many cultures practiced bride price prior to any existing records.

[edit] History of the tradition

The Code of Hammurabi mentions bride price in various laws, as an established custom. It is not the paying of the bride price that is prescribed, but the regulation of various aspects:

  • a man who paid the bride price but looked for another bride was not entitled to the return of it, but if it was the father of the bride who refused the match, he was.
  • if a wife died without sons, her father was entitled to the return of her dowry, minus the value of the bride price.

The Hebrew Bible and Talmud mention the practice of paying a bride price to the father of a minor girl.

The practice of the bride price is found in the Bible, in the Old Testament. Exodus 22:16-17 says: "If a man seduces a virgin who is not pledged to be married and sleeps with her, he must pay the bride-price, and she shall be his wife. If her father absolutely refuses to give her to him, he must still pay the bride-price for virgins." NIV

And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins. KJV

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 states similarly: "If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days." KJV

The idea behind the bride price implied that an act of willful seduction had occurred, that at least a small amount of trickery or deception (for example, the promise of marriage) was included. Exodus focused on the act of seducing an eligible young woman, while Deuteronomy's verse focused on the exra-marital sexual encounter itself. Contrary to misconceptions by those unfamiliar with the Hebrew language of the Torah, these two laws are describing the same event. Deuteronomy here is poorly translated in a manner that incorrectly suggests that 1) a rape is described and, 2) a virgin would be forced marry to her violator.

The Greeks practiced bride price in archaic times, and in the Odyssey, Telemachus complains of the suitors wooing his mother Penelope

They are too craven to go to the house of her father Icarius, that he may himself set the bride-price for his daughter, and bestow her on whom he will, even on him who finds favour in his sight.

and the custom lasts into classical times, by which time it had been become token, less valuable than the bride's dowry.

The tradition of giving bride price is still practiced in many Asian countries although the amount changing hands is more a token amount to continue the traditional ritual then an actual price-tag attached to the bride-to-be for marriage.

In Chinese culture, an auspicious date is selected to 'Ti Qin' (literally meaning 'propose marriage'), where both families will meet to discuss the amount of the bride price demanded, among other things. A couple of weeks before the actual wedding, the ritual of 'Guo Da Li' (literally meaning 'performing the rites') takes place (on an auspicious date of course). The groom and a matchmaker will visit the bride's family bearing gifts like wedding cakes, sweetmeats and jewelry as well as the bride price. On the actual wedding day, the bride's family will return a portion of the bride price (sometimes in the form of dowry) as a goodwill gesture.

The practice of bride price also existed in India, where it was considered as a social evil and the subject of a movement to eradicate it in the early 20th Century. Unlike what happened in the case of dowry, this movement was largely successful, although it has been making a comeback in recent years due to a worsening shortage of women.

In parts of Africa the validity of a traditional marriage ceremony depends on the payment of a bride price which can vary from a token amount to really exorbitant figures. Lobola is a similar tradition in southern Africa.

This practice contrasts sharply with the poorly understood nuptial arrangement known as brideservice, which is noted in other regions of the world, such as among Native Amazonian Peoples, like the Urarina of Peru.

[edit] The tradition in art

A famous Telugu play "Kanyasulkam" (Bride Price) satirised the practice and the brahminical notions that kept it alive. Though the practice no longer exists in India, the play, and the movie based on it, are still extremely popular in Andhra es:Excrex he:מוהר

Bride price

Personal tools
what is world wizzy?
  • World Wizzy is a static snapshot taken of Wikipedia in early 2007. It cannot be edited and is online for historic & educational purposes only.