From Academic Kids

A dowry (also known as trousseau) is a gift of money or valuables given by the bride's family to that of the groom to permit their marriage. In societies where payment of dowry is common, unmarried women are seen to attract stigma and tarnish the household's reputation, so it is in the bride's family's interest to marry off their daughter as soon as she is eligible. In some areas where this is practiced, the size of the necessary dowry is directly proportional to the groom's social standing, thus making it virtually impossible for lower class women to marry into upper class families. In some cases where a woman's family is too poor to afford any dowry whatsoever, she is either simply forbidden from ever marrying, or at most becomes a concubine to a richer man who can afford to support a large household.

The tradition of giving dowries is today perhaps most well-known in the Asian countries of China; in India, the practice is still very common, especially in rural areas, despite being prohibited by law as of 1961. However, dowries have been part of civil law in almost all countries, Europe included. Dowries were important social components of Roman marriages. Medieval Germans had the tradition of dowry and of Morgengab, both working to give a start in life to the young couple, as well as to secure the bride's future. This German tradition was followed by most people in medieval and modern Europe (all Western Europe being an outcome of Migrations of Germanic peoples), and only in the few recent centuries, the dowry and the Morgengab have disappeared from law in Europe.

A sort of opposite tradition to a dowry is a bride price, paid by bridegroom to family of his bride.

The direct converse analogy of dowry is the Morgengab, paid by the bridegroom (or his family) to the bride. Its purpose was to secure the girl for such happenstances as widowhood or loss of other means to survive or loss of other property. Strictly speaking the Morgengab is not a dowry.

Mehr means a sort of dowry in Arabic, and is an important part of an Islamic marriage. It is more similar to a bride price than a traditional dowry, in that the husband gives the gift to the bride. However, unlike a bride price, the gift is given directly to the bride and not to her father. Although the gift can be, and often is money it can be anything so long as it is agreed upon by bride and groom. Mehr is quite similar as Germanic Morgengab.

See also

nl:Bruidsschat pl:Posag Dowry is very common in India all over - not only in rural areas.


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