The custom of a dowry is older than the Ancient Roman Empire. Read on to find out if it’s still practiced in United States today.
I don’t know what to do. Please help me!
I am engaged to Hudson, a wonderful guy. He earned his bachelor’s in European history and loves sharing his knowledge.
He asked my dad for my hand in marriage. After my dad agreed, Hudson asked me. I said, “Yes!”
Last Saturday night, my parents invited me home for a family dinner. (Translation: No Hudson.) At the end of the evening, my parents were joking around…I think. Dad asked me if I thought Hudson would ask my dad for the castle at Kenilworth or the one in the Loire Valley as my dowry. My whaaaat? Mom said that they should offer him two good show jumping horses for my dowry and see if Hudson jumped on the offer. They were laughing but I’m worried.
What is a dowry?
–Callie, Confused in Cannon Beach, Oregon
This is hilarious! I want to meet your parents!
O.K., first—fret thee not! I will answer your questions.
Prior to 625 B.C. and the start of the Ancient Roman Empire, a dowry was given by the groom’s family to the bride’s family. A dowry (often consisting of money or goods) compensated the bride’s family since they would not have her working for them.
At the start of the Roman Empire, the dowry reversed: A dowry of money, goods, and/or property was given by the bride’s family to the groom’s family.
A dowry had a loving purpose for the daughter getting married. According to AncientOrigins.com,
“A dowry is meant to be a type of financial security in widowhood or against a neglectful husband, and can also ensure economic independence for children.”
Let me define two other terms which are often confused with a dowry: bride price and dower. These three terms are NOT synonymous.
- The bride’s price (or bride service) was paid by the groom (or his family) to the bride’s parents to compensate them.
- Dower: At the time of the marriage, the groom gave the bride property which was held in her name and under her control. The land often generated an income for her which meant she didn’t have to rely on her husband for money and thus was more independent.
While in certain cultures, a dowry is still paid by the bride’s parents to the groom, this is not generally the custom in the United States.
In my humble opinion, if your parents start dowry haggling again, tell them that because of your education, intelligence, beauty, and wit, they should be very willing to give up that “small,” palatial estate called Windsor and three fine race horses to Hudson because you are worth so very, very much more than that! (Giggling is optional.)
If you have any questions, reach out to me. I’m happy to help you!
Your friend in the wedding business,
Images courtesy of Ainsworth House & Gardens, Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com.
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