Dowries are something which more or less ended in the Middle Ages, right? Well, actually, wrong. The dowry system is alive and well throughout the world. It might well be something that you are going to have to navigate if you are marrying someone from another culture.

Chinese dowry system


In China, despite the efforts of the communist party to eradicate the practice, dowries are the norm. With the one child system, and the consequent shortage of marriageable females (due to girl babies having been aborted) the pressure for dowries has lessened. However, parents still want to give their daughters as good as possible a start in life.

In the breathtaking world of millionaire Chinese businessmen, dowries of up to $100 million are not unknown. At weddings, share certificates and bank statements are framed and displayed, to show the wealth which is being transferred to the new family. Villas, luxury cars, expensive jewelry and of course, shares and cash, are customary gifts to the daughter on their wedding.

More humble Chinese families may give around $10,000. Some might even throw in a modest car or apartment. But it is a far cry from the tin pot and copy of the thoughts of Chairman Mao which was the custom not so many years ago.

Chinese parents believe that the dowry will gain respect for their daughter as she enters her new home and family. If she brings a certain amount of wealth, it’s harder for the mother in law to nag and criticize.

Indian dowry system

In India, dowries were once the province of women, arranged by them for the future security of the bride. During Colonial times, this practice became corrupted. It developed into a way for the groom and his family to make money.

In 1961, the Indian government outlawed the practice of giving and receiving dowries. However, it continued unabated. Now it extends to cars, apartment, expensive jewelry and of course cash. It is estimated that one woman every SIX HOURS is murdered in India due to dowry disputes, and there are also suicides every FOUR HOURS by women driven to distraction by the demands made on them for dowry payments from their new family.

As women still have little value in rural Indian culture, efforts made by government and states to protect women from dowry murder and suicide, and to stamp out the dowry practice, face an uphill struggle.

In the West, there is no systematic dowry system. However, there is an expectation that the parents of both the bride and the groom will stump up with something nice when they marry – a house, a car, cash, stock and bonds and the like. The practice of holding an extremely lavish themed wedding grows apace. It’s not uncommon for the happy couple to expect that family and friends will be whisked to an exotic destination to attend a beach front wedding – courtesy of the parents.

Modern dowry system

An enthusiastic wedding planning industry and a culture of materialism are doing nothing to mitigate the wild fancies of brides and grooms to be in the US. Some brides really do feel entitled to have the fancy wedding of their dreams. And they have mom and pop pay for it. It’s a modern form of dowry. And while not many brides are dying as a result, plenty of families are getting themselves into financial troubles and burdens for the sake of a show off day which our grandparents would have regarded as ridiculous indulgence in the extreme.