Categories Anthropology I

I.2.3 Marriage finances

The economic aspects of marriage which involve material transaction before or after the marriage are known as marriage finances.

Marriage finances occur in almost all societies. On examination of the marriage procedures of different societies in different parts of the world, it is seen that in many societies, marriage involves economic considerations. Marriage finances involve certain material transactions otherwise known as marriage payments.

  • In some societies the marriage payments are made before or after the marriage; in some before the marriage; and in some only after the marriage.
  • In some, they are paid in full at one point of time; in others they are paid in installments.
  • In some societies, they are paid over long period of time; and in some they are paid over a small period of time.
  • In some societies like the Bavenda of Africa, the marriage finances vary according to the nature of right that a groom acquires over the bride.
  • But in other societies, marriage finances comprise a package to be paid at a time.

However, in all societies, apart from the marriage finances there are certain gifts to be exchanged by both the parties after concluding the marriage. Thus marriage finances comprise a complex phenomenon with its own implications to the parties concerned.

Marriage finances occurs in following forms-

  1. Bride wealth,
  2. Bride Service,
  3. Exchange of women.
  4. Gift Exchange and Presentation and
  5. Dowry.
Sr. No Marriage Finances Frequency (542)
Number Percentage
1. Bride-price

a) Substantial bride-price

247 45.57%
b) Token bride-price 13 2.40%
2. Bride Service 75 13.34%
3. Dowry 24 4.43%
4. women Exchange 16 2.95%
5. Gift Exchange 15 2 77%
6. No information on marriage payments 152 28.04%
TOTAL 542 100.00%

Bride wealth

Bride-price also known as bride-wealth or progeny-price is a gift of money or goods from the groom or his kin to the bride’s kin.-  Ember and Ember

Bride-service system

A form of marriage transaction in which a son-in-law is obliged to work for his father-in-law as a way of compensating the father-in-law for the loss of his daughter’s services to his family is called bride service or suitor’s service.

Women Exchange Marriages

A customary marriage transaction whereby a sister or female relative of the groom is exchanged for the bride is called exchange of women.

Gift Exchange:

A form of marriage transaction in which both the boy’s kin and the girl’s kin make payments or exchange gifts with each other, the boy’s kin making bride-price payments, and the girl’s kin making dowry payments, is
called gift exchange.  –  William N.Stephens 1963

Dowry system

A form of marriage transaction in which “the bride’s kin transfer wealth to the bride’s household as a party of the marriage contract” is called dowry.



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