Indian Weddings and Dowry System


Marriages in India are considered one of the biggest events in anyone’s life. They span across two to five days depending upon the culture and a hundred to ten thousand people attend. People come, enjoy, eat and dance. Normally a middle class family spends five to fifty lakhs (0.5 to 5 million) on the wedding depending upon status.

Dowry refers to goods, cash, and real or movable property that the bride’s family gives to the bridegroom, his parents or his relatives during the marriage. It has become a norm and puts great financial burden on the bride’s family.

Parents spend a lot of their hard earned money on their children wedding (more if it is a girl) and hardly keep anything for themselves. If a person does not spend enough on marriage, society starts complaining “they did this, not that, this was missing, that was missing, others were better” etc. It is becoming a status symbol nowadays and with the dowry system still prevailing in India, marriage expenses are touching a new height.

In most places, dowry is not asked but is expected at a wedding from the bride’s parents; vehicle, jewelry, clothes, cash, utensils, furniture etc. There is a long list depending on the family status, bride and bridegroom’s education and various other factors. If the bridegroom’s family does not get what they expect, the girl might face problems later. In some cases, the dowry leads to crime against women, ranging from emotional abuse, injury or even deaths. Hence a girl’s parents consider giving dowry necessary for their daughter’s happiness.

Though the dowry has been prohibited under specific Indian laws including, the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 and subsequently by Sections 304B and 498A of the Indian Penal Code, these laws are not very effective and people are scared of reporting dowry cases for the welfare of their daughters. They remain quiet, no matter how much they suffer. One of the other reasons for not reporting dowry cases is a lack of awareness. Many people don’t even know about any such laws.

Looking at all this, I wonder sometimes, is it worth spending so much money for just a few days of happiness? There will always be one or the other person complaining about something or the other. You cannot make everyone happy. Then why bother? Why spend more than our pockets hold or what families wish on a wedding? Also, for how long will someone remain happy thinking about one’s wedding day? A month, two months, may be a year. What after that?

Nowadays most children don’t live in the city they were born and work in a different city where they need another house. We spend on a wedding when most don’t own a house. We take home loans for a house and struggle for another ten to fifteen years for paying EMI’s of those loans, leading to compromises, irritation and fights. Is it not worthwhile if we spend less on a wedding and save some for buying a house and reduce our EMI’s? Why not have a court marriage and a wedding reception instead of three-four different functions?

Also, we all are aware and have been learning about dowry system since childhood, but have we ever done anything about it? Nowadays most of the females are working, but their families still follow old traditions of gifts and dowry. In some cases females study only to reduce the amount of dowry which is supposed to be given on their marriage. We are in 21st century but still this old tradition of dowry exists.

Who can put an end to this system? Is it the girl and her family or the guy and his family? In this male dominated society, can the girl’s family dare to stand against the dowry system or should the guy and his family do it? Will a girl's family try to go against the guy's family's wishes or they will care more about their daughter's future? Or Both families should stand together against dowry?

We are all educated now; we know the pros and cons of things. Perhaps we should make the older generation understand and refrain from following these old traditions. I am sure, women will respect a man or his family more if he has the guts to say “No” to dowry rather than a man who could not. Also, women will have to fully support the decision; after all they are the ones who are going to be the future mothers-in-law.

I would request everyone to at least start thinking about this issue. We cannot change everyone and everything but we can always do our bit. After all,“Many a little makes a mickle”. Indian Prime Minister has started "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao Yojana" (Save Daughters, Educate Daughters) but what about these daughter’s future. If they are going to be humiliated because of less or no dowry or something else, why people will save their daughters or pay for their upbringing, education, and marriage if there is no guarantee of their safety and happiness.

Tomorrow you will also have kids and you as parents will have to go through all this – Society pressure for a big wedding and dowry system. Think about it, it’s high time now; don’t just go with the flow.

So, to summarize we need to work on

  • Spending less on marriage , saving for a house and not going with the flow.
  • Saying ‘No’ to Dowry.
  • Doing our bit and not waiting for others to start.
  • Getting rid of the old orthodox traditions.


  Dated: Dec 3, 2015

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  • About Preeti

    Preeti Narang is the author of the book 'Prodigal Love?' and 'Yeh Kaisa pyar?'. She has a Master's degree in Software Systems and has been working in the IT industry... (continued)