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Convenient Equality: Dowry By Any Other Name…

Posted: September 8, 2014

The practice of dowry is illegal under Indian law, but its evolving nature has escaped the eyes of lawmakers. This fantastic article takes a look at equality, the changing forms of dowry, and how it affects both men and women.

A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a male friend about his upcoming wedding. I had been reading a book by Ira Trivedi that (is rather poorly written but) put the cost of an average Indian middle class wedding at 7.4 lakhs, (four times the per capita GDP of India); the average upper middle class wedding, not including the clothing and jewelry, at 60 – 70 lakhs in Delhi, and 30 – 35 lakhs in other major cities of India.

These figures had blown my mind, and I became curious about my friend’s wedding costs. “No idea,” he said, “my fiancée’s father is taking care of it.” “You’ll split it later on?” I asked, hanging on to hope. “No. Her father insists he’d like to pay, and I don’t see a problem with that,” he said defiantly, noting my sad eyes.

Of course, none of us would see a problem with things if they unfairly and unequivocally favored us over others.  Yet, this is how most injustices propagate, slowly become entrenched, and enjoy unquestioned sanction.

Under the law, dowry has been defined as a transfer of valuable security or property; it doesn’t, in the letter, note the evolving forms of dowry, from land and cash to streedhan to fully paid weddings.  Making one party obliged to contribute money in any form – gifts or wedding expenses – is dowry, whether or not you call it by that name.  Demanding that the bride’s parents conduct the wedding is a widespread and audacious form of dowry-practice, opting out of cost-sharing is a subtler form. Why are we still in denial of practising dowry?

The Tradition Argument

 Extending some academicians’ (including women) superfluous claims that dowry began as harmless tradition, people continue to argue that the bride’s family paying and arranging for the wedding was rooted in practical considerations (such as celebrating the marriage in her native village) and has just carried on for the love of tradition. When something creates an unequal advantage and mandates its propagation, it hardly matters what started it: it is still exploitative. Defending unfair cultural practices by citing pure intentions and seemingly innocuous origins does more sociological harm than good.

Of Their Own Free Will

Apparently, we are witnessing a curious cultural phenomenon whereby parents of the bride, of their own free will, are demanding to pay for the wedding in its entirety. This is a fascinatingly restrictive definition of “free will,” but let us grant for a moment that years of social conditioning and pressure have no role to play and it really amounts to free will.

Why then do brides’ parents only and not grooms’ parents feel such a compelling call of free will? There are exceptions to the rule, such as when the groom’s family maybe politically influential, the bride orphaned or with a single non-earning parent. These events are too rare to support the free will theory.

“I Cannot Afford Their Tastes”

Another section will argue that a certain side might be financially better off than the other, and chooses to pay to scale up the wedding. It is incredible to me that it is almost always the bride’s side that is financially sound, and wishes to lavishly marry into a much poorer family. There are many commendably foolish and good-natured things brides’ parents do, but I do not believe this is one such.

In most Indian weddings, the groom’s guests are as numerous, and the gifts received equally shared. If a man really had any moral objection to his wife’s parents’ lavish celebrations, he must not partake in them; and if he has no choice but to partake in full, he must treat it as having no choice but to pay up his share.

“There Are Other Things We Pay For”

 Some men argue that the wedding celebrations aren’t entirely paid for the by the bride’s family, that the grooms pay for their own receptions (how generous indeed!), and often host a meal for the bride’s family after the wedding. In most cases, it is obvious that the costs involved are disproportionately smaller; as one of my colleagues pointed out in half-jest, the groom’s parties are single room events with at most 50 guests, of whom not more than 5 are from the bride’s side!

Moreover, this unequal division of costs supports the notion that commodifies women – that it is their parents’ duty to wed them, after which they pass over to the husband’s family, whose new social obligation it is to celebrate this transition.

When It Stops Being Convenient

Coming back to my friend – we had a heated discussion – after which he declared that though it may be unfair, upsetting the order of things is too inconvenient and, hence, he will choose not to. I presented my friend with a few hypothetical scenarios to check where convenience ends. Let us assume, I asked him, his parents-in-law do not find his marital home to their taste and wish to upgrade it, would he let them? He hesitated, but seemed to think that given their daughter was involved, he shouldn’t object.

Congratulating such open-mindedness, I asked him what if they offered to upgrade his car as well? He was less accepting of the idea, but on the principle he couldn’t waver. What if they upgraded his furniture, kitchen, wardrobe, and other things he would soon share with his wife? He said that would amount to interference, and he would have none of it; after all, his wife and he should be equal partners, and they must agree to a common lifestyle suitable to both.

 Equality kicks in when it becomes too inconvenient to remain unequal.

I wonder why the concept of equal partners, and a wedding suitable to both was not applicable from the start. Equality kicks in when it becomes too inconvenient to remain unequal. The story is telling – some men have more stretchable notions of conveniences – but in the end, playing along with convenience is both principally unjustified and not without its consequences.

How Dowry Subtly Affects Men

Dowry, doubtless, has horrendous implications for women, but it also affects men more than they are willing to admit.  By this, I do not only mean the threat of wrongful dowry complaints, which are not as rampant as made out to be. I am referring also to less serious complaints by some men, on being prodded about their income by prospective in-laws before finalising marriage, and on continual harassment about non-growth of income and assets and unsatisfactory living standards.

If you made it the financial and social responsibility of your wife’s parents to conduct your wedding – no matter how convenient that step was – it may soon become your overburdening financial responsibility to conduct your married life according to their expectations.  You cannot enjoy the former and complain about the latter. If you feel your wife’s family closely monitoring your assets and financial growth, know that you have only your old friend – tradition – to thank for it.

Let us put an end to dowry in all its forms

 I wasn’t able to convince my friend to pay his share for his wedding, but I let him know of my disappointment and disapproval.  The world is not changed in a day; at first, an unfair thing must be uncool to do; then heavily frowned upon; then perhaps it will diminish in practice grudgingly; and finally, it will go away.  I exhort all of you to apply high standards of equality to yourself and your partner – no matter what your gender – to keep in mind the world you are responsible for, and to at least socially penalise, unfair practices until lawmakers begin to care.

Pic credit: dskley (Used under a CC license)

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  1. dowry is a definitely not a healthy practice and should be stopped. however based on the points this author has raised, i would say, this is another feminist article. well let me talk in your own terms which are by far biased. how about the bride pay for the house, car and other infrastructure? the groom is offering to share with her. which would account for more than a crore, going by todays standards/2 = 50 lacs. Do not get me wrong here, i do not support extravagant weddings. However girls today, do not marry unless the groom owns a house and has a car. if the girls are so calculative and expect the groom in owning a house of his own and drive his own car, i don’t see anything wrong in the groom expecting the bride to undertake the wedding preparations of an appropriate scale.

    • I am afraid, Mr. Sane : it works the other way round. If the groom expects the bride’s family to take care of the wedding, as the author points out, the responsibility to buy a car/house falls on the groom. The author does not call that sharing of responsibility fair to either groom or bride, but it tells men (like yourself) to accept that making the bride pay for the wedding is unreasonable and as unreasonable as the husband having to pay for their whole life together. If you wish to be equal, start equal. Split the wedding costs, split your household expenses AND your household work. I agree with you that the article is feminist, it is asking to treat women as equals.

    • very well said

    • I hope you understand that in the hypothetical scenario you are suggesting majority of people in India will die unmarried in the coming decades. Don’t get me wrong, your proposition is excellent, and only if were a reality today. But it is not practically feasible keeping in mind that most people in the last generation have saved money for dowry rather than educating their girl child.

    • Yes..people are gonna die without offspring as the same situation is happening in China. Chinese girls are opting to stay single than get married and also since there is vast infanticide of girl babies, i think approximately 300 million men are never going to get married in China in this decade. Actually i think its better to decrease population and increase women’s independence rather than everyone getting married without any cause other than tradition.

    • Let’s talk about cities where most of the girls are highly educated and earning well. Even then, the parents have to give dowry in some form or the other.
      I remember a roommate of mine who told me that her father had sold a piece of plot that he had for her sister’s wedding and spent lakhs on it (25-30 lakhs). I asked her why they need to have such a lavish wedding, she mentioned that her brother-in-law’s family does not need any dowry but lavish wedding. Her sister was a gynecologist qualified from one of the top medical colleges of the country and her brother in law was just a MBBS. I asked her instead she should get her married into a family which does not ask for it. She justified saying that as her sister is a doctor, no one but a doctor can be a good partner for her citing intellectual and professional equality. And any Baniya family (she was a Baniya) whose son is a doctor is worth a lot of money. So her in-laws are actually nice people who are only asking for lavish wedding and no dowry in terms of cash (~20-30 lakhs).
      So, coming to your point of parents not spending money on their daughter’s education, even when they do, the cost of dowry and marriage just increases with the level of education. And highly educated Grooms don’t really help in changing the practice. So the scale is never in favor of bride even if she is more educated than groom.

      Educated and well earning brides who buy joint properties and pay equally for it, who run the household expenses mostly on their own income, who buy cars which the whole family uses get to hear from their in-laws that “Humne koi demand nahi ki this aap logon se shaadi ke samey. You should be thankful to us. We are great people and you should not question our unfair actions.” Women are reminded at every stage that they are secondary citizens of this world. Education and income does not make any difference. Talk to women who are doctors, engineers, professors, bankers, teachers, etc. you’ll hear similar story from most of them. It is a sad and bad world.

    • Thank you for writing this 🙂 I was fuming reading the naive comment from Mr. Sane and then read you reply and now I am calm again. Special thanks for including ‘household chores’ to be shared equally as well which still so many people still call the lady of the house’s job to take care of. The recent excuse I heard to not helping was ‘it’s nothing sexist, I am just too lazy’ :/

    • please ignore the typos

    • With daughters being equal shares as sons in Hindu families and with women receiving education same as men and most of educated women getting employed gainfully there appears to be no justification for demanding dowry or budrdening the bride’s family with this extra burden. I do not go to the extent of saying that even the marriage expenses should be equally shared but dowry in cash or property is not only unfair but even demeaning. If household expenses are to be shared by the wife to, then what about the wages for the free servicee she renders in cooking, house keeping, bearing and bringing up children, her conjugal duties etc witthout end or limit? How much it will cost the groom to pay for it in the market? Do not wives who have a career contribute for household expenses over and above the above free services. This relationship is sacred and not one to be haggled over as a business deal.

    • ah, such a self assured man who can divide by 2! only when it comes to things he has already paid for. so sad man, that you had to pay for your own car and house. I feel for you bro. don’t bother with weddings, when the girl can’t even afford to pay in full to marry such a righteous person as you. keep the pride flag up, ignore them all.

    • You say “another feminist article” like it were a bad thing…. Let me guess, you think feminism is about hating men and victimizing women, don’t you?

    • I agree with a lot of folks replying to your comment. We should not be complaining about girls looking for well settled guys. Grooms look for girls with physical criteria like skin color,height,style,etc and also how much well off her family is which is basically shopping for a good female. That is disgusting. Girls had no way of opting out of this paradigm(except for those who find love), so they started evolving to choose someone who can give them security(living without much problems which is guaranteed by assets). It is business for the guy and it is business for the girl. You cant complain.

    • I guess reading this reply is one of the reasons i think there is some or the other excuse which comes up when trying to get rid of dowry as a system. I hope the replier understands that when a girls parents spend money for a wedding , they are not accumulating anything by way of an asset . On the other hand the sale of said house would yield you some returns. I hope you are ready to share quite a bit of this asset with the girls father , when said day comes.

      Also I think you understand that any house you would have bought would have been on a loan, and the girl who you would have married , would be educated and working. Either I guess you are one off those wonderful free thinkers who will let his spouse share quite a bit of her salary for her parents and family to repay any loans that would have helped fund your wonderful , extravagant , up to standard wedding. Or else would also be yourself in the future share part of your income with her family. As I am quite sure , she would be expected to share her income with your family and also help you re-pay any home/ car loan you have have entailed , thanks to your in laws wishes.

      If you are not one of those great thinkers, I’m seriously wondering which backward school of thinking you come from , and if the world is actually coming down to this.

    • SANE, you willing to register the house jointly on your wife’s parents’ name? That’s when you’re going to get half its price or any payments towards the EMI. You don’t just get to make others pay for your apartment by hosting a lavish party in return. Doesn’t sound like anything you’re saying is within SANE logic, sorry. Sounds like you’re just frustrated with the arranged marriage process.

    • At least I can own a house and car in case the marriage doesn’t work out. Who is going to reimburse the cost of the wedding? I’d rather invest than blow it all away in a grand party, thanks.

  2. what u say is unrealistic. in today’s world the girl and her family are so calculative, that they do not even consider a proposal unless the groom “already” owns a house and a car. so thus the groom is considered already having made his move.

    • I am male and I have a sister of marriageable age. I can tell you equally that no groom’s parents consider a girl who cannot pay for the marriage and also bring along gifts. Some of these things that you mention like house and car, much of it has often been paid for by the bride’s parents too. That is what is recognized as dowry today. You, my friend, are free to reject any family that looks at your house and car, much like I tell women’s parents to reject families that look for ability to conduct a marriage and give gifts. But make it clear to whichever girl you decide to marry, whether by love or through arranged, that both of you must participate equally in all aspects starting from the wedding, to whatever extent possible. Nobody is exempt from anything, and by this I also mean you should also not exempt yourself from the housework. The reason women’s parents look for men with house and car is because they know their daughter will be made to do most of the housework and childcare, how can she earn at the same level? If you make your own stand more equal, you will find more equal partners. If you say, they will treat me unequally later, so I better start treating them unequally right away, that is a bit senseless. Anyhow, this is how dowry began, I hope you will understand.

    • I am married to my man who doesnt own a house nor a car and not even a bike when we got married…and FYI our marriage is just 3 years old…!! So, please dont judge women and specially their parents…coz’ they are the ones who let go their princesses for making another family happy and to make them rich by not making them spend their money on the her wedding..!! And for your kind information…feminism is not about supporting women….feminism is much beyond your understanding…after reading the way you comment…there is no good to tell you what feminism means..!!

      Mr. Rane you complain that girls dont marry anybody who doesnt have a house and a car….whats wrong in that? When I am leaving my family and coming to walk with a man for the rest of my life then I would definitely want to know if I am safe and secure or not..!! and which man in the world buys a house and car just for the woman in his life? Today these are either necessary or luxury or sometimes to just save on some income Tax.

      i know after reading any number of such comments also you wouldnt change coz’ it isnt your mistake…its the society that we live in.

    • Don’t excuse men so easily. This society we live in is as much of their making, it is not like they are blameless. First they want to get married, then they think they are doing the woman a favour because otherwise she would have been unable to get such a quality life as they provide. So they expect that for their car and house also she should contribute even thought it will not be in her name. He is saying that girls’ parents are asking if he has his own car and house. If they are asking to register it joint on their daughter name only he can ask for 50 lakhs by his division. But that he won’t nor they will ask. But he will pretend that his asking for homely, lovely, fair, with good traditional values girls is fine, he need not pay for such a transaction. Sane probably needed to reassure himself that he is sane after writing things like that. Just laugh him off, not worth wasting space on.

  3. Well done for making the case in such a lucid and eminently logical way. As you’ve demonstrated, the closer one looks at the arguments for the bride’s family bearing all the wedding expenses, the less they hold water.

    While it’s true that change does not happen in a day, it’s heartening to read articles such as yours because they signal loud and clear that a growing number of women are no longer willing to be bought and sold through the medium of dowry in the marriage market.

    When we value ourselves and stand our ground on being valued, when we weigh our self-respect and dignity over and above being “married and settled”, the ugliness of dowry will inevitably end.

    Each time we say ‘No!’ to an unequal arrangement, our individual voices will gather into a mighty roar that will reverberate across across mountains and seas and bring into manifestation a new consciousness of what it means to be an Indian woman.

    So bravo!

  4. Fantastic article and very well articulated thoughts.

  5. I think Dowry system has almost ended in the south Indian ‘Brahmin’ families, sorry no racism here, just facts! I have seen in my family, right from my grandfather to my husband,my uncles to my cousins, none have taken dowry in any form and all the marriage expenses including the purohit’s fees were equally shared. My dad was rigid when it was his turn to look for a groom for me… ‘I won’t marry my daughter to anyone who wants dowry’ and so it was! People are changing… maybe in the North of India, dowry is still considered a prestige issue, but not everywhere. In the South, in some non-brahmin families, the dowry, or rather the money is always given to the girl… that is, it is put in her name in the bank, for her financial independence!

    • Anita, my experience has been the reverse. It is difficult to generalise like that from one’s own family. I also belong to a south Indian brahmin family, and I have never seen boys’ families not ask for the standard 40 sovereigns of gold, ask girls’ families to pay for marriage expenses, and even registration costs for the certificate! My own family has not have been party to this, but I’ve seen enough weddings to know. I don’t think dowry practice is specific to religion or caste or linguistic regions. I think most of India is practising dowry.

    • The icing on the cake is the fact, that however wealthy the wedded man is, when his wife delivering their baby, the delivery charges,doctor consultation fees and expenses regarding the new born infant are put on the head of the already struggling with loans,middle class father-in-law. How barbaric this act is ! True man should give a sense of security to the people around him. South Indian men in the name of tradition, evading away from their responsibilities which is a shame.

    • that is just disgusting! to put delivery charges on the wife’s parents. It is especially done if it is a girl child, I know, I work with an ngo taking care of abandoned girl children. First you don’t let the woman live where she wants, work where she wants, do whatever she wants with her life. then you say I have supported her with money and needs, so she must cough up the money for things that she needs like wedding, marriage certificate, and babies. It is more of shame on girls’ parents that they wed their duaghters into such families instead of telling them to be independent and happy and only marry if right person comes along who treats them as equals.

  6. Veerasekaran Mariappan -

    Well Said

  7. When I got married a couple of years ago, I strongly insisted that I will not take a single penny in dowry and tried my best to share costs. My wife still says that part of my appeal for her was the way I conducted myself in respect to not willing to accept dowry.
    My point being, one way the women of today can help curtail this practice is to staunchly refuse to marry anyone who insists on asking for a dowry or puts an unfair burden on the bride’s family. I am sure, our country has atleast made progress enough for the women to have a say in who they marry?

  8. Hey. Wonderful article. Just wanted to know the veiws of people on a related issue.

    Generally ancestral property is inherited by the children. In most cases I have seen that the ancestral property is not given to the girl child. I have heard some people saying she is no more our family member, she became their family member. So isn’t this a double standard. The same father/brother who faught for not giving dowry to their daughter/sister ( which is really good, fighting for equality) say that she is not part of their family after she got married. And when it comes to financial support or ancestral property it goes only to the boys in the family. I wonder if this is a serious enough issue to consider ?

  9. Society is going to take a long long time to change. To begin with, each of us who have the responsibility of bringing up kids teach or sons that they are not first among equals and at the same time our daughters to not compromise unfairly. Since we cannot show by perfect examples in today’s world, we need to tell them what we have been doing is not right and that their generation should practice equity and equality. The socialization of thousands of years will not be reversed in a few decades.

  10. Totally Agree Guyz..But then there is one more rising concern- Most of the girls going for an arranged marriage these days are adopting a similar form…When She & her parents would meet a guy for marriage…they would ask the guy’s monthly take home after tax , a copy of payslip, what does he drive- a car or a bike, when does he plan to buy a car, which car does he plan to buy(she would prefer a sedan/SUV), whether he plans to keep his parents along or not, if he owns atleast a 2BHK flat (which costs around 80 lakhs- 1 Cr in a city like Bangalore), Some girls have even gone to the extent of asking for monthly expenses & bank balance, what would be the honeymoon destination( it has to be a foreign land like Paris), marriage cost would be equally split -goes without saying & is justified too, she would never cook coz she doesnt like that, guy’s parents shud not interfere in what she wears..she should be free to wear even shorts n go around anywhere anytime…And after all this mind fucking torture on the guy & his family, when they come to know that the guy is not earning atleast 15 Lpa (even if the girl is hardly earning 4 lpa), they would move on & try out the same exercise on sm other guy… Isn’t this comparable to dowry in a way & an equally serious concern coz its putting the guys & their family in serious pressure & torture !!!

    • Dude, you’ve got serious issues going on there. So, let’s see, your biggest problem is that these prospective marriage candidates are insisting that they should be allowed to wear anything they want? Wow. So, you’re Talib or something to object to that? And why are you feeling so tortured about getting asked for your salary, just don’t tell them and walk out of the arrangement dude! All the male rants I’m reading are about how women they are meeting in arranged settings are slowly demanding more. What’s the problem fellows? Find some love or don’t marry. Or are you mortally scared of dying unmarried like one of the commenters?

  11. No Matter how much one debates on dowry or no dowry. With the materialistic society things are. the match are made with equals and expectations on both sides are not humanitarian from any ground. If the parent of groom expect a wealthy marriage and show off. So does the girl and her parent look out for 100% settled groom, even if they have to pay little more to get deal through. Looking at love tales in films and getting platonic are only in books or authors imagination.

    Did any one raise the eye bro on why there is so much expense on getting two people married. Which community or parents are being show cased for the position and power. And what eventually happens accross the board later. None complained the movie “hum aap ke hai kaun” where whole village gathers on either side on some one else expense. And gifts becomes part of ceremony. Show off is the main cause of this deadly stuff. No one love to live simply and peacefully.


  12. No one is completely right nor is completely wrong…… We are dealing with humans not machines to make it work in the way we want. If you really like someone you are marrying, you should only support them in whatever way possible. Thats what is called as common sense or understanding !!

  13. Had various similar experiences as the author. Discussions, arguments with friends about this menace. Even had friends vehemently opposed to the traditional ceremony and the custom of dowry their whole life, until the time of their marriage!

    Aruna, I think one of the important points you have missed mentioning, and this is something I have observed at large in my culture, telugu (insert jokes about the amounts of dowry that goes around in various castes in Andhra, Telangana) is the huge acceptance rate among the female population to the fact that IT IS OKAY to spend lavishly on wedding, to give dowry. The argument that is given generally is that the wealth has to, one day, move on to the girl from her parents. So, why not now? And the other points you are making follow this way down the value chain.

    And the tough part about living with your own set of beliefs in a system like this is multi-fold. Ignoring the love marriage route, to find a partner the traditional way is not only limiting yourself to an extremely minisicule population set, even concinving one’s parents, relatives is a herculean task. Because the very points you raise in this regard are triggers for them to consider you strange, and thus placing you many levels down on the pegging order. With all due respect to my fellow commentators here, we belong to a tiny tiny set (am talking of ones who actually put this in practice). I chose to stay away from the traditional route a long time back. I know it is tough given the reasons I’ve mentioned, but I guess there’s pride in that!

  14. this article could have been more sensible if author has argued that why we go for such lavish wedding and spend so much money on being pompous for a day… why do we need to make weddings as a showpiece of wealth of the families involved… why cannot we just keep it as a sacred ceremony rather than booze and dance party…. why cannot we make it as a small family affair rather than inviting everyone and anyone who is probably equally annoyed about having to attend … lets us criticize the rat race of making wedding ceremonies as pompous and extravagant.. let us criticize the illogical spending and wastage of food … let us criticise the wastage of time and stress …

  15. Everything needs to have a new beginning. I’ve seen lots of dowry cases where the person claiming demands have been the groom’s mothers. (I’m not trying to become a chauvinist here). Almost all families with a girl child has undergone the pain of dowry and the child who becomes a mother for a son in the future must insist this into her son from the upbringing that how much wrong it is to torture the family from which he’s going to bring in a life partner for his life!!!

    The force of Women is much stronger than it looks to the outer-world, for it has the powers to change the thought process of every single human child born in this world at a time when the child literally knows nothing! That is why it is said that when you educate a women, you actually are educating a generation next!

  16. I only wonder, why do girl’s parents and even girl accept, rather urge to marry the same Boy despite of knowing that he and his parents are inclined and insisting towards dowry.
    Actions speak louder than words of complaints and lamentations.
    Why should the onus is on Boys? It should rather be on girls as girls and her parents are the ones who seems to be victims and sufferers.
    Why can’t girls and girls parents’ set the trend rolling, chnage the norms, be persistent and adamant, be united and elimintae this practice from our country?? Why don’t they have “No Dowry” as the primary condition?

    It seems as if girls’ Parents willingly wish to destroy their precious daughters’ lives by giving her to the so called Scoundrels and also knowingly committing crime themselves!

  17. Watch this Tanishq ad video.

    After you watch this, tell me this doesn’t happen in India. I personally know my female friends who have literally looted their parents before their marriage. Again, I know I will be wrong if I were to generalize this and say that’s the case with every other girl in India. I guess your article makes the same generalization on the guy’s part.

    In India, there is a lot of vanity especially when it comes to weddings! Some people have big ego issues and they think it will lower their self esteem if they are to share a bill. Don’t believe this? Try to remember the last time you reached for the bill when you were out in a restaurant with your friends. For some strange reason, you think you are proving yourself to others in your group by paying it all by yourself! Same thing happens with a lot of parents in India when it comes to weddings. Call it ego/ social pressure/ vanity/ whatever. So I guess you were wrong to argue with your friend over this unless you understood the psyche of the girl’s father.

    • Find your argument the same as Their Own Free Will Johnny. As she describes, if it really were gender-nonspecific peer pressure, then groom’s parents don’t seem to feel it enough. Most people commenting would agree the bride’s parents pick up the bill. Surely, peer pressure would be equally applicable to the groom? But on the contrary, if it were only applicable to the bride’s parents, then that is something wrong with society, don’t you think? Where only the bride’s parents have to feel obliged to pick up the tab. As she says, the friend never felt the compulsion to pay for his share. I think her arguing with her friend was fair and justified. He was being selfish, and therefore, vain. Don’t think two vains cancel each other. If he’d been vain enough to pay up , that’d have been different.

    • See, if we are talking about all fairness, why should parents(guy’s/girl’s) foot the wedding bill? If two adults think they are ready to lead a life together, why don’t they foot the bill themselves? I know all this sounds good and fair but honestly or sadly, it won’t happen.

      Dowry is a much bigger problem in India than just about who pays for the wedding! People kill, threaten, harass in the name of dowry. My only opinion is that when you look at the overall evil called dowry, AT LEAST, the friend did not “demand” anything. The author conveniently starts the article by talking about the illegality of dowry in India which gives a feeling that dowry in its evil form no longer exists in India! We all know its far from the truth. So, at least, bare minimum, if every guy in India stops asking for money from the in laws, that will be a good start. Not perfect. Not fair. Just a start.

    • Johnny looks like you didn’t read the blog, or you have a peeve to pick with it that we don’t get. Agree with Yono. The piece is about the changing forms of dowry, and nowhere states that dowry is now outmoded just because it is illegal. The author says the reverse, in that dowry comes in many forms from cash to gifts to paying for the wedding. As she defines it, making one party obliged to pay for something is dowry, and I think that’s a sensible definition. Nowhere does the author say people should get their parents to pay for the wedding. By all means pay yourselves, but that is tangential to the main point , which is that getting the bride to host a wedding is a form of dowry very common and very unacknowledged. I don’t think people need to be given candies for being good boys and ATLEAST not asking for gifts and cash. We men are adults, not children to be patted for slight good behaviour and pardoned a few bad ones. The blog says asking the bride to pay for the wedding and subtly opting out of cost sharing are stark and subtle forms of exploitation respectively. Consider how many times women do that to men in weddings? Hardly ever man. Besides even you agree it is unfair and the author just pointed that out, she never said it is equal to a murder or bride burning. She’s not lodging an FIR against the man in question, just frowning upon his selfishness. Honestly man, I don’t see your point. First you say it should be fair where only the bride and groom pay, then you say making the bride’s parents pay is not fair, but it is at least not the worst thing you can do. Bit of a shaky argument. Never mind.

  18. The inequality just doesn’t end there. In the name of stupid traditions, the bride’s parents are expected to offer this and that on every occasion post wedding Atleast for a year or two. Inspite of being well educated and financially stable, even the thoughts of the girl to do something in return to her parents is totally unwelcome in the husband’s family. The current stars of inequality will not change unless few men come forward to be the change.

  19. Nice article. I see no harm in parents celebrating their daughter’s wedding in a lavish way if its not forced on them. They have to part from their daughter that day onwards and so may be they wann make it grand. However, it is totally unacceptable from the guy’s side. Sorry to say but most indian men have this huge ego bubble and consider them superior. They inherit the parent’s property, their wives get more property and if anyone needs to sacrifice then it must be the wife. And if a daughter ever asks for share in father’s property then firstly the brother will object and then the husband will consider himself to be the owner of tht property.

    • “Sorry to say but most Indian men have this huge ego bubble and consider them superior. ”

      Ohh yet again…fault lies with Indian men. Go to any matrimonial site and check, how many of girls have used the line ‘ Should be able to take care of me’ in their expectations. It is not unusual that most of them are looking for a husband who actually earns twice as them. what does it signify ?

      You gotta learn to respect yourself first before you go around and ask people to respect you.

      p.s: Dowry in any form needs to be condemned.

  20. I have 2 sons and have been planning an equal share in their weddings from their childhood. The 2nd one is now getting engaged and I have told the girl’s parents my intent, much to their shock and disapproval. It seems to them that they are incapable of hosting their daughter’s wedding and I am stepping in to help. I am also going overboard in refusing gifts for my son but planning to give my daughter-in-law to be, expensive gifts.
    I would say – if we must equalize, we must equalize all spend, including everything that tradition demands the groom’s family to spend on in re the wedding celebrations. I do not agree that the reception thrown by the groom’s family is small – in many cases there is significant attendance. In correct spirit, this should also be split.
    Another thing – expenses should not be equally split; ideally it should be in proportion to the expected attendance from each side. Let’s not be feminist here, let’s put everything in perspective – I expect to have to spend around 7.5 lakhs for a medium level wedding. This requires planning and saving. Many a groom’s family would not have saved for this since they would never have thought it out on these lines. ‘Assaulting’ a male colleague with these new ideas is in poor light.

    • First, why not be feminist? Asking a groom to arrange for his (fair) share of a wedding expenses is only fair – of course nowhere has the author said that this should be the case if the groom has only 10 people at the wedding, and the bride a 200. I don’t know why that assumption.

      Second, “Many a groom’s family would not have saved for this since they would never have thought it out on these lines.” So, articles like these are precisely meant to make people re-think that. How exactly is it the woman’s family alone manages to save that money? Clearly, they have foreseen that social norms will burden them with this expense.

      Third – ‘Assaulting’ a male colleague with these new ideas is in poor light. Really? She “assaulted” a man by asking him to consider that fairness may require him to rethink his views? OMG. What poor taste. How badly was he injured by another human being asking him to do a re-think? After all, none of us should ever be even asked to reconsider our views!

      Good on you for planning to share in the wedding expenses of your sons, and yes, even daughters’ families are not immune to patriarchal views, which is why they refuse. Still, if you have offered your share, that’s fair on your part, regardless of their reactions.

    • When you ask a man to pay his fair share, it becomes an assault, is it? So what if they haven’t saved for it? That means they were expecting the girl to foot it. If they haven’t saved, they can have a registered marriage and save themselves expenses. Why invite their own relatives and keep a full wedding? If people want to bicker about how many attendees and split accordingly, that is fine. but on the face of it, a 50-50 split of ALL common expenses would only be fair. Groom side often says we spend for reception, so what? Why dont you split everything after keeping in same venue? you only thought of splitting by attendance, that way bride’s side attendance after wedding is low. any way that is fair, it has to be split, right now it is not.
      This doesn’t apply to you as you are willing to split expenses, but what is wrong in somebody telling her friend that he is being unfair? You must be telling your female friends or friends with daughters to “save” for their wedding right? Is that not assault? How come telling your male friend to suck it up and be fair becomes assault? I think there is no poor light here, you are victim of same social conditioning, that it is blasphemy to remind men of fairness, where as for women it should be second nature. As for girl’s side thinking it is insult, yes they are miniscule minority who feel that way, but so what ? Is it not possible to explain to them that the reverse is dowry and that since boy’s side is equally interested in particpating in marriage, they want to pay? At some point, people may have felt insulted when dowry was refused, but if you do what is wrong you cannot simply say oh other party felt insulted that I didn’t commit a mistake. I think so that the writer is correct, we have to set high standards. As you have done so for yourself, you can also try to tell the other party about it. Contributing to society which considers reminding men of their duties blasphemy, where as telling women to not take everything upon themselves an “insult” to female character which is made for that, is not good. I hope more people will tell their male friends what writer has told hers.

    • Mrs. Anandhi, I am father of two girls and two generations back, I have split my own wedding costs with my wife’s parents. I can only say to your assaulting accusation, that if we argue with our friends or even strangers on a topic, we are attempting to change society, not assault people. Without that general agreement, it is difficult to debate matters of social importance. Anyhow, I am not sure where you read about male colleague being assaulted. Perhaps you have confused two articles.
      Question I want to ask is, if boy’s parents have not prepared for wedding expenses, why do they want a wedding in the first place? For every other celebration, everybody makes sure to have some savings and look at guest list before planning for it? Why not wedding? As father of two girls, I have conducted their marriages where nobody offered to share the expense. My girls, like you, were very forward thinking and protested, but to no avail. When more girls will protest, change can happen. I want to encourage forward thinking people, especially women, like you to not call making a change assault and participate in it. With blessings, Bala.

  21. Forgot to mention – spending itself is a choice and mutually we can decide against it. Left to me, i wouldve liked a simple wedding with the religious aspect focussed on & wouldve liked to give away some money as charity on this beautiful occasion.
    And by teh way, same thing applies to sharing expenses for childbirth & not foisting the whole thing on the girl’s parents.

  22. APU, why be feminist? Do you believe in equality really or that ‘women are more equal than men’? Do you really believe that we have to absolutely be fair in everything? Please think again.
    And whats the point of suddenly pulling up someone at office and cornering him with questions? Articles like these are meant to change thinking and not humiliate people. He can only do the needul for the next generation.
    As a daughter with progressive views, i could still do very little for my parents during my marriage. I can only change the course for the next generation & hopefully others will understand they too have such a role to play. Real change is brought about by example and not words.
    Your asking how a girl’s family alone saves is a useless question. Thats what we are trying to influence now and money doesnt show up magically anywhere. I know – i have put it aside over the years to get here.

    • “Do you really believe that we have to absolutely be fair in everything?” – Yes, I do. That doesn’t mean everything has to be literally 50-50, but asking a groom to share for the wedding is only fair. Who said women are more equal? You mean they are so much “more” equal they have to pay to get married?

      Who said she suddenly pulled him up at office and “cornered” him? If you notice the very first line, it is, “A few weeks ago, I was speaking with a male friend about his upcoming wedding.” So, obviously the whole conversation happened with a friend. Using words like “assault” and “cornered” is your interpretation. I believe people are allowed to talk to their friends on issues, even if they don’t agree. It is a poor friendship where one says “yes, yes” to everything.

      “Real change is brought about by example and not words.” – Why not? who said so? I have read enough books that inspired me and taught me to think differently, and seen actions too. They need not be mutually exclusive.

      “Your asking how a girl’s family alone saves is a useless question. Thats what we are trying to influence now and money doesnt show up magically anywhere.” – Contradictory. If trying to influence it is a good thing, why is the writer not allowed to speak her mind? Money doesn’t show up magically, so we continue to let girls parents scrape it up? Or we influence it? Or we shut up and not write about such things? We can’t do both.

  23. Vasanthi, i have not read your painfully long post as you have assumed i walk around telling girl’s families to save. Really annoying that you assume such.
    Thoughts & assumptions like these are the ones that get in teh way of seeing things in the real light of equality & fairness. Missing the point and just making these nasty statements is the problem with some of the people who write here.

    • Anandi, as it has pained you to read, you have perhaps not noticed that I have used “you” as general word, much like you used “assaulting a male colleague.” I also said this line of logic may not apply to you, and praised you for offering but told that people like you must go beyond offering half cost and actually pay it. It seems you have found everything but your own post painful to read, because in the blog as well, the writer has not talked about cornering any male colleague and assaulting him. She was invited by her friend and she asked him how much the wedding was costing. It is there in first para itself. Perhaps you have made up your mind about everybody’s views.
      I have not made any nasty statements for you but for boy’s parents who are not saved up for the wedding. If boy’s parents have not saved up for the wedding all their lives, or boy has not saved, then why they want to get married? I told that reverse logic is applied to girl and girl’s parents. If girl’s father and mother have not saved for wedding,people ask, “how do you expect your daughter will be married?” I ask same to boys parents. Why only “assault” girl’s parents with such questions? Before getting enraged about it, you can read what I have written or at least the article and comment. I was replying to yoru comment on assault of men by telling them to behave fairly, nowhere I have called you nasty. Again, maybe it is painful to read something when it doesn’t agree with one’s views.

  24. APU, my question “Do you really believe that we have to absolutely be fair in everything?” is because i believe we must have complete equality in all that we plan to do.
    Hence “Women are more equal than men” is a caution to ensure we dont sway away from complete equality and fairness.

  25. Thats again what i said about assumptions.
    ‘Offered to pay’, with plans to pay as soon as we are ready. Isnt this really a matter of detail not requiring additional comment & my counter explanation?

    In all these arguments we lose the key points being made!

  26. I used the word ‘assault’ figuratively.
    Mr. Balachandar, it is fine to discuss an idea or opinion, but it is not ok to corner an individual with it. This is why people get defensive and real change is not brought about or influenced. Is the intent that society must change or that an individual should be criticized?

    • Agree with you there, mam. Men should not be put on the defensive. After all we are so awesome we shouldn’t need to defend ourselves. Of course, now and then women might have something to complain about. They can call their female friends and whisper then. We won’t take it too badly so long as their fathers cover their phone bills, you see. Change is brought about more conveniently hence. Don’t know why more women can’t see it this way. Sigh.

    • Sorry but this is disingenuous. You first claimed that the author had ‘assaulted’ a man – even used figuratively, this was rude, when there was no indication of any assault, verbal and physical. Then, when I questioned it, you said she had ‘cornered’ him in office, whether neither any office nor any sort of cornering was mentioned in the post. Please look at your own comments before you comment on others being defensive or nasty. Nothing that the author wrote warranted your comments on her behaviour.m

  27. Just read the comments’ thread, too funny! As an ardent men’s rights supporter, I also want to add my two cents.
    As one commentator said, Women cannot be more equal than men. While I am a men’s supporter, I cannot bear such mathematical incorrectness at the expense of political correctness. So, I’d like to refine his statement to: Women cannot be as unequal as men. Dear women, we hold sole and proprietary rights to inequality and set the upper bounds. You may rant as much as you like, but please keep the volume down. Such awesome people as us must not only be excused on account of society and various other kinds of teas we consume, but also lauded. Aren’t we NOT asking for a dowry in cash? What more do you want? As another commentator said, is it just to torture us by wearing shorts any moment now? No ladies, only we get to wear shorts, not only that we get to make your fathers pay for them too. Dear Men, stay awesome, don’t pay for anything. Just wait till they grovel at your feet.
    Helpful PS: Sarcasm Alert.

  28. Dear Readers, Thank you very much for reading this article carefully, and for spreading it further among your friends. Special thanks to those of you who’ve left comments. When I wrote this out first, I showed it to my friend who “triggered” the article, as he likes to call it. He joked with me that perhaps the readers of my article would have the choicest mean things to say about him, and I assured him that the women’s web readers aren’t rabid in the least. Finally, after the article was published, we sat together over this weekend to read the comments. We enjoyed reading all your viewpoints, but for the most part my friend was surprised that many comments, instead of tearing him apart, actually showed sympathy for him. He finds it surprising that people seemed angrier at the article than him, and both of us find it indicators of how entrenched some of these practices are. As a good friend, I’m glad to take the blows for him, but I do hope things will change in the right direction and soon enough, people will find a “feminist” viewpoint – demanding that women be treated as equals – to be the normal standard and not the deviant fantasy. Thank you for sharing your stories and thoughts!

  29. You seem to have a basic problem with understanding english usage of words. You keeping picking on many words without any understanding of the intent at all. I will not respond any further – it is obvious you lack insight in dealing with such deep social issues.

    • Nice way to quit the debate by saying that my English skills are poor (snobby much?), when you’ve not answered most of my points. (For e.g. why are words not allowed as a medium of change? Why should friends not discuss issues or point out differences with each other?) One wonders who lacked comprehension.

      Your choice of words indicated your condescension as well as rudeness. Glad to know you are not going to be defending those any more.

  30. My response on ‘english’, was to APU’s note but the reply seems to have placed itself with Aruna’s response.
    Aruna, i agree that these practices are deeply entrenched which i why i responded as i did in my initial note. I do hope that thru’ the actions we perform we can change the way people think.

  31. There is an alternate view as well.. Dowry is not just about tradition but also about the right of a daughter to share the wealth of her parents .. Without dowry, sons end up getting all the inheritance..
    Read this blog post for the finer details of dowry system..


  32. I completely agree to this whole article. My cousin sister is getting married and it all started with we don’t ask for anything.
    Nobody asks directly now.. There are other forms, from demanding lavish wedding functions to increasing and demanding the even small functions become big.. To increasing the threshold for spending in ritualistic gifts.. These I believe are all dowry forms. They never asked directly but kept repeating that on this (a specific ) function aap ki shaan dekhi jayegi.

  33. Aruna…appreciate your blog ..very well written!!but issues always happen in a spiral fashion and dowry is not the lowest part of it.I believe the lowest part will be education ,unless the literacy rate improves things are not going to change at the grass root level..well of course there are many educated idiots ,but at least foeticide will end and girl child will have equal opportunity for education and then for empowerment.
    I appreciate you personally for the academic achievements ,Urbana champaign is a dream in a dream for many,all the best and keep writing.

  34. Was reading this piece of news today: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/jayalalithaa-lied-she-spent-3-crores-on-foster-son-s-wedding-says-court-601532?pfrom=home-lateststories
    when it reminded me of this article. Only in India can a line of “defense” be that you billed an entire 3 crore wedding on to the bride’s family! When politicians themselves are arguing along these lines, and the court even accepts it as a plausible line of defense instead of immediately sending the family to jail, then we know what hope do articles such as yours have in inciting the public imagination! I am sorry but most of what you have written is lost on a country like us 🙁

  35. Pingback: 25 Hilarious Indian Reasons to get Married | Traveling Noodles

  36. How about the bride and the groom determine what they can afford and split the cost and the invitee list. It’s their life and they should/will take responsibility if given a chance.

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