The Dowry List Palava

In our clime,  we all know dowries are very important. The payment of dowries has caused some relationships to end before their time. Dowries have turned some men into nags, because they are always reminding their partner of the amount of money they spent, before they could marry her.

It is the stuff of legends. Nollywood movies have been made out of and we are not likely to hear the end of the dowry or bride price as some call it.

I have a sister, who just got married to an Igbo man from Imo state, and the first thing a few friends and former colleagues asked me, when I mentioned my new brother-in-law’s state of origin is, “I hope your family charged him well o.” I didn’t know my sister was a commodity for sale until then. When I prodded further, I discovered that even though bride price from that side of town is on the high side, his hometown was particular higher than they rest.

So, according to these friends and colleagues, my brother should have seen pepper, not the easy way he had gotten his wife, my sister.


One of these people told me the story of how he married his wife of over 34 years and I will share here.

“I had met my wife in the university in the late 70s, and I had fallen in love with her spirituality, and everything about her. If not that, I don’t think there was no way I would have gone through all the drama her people put me through. Interestingly, over 30 years of a relationship with them has mellowed them a bit but I still see young men like I was then, get discouraged and some sisters stay single, because their fiancé couldn’t meet the family demands.

When we were in final year, my then girlfriend and I travelled to her hometown and I made it known that I would like to marry her. Her mom and dad had looked at me like I had two heads, and proceeded to tell me her history and their future plans for her.

“Do you know she is the Ada of this family? Do you realise she is educated? Do you know she has several brothers, sisters and several family members, she is expected to take care of and train in school? Are you sure, you want to marry her? I’m going to give you some time to return to Lagos, really think about this it and then come back. We will know what to do.”

It was close to a year later that I went back, based on my then girlfriend’s hint that her parents would be more accepting of a marriage proposal. Indeed, they were more welcoming, I guess the fact that I came back, showed I was serious about their daughter.

When they told me what was expected of me, I nearly wished I could back out but that was not possible, so I rallied round, told my family, told friends, my church and everyone, who cared a bit about me. We got married traditionally, 3 months after the dowry list was given to me and we came to Lagos for the church blessing. The honest truth was, I needed those three months to gather “extra muscle” to pay that dowry list, but it’s all in the past now. They cannot tell me to pay anything now.”

That was the case for my older friend, but for an age mate of mine, Rita, that dowry business has been causing some wahala, right from the time her oldest sister was to marry.  When the list was issued, she said her elder sister had practically pulled her mom aside and told her plainly, “Mommy, if you want to see me married, you will talk to daddy, to send my husband another list. Because this list isn’t going to work at all!”


Their father raved and ranted about how much he had spent on his daughter, how he was only improving her lot, making sure it was not just any man that could marry her, but one who more than capable of taking care of her. After all said and done, he and his brothers sat down and revised that list and that was what the groom-to-be paid and has become the standard in their family since then. Even then, I still think, it is on the high side, at least when compared to the list from my side of town.

Dowry also known as bride price is an amount of money, property or other forms of wealth paid by a groom or his family to the parents and family of the woman he has just married or is about to marry.  It differs from culture to culture, but essentially, there is a transfer of wealth. The bride price is usually paid by the man, as it makes up a very crucial aspect of the tradition, and the marriage is said to be incomplete without the payment of the bride price. 

Just as the bride price signifies the beginning of a marriage (as it is paid at the introduction phase in most cultures), it also depicts the end of that marriage, as the bride price is usually refunded to the man when the woman is no longer interested in the marriage.

In some cultures, a marriage is not accepted to have ended until the return of the bride price has been acknowledged, signifying a divorce traditionally. When a woman intends to leave her husband, she is expected to return the goods initially paid to her family.

While the dowry is essential, it is also gaining some controversy as some people say it should be scrapped, but even me, I raise an eye brow at that. The dowry is an essential part of the marriage culture in our clime. If it is scrapped for whatever reasons, we would have lost an essential part of our culture.

I say, keep it but modify it. It shouldn’t be so high that it hinders couples from getting married.

Dowry or not, say in love!


Kristine is a member of  The Lovelint team. She  is a down to earth person, who says it as it is. Having given relationship advice for years in a national daily, she has found out that fear is one of the main reasons holding people back from enjoying a healthy, happy relationship. She is married with kids and is willing to listen to you and help as much as you let her to.

Photo credits:






Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *