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Dowry is some form of financial or material gift given to wives or husbands depending on the culture as part of marriage. Dowry’s have been used all over the world from Europe to Africa to Asia, but they have been significantly curtailed in the past couple centuries in many places. The nature of the dowry varies by culture. In Europe, dowries have changed multiple times on whether the bride or the groom’s family paid the other, but at the height of the dowry system in the Middle Ages, the bride’s family paid a dowry to the groom, creating a multitude of social changes in Europe. In many Islamic cultures, the groom provides the wife a Maher (dowry) as part of the wedding ceremony. In many African cultures, the groom gives the wife a dowry which can be a variety of things in respect for the hardship of labor. 

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[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]