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Lionel Isacs wrote:

Hi, guys —

  1. Is a dowry permissible for Catholics?
  2. Who pays to whom?
  3. Who has to bear the wedding expenses?
  4. Is it the groom or the bride?
  5. Is there any expense to be borne by the parents?

Lionel Isacs

  { Can you answer some questions about the permissibility of a dowry and some related questions? }

Bob replied:

Lionel,

You said:

  1. Is a dowry permissible for Catholics?

I am not aware of any official ruling on this, but my guess is that it is okay so long as it is a cultural customary practice or obligation and not a primary incentive for the wedding.

In other words, anything that compromises the free will of the bride and groom is an impediment to a sacramental marriage. If the dowry is not incentivizing the wedding, then there is not a problem: it is merely a wedding gift like any customary gift. So it ultimately comes down to the motive.

I realize that for some families, in certain cultures, marrying their daughter or son to another family of means is often the primary motive. The freedom of the individuals is almost completely disregarded, especially with arranged marriages. The dowry in those cases, where typically a woman is giving her husband a sum of money or property, is more the object of desire than the person — a good grounds for annulment if it were a Catholic wedding but dowries can work in either direction depending on the culture.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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