A dowry is an archaic marriage custom where the bride or her family is required to give a gift of money or valuable goods to the groom or his family. In some areas where this was practiced, the size of the necessary dowry was directly proportional to the groom's social standing, thus making it virtually impossible for lower class women to marry into upper class families. In some cases where a woman's family was too poor to afford any dowry whatsoever, she either simply was forbidden from ever marrying, or at most became a concubine to a richer man who could afford to support a large household.
The tradition of giving dowries is perhaps most well known in the country of India where it is still largely carried out despite being prohibited by law as of 1961.
The converse of a dowry is a bride price.