The tradition of mixing money with marriage dates back to the beginning of recorded history. In some cultures, the woman’s family pays the man’s family. And in other cultures, the wealth flows in the other direction. While these traditions might seem anachronistic, they are alive and well in many countries around the world.
In 2000, Bill Clinton was offered 40 goats and 20 cows from a Kenyan journalist in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Nine years later, Bill’s wife, Hillary Clinton, was visiting the country and finally responded. “My daughter is her own person, very independent, so I will convey this very kind offer.”
In some countries, demands for payments to the bride or groom’s family are so large that some people cannot afford to get married. In Yemen, it is common for dowries to be between $4,000 and $16,000, which is out of reach for many.
Yemeni herbalist doctor, Salem Ayash didn’t want money in exchange for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Instead of asking for cash, he demanded that his daughter’s boyfriend start a campaign to collect one million Facebook Likes. He wanted to draw attention to a tradition that he thought was harmful to society and thought that Facebook was the perfect place to make a statement. In the end, his daughter’s boyfriend only managed to collect 141,000 Likes on the anti-dowry Facebook page he created. But Ayash said that was enough and let them get married. His new son-in-law said, “I’d still be single if it wasn’t for Ayash’s progressive mindset. More fathers in Yemen should adopt this practice.”
On the other side of the world, Hong Kong real estate tycoon Cecil Chao was offering cold hard cash to any man who would marry his lesbian daughter. In 2012 he offered 64 million dollars to any man who could turn his gay daughter straight. This unbelievable dowry attracted 20,000 suitors.
Cecil Chao claimed he didn’t have anything against gay people. “I’m not saying that she’s not okay to be gay…. But (she should) make sure she knows what she wants. Maybe what she wants today is different (than) what she wants in the future.”
In 2014 Cecil upped the dowry to 128 million dollars. In response, his daughter, Gigi, who was already happily married to a woman, wrote an open letter addressed to “Dear Daddy.” In the letter, she forgave her father and said, “My regret is that you have no idea how happy I am with my life, and there are aspects of my life that you don’t share.” After reading the letter Cecil withdrew his multi-million dollar dowry offer, but still refused to accept his daughter’s partner into his family.