The wedding ceremony tradition of giving the bride away dates back to a time of arranged marriages, where the “giving away” of the bride represented a transfer of ownership. Back then, young women were given away in exchange for a dowry.
Thankfully today, this tradition has shifted away from its antiquated origins and is now a loving, affirming moment as a father, mother, brother, or other family member escorts the bride down the aisle to meet the person she is about to marry.
Hundreds and thousands of years ago, women were the property of their fathers until they were married. Depending on the culture and time period, money was exchanged for a bride. The groom may have paid a “brideprice” or “bridewealth” to a bride’s father in order to have his approval to marry her. This was done to compensate her family for the loss of having her work within the family.
A “brideprice” might have also been paid as a groom’s way of showing he was capable of providing for his bride. Some people view the modern version of a “brideprice” as an engagement ring.
A dowry is the old tradition of a bride’s family paying her groom money as seed money for their new life together. A dowry was intended to help start a nice life for the newlyweds and create a household. Since women in ancient times did not receive an inheritance, a dowry also acted as this. Dowries still existed up until the mid-1800s. The tradition of the dowry was replaced with what we know today as a wedding registry, in which wedding guests help the bride and groom start their new life together.