The Traditional Bride Price in Kikuyu Culture – A Step-by-Step Guide


The dowry payment process, or ruracio, in the Kikuyu culture of Kenya is a series of events that culminate in the payment of a sum of money, livestock, or other valuable goods by the groom or his family to the bride’s family. This longstanding tradition is seen as a way to honor and respect the bride and her family, and to celebrate the union of the two families.

  1. The process begins when the groom proposes to the bride and, if she agrees, he sets a meeting with the elders of his tribe. These elders are usually members of the extended family who are in their 60s or older.
  2. The groom sends a delegation, typically consisting of 8-15 members, to the bride’s family to inform them of his intention to marry and to request a dowry negotiation meeting.
  3. When the elders arrive at the bride’s home, they are met by the bride’s family, who have also called their own group of elders. The two groups exchange small gifts of dry foods, such as rice, wheat, sugar, tea, and cooking oil, as a sign of respect and goodwill.
  4. The dowry negotiation meeting is then held, with the groom’s delegation and the bride’s family discussing the terms of the dowry payment. This negotiation process can be lengthy, with both sides bargaining and negotiating until a mutually agreed upon amount is reached.
  5. The dowry payment process includes a number of events leading up to the actual payment of the dowry. These events include “kumenya mucii” (getting to know the bride’s home), “kuhanda ithigi” (literally meaning planting a branch of a tree), and “kuracia” (actual dowry payment).
  6. “Kuhanda ithigi” is a symbolic event in which the groom plants a branch of a tree to signify that the bride has been officially booked by him.
  7. “Kuracia” is the actual dowry payment, which is determined by a number of factors such as the bride’s education, career, social class, and whether she is a virgin or pregnant. The dowry payment may include items such as fattened rams, goats, sheep, blankets, heifers, goats counted in tens, and cash.
  8. After the dowry has been agreed upon and paid, the groom’s family visits the bride’s home to see where their daughter will be living in a tradition called “itara.”
  9. The “kuguraria,” or traditional Kikuyu wedding of antiquity, is then held, which involves the groom and bride participating in traditional dancing and singing.
  10. In the Kikuyu culture, the husband is expected to provide for his family and make important decisions for the household, while the wife is expected to manage the household and raise the children.
african woman
African woman

Overall, the tradition of dowry payment, or ruracio, is an important part of the Kikuyu culture and is still widely practiced today. It is seen as a way to honor and respect the bride and her family, and to celebrate the union of the two families. However, it is important to note that the tradition of dowry payment is not universally accepted and is not practiced in all parts of Kenya or in all cultural groups. It is essential to be aware of and respect the cultural traditions and customs of the Kikuyu people when participating in a wedding or other important life events.

It is also important to note that dowry payment, like any tradition, can be subject to abuse or misuse. It is important that all parties involved in the dowry payment process act with respect and integrity, and that the tradition is not used as a means of exploitation or discrimination.

Abuse Of The Dowry System

One way in which dowry payment has been abused is through the use of dowries as a means of exploitation or discrimination. In some cases, the dowry payment has been demanded by the bride’s family in exorbitant sums of money or goods, leading to financial strain and hardship for the groom or his family.

Additionally, dowry payment has been used as a means of discrimination, with the bride’s family demanding higher dowries for brides who are educated, have careers, or come from higher social classes.

To address the potential for abuse and misuse of the dowry payment system, it is important for all parties involved to act with respect and integrity, and to consider the financial ability of the families involved.

In conclusion

The dowry payment process, or ruracio, is a longstanding tradition in the Kikuyu culture that is meant to honor and respect the bride and her family, and celebrate the union of two families. It is important to respect the cultural traditions and customs of the Kikuyu people, and to ensure that dowry payment is not used as a means of exploitation or discrimination. All parties involved in the dowry process should act with respect and integrity, considering the financial ability of the family involved. The tradition may vary depending on regional practices, financial circumstances, and cultural background, and it is essential to understand and respect these factors to preserve the cultural significance of dowry payment in the Kikuyu culture.

Gerald Omondi
Gerald Omondi
As a writer, I have a passion for exploring a variety of topics. When I'm not putting pen to paper, I enjoy traveling and spending time with my family. As a husband and father, I understand the importance of balance and finding time for the things I love. Whether I'm delving into new subjects or spending quality time with my loved ones.


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