Bride service has traditionally been portrayed in the anthropological literature as the service rendered by the bridegroom to a bride's family as a bride price or part of one (see dowry). Bride service and bride wealth models frame anthropological discussions of kinship in many regions of the world.[1]


Patterns of matrilocal post-marital residence, as well as the practice of temporary or prolonged bride service, have been widely reported for indigenous peoples of the Amazon basin.[2] Among these people, bride service is frequently performed in conjunction with an interval of uxorilocal residence. The length of uxorilocal residence and the duration of bride service are contingent upon negotiations between the concerned parties, the outcome of which has been characterized as an enduring commitment or permanent debt.[3][4] The power wielded by those who “give” wives over those who “take” them is also said to be a significant part of the political relationships in societies where bride service obligations are prevalent.[5][6]

Rather than seeing affinity in terms of a "compensation" model whereby individuals are exchanged as objects, Dean’s (1995) research on Amazon bride service among the Urarina[7] demonstrates how differentially situated subjects negotiate the politics of marriage.[8]


An example of bride service occurs in the Hebrew Bible, Genesis 29:16–29, when Jacob labored for Laban for fourteen years to marry Rachel. The original deal was seven years, but when the wedding day arrived, Laban tricked Jacob by giving him Leah, his older daughter, instead of Rachel. Jacob then had to work for Laban another seven years before he was permitted to marry Rachel.


  1. ^
    • Langenbahn, Hans-Jürgen (1989). "Bridewealth and bride-service among the Ingessana (Rep. of Sudan)". Sociologus. 39 (1): 36–53. JSTOR 43645292.
    • Fricke, Tom; Thornton, Arland; Dahal, Dilli R. (1998). "Netting in Nepal: Social change, the life course, and brideservice in Sangila". Human Ecology. 26 (2): 213–237. doi:10.1023/A:1018766806955. PMID 12293840. S2CID 21202633.
    • Hagen, Edward H. (1999). "The functions of postpartum depression". Evolution and Human Behavior. 20 (5): 325–359. CiteSeerX doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(99)00016-1.
    • Gose, Peter (2000). "The state as a chosen woman: Brideservice and the feeding of tributaries in the Inka empire". American Anthropologist. 102 (1): 84–97. doi:10.1525/aa.2000.102.1.84. JSTOR 683540.
    • Helliwell, Christine (2001). "Never stand alone": a study of Borneo sociality. Borneo Research Council. ISBN 978-1-9299-0002-2.
    • Jamieson, Mark (June 2000). "It's Shame That Makes Men and Women Enemies: The Politics of Intimacy among the Miskitu of Kakabila". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 6 (2): 311–325. doi:10.1111/1467-9655.00018. JSTOR 2660898.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Rosengren, Dan (1987). In the eyes of the beholder: Leadership and the social construction of power and dominance among the Matsigenka of the Peruvian Amazon. Göteborg: Göteborgs etnografiska museum. p. 127.
  4. ^ Gow, Peter (December 1989). "The perverse child: Desire in a native Amazonian subsistence economy". Man. 24 (4): 299–314. doi:10.2307/2804288. JSTOR 2804288.
  5. ^ Rivière, Peter G (1977). "Some problems in the comparative study of Carib societies". In Basso, Ellen B. (ed.). Carib-speaking Indians: culture, society, and language. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. p. 41.
  6. ^ Mentore, George P. (September 1987). "Waiwai women: the basis of wealth and power". Man. 22 (3): 511–27. doi:10.2307/2802503. JSTOR 2802503.
  7. ^ Dean, Bartholomew (2009). Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. ISBN 978-0-8130-3378-5.
  8. ^ Dean, Bartholomew (March 1995). "Forbidden fruit: infidelity, affinity and bride service among the Urarina of Peruvian Amazonia". Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. 1 (1): 87–110. doi:10.2307/3034230. JSTOR 3034230.

Further reading