In U.V. Swaminatha Iyer's autobiography -- En Sarithiram, in Tamil -- I found something intriguing about weddings in the mid-nineteenth century South. On p.31, in a section on his father's wedding, he says:
It was time for my father to get married. In those days, it was the groom's family that bore much of the wedding expenses. It is they who used to pay for the wedding ceremony, bridal dress and jewelry. The bride's family was responsible primarily [and only?] for the thirumaangalyam. Thus, brides' families of that era -- unlike those of the present era  -- would not be worried about lack of resources for taking care of wedding-related expenses.
It's not just these general observations; UVS also presents a lot of other details of the financial position (not quite precarious, but not fabulous either) his father's family to indicate that these financial worries were real. In fact, he returns to this topic again on p. 113 when he talks about his own wedding in 1868; he reiterates his point that "the bulk of the wedding costs fell on the groom's family."
From the above quote, it's clear that this practice had already changed drastically during UVS's own life. By 1940, when he wrote his autobiography (serialized in Ananda Vikatan, a Tamil weekly magazine), the wedding costs and their associated worries were squarely with the bride's family. I just find it amazing that this transformation -- a reversal of financial responsibility -- took all of three generations.
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Googling a bit, I found a couple of links to the work of Veena Talwar Oldenburg on the institution of dowry in Punjab; her work seems to blame the imperial policies for the transformation of a community-based, women-led institution of streedhan into the horrible monstrosity that it has become today, killing thousands of young women every year.