The dowry

A tradition that marked the civil history of Nardò is that relating to the “dowry”, called “Tota” in Salentino dialect.

The dowry was the set of goods that the family of a bride gave to the groom after the signing of their marriage. This transfer of goods was the basis of marriage negotiations in most traditional cultures, such as the Italian one and especially that one of the southern Italy.

There are several anecdotes, facts and tales about the dynamics of this tradition, also respected by the citizens of Nardò.

The dowry was used to draw up contracts between the two families. In addition to the economic assets such as lands and houses, the bride's family began to collect and prepare the trousseau, i.e. the set of objects that would complete the dowry. Towels, sheets, blankets, tablecloths, clothes, pillows but also kitchen utensils: if the dowry was rich and complete, the contract between the parties was more valuable.

Mothers were careful to create a trousseau as large as possible in order to marry more easily their daughters. Often there were more daughters in one family, so more dowries had to be prepared. This meant that the sisters had to make do with a less rich trousseau because the economic strength of the family did not allow them to buy everything they needed.

In the tradition of Nardò’s city, there are several anecdotes about many weddings that have been cancelled because of the lack of items which were provided in the contract. In fact, the day before each wedding, the future mother-in-law would go to the groom's house to check that everything was as agreed. If even one object was missing, she could either dissolve the promise and renounce everything or postpone the wedding until the object was purchased.