Nuer - Marriage and Family
Marriage. All legal marital unions are recognized through the exchange of bride-wealth, in the form of cattle, between the husband's kin and the rightful claimants of these goods among the family of the bride. A standard ideal of forty head of cattle comprises the expected number of cattle to be received by the bride's family. In Nuer eyes, however, a marriage has not been finalized until the bride has given birth to at least two children. The actual exchange of bride-wealth cattle is thus a lengthy process and can be stalled or broken off by a number of phenomena. Once a third child has been born of the union, Nuer consider the marriage to be "tied." The woman has become a full member of her husband's agnatic lineage, along with her children. Through marriage, the continuity of the husband's lineage has been assured, and, following the birth of two or three children, the wife's role in expanding relationships of kinship has been realized.
Domestic Unit. As among neighboring peoples, commensality is the most consistent measure of moral solidarity at the domestic level. With luck, a woman may give birth to six children during her childbearing years. Co-wives do not necessarily reside in near proximity. When they do, the domestic unit can easily number more than a dozen individuals. Normally the bride is relocated in the husband's natal family following her marriage. Patrilateral residence thus further solidifies the patrilineal structure of Nuer communities.