The article focuses on the timing of marriage as an alternative institution for insurance against the loss of livestock. An unmarried daughter thus represents access to livestock, and her marriage may be considered an asset that can be cashed in during times of adversity. Because of bride wealth payments, marriages should be considered a contract between families rather than between individuals. There are many aspects to how shocks affect marriage. It is particularly important to distinguish between correlated shocks, such as those induced by a lack of rainfall, and idiosyncratic shocks because of the theft or death of cattle, as each can have quite different consequences for household behavior. Unlike idiosyncratic shocks, correlated shocks may have equilibrium effects on the marriage market. Marriage in Zimbabwe is characterized by duality, as the choice of one's spouse is left to the individuals concerned while the marriage itself is a contract between families.