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India's Arranged Marriages

by Vikas Kamat

First Online: June 01, 2005
Page Last Updated: May 09, 2017

Love Marriage and Arranged Marriage

An Arranged Marriage in India is defined as a the type of wedding alliance brought forward by parties other than the bride or the groom -- typically the parents. The marriages where the partners choose each other are known as "Love Marriages" in India.

Considerations for Arranged Marriage

Since the traditional Hindu society and its caste system didn't allow dating or free mixing of the sexes, the arranged marriage was the only form of marriage in the society. The parents typically considered educational background and economic background in addition to the caste to choose the brides and grooms.

Arranged Marriages Today

The arranged marriages are quite common even in today's India -- only the criteria has slightly changed. The rigid caste system is somewhat diluted and marriages outside of the sub-caste are considered, so are marriages outside of one's own language or province (still within the same caste). Age, caste and dowry play important roles in arrangement of marriages in India today (year 2005).

More and more arranged marriages today take into account the preferences of brides and grooms, something that did not happen till 1970s and 1980s.

The Institution of Arranged Marriage

A marriage in India is considered a marriage of families rather than the marriage of individuals. Once you understand this concept, one can even appreciate the beauty of arranged marriages. The parents try to solder the bonds with their friends by arranging marriages between their respective children. In olden times the boys and girls married in their teens so it was considered appropriate that the parents choose the spouses instead of leaving the decision to the kids

A type of arranged marriage where the maternal cousins and sometimes maternal nephews married was/is also common in  India. This was known as rightful marriage alliance in some communities, and possibly came into existence to "keep the money inside the family".

The Process of Arranged Marriage

The steps involved in an arranged marriage vary by communities and families. Sometimes they involve extremities such as "promise made while gambling" or "bride whom the father of the groom likes", but here are the most common scenario, and the process can break down at any step -- mostly earlier than later.

Broadcast of Availability -- This is when the guardians of the groom or bride announce that they are in market for an alliance. Securing of a stable job, engagement of an elder sibling, graduation are some of the events triggering this step.

Horoscope Matching: The interested parties trade birth horoscopes as a sign of showing interest. Those who believe in horoscopes consult with astrologers and priests to find out compatibility. The compatibility score is often used to reject an alliance.

Photo Exchange, Interview, and Background Check: Till this step the bride and the groom do not know what the other partner looks like! The pictures (and sometimes videos) are exchanged and if in agreement, one or more face to face interviews (called darshan) are arranged, during which elders are also present to help with familiarization. Background inquiries are conducted to dig past, bad habits (smoking, drinking, anger management problems) through relatives and friends.

Dowry and Contract Negotiations: The logistics of marriage are then discussed. Who pays how much for the wedding expenses, the gold, the dowry, girl's and boy's net worth, the house they'd live in etc.

Engagement: If all the parties are in arrangement, sweets are shared to announce the engagement. Sometimes called as "eating of the sugar" this marks the end of an arranging of an arranged marriage, and the gift exchanges begin.

The Role of Matchmaker

Depending on the complexity of marrying (not so good looking bride, divorcees, past broken engagements) Middlemen could help in the arranged marriage who are commissioned by the arrangers. The matchmakers are sometimes professional institutions counseling on "resume alteration", "broadening of selection criteria", and other marriage matters. The matrimonial classifieds (like personals in the west, but placed by the parents, for the attention of parents) are very popular. With the advent of the Internet, there are a lot of matrimonial agencies on web (some of whom are advertising on this site).

The Indian Wedding
customs, traditions, and localization of weddings in India, including meaning of some of the rituals




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