ARRANGED MARRIAGES: To be in one, or not to be?

Published: November 21, 2012

Arranged marriages remain a popular custom. Submitted photo


When I was a little girl, it was only natural to fill my tiny brain up with romantic notions from Disney movies. I then would imagine that the two important adult figures in my life – my parents – also met on a magic carpet ride.

I often would walk in between my parents as a kid and try to pull a clever little trick, grabbing my mom’s hand and pulling it in towards my dad’s, so eventually they would touch and grasp together.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be successful and my mom would shyly brush his hand away while my dad would pretend to ignore the whole situation by lifting me up and distracting me by pointing to a faraway object.

My curiosity would only grow larger, however, and my attempts to get them to show some affection to one another would only increase as well.

By the time I was 10 , I began to understand that my parents weren’t the romantic type. But more than that, I discovered that theirs wasn’t a love marriage but rather their parents – my grandparents – had introduced them to each other.

They called it an “arranged marriage.”

Since we are South Asian, this concept is very common to us.

In fact, in 2012, statistics show that 90 per cent of Indians in India still have arranged marriages.

This custom is also common in other parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

In ancient times, the bride and groom would only meet on the day of their wedding.

Later, the custom began to include a short introduction, followed by a wedding ceremony a few days afterwards.

In more modern times, the concept of arranged marriage changed to arrange meetings – also known to the Western world as blind dates.
Now people can have a gap of up to six months before a decision has to be made on getting married.

So, who plays cupid? Well, it would either be the parents themselves, aunts or uncles, grandparents or cousins. The idea was to find compatibility in: family religion, caste, financial status, education and finding the ideal physical profile, in order to breed the ideal physical children.

Once all those boxes were ticked – or at least a few of them because, c’mon, you can’t expect everything right? – the couple would then be introduced.

I asked a few women who had arranged marriages about what sort of fears they had before their wedding day. They expressed that the thought of sleeping with an absolute stranger was scary and how the husband and his family would treat them was another big concern. Some said that they grew up not being allowed to talk to boys and then all of sudden they had to marry one.

For others they never questioned the concept. Many people before them had to go through it and they just naturally stepped up to the plate at their time. Their advice to women who were going to go through arranged marriage now was, “For a successful marriage to work, one has to be patient and learn to compromise.”

My eyes widened when I heard their thoughts – I wanted to give them an emotional strength award!

Some older men I spoke to gave two thumbs up to the idea of arrange marriage, however.

They said the process still should be practiced in its most modern conceptualization. “Having all the boxes ticked is easier for everyone,” they said.

But it seems that most of the adjustments in an arranged marriage have to be made by the woman.

Today, many cringe at the thought of arranged marriage.

I’ve heard girls say that “I would never want to be on display like a hot commodity for a guy to check out as wifey material, its demeaning.”

Many young men I’ve spoken to said they wanted to find their own mates.

Then there were some who said “I can have my fun before and then when it’s time for me to settle down, I wouldn’t mind help from the parents because they will check all the boxes.”

The tussle between the generations and the genders only continues with everyone fighting for more say.

With a four per cent divorce rate in arranged marriages and 50 per cent divorce rate in love marriages, the advocates for arranged marriages have ammunition.

Although most parents have maintained a lifelong commitment, some younger people question the quality of those marriages. They see them as a sham – sure they’ve lasted but possibly without any true happiness.

The best advice would be a cross-pollination. Those in arranged marriages should learn how to introduce intimacy and romance into their partnerships, while those in love matches could glean some wisdom from the commitment and adjustment shown by their arranged counterparts.

After all, all marriages are a gamble!

Raymon Grewal is a student who writes for Vancouver Desi.



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