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Arranged Marriages

Arranged Marriage? What is it?


Arranged marriage is a marriage upon which two or more parties arrange a marriage between
two persons. The parties arranging a marriage may pick suitors based upon financial security,
religion, upbringing, health, and many other things. These parties may be the parents of the
unwed person, or matchmakers. Typically, the parent/matchmaker makes note of potential
spouses for their daughter/son/client. The two families may meet and the unwed persons decide
whether or not to pursue getting to know each other. If so, there may be another meeting, or the
two families may make a bond and the engagement is complete! An unwed person may go
through many potential spouses until choosing one they like. Though sometimes called forced
marriage, traditional arranged marriages do not happen unless the unwed consent.
This type of marriage is predominantly practiced in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, but it is
in many parts of the world- even those you would not expect. It is both a celebrated tradition and
a cultural taboo, but either way you look at it, there are both benefits, downsides.
The traditional type of marriage in the west is arranged between the two unwed persons by
themselves. Family usually plays a significantly lower role in the unwed marriage choice. The
unwed persons may know each other for a very long time until deciding to marry.
So, between these two types of marriage, one must wonder- which one is best?
Arranged Marriage In the West
Arranged marriage, in the west, is a very thought-provoking topic. In most situations, arranged
marriage in the US is a very foreign concept, and many do not understand why a person would
choose to marry someone they have not been with very long, if at all. The thought that persons
may have families or matchmakers help choose spouses on basis on so many aspects often is met
with distaste and confusion, if not hate. Why is this? American culture values personalization,
independence, and most importantly, the freedom to do almost anything. With this, eventually
comes the desire to pursue relationships as wished. Since allowed, relationships before marriage
are highly normal and one may be in love many times over. The relationship before marriage
gives personalization and comfort to the situation, The normality to have many partners and
'move on' from them brings independence, and the freedom to choose anyone to wed, even if
their families do not agree or their life situation isn't quite as good is very appealing to the
generations of today's western societies. There is nothing Americans love more than their
freedom, and they are always willing to fight for it.
If we look at the US's history, we will see various alterations and forms of arranged marriage. A
prominent example would be in the 1950's, where girls often aimed to marry financially secure,
handsome and respected men with good families and good records. Though also incorporating
love before marriage, the 50's marriage norms were very much like arranged marriages, where if
the families disagreed, it would not happen. That isn't to say some didn't elope, though. As the
concept of freedom and American culture advanced, so did the concept of marriage solely on
personal choice.
This doesnt mean that all in the west are opposed to arranged marriage, and some even aim for
it. It even exists in subtle forms- We still see today, women eyeing the single doctor, and chasing
after rich tycoons- it's all over television and films, where the most appealing characters are the
richest, most intelligent, or most trustworthy, and people flock to them because of it.
Arranged marriage- the benefits
Arranged marriages can be a very happy time in someone's life- and for the rest of it. There are a
number of considerable benefits, each of them important to leading a stable, good life. A few of
the benefits correlating to arranged marriages are, if the right suitor is chosen:
Financial security. Families/matchmakers try and choose suitors who are secure and well-
off in finances, which ensures that money will be something that is always able to be gained
in the case of an emergency or other such events.
Cultural and/or religious understanding. Many times, the arranged spouses descend
somewhat from the same type of culture, or share the same religion. This ensures that the
spouses understand one another's lifestyles, and it gives common ground and belonging to
the betrothed. In some cases, this preserves the cultural and religious identity of the persons
and allows them to express it as they wish.
Avoidance of pre-marriage relationships/courtship. In some cases, people are very averse to
the often awkward and time-consuming tango of dating and courtship. Arranged marriages
often eliminate the years many waste dating multiple persons, and allow persons to find a
good spouse without the need to do so.
Encouragement of abstinence. As is common in American culture, many indulge in
relationships in which there is fornication before marriage or without the intent of marriage
at all. Arranged marriages encourage abstinence, eliminating the possibility of later guilt
and remorse from previous 'relations'. This sets a good example for other family members
and children, and may lower one's chances of contracting venereal disease.
Incompatibility is greatly lowered. Because of the many factors that go into choosing
partners for an arranged marriage, compatibility is usually very good with all the areas
taken into consideration (education, crime record, family, religion, etc.). Partners are
arranged based of the similarities of these areas. The similarity between the two partners
ensures that they understand each other, and are able to live comfortably as they have
always been accustomed.
Divorce is more unlikely. Because of the similarities and matchings between the two
spouses, divorce is more unlikely to happen due to irreconcilable differences or disputes, as
in many arranged marriages they both have the same views on marriage and family- and
may share the same culture, religion and more. There is then little left to dispute and
differentiate about and the spouses can focus on each other rather than their differences. In
many situations, the insight given by the parents/matchmaker on the future spouse and the
willing consent of the unwed person to marry a selected partner strengthens the marriage, as
all are happy with the choice and the instincts of the parents are good.
Trust in in-laws. Though in-laws are usually depicted as unlikable, nosy relatives in popular
American film, in arranged marriages, in-laws can be very supportive and close to the new
relatives. Since the entire family tends to give input on prospective spouses for their family
members, once a spouse is found and they wed, both families then become united by the
marriage and are then one, for they are both happy and pleased with their new relatives. If
not, then the two partners would have never married. There is a saying in arranged
marriages, that a woman marries the family, not just the groom. This can be a very good
thing, for the newlyweds can then depend on and trust their new families if needed, and
there is always help if the spouses are having troubles, for a family member can always step
in and help to resolve the problem. This can mean that when going to family parties, there is
no awkward silence between in-laws, and everyone is happy to see one another.
Equality. In matching spouses, some very important factors are generally met equally.
Equality/similarity in education, financial situation, and other things is very good. For
example, an arranged marriage could be stressed if one spouse earned the gist of the
income, as it would pressure the other to earn more or cause them to feel dependent.
Education, matched properly, could help so the partners feel equal in intelligence, therefore
eliminating a stress or pressure of being 'dumb' or illiterate. Also, both being educated, the
spouses are most likely to be equally rational and sensible in raising children or dealing
with some issues.
Those were simply a few of the benefits to arranged marriage, and one must hope to achieve
some level of these benefits. There are many others, depending on where you reside in and which
culture you pertain to.
Arranged marriage- the disadvantages
Of course, with every advantage, there is a disadvantage. A few disadvantages do pertain to
arranged marriages, and one must be careful to avoid them. Disadvantages may include:
Dependence/inability to choose a partner. In some cases, when parents or elders help to
choose a partner, it discourages the unwed person to think for themselves and consider
whether or not they believe they would be compatible. In the case of this, if after a few
years of marriage, if it is going unwell, it is easy for that person to then blame their parents
for poor judgment.
Families too close for comfort. Some arranged marriages, in the case of which spouses are
in an argument, it may be uncomfortable or odd for the families to become involved in
situations otherwise better solved solely by the partners. Especially for those raised in the
west, it may be strange or even stressful for the families to have too much of their noses in
their business, even more so when they express their own views in the situation.
Love becoming the second most important thing. In arranged marriages, there is a saying, to
think with your head and not your heart. Yet, it is important to think with both. Spouses
who think only with their head may end up realizing there is no emotional compatibility,
and those who think only with their heart may end up realizing they do not have a stable
future. Although love may come later, it is important to secure a stable future. Sometimes
the spouses are in love at meeting, at marriage, or later. Love sometimes blossoms later and
when it does, only strengthens the marriage and make the spouses happier. However, in the
case where love does not blossom, help can be sought- and if nothing can be done, and then
the marriage was not right somehow.
Marriage- for better or for worse
Marriage is a very special and joyous part of many people's lives, and can bring together entire
families or nations- as it has done and kept doing so in the past and into the future. When one
decides they want to marry sometime in life, it can be very stressful or exciting- and all they
must do is choose how.
As with any kind of marriage, all are blessings in their own way and I wish luck to all who are
about to marry or married! Salaam and god bless.


"The Arranged Marriage", 1862 painting by Vasili Pukirev

First Comes Marriage, Then Love?
An arranged marriage is the union of a man and a woman which is brought about by someone
other than the bride and groom. Historically, it was the primary way in which future spouses
were introduced, and arranged marriages still are a fairly common practice in certain parts of the
world today. Learn all about the history of arranged marriage; how they have evolved over time,
and the advantages and disadvantages to marrying someone you hardly know.
In modern America, it is a given that First comes love, then comes marriage, but this has not
always been the case throughout history. The idea that marriage is based entirely on love is a
fairly new concept, and even in the contemporary United States, there are men and women who
meet their spouses through either a matchmaker or an interested family member. An important
fact to note is that an arranged marriage is not the same as a forced marriage, nor is it necessarily
an involuntary union foisted upon unwilling participants by their families.


Most royal marriages were a matter of empire building rather than love

Royal Brides Were Used As Currency
The basic mechanics of arranged marriage have not changed too much over the years, however
the practice has become less rigid over time. Arranged marriages were common as far back as
Biblical times and beyond. The traditional purposes of these types of unions were political,
military, and social. They were commonplace among the royalty and nobility around the world.
In ancient Egypt, for example, one of the chief goals of arranged marriage was to keep royal
bloodlines pure. Of course, breeding within a limited gene pool can result in some nasty
hereditary illnesses; one only need look to the royal families of Europe as a cautionary example.
So widespread was hemophilia (a blood clotting disorder) that it was called the Royal Disease.
Queen Victoria's son Prince Leopold was only one of the young royals who died an untimely
death due to hemophilia.

The Romans also practiced arranged marriages. Daughters were a useful form of currency which
could be used to help form strategic alliances and strengthen the military position of the family.
The royal princesses of Europe were used in much the same way well into the 19th Century.
Young girls were often promised to the sons of neighboring countries as a way of forming
international partnerships. In many cases, the marriages were arranged when the girls were
babies, and in some instances, the marriage actually took place when the princesses were very
young girls. They remained home with their families until they reached a suitable age and then
were shipped off to their husbands. One of the most famous arranged royal marriages is that of
Marie Antoinette, the daughter of Queen Maria Theresa of Austria-Hungary. She was promised
to the crown prince of France, who eventually became King Louis XVI.

Arranged marriages were hard on young noblewomen in times when travel was difficult. They
were frequently married off to older men who lived far from their home countries. At a time
which was deemed appropriate, the young bride was sent away to live in a foreign land with a
man whom she had never met. The important political advantages to royal arranged marriages
made refusing to marry the appointed person impossibility. And if the first husband died, the
royal widow was often re-married to another useful man by her family. The involuntary nature of
historical arranged marriages is what gave the practice a bad name.

Marie Antoinette was married by proxy to the Dauphin of France, whom she had never met


An arranged marriage wedding ceremony

Modern Arranged Marriage In India

Although arranged marriages are no longer common in Europe, they are still a frequently used
method of matchmaking in other areas today. There are, however, some critical differences between
historical arranged marriages and the contemporary variety. The most key change is that in many
cases, the potential bride or groom has the option of rejecting the mate chosen by the family, at least
in theory. In reality, though, there can be enormous familial pressure to agree to a spouse, once both
families have determined the match to be a good one.

There is another difference between traditional and modern arranged marriages, which is that in
contemporary arranged marriages, efforts are made to ensure that the bride and groom are
compatible. A key similarity between the traditional and modern versions is that there is no
expectation that the couple will be in love at the time of their marriage. This highlights a critical
difference between love marriages and arranged marriages, which is that an arranged marriage is
more of a practical partnership than a romantic fantasy. If love grows over time, that is wonderful; if it
does not, the hope is that the couple will at least form a strong partnership and build a life together. It
should perhaps come as no surprise that modern arranged marriages are most prevalent in
countries where family and society are more important than individual wishes.

One of the countries where arranged marriages are most common today is India. In most families,
the procedure is for the parents or a mediator to vet potential spouses for their marriage aged child.
Once a promising candidate is found, the parents will talk, often before the prospective bride and
groom are introduced. Traditionally, if the parents found the situation to be pleasing or
advantageous, the match would be formalized at that stage, and presented to the bride and groom
as a fait accompli. The young man and woman had little chance to object, and sometimes did not
meet until their wedding day.

In its contemporary form, however, young Indian couples do have a say in their fate. After locating a
suitable future spouse, the two sets of parents will introduce the young people. They generally have
the freedom to get to know one another for a while before deciding on whether or not to be married.
There is no set time by which a decision must be reached, and there is the possibility that one side
or another might decide not to marry the person selected by his or her parents. One must remember
that when the possible bride and groom meet, they are not trying to fall in love, but to decide if they
could marry the other person and become a family. This is a very important distinction, as it is what
separates a dating or matchmaking service from an arranged marriage. Although either party is
supposed to be free to approve or disapprove of their future mate, family pressure undoubtedly plays
a role.

In India, a very specific set of criteria is used to determine the compatibility of a man and woman.
Some of the factors in making a suitable match include: the reputation of the families, equal wealth,
a shared religion, being members of the same caste, and whether each person follows a vegetarian
diet or not. The profession of the groom is also a very important thing which a family will consider.
Certain professions are especially sought after when making a match, including doctor, lawyer,
engineer, and scientist. The career path of the bride carries slightly less weight, although it is a
bonus if she is a doctor, lawyer, or a teacher. When possible, efforts are made to pair brides and
grooms who work in the same field. That actually makes a great deal of sense, as they are likely to
have similar interests. Often the horoscope of the man and woman will also be examined to help
determine the likelihood that the match will be successful, and certainly attractive candidates are
also favored.





Traditional Japanese wedding ceremony

The Samurai Introduced Arranged Marriages To Japan
Japan is another society with a strong history of arranged marriages. Most young Japanese
people today favor the love marriages which are common in the Western world, but it is
estimated that somewhere between 10-30% of all marriages in Japan are arranged. Arranged
marriage in Japan was initially practiced by the Samurai class in the 16th Century. Much like
their counterparts in the European royal families, the Samurai used marriage as a means to secure
military alliances. The practice eventually spread to the urban classes, and over time, a highly
developed ritual formed around the process of arranging marriages.

Much like in India, potential future mates are first vetted for suitability and compatibility. The
set of guidelines used is called iegara. Some of the key areas of investigation include: education,
income, status, religion, career, hobbies or interests, and appearance. Preference is given to
candidates with Samurai heritage, as family lineage is one of the most important considerations.
In a society like Japan's which values ancestry and family tremendously, it is not only the social
status of the bride or groom which is relevant, but that of their entire family. There are cynics
who claim that all the modern bride cares about are the three Hs: high salary, high education, and
height in a groom. The word investigation is appropriate, by the way; in some cities, private
investigators are hired to ensure that the potential spouse has answered all questions honestly.

In Japan, it is usually not the parents of the bride and groom who search for good marriage
material, but rather a third party called the nakdo. The nakdo might be a family friend or
family elder with strong connections in the community, or it could be a professional hired
expressly for the purpose of finding a spouse for one's child. Remaining unmarried past the mid-
20s for women or 30 for men carries with it a social stigma for both the individual and their
family, so it is not unusual for concerned parents to turn to a nakdo if their child is nearing that
age range with no strong marital prospects. They may or may not inform their marriageable aged
son or daughter of their plans before contacting the nakdo.

The role of the nakdo is clearly defined in the process of arranging a marriage. They will first
work up a list of potential candidates and investigate them to make sure they would be
compatible with both the future bride or groom and their family. The parents will be given
comprehensive reviews of multiple candidates from which to select. Once a good match has been
found, the nakdo will bring together the young man and woman and both sets of parents for an
introduction. If all goes well, a series of dates is set up so that the prospective bride and groom
can decide if they would like to be married. The third date is the critical one; it is customary that
on the third date, the decision will be made about whether or not to wed. Dignity being very
important in Japan, there is a standard format which is used to avoid embarrassing someone with
rejection if the courtship is discontinued at that time.

If the couples and their families decide to move forward with the marriage, the nakdo will assist
in working out the details of the marriage (not unlike a lawyer negotiating a prenuptial
agreement). Should trouble arise down the road, it is also expected that the nakdo will step in to
counsel the newlyweds and keep the marriage on track. After all the work they put into making
the match, the nakdo certainly has a strong interest in ensuring that it is a success.


Can a commitment to marriage grow into love?

Commitment To Commitment: Arranged Marriage In The United States Today
A fascinating case of modern arranged marriage in America is that of a man who decided to set a
wedding date...but who had no bride. Almost in jest, some of his friends sent out a press release
seeking a wife for their friend, and to their surprise, they received hundreds of serious responses.
He ended up finding a suitable candidate, and in short order the couple was married. The happy
couple believes that their arranged marriage has succeeded because they are both committed to
commitment. While most Americans are too deeply invested in the concept of free will and
personal choice to opt for an arranged marriage, there are certainly for whom the idea of being
matched with a spouse certainly beats playing the field and hoping for the best.

Where will the practice of arranged marriages go and how will it evolve in the future? The
chances are that formal arranged marriages will continue to dwindle in numbers as women in
patriarchal societies gain increasing economic and social freedom. Their growing independence
will inevitably result in reduced pressure to be married by a certain age, just as it has in the
United States, where the average age for marriage marches steadily higher for every generation.
That said, the modern version of arranged marriages, which can look more akin to matchmaking
than anything else, will always have a role to play. As people become deluged by an abundance
of information and choice, and the social and familial structures that used to help bring singles
together continue to break down, there will always be those who are committed to
commitment who will be glad to have some help finding a spouse with whom they can build a
life. Maybe marriage can indeed come before love.