A very popular practice in India is having arranged marriages. I’m Indian myself. I was born there, have many family members living there today, and even have parents that had an arranged marriage, but for some reason, it is just not a practice that I can embrace.
Back in the years when my parents got married, arranged marriages worked something like this. First, the parents would receive possible matches for marriage with a picture and basically a resume of the individual and his or her family. Out of this pool of options, the parents would pick out a couple of people that they thought would be most compatible for their child and family. They would look at factors such as appearance, money, status (which caste their in), and job. Some time later, both families would meet at the potential bride’s house and if the families liked each other and the guy and girl seemed to be getting along, they would set a date for their engagement. In my parent’s case, their engagement was set a week after they met and their wedding was three weeks after that. Basically a month was all it took to seal the deal and tie the knot.
Granted, they have been happily married for 21 years now, but the idea of an arranged marriage still baffles me because I would never agree to do something like that. Since I grew up here, my culture is a mix of both Indian and American beliefs and practices. Because of this mix of two worlds and diversity that I have, I am able to understand why Indians have arranged marriages, but at the same time, I also know why it is not the most ideal practice there is.
Here is how my dad explained it to me. Indian society has a very family-oriented culture. Joint families living together and families living very close to each other is very common there. Elders such as parents and grandparents are also given a lot of respect, so much that doing something not approved by them or going against their wishes can easily make you a pariah in your family’s eyes. Since elders advocate arranged marriages, children generally follow that practice. They also do so because their parents and grandparents have gone through the process themselves and it clearly has seemed to be working for them (divorce rates are much lower in India).
Another reason why arranged marriages are embraced in Indian culture is because of the type of society that exists there. Social status is an aspect that is very important to many people in India and is determined by your caste. That is why families do not marry out of their caste system. It is one of the first things that is looked at when getting an arranged marriage. It might seem odd to foreigners, but there is some sense in this. “Gold diggers” are not out of the norm there. Many guys/girls try to woo an individual from a well-off family to fall for them so that they can trick them into getting married to have access to their money. So when elders are giving their children arranged marriages, they’re honestly just looking out for their child’s best interests so that they can have a good and happy future.
Even though this is all true, it is still not something that I would practice myself, and my parent’s aren’t planning on giving me an arranged marriage either. Growing up here, I’ve seen that there is a dating culture here (basically non-existent in India) for teenagers and adults. They’re looking at the fish in the sea and seeing what kind of people they are most compatible with. Eventually they find someone that they fall in love with and get married. Having been used to this practice, I find this normal instead of arranged marriages and I believe that’s why I can’t seem to accept the idea of an arranged marriage. Either way, I think both practices are valid for individuals in their respective societies.