Friday, May 23, 2008

The Indian Arranged Marriage Scene and its current scenario

I often have my non-Indian friends who want to know how this “arranged marriage” thingummy works out. Well its quite it arranged dating if you might.

Eg. If a girl's(of marriage age) parents are on the look out for a suitable boy for their daughter.

'Suitable' would mean someone who fulfills a criteria/check list sort of.
  • This would basically ensure that the BASE/background is similar and
    matching, thereby leading to similar goals in life.
  • In the past there used to be a marriage broker who would know some family
    with a suitable/boy or girl and would carry his/her set of horoscopes and
    details, to seek out suitable matches.
  • Some are still astrologers who help the proespects parents to match horoscopes.
  • Nowadays these are advertised in sites like,, etc.
Most of these adverts are updated by parents, bearing in mind what would be good and matching for their off springs. There is usually a lot of thot put into this.
Example :
  • Socio-Economic background. Some mention, upper class and request similar background. *so that there are no clashes later on on irreconcilable differences*

  • The Partners physical appearance. Yes some even ask for “fair girl” or say things like “girl must be very beautiful” and lets not even comment on the son’s photo that is put up.
  • There are the bride to be’s parents who ask for a groom “who must have clean habits” one wonders if they mean that he should wash his hands after u know what.
  • Some insist, the bride-to-be should be “professionally qualified” and some insist she should have a job/career. This leads to most parents even educating their daughters to eventually find a good match. Whether she works after marriage or not ends up being a mutual/individual choice.
  • There used to be (I think there still is) a big interest for “US Mapillai or US or foreign based grooms. There are some others who then insist the girl needs to be also US based. Some actually place on advt “girl must be from West coast” etc.

    Some details on the prospect are added say example :
  • Family Details : Father retired from nationalised bank and now practising law in PUNE. Mother is a homemaker. XYZ has two elder sisters both married settled in PUNE. XYZ lives in Toronto, Ontario-Canada and is professionaly well settled in a good organization. The family is settled in PUNE for the last 28 years.

  • I am a guy with clean habits have a good self confidence

  • My son is very good in character and look very young, he is very calm and friendly type.
  • Simple/Like to wear Simple and smart dress.god fearing. Looking for affectionate/accommodating partner/likes less argument.(both sides) ** noted about the dressing**

    Then the “expectation from the partner is updated. Some examples :
  • Expectation: We are looking for a confident and educated girl who believes in traditional values but has a modern outlook. PROFILES WITH PICTURES WILL BE RESPONDED. **yes Ugly ones can be stay away**

  • Partner should be very simple, godfearing. Preferably a graduate with some PC knowledge. ** one is guessing this is so that she uses the computer at home, for god knows what**

  • Looking for someone with lots of energy, confidence , optimism...Someone who is charming, loving, caring, just and humane...Someone for whom family comes first....A Great Friend with whom i can share my life...**Am guessing we are talking about one person only **


  • I am looking an understanding, caring , fun loving girl from respectable family. who also respects elders and other family members values. ** I guess this is stemming from more and more girls expecting the guy to move into a nuclear family as opposed to living with parents **

  • Affectionate / Caring / Supportive / Understanding / GOD fearing - These 5 things are easy to quote here. But getting a person with these primary charachters is really a blessing from GOD :-) Mentally strong and independent; Should be able to think from other persons' perspective:-) And ya, a career-oriented person.

  • We are looking a partner for him who is slim, fair, good looking, accommodating, having high regard to family values with a good education(preferably Bachelor's/Master's Engineering degree) and family background. **the guy in this advt was not exactly conventionally good looking**

  • Looking for a home loving girl, educated preferably employed. a blend of tradition with a modern outlook would be welcome.

Then there is an initial contact between parents, or even between the parties.(read boy and girl) This could be on emails, phones, at one time it used to be via letters or even via the marriage brokers.
  • The boy and girl then continue with some communication on email, phones, and or personal meetings depending on the level of the relationship.
  • SOme get into a twenty question like mode, to ensure there likes/dislikes match.
  • Some just go with the flow.
    All this usually with “blessings of the parents” NO, this are not escorted with parents as it used to be in the old days.

If this seems ok, the parents would meet up either in each others homes or maybe even in a restaurant to see how this can progress further.

If all is in "order" i.e. it seems like match they can progress with, the details are discussed, date is set for a formal engagement and marriage thereon.

So whats working about this process ?
  • One need not waste time dating people, and then finding out there is lot of basics which are not common. E.g. Socio-economic background. This gets taken care of with the “base” check.
  • They belong to similar community, language, cultural background, which means there is lesser after marriage “adjustment” and a lot in common between the boy and girl.
  • Also saves time in dating people who might not be that interested in commitment. The arranged marriage is a sure shot hit since only those in the “market” for marrying are in the market in the first place.
  • Most elders might be able to be clued in as to what will work in this moving forward(basis experience) So when families talk, they know whether or not, we can actually be a part of each others lives in the future.
  • Expectations from each other is very limited, and therefore a better chance of success.
    If it does not work *god forbid* family is the one that comes in to counsel and ensure the couple makes it work.
  • The investment in the marriage and wedding is pretty high. Since everyone in the family is involved.
  • Basics like preferences in career or not, food preferences or not, whether trivial or otherwise gets ironed out and or understood during the “knowing each other phase” pre engagement.

So, yes, its quite an interesting phase to be..there are people who would be at a time even "sparring" with two or three different prospects. So one gets to pick and choose almost like "multiple dating" hmmm a lot has changed since the original "Ponnu Pakkal" or seeing the bride ritual, in which half the village and another would be present t see the goings on of a girl coming into serve coffee to the groom and his folks, and he looks at her and then they confirm whether this is the girl he wants to marry.

Yes in the old days it was sufficient that the BOy agreed to marry a girl, thank god times have changed now and how....


narayan ps said...

very well written and it truly says what happens in a typical arranged marriage ( esp US mapillai in PI ) :)
well done deeps....

Deepa Subbaraman said...

Hey Narayan, thank you for your comment. But since you didn't exactly get into this rigmarole, guess you can call yourself lucky :) Cheers, D

Sonia said...

hehehe.. great blog... the "clean habits" one is such a laugh.. i cant believe people actually write that...
bhadiya hai...

Veng@ said...

excellant blog Deeps. Wonder 'research' (or rather grasping from experiance ;-) ) - u have picked the 'key-words' exactly :-D

i have a lot to 'comment' on...hope u dont mind :-D

lemme tell you this - I am not a fan of 'Arranged Marriages' ;-) esp. Brahmin Arranged Marriages.

call it arranged dating if you might - is arranged by the couples though and that means a lot of difference isnt it :-D

BASE/background is similar and matching -> thereby leading to similar goals in life
ensuring similar BASE/background is an important part of the arranged marriage system but what i wonder is how that is connected to 'goals in life'.
So, does this mean for ppl brought up in the same background having different goals in life, the chance of elimination is high ?
And ppl brought up in different BASE/background but having similar goal in life have higher chances ? (but its not).
I feel more emphasis is given to the BASE/Background similarity than 'goal in life' and its becoming more of a racial issue.

"lets not even comment on the son’s photo that is put up" - beauty lies in the eyes of the be(er)holder u know :-D

"who must have clean habits. one wonders if they mean that he should wash his hands after u know what" - I think many ppl put this to ensure teetotallism and non-smoking. But u r comment is hilarious :-D ROFTL.

"big interest for US Mapillai or US or foreign based grooms" - I agree. In this matter, US and UK has high presedence over Gulf and other foreign countries :-D (I think this may vary according to the exchange rates and economic recessions :-D ) - I donno when this idotic criteria will come to an end. I wish that INDIA should become an economic superpower :-D

god fearing - ha ha ha :-D when God comes in their dream will they become fear and scream ??? :-D

** one is guessing this is so that she uses the computer at home, for god knows what** - ha ha, for watching porn may be :-D (sorry for using this word, but thats what came to my mind first :-P )


Expectations from each other is very limited, and therefore a better chance of success. - I agree.
But, that is how I define the nature of LOVE - less or no expectation. But ppl added a word called 'unconditional' to it and seperated it from the basic nature of LOVE.

If it does not work *god forbid* family is the one that comes in to counsel and ensure the couple makes it work - 200% yes. and that is why the success rate is higher - if its not a natural success, it is forced to be. I wonder why parents are not showing this same amount of reluctancy in divorse in love marriages - may be in that case, its not their 'mistake'.

The investment in the marriage and wedding is pretty high. Since everyone in the family is involved - I would say,in many cases, the entire life time of the girl's father(and mother) is invested (rather wasted) in this process.

Deepa Subbaraman said...

Thanks for the commnmets Sonia and Veng@

One of the thinsg i meant by "BASE/background is similar and matching -> leading to similar goals" well take an example. Most of the people of our background are of similar education, and with similar goals i.e. Have a good job, a home, a few luxuries, and yes interested in the instituition of marriage. if nt, they dont really get into the entire Arranged "Dating" or looking at girls/boys with the purpose of marriage. The goal here is a similar life in the future.

Eg There are times one meets people with similar goals, and then realise that parents dont approve of the match. so, that according to me is conditional love. Where there are some conditions to be fulfilled. So its not a racial issue.

We live in a collectivist culture.

More often than not,, it matters what ones extedned family feels about certains alliances. Example maybe at one time, in our families marrying the second time was taboo. May not be anymore.

The comment on the "sons photo" well that was because his mother was harping so much on having "a really very fair and beautiful" daughter in law only. That bothered me. The issue on beauty in this case is quite dependent on photos.

Regarding divorces. Yes they do happen even in the arranged marraige scenatio, We heard of a horrifc case in which the guy wanted the marriage annuled since in the wedding video it was proved they did'nt really take "7 steps" in the Saptapadi. How benign.

Investment was not just monetary. I know a lot of marriages in my family that have happened in a simple manner, eg in a temple etc.

A classic example is my parents, theirs was in a marriage registrars office in chennai, ata time, when it was not even cool to do such a thing. It happened with elders blessings.

The investment is more of family and relations and emotions and time taht one invests into such alliances. We also have family members who are offended we didnt select proposals that came via them. But such is life.

Deepa Subbaraman said...

One of things, i did want to reiterate was that my folks are quite open if i were find someone of "my choice". I have been making excuses that work keeps me busy.

Am of firm opinion that at times its sufficient to learn from other peoples mistakes without having to commit them yourself..But the truth is the "arranged marriage" method just ensures one doesnt meet commitment phobic, emotionally unavailable folks, and really ruin about a year or two of ones life in running around with wrong decisions.

Veng@ said...

what I meant by life-time is wasted in the process is that, lot of middle class men (and women), the moment they get a girl child, design their life style in such a manner that they should save some money to get the girl married in a 'decent' fashion. For ppl whose income is just sufficient for running their family, the money they spend for the marriage is their life time saving. parents generally dont prefer 'simple marriages' (becas of the society).

Veng@ said...

Most of the people of our background are of similar education, and with similar goals i.e. Have a good job, a home, a few luxuries - ppl those who have a slightly different education (which fetches less money than the so called similar education) and having a slightly different goal (or way of life) (that is, 'good' job, home and a few luxuries) are getting eliminated by this process.

Deepa Subbaraman said...

Thanks Veng@..That is very true of most of the indian cultural thread when it comes to daughters. Especially in our community. Leave alone savings for a marriage, even daughters are educated for the purpose of marriage(meaning, Mba, Master degree engineering, MCAetc. to get a good mapillai who wants a "graduate/post graduate girl who will be a "home maker"..and there are girls who are very happy to do just that. not being judgemental, just surprised as this may not be a choice for me. :)

Arathi said...

Very well written Deeps..