How do Indian Arranged Marriages work?
March 2, 2015 9:26 AM   Subscribe

I will be visiting India soon to get an arranged marriage. I would like to know what to expect and how to handle the situation.

To give a little background about myself, I left India (my home country) when I was 11 years old. I have very traditional close nit family.

Anyways, I have dated few girls here and felt like that they were too modern for my liking. I still would like to be with someone who is still very culture oriented. So I asked my parents that I would like to get married to someone back home and they agreed to help me find someone who is compatible for me. Even though I am Indian, I still do not fully understand how arranged marriages actually work. How do they determine which girl is right for me in such a short period. Are you able to take a girl out on a date prior to agreeing to marry her or is that considered a disrespectful to the girls family. What questions to ask her during meetings?

I have also talked to couple of girls (via text) that my relatives showed me back home and it is very different from talking to someone here. It is hard to tell if she is interested or are they just shy when talking to a guy. They never initiate conversations.

I would like to know what to expect and how everything differs from traditional love marriage. I will be going to India in 2 months and will be there for about 2-3 weeks.

What has your experience been like? Or do you know anyone who got arranged marriage in India and their stories?
posted by json12 to Human Relations (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Why don't you ask your parents these questions? No sarcasm intended.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:39 AM on March 2, 2015 [18 favorites]

Some of the responses here might help you.
posted by royalsong at 9:55 AM on March 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also no sarcasm or disrespect intended, but in addition to asking your parents (who have presumably been out of the loop for many years), ask your parents to put you in touch with some couples who have done this more recently (and ideally also someone in the process and someone who got matched up but decided not to marry). I realize that's what you're hoping to find here, and I expect you will, but this process probably varies somewhat within micro-cultures (a circle of upper middle class in this city vs. a highly-religious circle of middle-middle class in that city etc.) and the people your parents can put you in touch with will probably have an experience closest to what you can expect.

I also highly suggest that you talk to (and you may find this here) a couple who did this in India and then the woman (not girl) moved to the U.S. You seem to be assuming that by doing this you can have what amounts to (your vision of) an Indian marriage in the U.S. However, circumstances are different in the two countries and migration changes people both because people are exposed to new cultures and because of the different context/circumstances. I have no idea how this plays out in the context of marriage arranged in India couple lives in U.S., but you should find out. Be sure to talk to both men and women, but if you talk to couples, try to talk to them separately, if you can.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2015 [10 favorites]

I agree with jeff-o-matic. I'm of Indian ethnicity but born and raised in America - I have some family members in India who had matchmaker type meetings with their spouses but not strictly
"arranged" marriages where the marriage was going to happen without their really knowing each other and both agreeing, etc. A much looser variation on the concept. Those marriages have gone some good, some bad, like all marriages. But both bride and groom had equal say and got to know each other a bit.

I also know that there are a lot of Indians who have much much more strict and traditional. It really depends on the part of India your family is from, your own family and circle's style and customs, which your family will know better than anyone here. Especially non Indians who extrapolate based on a few people they know.
posted by zutalors! at 9:56 AM on March 2, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I have asked my parents and I got the general idea. But I felt the advice they were giving me was to marry someone they choose not I. I made them clear that I will only get arranged marriage only if I like the other person and we are compatible with each other. So I would like to get outside opinions on this topic as well.
posted by json12 at 9:57 AM on March 2, 2015

json: Are you asking people's (presumably people who have done it or seen it close up) opinions of the idea that you would have an arranged marriage (as your comment implies) or how the logistics/process/being in such a marriage works (as your question implies)?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:03 AM on March 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

This six step process from the Quora link royalsong posted seems to match what I understand from family and family friends.
posted by zutalors! at 10:21 AM on March 2, 2015

Your want your cake and eat it too approach isn't what arranged marriages are all about. You mentioned that you would only accept marriage if you meet/date/like the girl. So what you have done is ask your parents to set up a blind date, not an arranged marriage. I know several Indians living in America who are in arranged marriages, and they are all very traditional in their ways. Their wives seem very submissive, quiet, although that may be in part to a language deficiency, but all of them are very much dominated by their husbands. As a side note regarding your parents one of my Indian friends went against his parents who had arranged a wife for him, and married another. It took years for his parents to accept her... YMMV.
posted by Gungho at 10:23 AM on March 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm also from your part of the world. In my experience and understanding, there is no one, correct way to conduct an arranged marriage.

Many of my friends from home have had arranged marriages. More usually this has meant that their parents have engineered an introduction and the guy and girl have been left to get to know each other over a series of dates. In many cases, they have been left sufficiently alone to get quite intimate in that time.

In other cases the arranged marriages have been more old-fashioned and traditional - to whit, the couple have only been allowed to meet with an older relative present.

Not saying one type is better than the other. Of my friends who have had arranged marriages, some are happy and some are not. It depends on the individuals, and the shared values.

So there is a continuum of strictness along which these marriages take place. Really the best thing to do would be to talk to your parents about your expectations and theirs.
posted by Ziggy500 at 10:46 AM on March 2, 2015 [6 favorites]

A coworker of mine went through this several years ago, travelling back to India for about a month to stay with his family as they introduced him to a series of women whom they had vetted prior to his arrival. He met each of them, with their families present, and got to know them a bit before deciding to move to the next one on the list. I believe he stopped at the fourth one, at which time both of them indicated that they would like to pursue a relationship. They had a small ceremony at that point, I believe indicating intent to marry, and then he came back to the US. They then corresponded each night over Skype for a year before agreeing to get married. He went back to India for the wedding, and brought his bride back here to live. They have been together for about four years and seem to be happy.

I'm sure different families have different processes, but that is one example.
posted by blurker at 11:19 AM on March 2, 2015

There really is a continuum. When my friend from India was going through this process, there was a LOT of research before the two people met; then her siblings and cousins (who are very close to her and know her well) GRILLED the guy who made it through that background research in her presence about anything and everything; then she had long conversations with her parents about this person and what she thought of his answers, background, values, etc.

She declined and decided to stay unmarried. Her prospects for a traditional marriage were limited as she was "older" (over 25), a working professional, and had a PhD. Her parents were disappointed but understanding. Realize that the more research, work, questions and talking that can happen before the couple meet is really preferred. Because it can be deeply embarrassing (to the two people involved, and their families and friends) to be rejected after all of that.
posted by jeanmari at 11:21 AM on March 2, 2015

Over on AskReddit, people periodically pose questions about arranged marriages out of curiosity, and there's a large enough readership that you'll get a variety of types of arranged marriages among the answerers. (ok the questions are often about sex in an arranged marriage, but there's more general questions there, too.)
posted by telophase at 12:09 PM on March 2, 2015

A friend of mine, the oldest son of a family of four, recently looked after the marrying-off of his younger siblings and finally got married himself this summer, in arranged marriages. It took the help of his entire extended network of family and friends in their community, people who knew them well, to find potential candidates. The candidates had to be "well-known" personally by someone trusted, and then several people in or close to the family would talk to them and their families, and get a feel for that person. Personality was taken very seriously, to find a match on that front was important - they are trying to achieve a life-long marriage after all. All this vetting and pre-interviewing before the potential couple meets. He treated the entire matter of arranged marriage as exactly that - a rational decision to be made for a long-term partnership agreement, without any pretense that "love" was in consideration. Finding each other attractive was part of the wish list, sure, but no one was under the illusion that two people would meet and instantly fall in love.

While going through grad studies, my supervisor and many of my student colleagues were Indian, in arranged marriages. My supervisor said that his relationship with his wife took years of hard work to develop- from having met only briefly prior to marrying, then slowly building the partnership and mutual respect, working on the friendship, and as time went on they eventually grew into affection and love. It was clear that this did not, and could not, happen in social isolation - the community and their elders were critical in providing guidance and support to the both of them. It took effort on both their parts to learn to bend to each other and work together.

As a person who's on her second marriage and learned a lot about relationships in general, it is clear to me that regardless of how a couple starts out, the work and strategy required for maintaining a healthy, happy long-term relationship is the same.
posted by lizbunny at 1:37 PM on March 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

Make sure you communicate to your parents what you want in a wife! The only women I know that were in arranged marriages were career focused in academia, so it definitely sounds more "modern" than what you are looking for. Simply deciding to do an arranged marriage doesn't mean the woman will want a traditional life in all aspects. Definitely make sure your parents know you are looking for someone who wants to be a stay at home parent, or work for you supporting your business, or whatever it is that you want that you haven't found in "modern" women.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:05 PM on March 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

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