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Arranged Vs Love Marriages In India: Here’s Why Things Are Changing

Posted: October 20, 2015

People always pit one against the other but here’s why the arranged vs love marriages debate is being challenged by changing mentalities in India.

In 21st-century India, change is so rapid that we barely have time to get used to something before some new trend is on the horizon. And I’m not just talking about technology here. Whether it is human behaviour, relationships, societal or cultural norms, Indian society – along with the rest of the world – is hardly recognizable to my parents or their parents.

It’s not a surprise that the institution of marriage and the process of finding a life partner is also undergoing a metamorphosis. Perhaps this is one of the areas where the gap between generations is the most obvious. Almost every day, there is a TV show, media report or blog post talking about arranged vs love marriages. So I figured I would present my take on it as well!

Whenever anyone talks about arranged versus love marriages, I don’t know why they are always portrayed as opposing players, as if there can be only one winner! We instinctively have an idea of what the two terms mean. Most of it is from what we see in the movies or read about in books. In an arranged marriage, the boy, girl and their respective families meet each other for half an hour or so and BAM! The marriage is fixed. In a love marriage, the boy meets the girl, they fall in love and then they have to oppose their parents (caste, money, religious issues etc.) to get married.

But I would argue that there is more to it than that. Let me give you two examples – one of an arranged marriage and one of a love marriage that happened in my own family.

  1. After confirming that their daughter did not have a boyfriend, a couple started looking for prospective grooms. Fast forward 2 years and they were still looking. One day the girl met a boy online and they started talking. They kept talking for three weeks, fell in love and decided to get married (even though they had not seen each other on video or met in person). They told their respective families, who finalised the wedding and gave their blessings.

  2. A year later, the same process of groom searching began for the younger sister. The girl started talking to one prospective partner and they realised that they had a lot in common. After meeting in person, they decided to get married. The parents agreed even though they had personal reservations because the couple in question had made their decision.

Can you see the similarities in the two situations? In both cases it was the decision of the boy and girl to get married, the families and parents got involved later. All sets of parents were sensible and gave their blessings to the matches once they realised that the boy and girl were compatible and in love with each other. There was no drama, fighting, arguments or other distractions that are often portrayed in movies. And the only difference between the two situations was the actual process by which the girl meets the boy. In the former, they meet online and in the latter they meet through the traditional arranged marriage process.

More and more, I think this will become the norm in Indian society. Young couples falling in love are not doing so without any foresight or thought for the future. In fact, this generation is looking for compatibility, honesty and trust before committing to a single person for the rest of their lives. Parents are realising that it is better to respect the choices of their children– who are adults by the way – rather than force a decision on them that they will end up regretting later.

For many of us, even the traditional arranged marriage process is not the same as it used to be. No longer is it taken for granted that the wishes of the boy and girl don’t matter. It is expected that they will talk to each other and come to a mutual decision, rather than how it was for our parents or grandparents. My parents were not allowed to talk to each other in private before the decision was made for them by their parents. I don’t think my grandmother even saw my grandfather before the wedding! But most parents today do not expect their children to get married to someone they haven’t seen or without the couple even talking to each other.

Parents are realising that it is better to respect the choices of their children– who are adults by the way – rather than force a decision on them that they will end up regretting later.

As far as I can tell, in many middle-class families, the only difference between a traditional arranged marriage and the modern love marriage is the question of who introduces the girl to the boy. In an arranged marriage, it is usually the families who arrange a meeting. In a love marriage, the couple may have met in college, in office or through mutual friends. But the end result is that the decision to get married and whom to marry is being left to the actual couple in question, rather than being decided by parents, families or other elders. After all, who says love marriages and arranged marriages prosper side-by-side?

So what do you think? Share your own personal experiences in the comments below!

And if you haven’t already guessed, the two girls mentioned above? They are none other than my sister and me!

Image via Shutterstock.

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