India: arranging a marriage

November 20, 2013


This is the family we discussed.

This is the family we discussed.

We were walking around the ruins of yet another major palace, this one huge, in Agra, with a local guide, engaged to help our regular tour guide.  (By the way, Agra is a complete dump, but it’s home to the Taj Mahal, go figure.)

The group had fallen behind and it was just us and the local guide, looking at this family enjoying an outing.

family girls

“Ah, that poor family—three daughters!” our guide commented.

We looked at him quizzically.

“That means three dowries,” he told us, with a rueful laugh.

family girls better

The women are so graceful & feminine in their saris.

So I asked him how many daughters he had.

Only one daughter, age 26, a college grad, he told us, and together they have begun the process of arranging a marriage.  But the scenario he described was quite different from what I know about traditional arranged marriages.

The process is now online. Both men and women post profiles and photos on one or more of the three major matrimonial websites.  Sort of like an Indian for arranged marriages. Together, our guide and his daughter review men seeking a bride, and she has significant input.  So far, her father has rejected 500 suitors who have approached her based on her online profile: she wasn’t interested.

(I love this video of the girls arguing over how to pose.)

Now, she and her father have agreed on a potential match. He’s made contact with the potential groom’s father to arrange a meeting. The bride and groom will meet once, in the presence of the parents, and then, once the match is “fixed,” the two can talk on the phone until the wedding. They can’t date at all.  Never.

If the bride (or groom) discovers a dealbreaker in the (usual) six-month period before a wedding, the deal can be broken.

November is the start of the auspicious wedding season in India and our guide told us that he expected a wedding next year.  This more modern `process, he says, is followed by about five percent of Indians—the “working class,” as he termed it.

Our regular tour guide told us that divorce in India is an urban phenomenon, not seen in the countryside. So does this system work?

I asked our local guide if marriages arranged this new way are any more successful than those brokered the old-fashioned way.

“Well,” he said, “marriage is all about compromise. Anything can be worked out if you are motivated to do so. I have been with my wife 27 years and yes, we have areas of disagreement, but we work through them.  That’s the way marriage works.”


6 comments on “India: arranging a marriage
  1. Travel – the world’s best education! What an interesting insight you got by hanging back. I like how the guide calls any form of arranged marriage “modern.” And success is defined by whether the couples stays married or not. Keep these posts coming!

  2. I don’t know which is more unsettling- marriages still being arranged or the condition of Agra? I’m learning so much from your travels Carol. WOW

  3. Barbara says:

    What beautiful colors and visions of India. This is my favorite kind of read – a peek into the everyday goings on of families and relationships in a country so far away. Arranged marriages seem strange to us but on the flip side, I’m sure our system seems odd = and a little broken – to them.

    And yes – marriage is a whole lot about compromises.

  4. As the father of two daughters (one now married), I had bemoaned the medieval custom of the bride’s father paying for the wedding and practically everything. But it did no good. Luckily the costs of a wedding in 1996 wasn’t quite the expense it can be now in the 21st century. But proportionately for the times, it was expensive. They are still married so there is a small ROI on that venture. Now each time my youngest and single daughter breaks up with the respective boyfriend, I say a quiet prayer of thanks. Fathers of the bride everywhere around the world, for untold ages, know what I mean.

  5. Jennifer says:

    “Well,” he said, “marriage is all about compromise. Anything can be worked out if you are motivated to do so. I have been with my wife 27 years and yes, we have areas of disagreement, but we work through them. That’s the way marriage works.” Truer words have never been spoken.

    I love that this process of arranged marriages is becoming more modern, to include the young lady. We can bemoan their traditions, but I am sure they think our idea of divorce and split families is just as barbaric.

  6. admin says:

    The arranged marriage made a lot of sense in his context. Agra–horrific.

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