In Praise of Arranged Marriages

Nov 19, 2018 41 Comments

I will start by dispelling some myths so that we are working with a common definition of "arranged marriage". The middle-class Indian definition of arranged marriage does NOT refer to non-consensual marriage, nor does it refer to a blind marriage. These things certainly happen in parts of India and the undeveloped world but fall in the same category as trafficking/slavery and not what a middle-class Indian person refers to as an arranged marriage.

The "process" of arranged marriage in urban India is as follows: You are presented with some peoples' profiles by your family, screened by them beforehand. A profile is composed of photographs, a resume, surface-level lifestyle attributes, and other data. From the candidates, you select someone who you you think is worth the time (sounds gosh darn familiar don't it?).

The very first meeting is both families meeting each other for a meal or tea (typically the latter), where the guy and girl get some private time to speak to each other where they will presumably exchange contact info and plan their first "date". After a series of dates, the couple will communicate their decision to their respective parents (and/or to each other). If it's a no-go from either party, the process repeats.

Superficially, this is very similar to modern Western dating, except that matching is mediated by the parents instead of an app or alcohol+chance. However, there are some distinct advantages with this over Western dating, and I implore you to consider them fairly instead of dismissing the whole thing because it's "so weird dude":

1. The process of matching is abstracted away. Near-zero stress and effort on your end, your parents literally bring you a human-screened folder of potential candidates. Better than going to a bar and hoping you bump into your soul-mate one random Friday. This also means you can share the blame if you end up Forever Alone™.
2. You will only be presented with people who are interested in a serious relationship. It's like having a hard flag on Tinder for "serious relationships only". No men looking for a quick nut. No women looking for free dinner.
3. Compatibility is far better than if you just met someone and fell in love. You can be sure, at least, that extraneous blockers (TC compatibility, cultural compatibility, circumstantial stuff) don't exist. Also, no beer goggles.
4. Both parties have other options to go through (which gives them more confidence to say "no" instead of settling).
5. Your parents will have your back emotionally in case of a difficult rejection. Of course people fall in love during the dating period but you can share that freely with your parents and they'll just present you with another candidate to take your mind off.

The bottom-line is that this process tips the reason-emotion tradeoff more towards reason. Depending on what kind of person you are, that might be preferable. At the end of the day, marriage is a crapshoot anyway.

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TOP 41 Comments
  • LinkedIn Greydayz
    This post was nicely informative. I’m not Indian and I met my wife on a dating app, but this cleared up a lot of the misconceptions I had about arranged marriages.
    Nov 19, 2018 1
    • Facebook xGF
      Yup very well written. You should publish this externally, OP
      Nov 19, 2018
  • Google / Eng Bluths
    I have nothing against arranged marriages. But what you have presented as pros of arranged marriages aren’t necessarily exclusive to them.
    1. This would be the same as your friends setting you up. Fewer choices than dating apps, but potentially better screening.
    2. I am not interested in a serious relationship with someone unless I have already slept with them. Arranged marriages don’t give you that chance.
    3. You can screen for these (and a lot of other things) if you live together before you get married.
    4. Dating apps give you choices as well.
    5. Your parents should back you emotionally no matter what.
    Nov 19, 2018 2
    • Apple KGHP41
      I think OP only talked about how arranged marriage works for an average Indian. It is not necessarily the answer to anything in the western context. It’s just a norm in India that’s all.
      Nov 19, 2018
    • Facebook xGF
      @Bluths is providing valid critique to OP who is praising arranged marriages. It’s not worth praising
      Nov 19, 2018
  • Uber / Eng oOBb03
    I just married the first girl I met in college. Chance worked great for me.
    Nov 19, 2018 4
    • Apple KGHP41
      This doesn’t scale well.
      Nov 19, 2018
    • Facebook xGF
      Lottery ticket
      Nov 19, 2018
    • Uber / Eng oOBb03
      It scales fine. And it isn't really about "chance" -- I was mocking the OP in how they characterized the alternatives.

      I essentially observed (and sometimes talked to) all the girls on the first day of arriving at university. We had the first date within about a week. She was a senior, I was a freshman. Got married three years later, after her grad school. Been married ever since for almost two decades.

      We could have abandoned the relationship if something came up that meant it shouldn't work out. Maybe that was the chance part of it, or maybe we're both very understanding people.

      I really have nothing against parental assistance in the matter. I suspect people think too much about trying to find perfect, though. She was already a valedictorian at her high school and we're both very brain-oriented, but in very complementary ways.

      I guess it could have been the lottery.

      1) For her, based on my 600k TC, but she makes $70k as a public school teacher and we can both live on a single salary due to years of total market index saving and an early investment in housing.

      2) For me, since she's not a gold digger and we married before either of us had high TC, and she has a tenured position with a public pension that covers medical as well, giving me the flexibility to pursue startups and job changes without stress.

      So maybe we both won the lottery.

      I've never dated or been with another person. I skipped all that drama in high school. So it was on the first try, too.
      Nov 19, 2018
    • Facebook xGF
      Again, you got lucky. Not en expected outcome for someone else following in your footsteps for sure.
      Nov 19, 2018
  • AMD
    5nm

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    Intel
    5nmmore
    How long do you get to “date” this person 1x1? Why do the families meet on the first date as well?
    Nov 20, 2018 7
    • Amazon 123raj
      Google it steve.
      Nov 20, 2018
    • AMD
      5nm

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      5nmmore
      I did, I get linked about parents chaperoning their 12 year old first dates!!!!
      Nov 20, 2018
    • Google / Eng hooli.xyz
      Well, that’s pretty much what chaperoning is. It’s already awkward when adolescents starting to date. But parents meeting the other parents when the couple is >18 years old is plain weird.

      I heard Indian parents will still accompany their children’s “dates” well into adulthood (>25 years old). What the fuck, why?? That is very, very odd...
      Nov 21, 2018
    • AMD
      5nm

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      5nmmore
      Yeah weird doesn’t even describe it ... having a family play match maker, doesn’t seem that bad, but them actually going on dates with you, is fucking weird
      Nov 21, 2018
    • Amazon 123raj
      I have not heard that happen in any urban city that i know off
      Nov 21, 2018
  • Google flinkseeds
    Still, arranged marriage sucks. Feel sorry for you.
    Nov 19, 2018 1
    • Google ritb
      You make a compelling argument!
      Nov 19, 2018
  • Reddit / Eng pzqf14
    Thanks for the education!

    As a point, chance is still very much involved. Parents can't match their children with someone without having a chance encounter with the folks of a potential match.

    That said, I can see a few ways that wouldn't work in the U.S. First, the U.S. is far more racially diverse, and that carries a good bit of racism and other sorts of bigotry. I wouldn't exist, for instance, if this were a common practice in the U.S. Hookup culture has been a persistent part of the U.S. identity for at least the past 60 years; I can not envision my folks picking hook up partners who could one day be my wife. Lastly, in the U.S., marriage is becoming a less attractive goal in a relationship, so such a tradition would just die out with the next generation.

    As a note, I have evidence and a sturdy argument for my claims in the last para, but I'd rather not type out 3 whole arguments on my phone. Hit me up if you want evidence of my claims.
    Nov 19, 2018 4
    • Apple KGHP41
      India is extremely diverse. People from different states don’t even speak each other’s language. Each state also has regional differences. Indians are not only the ones you come in contact here in the US. There are 54 official languages in India just so you have a baseline on how diverse the country really is.
      Nov 19, 2018
    • Reddit / Eng pzqf14
      I can buy that.

      However, my argument was not that India is not diverse. I claimed that it is not racially diverse. Would you claim that racism and xenophobia are comparably intense in India?
      Nov 19, 2018
    • Facebook xGF
      Apple dumbass @KGHP41 - you made his point. India is diverse, yes. But parents will never arrange matches from a completely random sub-culture of India. Think Tamil matches with north east or Malyali matched with Bengali. Arranged marriage tradition PREVENTS diversity among couples. Whereas Hookup culture ENCOURAGES it. People will hookup with matches from diverse cultures out of novelty, seeking exotic experiences or curiosity. And some % of that will click and marry. Hookup culture encourages diversity in couples, arranged marriages prohibit it. Got it?
      Nov 19, 2018
    • OP
      If the claim you're referring to is marriage dying out then I'd like to hear your arguments.
      Nov 19, 2018
  • Intel / Other 10% ESPP!
    Thanks for the explanation, I had an inkling this is how it works from talking to Indian co-workers briefly but this is a good overview and makes a lot of sense.
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Google / Eng hooli.xyz
    Still weird because parents are in the picture. Like Indian men are not able to find mates of their own so they need help from parents.

    Also, you completely glossed over the filtering process. I guess you don’t want to let non-Indians know how racist the process can be (caste, religion, shade of skin, etc).
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Google Uhhfff
    The coolest thing I ever did was to build up the courage to ask out my wife.

    Tinder and dating platforms like that deprive us of that feeling you get when you put yourself out there and hope for the best. It’s not the most important experience in life but it’s one of the best when ur crush says “yes” !
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Apple Okidoki
    My parents often wanted to match me with someone, but they usually looked at “whether the parents are good”. Obviously they had no idea about how the son of particular parents turned out aside from what college he attends. And whenever they suggested someone that I might have actually liked on my own, it was an immediate buzz kill. It’s like having parents to look in your bedroom to see how you two fit together.
    What I like in the arranged marriage culture (as an observer) is that people tend to be more accepting to adapt. They just find someone decent and settle with them and know they will have to compromise. Many people in the western world are too focused on finding their “true half” and even if they think they found him/her, often still end up in a divorce when it doesn’t stand the test of time.
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Cerner XLdG63
    You did a good job of explaining the process but some of your pros are not really true.
    Compatibility is better in arranged marriages only if your definition of compatibility includes TC, status, caste, net worth, color gradient of skin etc. In the end its down to whether you want to make probably the most important decision of your life yourself or would rather have your parents make it for you.
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Facebook supichai
    Arranged marriage is dating but no sex before marriage
    Nov 19, 2018 1
    • ARM JIfV62
      There are plenty of arranged matches that do horizontal gymnastics before the nuptials.
      Nov 19, 2018
  • Morgan Stanley ninja007
    Great summary OP. I used to tell people that my parents run a free dating agency for me - and my friends were envious of me when I was going through this phase. I ended up meeting my wife at a bar though.

    To add - middle class in larger cities or with the offspring in another country (USA,UK etc) even take the family meetings out of the way till the guy and the girl meet and express some interest in taking it forward. Then if things are good - they stay “engaged” for a year or so while the families prep for the wedding.

    It’s not as bad as movies and folklore make it sound. Thanks OP , for shedding more light on this.
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Amazon / Eng 多撚餘
    You guys should stop calling it "arranged" but instead call it "match making".
    Nov 21, 2018 0
  • Amazon 123raj
    Also these days it's like a normal first date. Parents dont even get involved till later.
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • IBM
    lonely gir

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    lonely girmore
    This sounds like a start up pitch lol
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Splunk iorm72
    Thanks for the insights. It was very informative. Nontheless, I still view it as a primitive ritual and the way the process is done it removes all the "fun" parts - courting the woman and the excitement and anticipation that come with these intial phases. It seems that this process is aimed at removing any "risks" in the matching process. This is obviously impossible.
    Nov 19, 2018 0
  • Apple / Eng Marijuana
    How much of this could be addressed by technology? For example, apps like The League seem to do an okay job in terms of TC compatibility and serious relationships only.
    Nov 19, 2018 1
    • Morgan Stanley ninja007
      That’s the easy part once you verify the info.

      But the trickier part is to distill down the cultural compatibility that an algo would have an harder job doing. eHarmony kinda tries, but won’t work with complicated “n-tiered” cultures, if you know what I mean. Not to say that there are couples that work out against all odds but we are trying to work the odds for the norm, not the exception here I guess.
      Nov 19, 2018
  • Guidewire Lahlah
    Thanks OP. I’ve wanted to know more, but seems rude to ask.
    Nov 21, 2018 0
  • Apple KGHP41
    Great summary OP. THANKS!
    Nov 19, 2018 0