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Love and Marriage

***Written by production manager, Jane Mellema***

“You people fall in love, then get married. We get married, then fall in love,” my friend once told me. 

If only love and marriage were that simple! 

I would say that within five minutes, almost every conversation I have with a person from India quickly turns to the issue of my marital status. “You are not married? You should get married. Are you searching for someone?” Some people think my parents have failed me. 

Traditionally India has the practice of arranged marriage. When a child reached a certain age, his or her family would begin to talk to other families of a similar socio-economic level and religion. Families would then decide if their children were a proper match.

India is a rapidly evolving country. As technology and global exposure have proliferated and urban centers have grown, the idea of marriage has been gradually changing. The concept of a “love marriage,” which in the past was unthinkable, has become more accepted.

There is a broad spectrum of how marriage is approached. Many parents will search but will allow the young people to meet, interact, and decide if they would like to move forward in the relationship. Matrimonial ads appear in the daily newspaper with tantalizing descriptions, hoping to draw in potential spouses. Some couples will still meet for the first time on their wedding day.  

One young professional woman told me in a conversation, “It is not what I want that matters, but it is what my family wants.”  I met another young lady who was dating a young man in university that she declared she was in love with, but she sadly acknowledged the reality that his parents had someone else in mind for him, and their relationship would eventually have to end. This is a difficult reality for many young Indians whose mindsets are changing and clashing with their families’ plans. 

This theme of love marriages and arranged marriages often becomes the focal point of movies produced by Bollywood (one of the big Indian film industries). I know of one famous actor who, in his films, seems to specialize in walking into girls’ marriage ceremonies, declaring his love for them, and stealing them away from the man that had been arranged for them. There is something dramatic, romantic and appealing about the idea of a love marriage. 

However when it comes down to it, most people still will have arranged marriages, and many prefer this familiar route. To people from the western world, where independence and freedom are some of the highest cultural values, this might seem like surrendering your future to the hands of others. 

In my mind, as with most things, there are pros and cons to arranged marriages. In some respects, I think it is a good and healthy idea to have community help and support in making a decision that is probably one of the biggest decisions in a young person’s life. One young Indian, in response to a blog poll that asked: “Love marriage?  Or Arranged marriage?” said the following, “Arranged marriage is made by two families and love is made by two people. Family sees all the aspects and love is blind. The eyes open after the marriage and things are different.”* 

I think this person hit on the head one of the strengths of arranged marriage. When you have been arranged for each other, emotion is not the guide but rather the knowledge that you need to make this relationship work. You need to be committed to each other. Hopefully, as my friend at the beginning of this blog post stated, the couple will then fall in love, secure in the knowledge that they are committed to each other. 

Sometimes in love marriage, the attraction is strong, and people can imagine the other person to be the answer to everything they lack in life. As was said in the film, Jerry McGuire (which I never saw, but I heard the famous quote), “You complete me”. Of course, any time we expect someone to magically fill the empty spaces in our lives, we are going to be disappointed. Many love marriages are founded on solid relationships that have been built and established over time and are not based only on feelings.

A potential positive aspect of arranged marriage is common ground for a couple to build off of. In reality, after the glimmer of the honeymoon phase passes away, a couple needs common interests, common goals, and common passions to hold them together. At the end of the day, when you sit down together, what will you talk about? If your family chooses qualities that are truly important to look for, if they know you well, and they are looking for someone who truly fits you and complements you, they could be the best matchmakers possible! Unfortunately, if a family is only focused on money or status, they may actually choose someone whose character is lacking, leading to potential miserable times. 

I personally would not mind if my family found someone that they knew well and believed would fit me well. They may be the best ones to know. I know my family would want the best for me. If a family truly wants the best for their child, and their idea of what is best and their child’s idea of what is best matches up, it could be incredible. 

I believe there are strengths and weaknesses to both arranged and love marriages. Both have incredible success stories and stories of failure. Maybe the ideal includes elements of both? 

*quote taken from:

Photo Credit: rajkumar1220 via Compfight cc


  • Sarah Hoff

    what a wonderful article! I really like your insight about the idea of marrying someone because they complete me!

  • Chuck King

    As a very Western parent of adult children, I would LOVE to hvae a hand in arranging their marriages! Seriously. Thank you, Jane, for a thoughtful look at changing patterns in India!

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