Marriage Traditions - Is There A Positive Side To Arranged Marriage?

Ancient Evils

Simply uttering the phrase "arranged marriage" conjures up a cornucopia of ills and evils, practiced in the name of greed and self-interest. We shudder at the thought of young women forced into loveless unions for the betterment of the family's wealth or social standing. We mourn for the lost childhood of girls pledged into lives of unending servitude and bondage.

What possible good could ever come of such a heinous institution?

Well, before you write paid to the prospect of doing away with all arranged marriages, consider that we in North American, as well as in some European countries, are definitely in the minority here, folks. Marrying to “follow your heart” is not a new concept, by any means, but it is certainly not the accepted practice in much of the modern world.

Yes, at its worst, an arranged marriage can consign the parties involved to a loveless union, but at its best, as it is practiced in many cultures, it can be the springboard fro a healthy and fruitful joining that nurtures and blesses both the partners and their entire family.

Arranged marriages have been with us since the first cave dwellers looked up from their fires and realized that the little bunch over there had an offspring in whom one of their own offspring seemed to be desperately interested. At this juncture, what with the female of the species being the more forward thinking of the lot, either Mamma or Auntie got into the mix at this point, suggesting perhaps they could arrange an introduction for their backward child.

…and the matchmaker was born. The rest, as they say, is history.

Dynastic unions are by no means unknown in western society, and yes, so are the its attendant ills. On the positive side of the coin, however, many such unions have resulted in stable economies, a balance of power, and cessation of hostilities. We are all familiar with political marriages. We all follow with great interest the alliances of the scions of the rich and powerful.

Much fun has been poked at social climbing mamas who trot out their debutant daughters, seeking the most advantageous match their money and position can finagle.

Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” brilliantly parodies the social mores and betrothal practices of his time. When Lady Bracknell discovers that Jack Worthing, suitor to her young charge, has, in fact no parentage save a Gladstone bag in which he was discovered as a young child, abandoned amidst the “left luggage”, she is quite properly horrified.

It is not until all is resolved, and his true parentage, as well as his real name is uncovered, that he is at last deemed a suitable alliance for his beloved.

Lady Bracknell was most cognizant of her duty to “make a good match” for the young woman in her charge, and though Wilde cleverly contrived that all ended well, his witty words did not attack so much the practice of arranged marriage, as the manner in which it was all too often carried out.

The young lovers did not escape his magnifying glass, for their own actions and prejudices are shown to be as equally over-romantic and foolish as the adherence to propriety of the “older and wiser” heads was hide-bound and blinkered.

All too often in western society, we deride the culture and practices of those who still arrange marriages for their children. A closer examination, though, will reveal the care that is often taken to ensure the future happiness of the couple.

In many cultures, their stars will be cast and lengthy horoscopes charted to ensure a felicitous union. At times, a dowry is sought or offered, but that custom was instituted to ensure the welfare of the bride and her eventual offspring should anything happen to her husband.

In other cultures, a family member is charged with finding a suitable match, or a number of suitable matches. Then, the prospective suitors are allowed to meet their potential intended to see if any sparks are ignited. Long before this happens, though, the young men and women are carefully vetted for likes and dislikes, traits in common, complementary characteristics, and any other information tha can be discovered and deemed relevant.

Often, the process is much more informal, with the families in the community already knowing much about each other, and having already decided what could be potentially good pairings, and which may well be disastrous. Of course, like any system, this method, too, has its glitches and hiccups, and all pairings made in heaven do not last with all the best of intentions.

…but look at our track record for modern, North American marriages. Our system of following one’s heart is, perhaps, the most selfish viewpoint of all. We take little into account of our families’ feelings about the proposed joining – often, we take great pleasure in defying their hopes and expectations simply because our culture celebrates our doing so.

…and if we affirm that we are at the mercy of our feelings and our instincts, then I would suggest that some of us - I, for one - need to have our instincts about marriage partners taken away and put someplace safe where we can’t hurt ourselves with them until such time we have displayed sufficient maturity that we can safely be allowed to play with them again.

Arranged marriage may not have a great reputation in this neck of the woods, but our own track record show a path of wanton destruction and broken marriages that we positively celebrate. Look at the magazines next to the checkout next time you are at the supermarket, and tell me how many headlines trumpet the real or imagined marital problems of the rich and famous.

Maybe arranging marriages is not such a terrible way to go about things after all…

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dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

Arranged marriages are more as a means of a business transaction than anything else. In the agrarian culture, it insured that daughters were married into a hard working family and so was able were able to gain land that way, while sons were given land for to raise their own families. Nowadays, money is involved more than anything. A good dowry will insure that the bride's parents have a nest egg for retirement. Thanks for writing this well written article, RedElf.

Uninvited Writer profile image

Uninvited Writer 7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario've duplicated the first and second paragraph.

Anyway, very interesting hub. I've been hearing of a lot of well-educated and successful people choosing to go the arranged marriage route. Well done.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much, dohn. They certainly can be used in that way, and are by many cultures. There are other, kinder reasons to use that form of betrothal, though.

Oops! (blushing) Thanks so much, uninvited writer - fixed now...and many thanks for your comments. Some friends of my parents enjoyed a loving and long marriage which had been arranged through their families. Our families celebrated their 40th together.

Reena Daruwalla profile image

Reena Daruwalla 7 years ago from INDIA

I think this is an excellent hub; one of rare insight of a custom that the west loves to scorn. The concept of arranged marriages has now evolved considerably from when the bride and groom were married off willy nilly, without consideration for their feelings.

In modern India now, this is how arranged marriages work: Boy and girl are introduced after the respective parents have done the necessary leg work checking on the individual his or her habits, vices, job and of course the family. They meet and get to know one another and then decide whether they are compatible enough to marry. Families offer more or less latitude in this 'getting to know one another' as per their conventions and beliefs.

Understand how the concept of arranged marriages benefits the shy and the retiring who would otherwise be unable to go forth and seek a mate for themselves. They are not condemned to a long and lonely life by themselves, friends and family rally around and make sure that there's someone for everyone.

At one level, this is a more civilized union, partners have fewer unrealistic expectations of each other and the success rate of these marriages is far higher than others.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 7 years ago from Sunny Spain

Parents who arrange marriages for their children do so because they love them and want the best for them and often they do a better job of picking someone compatible than the child would do themselves. They are matched on education, class, background interests and the parents look for the most compatible match they can find. More often than not because the matches are so good the couple grow to love one another and the marriages last with the support and approval of the families there to help them.

Like you so rightly point out left to our own devices we don’t always make the right choices and when we do often it is more y luck than judgement.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, Reena. I don't believe there should be any cause is for the scorn. All you have to do is go to one of the internet dating site where so many lonely, busy people are trying to arrange meetings for themselves in exactly the same way, using the same criteria as their parents or families would have used - but they have to do it for themselves...and what is the difference, I ask you?

Feline Prophet profile image

Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

Arranged marriages are still pretty much the norm in India and you might be surprised at the number of educated, independent 'modern' young men and women who still opt for traditional ways of finding a partner. Eventually any marriage is a gamble...there are no guarantees, and it's up to the two people involved to make a success of it.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks for your comments too, maggs. That has certainly been the experience of a number of friends. One of my best buds at school was horrified when her parents began trotting out eligible young men. She had many loud discussion with her parents, who wisely agreed that she should work and travel and remain single as long as she chose. They only asked that she allow them to arrange a few contacts once she felt she was ready.

When she was ready to settle down, the one she eventually chose was a young man she met courtesy of an introduction by mutual family friends. Most happily married for many years now, she finally had to admit that perhaps her parents were not so far off the mark after all.

I have often wished some of my family and friends had spoken up sooner on finally admitting that they had never thought so-and-so had been right for me - especially after so-and-so had proven themselves no to be, much to my chagrin. Oh well...

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

...and thanks for the wise words, FP. I am surprised that so many of us spend so little time and effort finding out about a person before hand, but as you say, it definitely takes two!

Reena Daruwalla profile image

Reena Daruwalla 7 years ago from INDIA

@ Redelf: When you say, "I don't believe there should be any cause is for the scorn" certainly there should not be, but there is; it is a scornful dismissal of arranged marriages as an archaic and primitive practice among cultures where this is not the norm.

As for when you say what's the difference, there most certainly is: when the families do the picking, they do so with a vision unclouded by sexual attraction and emotion, whereas an individual may make a choice that is obscured by these.

your thoughts?

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Reena, that is all to often the case when another culture is not appreciated as having much to offer, but is dismissed because it is different, as you rightly point out.

As you can see from several of the other comments, though, this is not the experience of those who do see the value of this practice.

Also, I intended to point out the parallel between the two practices - that someone else is doing the choosing. Westerners shouldn't try to claim superiority for making their own choices, when they are clearly not.

Westerners, however, will feel comfortable letting a computer program select someone for them, as opposed to having one's family choose with love and care...

You raise excellent points, Reena. and yes, it is all too easy for judgment to be clouded by sexual attraction. Quite honestly, I would rather have people who know and love me help find a suitable partner than leave things to chance or bunch of ones and zeros (a computer algorithm).

Enelle Lamb profile image

Enelle Lamb 7 years ago from Canada's 'California'

Great hub and equally great comments. It's true that western society feels they have the right to choose their own partner for better or worse - however, I must agree, there seem to be more broken marriages than surviving ones...maybe we should take a page from other cultures and give it a try...

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

I'm with you, Enelle. Other cultures have a lot to offer us if we will take the time and effort to look, and open our minds to what they have to teach us.

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

A great hub RedElf - and one that leaves the question of marriage today open to much debate. Maybe the advantages of arranged marriages are acceptance and compatibility. And yet, there's always that yearning for the magic and chemistry of attraction - are our expectations of marriage over the top? All too often, arranged marriages work because the woman has no alternative - social pressures make sure she stays - no matter what. Of course there are many marriages where love grows - but there are many where it is nothing but a prison. I guess both have their pros and cons - maybe somehow a coming together of both could be a solution?

I couldn't ever 'settle' for something arranged but have friends who have - and they've been so happy!

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 years ago from Houston, Texas

Very interesting hub. And I agree with you RedElf that the current computer dating services available do some of the screening IF the people are honest. At least it is a bit of a filter before meeting the person.

There is much to admire about the old customs as long as the final decision was left to the prospective bride and groom.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Thank you, Shalini. It is good to know your heart. While I don't believe there are ever any guarantees, as much as it is human nature to desire them, I do believe there must be some way to use the best of both worlds.

Thanks, Peggy. You are sure right about the "IF" factor. Some old customs have certainly stood the test of time - the best of them have survived - moderated and adapted to serve new times and needs.

Reena Daruwalla profile image

Reena Daruwalla 7 years ago from INDIA

Thanks for seeing my point of view Redelf and

Agreed Shalini, while I can also not claim to be part of an 'arranged marriage', I do subscribe to the modern format of arranged marriages where a couple has the time to get to know one another and decide based on their feelings. I just see too many merits of the whole arranged marriage system which tends to be more practical, and perhaps even a little clinical, however it has in place better checks and balances for a marriage to succeed.

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

You said it RedElf - there never are guarantees but the best of both worlds could be an advantage.

I agree with you, Reena - there is definitely a better start in the compatibility game with an arranged marriage. Maybe what is most important is, aside from the social mores and family similarities, there's an ethical compatibility that is so important!

Purple Perl profile image

Purple Perl 7 years ago from Bangalore,India

Wonderful hub,RedElf!

Here's my take on arranged marriages :

emievil profile image

emievil 7 years ago from Philippines

Hmmm, this will be a very good topic in the forums. =)

Seriously RedElf, very good and interesting hub. Personally, I can't see myself in an arranged marriage but I commend those individuals who go to this route for their marriage and then commit to being loyal and faithful to their partners who they may or may not have loved in the first place but whom they had built a lasting respect and loyalty.

That said, unfortunately, I have seen some arranged marriages which ended in separation and/or the husband having two or more wives. Also, I have a friend whose marriage was arranged but, wanting no part of her future husband, decided to hide from her parents and her 'fiance'. It caused quite an uproar. Her father even called me when he was looking for her! In the end, they broke the arrangement. I don't know what kind of approach they did in arranging the marriage but I know my friend didn't like the man they chose for her. This made me realize that, parents' wishes notwithstanding, there should also be acceptance and commitment on both the man and the woman whose marriage was arranged. Traditions aside, parents should also respect their children's wishes in terms of accepting or not accepting the arrangement. Imagine if one party was reluctant and still they went through with the marriage, I don't think such arranged marriage will last at all.

Princessa profile image

Princessa 7 years ago from France

I personally don't like the idea of an arrange marriage, but as many Pakistani friends I had tried to explain it to me, it worked for them and it is done in the best interest of the daughter as usually girls are too young to be able to decide properly in such a crucial matter...

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks for your comments, Perl. Read your Hub and it is most excellent.

Greetings, emievil. You also raise some good points about the down side of some arrangements, and there will always be those that just won't and don't work out, as with any style of marriage.

Actually, Princessa, though I do agree with arranged marriages in principle and in its best practices, the attitude that "usually girls are too young to be able to decide properly in such a crucial matter" makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. I believe that kind of thinking, if blindly accepted as "truth" for all girls in all situations, can lead to excluding her from the arrangements, ignoring her wishes completely, and/or forcing her to marry too soon - the very ills that cause arranged marriages to be viewed with such suspicion.

I think emievil summed it up very well, saying: "parents' wishes notwithstanding, there should also be acceptance and commitment on both the man and the woman whose marriage was arranged. Traditions aside, parents should also respect their children's wishes in terms of accepting or not accepting the arrangement."

There will always be flighty or immature young women who may be deemed to be "of marriageable age", but are they ready for such a commitment? For every case I can think of an exception, so I guess it is better to have guidelines than rules in such matters, and always be willing to be flexible and sensitive to the needs of the participants.

Wow! What great comments - "thinkers", all :)!

Reena Daruwalla profile image

Reena Daruwalla 7 years ago from INDIA

Actually redelf this is one of the ills of arranged marriages, that women, rather girls are married off before they are old enough to think for themselves or form strong opinions, also before they get 'too educated' or 'too independent' which may not let her 'adjust' in her in law's home.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

That was my thinking on it too, Reena. Scary practice, and sadly, one of the things about arranged marriages that immediately springs to mind when the topic comes up, in spite of its many good points.

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 7 years ago from The East Coast

I think expectations regarding romantic marriage and arranged marriage is very different for participants. It just seems that when you go thru an arranged marriage you know that it is not just two individuals but two families tha are being united. They look at marriage differently, less romatically but not necessarily less hopeful. I think they work to grow to love each other possibly. In romantic marriage it is clearly two individuals in union who are in love and who commit to the family. Each has its own sets of challenges and I can't for the life of me even want to say if one is better than the other. With the high divorce rate in the US we certainly can't be self satisfied about the track record we have regarding marriage. But then again, I'm not sure that a couple in an arranged marriage if they've fallen out of love just kind of apathetically live together.

Flightkeeper profile image

Flightkeeper 7 years ago from The East Coast

I also think that you have to differentiate between an arranged marriage between a young girl and an old man vs a modern young couple. The former is a throwback to an earlier time and tribal ways; they are a problem.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 7 years ago from Canada Author

Absolutely, Flightkeeper, and there are no easy answers. I think you have the right of it by saying we must differentiate in each case, and really look at the participants, their families, and their expectations on an individual basis.

Daddy Paul profile image

Daddy Paul 6 years ago from Michigan

My mother always said the way to reduce the divorce rate was to go to arranged marriages where the mother of the groom would select his wife.

She may have had a point.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

That's entirely possible, my friend ;) She may have a very good point.

davidseeger profile image

davidseeger 6 years ago from Bethany, OK

First class! If I had read this before I wrote my version I would have saved myself the effort. You say everything here that I would have wanted to say. Thanks

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Hey, davidseeger! Thanks so much for the compliment, but don't ever not write something because someone else has ;)

Prakash T profile image

Prakash T 6 years ago from Pune

Great hub REdElf. I also have written a hub about arranged marriages. Please check it out @

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Greetings, Prakash T - normally, I don't leave links in my hubs' comments, but after I read your hub, I decided to include your link. I encourage everyone to check out these excellent suggestions for a happier marriage.

MythiliK profile image

MythiliK 6 years ago from India --> Switzerland

Great one RedElf. In India, still Arranged marriages happens more than Love Marriages (and some arranged marriages are forced marriages). The reasons behind are "Prestige issues", that the parents cannot tolerate their kids marrying some one who is from a lower status. Also few kids believe that their parents could do a better selection (less confidence in selecting on their own).

I added a link to this hub in my recent hub about 10 secret ingredients of successful marriage life.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks so much for the links and your insights, Mythilik!

dawnM profile image

dawnM 6 years ago from THOUSAND OAKS

Hi ReElf, I found that this article was very interesting and I can see where you were going with it. I believe that match making is not a bad idea where a friend or family member can help a person who is ready to get married find another person for them. The arranged marriages that do work are of course the ones where the couple can fall in love or the ones where we think that they may be working but the wife cannot get out of it. The idea of a person being ready to marry is the first step and then having people who know and love them looking for someone to set them up with is a great way to meet a person, obviously they have to like that person and date them before even considering marriage, but it sure beats the hell out of meeting random people at a bar or dance club or even these dating services that keep popping up

RedElf profile image

RedElf 6 years ago from Canada Author

Matchmaking can be a great thing to do for your single friends. I agree with your take on things, though I feel there should always be a way out, for either party, but especially for the woman.

RedElf profile image

RedElf 5 years ago from Canada Author

Thanks for stopping by to comment, nidhi.singh. I have included your comments below without the link to your hub :D

nidhi.singh 3 hours ago

arrange marriage is not a bad idea and it does work.

urmilashukla23 profile image

urmilashukla23 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

My marriage is an arrange marriage. We have been married since last 20 years and we still love and respect each other so much. However, our daughters are free to choose who ever they want. An interesting hub! Voted up!

RedElf profile image

RedElf 4 years ago from Canada Author

urmilashukla, nice to meet you! How lovely for you that your marriage worked out well. You both must have worked at it to make it so.

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