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How does fixed Indian marriages work?

Updated on April 7, 2012
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What happens during visitation?

Girl wears her best dress (but not usually a saree). If she is a bit dark color, she apply some cosmetics. She will be hiding behind the door until she is officially introduced. The girl is introduced to groom's family by serving tee to the whole family. I don't remember, I think she has to serve first to the groom and then to the rest of the family.

After this, the girl and the groom is given a private corner to talk. During this time the parents will be bragging how great each one of them are, but always groom's parents are always correct and their supremacy is always acknowledged. After some time the young guys are called back. If the groom's parents really like the girl they ask the groom (in private) if he likes her. If he does, then the talk is about marriage and related things. If the groom's mother (Mom's are very particular about daughter-in-laws) and father could not make a decision there , they say good bye and tell bride's family that they will call again. Similar is the situation if the girl says she don't like the guy or is confused what to do.

If both families like each other:

If both families like each other, in most situations I know about, the first thing they talk about is Dowry (huge amount of case given to groom's parents for allowing their son to marry the girl). Dowry system is there throughout India and is very common among Christian family in Kerala. If the groom's family is money greedy people (asking dowry is not considered as greedy, but as a fundamental right of a groom. There are laws to protect people, but not much effective), they will ask straight forward for a fixed amount of cash. The rate goes higher depending on groom's job and education. A typical amount for a groom (software engineer) working in US and girl just completed bachelors degree (non-engineering and non-medical) is around 1-5 million rupees (1 USD is around 55 rupees and with 55 rupees you can get a proper lunch in a restaurant). Dowry need not be in cash, it can also be in gold, real-estate or as land. If the girl's parents don't have enough money, some agree for complete payment after marriage and if not the marriage will not happen.

If the groom's family really liked the girl and the family is rich , they will tell girl's parents to give whatever they like. Usually, parents give some money to their daughter when she get married, in cash, in gold or in property.

If dowry issue is finalized, the engagement date and marriage date is sorted out after discussion with the church priest.

The present trend

As far as I know, the trend is more towards the western style of meeting in school or workplace and falling in love. Few years ago I heard about a situation in which a guy fell in love with a girl working in his company. Then they made up the situation such that it looked like an arranged marriage- they both motivated their parents to put the matrimonial advertisement and the guy shows the profile of the girl to his parents as an "interesting profile". Groom's family visited the girls family. Interestingly, clever parents got suspicious of the situation when they started talking too much during their 'private talking time'. The story had a happy ending, both of them got married in a 'fixed marriage set up'.

One dangerous trend that is evolving is a mixture of old style and western style- guys fall in love but parents find someone and put pressure on girls to marry the groom of their choice. Girls continue their love relationships and marriages end up in divorce, eloping, daily family fights and even murder.

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