A College Graduate
An Indian Wedding
Matchmaker, Make Me a Match
I should guess that very many people of my generation would not be around but for the matchmakers of our parents' time. And in some cultures, many young children are still being born of matched marriages. So why are people still getting into marriages with comparative strangers?
Indian Tradition. In places like India, Africa and most of the Middle East, marriages are arranged. If they are arranged by loving, caring parents, the couple are in luck. More often in the poorer areas, young girls are given away without a dowry to be slaves to their old husbands and their families.
Modern, middle class Indian families are still arranging marriages for their well-educated children, planned from their young years. Marriage for their daughters, especially, is a life-long quest for them. A girl reaching the age of 28 is passing the threshold of marriageability and efforts are redoubled to find a suitor. They take out newspaper ads, go online, obtain the services of professional matchmakers with lists of requirements of their prospects.
Each passing year the parents become more desperate, until : 'caste not important.' becomes an addendum to the requirements. They themselves might have had no choice in their own partners, but have worked to make their marriage happy, and that is all they want for their children.
Their college-educated children often fall in with their parents' wishes and, strangely enough, their marriages usually work better than a lot of the other 'non-traditional' ones. Nowadays, the 'arrangement' is just a lip service to tradition, for the 'kids' have already met, in college or socially, and have evinced an interest in each other, and both sets of parents, for form, meet to 'arrange' the union. Then comes the engagement, diamond rings and all, followed by a traditional wedding ceremony (most probably in modern white gown and suit). Everybody is satisfied. Tradition is upheld, the couple marry their own choice.
the Chinese matchmaker
A Successful Match
Chinese Tradition. Not many young modern Chinese marriageables will consent nowadays to having arranged marriages, unlike two generations ago. My own mother had her husband picked for her by a matchmaker employed by my grandparents, but it was the beginning of war in Malaysia, and parents were desperate for their daughters to have a protector. Cruel and unruly soldiers were over-running the country, grabbing whatever was in their way, and there was no big, or even small, celebratory wedding, just a simple church service.
And then my father became responsible for his new wife. They stayed married till he died, about fifty years later. It was not a happy marriage, but my mother worked hard to keep it going. Would she have had a happier marriage if she had been free to choose? Maybe. But the times were desperate, and besides, she, like most young ladies then, were too modest to be courted. But still, if it had not been for the war, my grandparents would have had more time to vet more eligible young men.
There still are pockets of really old-fashioned traditionalists who matchmake their children, as in the hidden rural areas of China. Here again, sometimes the 'children' have already met and it is only a matter of 'saving face' for the parents to do the 'arranging'. If they have already met, the boy will tell his parents of the girl he is interested in. Or they might be total strangers.
The boy's parents send a professional matchmaker to the girl's parents. If they like their prospective son-in-law, their couple's horoscopes are compared and matched and, if auspicious, a date is set for the wedding. The bride price is agreed, often depending on the groom's economic status, and emissaries bring the gifts in beautiful lacquered baskets to the girl's home. The gifts could be gold jewelry, money, household items or expensive foods. Sometimes a whole suckling pig is delivered, to signify the girls' virginity, but nowadays this is provided by the caterer. The whole village turns out to witness the journey of the gift-bearing, often making loud guesses about the contents of the baskets.
The matchmaker who succeeds in bringing the match to a happy ending is of course rewarded well according to the custom of the village. She naturally is involved in the wedding planning, goes to the wedding ceremony and the wedding dinner. Since there are not many reports of divorces from those traditional marriages, it seems they work rather well. My grandmother was married in China at the ripe old age of fifteen to the husband chosen for her. She never told us about her life in China, but I only know that a bride was married to the whole family, not just the husband. A bride also became the handmaid of the mother-in-law, the all powerful person in the household. When my grandparents immigrated to Malaysia, that powerful person would not let them bring their little daughter with them, and they never saw her again.
The Masai Marriage Tradition
African Tradition. In the poorest parts of Africa, children are being given away in marriage, usually to old men. This custom may be due to religious or economic considerations. Children from any age may be forced into captivity this way, closing the door to every opportunity to grow as a person. In some other African cultures, though, the girl is allowed to grow at least to menarche. Among the Massai of Kenya, she grows up among peers of her own age but is married off to usually a much older man she has never seen before. She packs up her worldly goods and follows her husband to his village, on foot, never looking back for fear of turning into stone. Thus she leaves her parents and her whole world.
Africa is a huge continent with vastly different cultures, and their marriage traditions are very varied and may or may not involve matchmakers.
The Jewish Matchmaker
Jewish Tradition The Orthodox Jewish system of matchmaking, the Shidduch, is very complicated. Basically, it is one in which Jewish singles are introduced to one another for the purpose of marriage. The word also means an engagement, or agreement to marry, and it is immoral to marry without such an agreement. The Shidduch is undertaken by friends or members of both families, who see it as a mitzvah, or commandment.
A professional matchmaker who does this job is called a shadchan. The number of dates allowed prior to marriage is variable. Children of the Rebbes are allowed only one, since one's partner is supposedly preordained by God. The shadchan often 'sits in' on dates initially to see that all is well, and then fades out.
Orthodox Jewish marriages as a whole are found to be happier and more stable than marriages in the general population.
Finding Love Online
The Modern Matchmaker
A Successful Match
Modern Matchmakers. Surprisingly, we seem to be moving backwards in our quest for marriage partners, and matchmaking services are experiencing a financial boom. We,unlike the boomer generation, are now leaving marriage on the back burners, too busy pursuing careers or single pleasures to care about looking for someone special for life. Then we wake up one day and think, 'help, I can't find a husband/wife' or 'help, my biological clock is tocking'.
We are of course too sophisticated and economically stable nowadays to settle for just anyone to be our life partner. A girl will not accept an unattractive man just because he has a six figure income. A well endowed man may not want a gorgeous but empty headed girl. So the waiting goes on, and time pushes forward. Now, after the numerous blind dates and internet dates and their failures, come the free online dating sites. Then after these fail too, we turn to the professional matchmaking sites, like eHarmony.com and Romance Pros.com.
These are people with years of experience in studying human psychology. They have you fill out questionnaires to find out your attitudes, beliefs, and personality, and pre-screen other clients whose profiles complement yours. That way you already have a solid foundation and a head start, saving you time and energy. eHarmony has 29 key areas to match clients with.
These professionals get to meet and understand you on a deeper level in order to find a compatible match. This sort of service is a safe and appealing alternative to the random meetings of independent online dating. You are sent pictures and profiles of matches and you choose whether or not to date any of them, and when. There is no pressure.
There are many claims of successful marriages arising out of professional online matchmaking services, and if this method of meeting your future partner suits you, after all the frustrating experiences you've gone through, go for it.