Love at First Sight aka Arranged Marriage

As mentioned earlier I am a product of an arranged marriage.  I was talking to my non Indian friend and she has suggested I write about arranged marriages.  According to her many people have questions about arranged marriages and are to polite to ask the questions that they would love to hear the answers to.  My knowledge of arranged marriages comes from all the relatives around me who have shared their stories and experiences.

I like to refer to an arranged marriage as Love at First Sight!  Why?  Easy. This is the only person they are going to love for the rest of their life and have only seen him/her once, sometimes only in picture or after you have been married.  Hence no choice but love at first sight or spend the rest of your life miserable!

From what I understand the arrangement of marriage was made amongst the family.  Each family is to present what they can offer the potential suitors family.  These meetings are held in the presence of a Vachola (middle man).  The Vachola runs back and forth between the families conveying the messages of demands and requests.  Keep in mind when all these meetings are taking place the potential bride or groom haven’t met or seen their potential life partner.  The parents will try to find a partner for their child at the same or higher, status financially and socially.  Were they suited for each other on the platform of education.  Basically in the old days they would compare the amounts of land and other assets the families had, to ensure their children would be taken care of.  

The discussion of the young ladies domestic capabilities was always talked about.  Can she cook, clean, care for aging family members, do laundry, take care of in laws however they needed, bear children, is she respectful, tend to the streams of anticipated houseguests, oh and will she smile while she takes on the complete burden of the household???  Previous relationships were never talked about because for sure there were NONE! LOL 🙂 Does she want to work outside as well as inside the house.  If outside, will she be handing over her paycheck to her husband or her husbands mother, no questions asked.  She is not to talk back or question the elders as that would not be respectful.  Hopefully she will bear a son in the first year of marriage, and then many more in the years to come.  Visiting her parents after marriage won’t really be necessary as she is going to be in her new family, however that family may be it will be hers forever!  But accepting gifts from her parents is okay because the gifts are for their child?!?! The list goes on about what the girl needs to do to become a daughter in law of the household.

The discussion of the young lad goes something like this.  He is very hard working and will try to keep the girl happy.  He will have many responsibilities towards his parents, relatives as well as his wife.  The wife is not to stand in the way of his family and responsibilities towards them.  He will provide all the material things needed for her to thrive in the household.  The children will be looked after financially by him but emotionally and physically, he will not have time to look after the kids.  His wife should be respectful of all his decisions as he will be the one in charge.

Doesn’t seem really right to me but this is what happened.

Discussions continue about gifts to be had by the boys family and what is expected from the girls family.  After the discussions have taken place with the families and Vachola, a wedding date is set and the cards are printed.  Cards are handed out with boxes of Ladoos (sweet treat) and everyone is excited to attend the wedding festivities but the bride and groom have yet to meet each other.  They could easily walk past each other and never know that they are going to be marrying that person.

The big fat Indian wedding begins it’s string of events leading up to the main event.  She has chosen her outfits, his clothes have been tailored and they still have not met each other. 

I would like to add, some households did allow pictures to be exchanged at their discretion.  Most just trusted the Vachola knew who was suited to be with their child.  Crazy and absurd, I know but it happened!

Then the day arrives that everyone has been waiting for.  The groom in all his garb and the bride has blossomed overnight into a beautiful young woman.  The ceremony takes place.  During the ceremony the brides face is hidden behind a ghughat (veil) so the groom still may not have seen her.  I’m sure at this point the groom has probably tried to steal many glances her way!  The feast has taken place and now it’s time to go home as a married couple!!  There are many ceremonies and rituals to go through in the home as well so, again they may still not “see” each other.  After the ceremonies are completed it’s then time to meet your spouse now behind locked doors!!  So imagine you have no idea what your spouse looks like, you just have to accept it, move on and love this person unconditionally for the rest of your life without looking back.

Side note:  My parents always told me stay away from strangers and people were having sex with strangers on their first night together?!?!?  Now that’s awkward, hi my name is Priya and you must be my new husband.  Nice to meet you, should we have sex now?And then they spend their ENTIRE life with the stranger…

Traditionally the bride moves into the grooms home with his family.  The family can consist of many generations living together.  So if you don’t like what you see, this can be a huge problem and especially back then when leaving your marriage was only in the western world.

My parents did it this way.  They fight and love each other and they completed whatever their parents started for them.  What they did learn (and so did many other couples) that this isn’t necessarily how a marriage has to come about.  So just like anything arranged marriages have evolved.

Arranged marriages in these days goes something like this.  First they have changed the term to an introduction marriage.  I would like to suggest these changes came in the 90’s.

I compare our modern day arranged marriages to speed dating.  This is how is goes, you meet someone that has been brought to your family’s attention for you as your potential spouse.  You meet up with them in person or phone depending on the distance.  People can be introduced all over the world for an arranged marriage.   The smart suitors conversations will include the following:

  • What are you goals in life
  • Do you want children – yes, what’s your discipline outlook and how many
  • How much do you make per year
  • Have you made investments
  • Are you a saver or spender
  • What are your hobbies
  • Do you drink, do drugs, smoke
  • How many past relationships
  • What’s a good night out for you
  • Do you cook/clean
  • What would you friends describe you as
  • Do you want to live your parents forever – the guy has to answer
  • Are we going to live our lives with a little interference as possible from your family
  • Do  you like to travel and where
  • How close are you with your mom/sister, will I be your #1 or #? – guy to answer
  • Do you get along with your family, can you get along with others
  • What’s your favorite food/time/outing/setting

All of these questions are asked on the FIRST MEETING!  If the answers to these sound reasonable a second meeting or call is set up.  In the first meeting you can get all the fluff out of the way.  Some people take years asking what we Indians ask in one day!!!

The two do not have many interactions before they have to decide to take the other as a spouse.  Fathers of the young women are usually more anxious as they don’t want their daughter to spend to much time with a man who is not taking her as a wife.  Should the answer be yes, you move forward with the wedding dates.  Should the answer be no, you move onto the next candidate.  Yes you do have a choice to agree or disagree.

The wedding date is usually fixed for within 6 months to a year with limited interactions between the two getting married but many interactions between the families.  The families usually try to agree on wedding details, gift details and of course how extravagant the wedding will be.

Recently in the last 5-8 years people who have been introduced through families are actually allowed to date to see if they can be with the other person for life.  They are allowed to go on real dates to the movies, coffees, dinner etc. without the expectation that this will definitely turn into a marriage.  Its quite relaxed these day for today’s youth.  Not only do they know what their potential spouse looks like they actually will know them come the day of the wedding.

Honestly, I could write a book about arranged marriages.  This is a glimpse through my eyes.  All types of arranged marriages are still taking place: meeting after the wedding/few meetings before the wedding/and dating leading to marriage. 

Arranged marriages are known to be the “Indian” thing but they are also prevalent in Royal families, other Asian cultures and amongst some affluent  families who are very careful of who they let into their family.  We Indians practice them the most as a culture but others do practice just not as much as us.  Indian families are always in each others businesses maybe that’s why it will never die down in our culture!!

Arranged marriage can be extremely successful as well as unsuccessful, I feel it depends on the individuals and the families involved in their lives.  Love marriage can or cannot be successful for the exact same reasons. 

Which one is better?  My opinion is love or arranged it doesn’t matter.  Both can be magical and both can be destructive.  To make it successful as love or arranged marriages there has to be mutual respect, understanding, compassion, loyalty, trust and the need to want to make it work.  Just like any relationship a marriage has to be nurtured and watered to make it flourish and keep alive.

My parents had love at first sight aka arranged marriage, they are still together over 40 years later!

-Venya

2 thoughts on “Love at First Sight aka Arranged Marriage

  1. Interesting but this is almost like something you’d read out of a fiction story 🙂 A lot has changed over the years and being from South India we don’t have the concept of Ghunghat. Also, here was no talk of “gifts” or if I could cook. Neither did this happen during my parents time. Each persons experiences are different and I respect that 🙂

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    1. Hi A.D! Thanks for sharing your perspective! And you bring another issue to light. My parents left India over 40 years ago but they have not progressed with Indias progression. I have this battle all the time about how they and most of their relatives are stuck in the 1950 time period from the village. All those customs are still happening within my circle which is very unfortunate. Things are changing for the better with our generation. I visit India often and when I come back home I always try to tell everyone here how India has more progressive Indians in the south than the North. The north has changed but will need to change more to get to the progression of the south.
      -Venya💖

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