A Dummies Guide to Arranged Marriages

April 12, 2012 6:19 pm

“Son, we have found the perfect girl for you”. If you’re Asian you’ve probably been there. Your 25, single, and your parents drop a bombshell that even Tim Westwood would be proud of. Yep, I’m talking about the controversy that is; arranged marriages.  I asked one of my Caucasian friends what they thought an arranged marriage was. “When two people who don’t know each other get married” was the response. Ignorance, or the simple truth? This article will look at how arranged marriages, especially within British Indians living in the western world has evolved for the better, but how a bad smell still remains.

A textbook definition of an arranged marriage is when the parents or eldest male in a family chooses the son/daughter’s spouse based on a number of factors including religion, family background, occupation and financial stability. The practise is mostly evident in parts of Asia, namely India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. My definition on the other hand; when you’re too much of a loser to find someone yourself so you need your parents to do it for you. Putting my genius-like ideology to the test I asked a friend, a
British Indian born and bred in London, who had an arranged marriage to give me an insight into his decision. After initially swearing at me for suggesting he couldn’t find a girl without the help of mummy and daddy, he emphasised “I respect my parents’ culture and traditions. Also arranged marriages have changed completely, they are modernised now”. Intrigued by this comment, where it almost sounded like the progress was being compared to the advancement of my ninja turtle cassette player from 20 years ago to my fancy iPod nano today, I wanted to know more about this modernisation. “It’s more of an introduction now. You go on a date and if you like each other meet again and take it from there. So it’s just the normal steps of getting into a relationship and eventually deciding yourself if they are the one. It’s the same thing as one of your friends introducing you to someone”. Talk about setting me straight. One of the most surprising aspects of modern day arranged marriages is that parents now take very much of a back seat, and hardly get involved. Traditionally, the whole process of an arranged marriage was centred around the parents. It seems now that after the initial introduction, the parents leave it entirely up to the “couple” to get to know each other and decide whether they are right for each other. What happens if they are not? You go your separate ways. Sounds like a good deal to me! I can’t speak for different Asian religions, but this is very much the way that modern Hindu arranged marriages work in this country.It’s refreshing to know arranged marriages have got this much-needed makeover. Modern day attitudes and social factors have naturally been the main drivers in this, especially with Asian families living in the western world. Coming from one myself, although my parents would prefer to introduce me to a girl because of the traditions they have been raised on, they would never stop me from finding a girl myself or force me to marry someone. Although, it’s always funny to see their reaction when I say I am seeing the alcoholic grandma from the local estate. I’m joking…. Seriously, I’m joking.

Even though this is evidence of progress, there are some cultures where the traditional arranged marriage concept still remains. For example, in India many women are still forced to marry who their parents choose without much or even any say. In certain Islamic communities when two people are introduced for marriage, they must not be alone when they meet for the first couple of times. Friends or family must be present. Let’s also not forget the tragic stories that have surfaced in the news recently with the disgusting honor killings carried out by families when daughters refuse to marry the man of their choice. Now let’s strip tradition, cultural principles and religion, surely as a human being you have the right to choose the person you are supposed to spend the rest of your life with, and even more importantly get to know them properly before making that commitment. It’s sad to see some of these out-of-date traditions still lingering and forcing people into something they surely do not want.

The unfortunate reality is that this will continue to remain, especially in the Asian countries. These countries should take a leaf out of the Hindu families who have moved to the Western world and have found a workable balance between keeping tradition, and giving freedom to their children in who they choose to marry.

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