The character of arranged marriages has changed dramatically
Are arranged marriages losing their appeal to love marriages? Or is arranged marriage, which is one of the most historic symbols of desi culture and tradition, still as strong as it was? This subject has been the central focus of many marital discussions amongst desi folk and beyond. Be it in the UK, USA, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh or any other related country for that matter.
Trends and changes in the structure and fabric of desi life has had an impact on the foundations of uniting two people for marriage.
The middle person or matchmaker (known as the ‘vichola’ or ‘vicholan’ in Punjabi), who was once responsible for uniting couples by ‘matching up’ families based on similar criteria, is today actively being replaced by new methods for prospective couples to meet. Examples include, a huge increase in desi online marital sites since the advent of the hugely successful shaadi.com, and the increase of speed dating events – catering for specific types of singles including filtering by religion, backgrounds and professions. With more and more desi people getting married later in life due to professions, independence and choice, the dilemma of finding someone suitable is becoming a bigger challenge than ever before.
The character of arranged marriages has changed dramatically, from once where the couple never saw each other until the wedding day, to the more eased approach of families allowing the two prospects to date and get to know each other for a period until they decide. In many cases, it is now just an introduction by the families and the final decision is left to the two people concerned completely. So, one person can say ‘no’ openly with no comeback.
However, in orthodox, rural and highly cultured parts of desi society, arranged marriages have been part of traditional families like any other way of life, and are likely not to disappear despite the ‘modernisation’ of desi people. In addition, the traditions with such marriages of dowries, strong family commitments, honour, inter-family introductions and connections etc. still all play a major role too. Many singles from such families simply accept the ‘way’ of the family with no questions asked.
On the flip side, the change in desi lifestyles is becoming more accepting of love marriages than perhaps a 25 years ago, where such activity was not easily accepted at all by families but did happen more sparingly. Love marriage naturally provides a couple the freedom to choose their partner, date and enter a relationship for whatever period and then involve the families when they feel comfortable to do so. The latter part always can have an impact on the outcome of the relationship ending up in marriage or not. Many couples find that when families get involved everything changes and causes many problems for the two people concerned.
Some find that after a love marriage, problems can develop such as differences in religion, caste or background playing a stigmatic role within the family. For example, if the girl is from different to the boy in any such way, she may experience after her marriage she is not ‘completely’ accepted.
Religion and race also have a huge impact on love marriages. Mixed marriages of religion amongst desi communities can be a challenge. In some cases, one religion may be seen the leader in the relationship and one partner converts to adapt the lifestyle of the other partner. In other cases, partners respect each others religion and do not see the need to change. In terms of race, the differences are directly related to culture. The marrying of two cultures in this way usually means that one partner will adopt more or less of the other partner’s culture. For example, a desi guy may neglect his roots and culture and adopt a completely Western way of life if he marries say, British white women. This can happen vice-versa too, where many British white women are seen wearing traditional desi clothes or religious attire thus, adopting the culture of the male partner.
With divorce rates rising within the desi communities, many desi men and women say from arranged marriages will try the way of love marriage to perhaps fill the void not addressed by their arranged marriage previously. Particularly, the one of non-pressured choice and not necessarily having to find someone that ticks all the boxes for the family to approve.
So does this mean that traditional arranged marriages are now losing their original status and are being diluted into into pseudo-arranged marriages? Or is it that love marriages will eventually be the new way of uniting desi people in the 21st century, who are harnessing more and more Western values whether they living in the West or East? Maybe it is a case of taking the best of both worlds and creating a hybrid that fits the purpose. Because it is evident that one way does not seem to work for all concerned anymore.