Although arranged marriages are no longer common in Europe, they are still a frequently used method of matchmaking in other areas today. There are, however, some critical differences between historical arranged marriages and the contemporary variety. The most key change is that in many cases, the potential bride or groom has the option of rejecting the mate chosen by the family, at least in theory. In reality, though, there can be enormous familial pressure to agree to a spouse, once both families have determined the match to be a good one.
There is another difference between traditional and modern arranged marriages, which is that in contemporary arranged marriages, efforts are made to ensure that the bride and groom are compatible. A key similarity between the traditional and modern versions is that there is no expectation that the couple will be in love at the time of their marriage. This highlights a critical difference between love marriages and arranged marriages, which is that an arranged marriage is more of a practical partnership than a romantic fantasy. If love grows over time, that is wonderful; if it does not, the hope is that the couple will at least form a strong partnership and build a life together. It should perhaps come as no surprise that modern arranged marriages are most prevalent in countries where family and society are more important than individual wishes.
One of the countries where arranged marriages are most common today is India. In most families, the procedure is for the parents or a mediator to vet potential spouses for their marriage aged child. Once a promising candidate is found, the parents will talk, often before the prospective bride and groom are introduced. Traditionally, if the parents found the situation to be pleasing or advantageous, the match would be formalized at that stage, and presented to the bride and groom as a fait accompli. The young man and woman had little chance to object, and sometimes did not meet until their wedding day.
In its contemporary form, however, young Indian couples do have a say in their fate. After locating a suitable future spouse, the two sets of parents will introduce the young people. They generally have the freedom to get to know one another for a while before deciding on whether or not to be married. There is no set time by which a decision must be reached, and there is the possibility that one side or another might decide not to marry the person selected by his or her parents. One must remember that when the possible bride and groom meet, they are not trying to fall in love, but to decide if they could marry the other person and become a family. This is a very important distinction, as it is what separates a dating or matchmaking service from an arranged marriage. Although either party is supposed to be free to approve or disapprove of their future mate, family pressure undoubtedly plays a role.
In India, a very specific set of criteria is used to determine the compatibility of a man and woman. Some of the factors in making a suitable match include: the reputation of the families, equal wealth, a shared religion, being members of the same caste, and whether each person follows a vegetarian diet or not. The profession of the groom is also a very important thing which a family will consider. Certain professions are especially sought after when making a match, including doctor, lawyer, engineer, and scientist. The career path of the bride carries slightly less weight, although it is a bonus if she is a doctor, lawyer, or a teacher. When possible, efforts are made to pair brides and grooms who work in the same field. That actually makes a great deal of sense, as they are likely to have similar interests. Often the horoscope of the man and woman will also be examined to help determine the likelihood that the match will be successful, and certainly attractive candidates are also favored.
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