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Arranged marriage (also called prearranged marriage) is a marriage arranged by someone other than the couple getting wedded, curtailing or avoiding the process of courtship. Such marriages had deep roots in royal and aristocratic families around the world, including Europe. Today, arranged marriage is still practiced in South Asia, and the Middle East to some extent. Other groups that practice this custom include the Unification Church. It should not be confused with the phenomenon of forced marriage. Arranged marriages are usually seen in Indian and African cultures, and are usually decided by the parents or an older family member.

The match could be selected by parents, a matchmaking agent, matrimonial site, or a trusted third party. In many communities, priests or religious leaders as well as relatives or family friends play a major role in matchmaking.

Alternate uses of arranged marriage

The pattern of arranged marriage can be employed for other reasons besides the formation of a promising new family unit. In such marriages, typically economic or legal reasons take precedence over the goal of selecting a well-matched couple. Though critics are not always specific, criticism of arranged marriage usually targets abuses such as forced marriage and child marriage.

  • In a "forced marriage" the parents choose their son's or daughter's future spouse with no input from their son or daughter. This form of arranged marriage is rare in the modern Western world, but not quite as rare in some other parts of the world. Occasionally, even if the son or daughter disapproves of the choice, the marriage takes place regardless, overriding their objections. In some societies, in order to ensure cooperation, the parents may threaten the child with punishment, or in rare cases, disinheritance and death. Motivating factors for such a marriage tend to be social or economic, i.e., the interests of the family or community goals served by the marriage are seen as paramount, and the preference of the individual is considered insignificant.

  • In a "child marriage" children, or even infants, are married. The married children often live apart with their respective families until well after puberty. Child marriages are typically made for economic or political reasons. In rural Indiamarker and several other countries, the requirement of providing a dowry for daughters is generally acknowledged to be a contributing factor to female infanticide. In East Africa a form of arranged marriage known as absuma is set up between cousins at birth.

  • In a "shotgun wedding" the groom is forced to marry the bride due to unplanned pregnancy (or other reasons). It is given this colloquial name from the traditional method of force used: holding a shotgun to the groom's head until he is married. This can also be classified as a forced marriage. Although it is worth noting that the concept came about before the invention of the shotgun. Laws of Old Testament Israel said that if an unmarried couple engages in extramarital sex the female can force the man to marry her or pay a fine. A reason is never given in the text, but it is likely predicated on the text's specification that the woman was a virgin; no longer being a virgin, it would be difficult for her to find a marriage, and so her sexual partner must marry her to provide for her well-being. Alternatively, it could be based on family honor, i.e. it was shameful for her to have had relations without being married, and it would be all the more shameful if she had a child out of wedlock.


The main variation in procedure between arranged marriages is in the nature and duration of the time from meeting to engagement.

A marriage that happens as a result of a mediation by someone for two strangers to meet with the intention to be married

In an "introduction only" arranged marriage, the parents may only introduce their son or daughter to a potential spouse. The parents may briefly talk to the parents of the prospective spouse. From that point on, it is up to the children to manage the relationship and make a choice. There is no set time period. This is still common in the rural parts of North America, South America and especially in Indiamarker. The same pattern also appears in Japanmarker. This type of arranged marriage is very common in Iranmarker under the name of khastegary. This open-ended process takes considerably more courage on the part of the parents, as well as the prospective spouses, in comparison to a fixed time-limit arranged marriage. Women and men fear the stigma and emotional trauma of going through a courtship and then being rejected.

A more moderate and flexible procedure known as a "modern arranged marriage" is gaining in popularity. Parents choose several possible candidates or employ a marriage website. The parents will then arrange a meeting with the family of the prospective mate, confining their role to responsible facilitators and well-wishers. Less pressure to agree to the match is exerted by the parents in comparison to a traditional arranged marriage.

In some cases, a prospective partner may be selected by the son or daughter instead of by the parents or by a matchmaker. In such cases, the parents will either disapprove of the match and forbid the marriage or, just as likely, approve the match and agree to proceed with the marriage. Such cases are distinct from a love marriage because courtship is curtailed or absent and the parents retain the prerogative to forbid the match.

A culture of arranged marriage

In cultures where dating is not prevalent, arranged marriages perform a similar function—bringing together people who might otherwise not have met. In such cultures, arranged marriage is viewed as the norm and accepted by young adults. Even where courtship practices are becoming fashionable, young adults tend to view arranged marriage as an option they can fall back on if they are unable or unwilling to spend the time and effort necessary to find spouses on their own. In such cases, the parents become welcome partners in a hunt for marital bliss. Further, in several cultures, the last duty of a parent to his or her son or daughter is to see that he or she passes through the marital rites.

In some cultures, arranged marriage is a tradition handed down through many generations. Parents who take their son or daughter's marriage into their own hands have themselves been married by the same process. Many parents, and children likewise, feel pressure from the community to conform, and in certain cultures a love marriage or even courtship is considered a failure on the part of the parents to maintain control over their child. In such cultures, children are brought up with these cultural assumptions and so do not feel stifled.

Parents in some communities fear social and/or religious stigma if their child is not married by a certain age. Several cultures deem the son or daughter less likely to find a suitable partner if he or she is past a certain age, and consider it folly to try to marry them off at that stage.

In these societies, including China, the intragenerational relationship of the family is much more valued than the marital relationship. The whole purpose of the marriage is to have a family.

Factors considered in matchmaking

Although matchmaking primarily on an economic or legal basis is harshly criticized, such considerations are often factors of secondary importance and significantly influence the rank order of a potential spouse.

Some of these factors in some order of priority may be taken into account for the purpose of matchmaking:
  • Reputation of the family
  • Vocation: For a groom, the profession of doctor, accountant, lawyer, engineer, or scientist are traditionally valued as excellent spouse material. More recently, any profession commanding relatively high income is also given preference. Vocation is less important for a bride but it is not uncommon for two people of the same vocation to be matched. Some preferred vocations for a bride include the profession of teacher, doctor, or lawyer.
  • Wealth: Families holding substantial assets may prefer to marry to another wealthy family.
  • Religion: The religious and spiritual beliefs can play a large role in finding a suitable spouse.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: Two persons with a physical deformity, disease or disability who are otherwise perfectly matched.
  • Horoscope: Numerology and the positions of stars at birth is often used in Indian culture to predict the success of a particular match. This is sometimes expressed as a percentage, for example, a 70% match. Horoscope becomes a determining factor is one of the partners is Mângalik (lit., negatively influenced by Mars).
  • Psychological compatibility (this factor became especially popular in the post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine, see e.g. Socionics)
  • Diet: Vegetarianism or omnivore (often automatically determined by the caste among Hindus)
  • Height: Typically the groom should be taller than the bride.
  • Age: Typically the groom should be older than the bride.
  • Other factors: City of residence, education level, etc.
  • Language: Language also is deemed to be an important criteria. The groom and the bride should have the same First language.

Clan links

Among most Indian and Nepalese Hindus, the hereditary system of caste (Hindi: jâti) is an extremely important factor in arranged marriage. Arranged marriages, and parents, almost always require that the married persons should be of the same caste. Sometimes inter-caste marriage is one of the principal reasons of familial rejection or anger with the marriage. The proof can be seen by the numerous Indian marriage websites on the internet, most of which are by caste. Even within the caste, there is obligation, followed strictly by many communities, to marry (their son/daughter) outside the gotra (sub-caste or clan). It must however be noted that modern India, being a secular democracy, does not prohibit inter-caste or intra-gotra marriage (by the Hindu Marriage Act). Arranged marriages are less common in the Hindu diaspora outside South Asia, although they have undergone a revival in the United Kingdommarker among Indian immigrants.

Many Indian families who consider the caste system an artificial excuse for social inequity have the opposite preference. They prefer to marry persons of differing caste and tend to avoid matches within the same caste. It is believed that intercaste marriages weaken the caste system and thus reduce social inequality caused by the caste stratification. Such families are also often open to marriages across national borders.

Similar clan-based arranged marriages have been reported in Mexicanmarker communities and Amerindians, particularly among the Triqui, including immigrants in the United Statesmarker[688970][688971][688972]Likewise, Fundamentalist Latter Day Saint (FLDS) groups, not to be confused with the LDS Church (Mormons), in the United Statesmarker also practice arranged marriages by FLDS religious affiliation[688973]

Arranged marriages are fairly common in the Muslim world, particularly Pakistanmarker (the second most populous Muslim country), where rituals like Pait Likkhi involve marriage based on clan affiliations.[688974]

Arguments for and against Arranged Marriage


Proponents of arranged marriage believe that individuals can be too easily influenced by the effects of love to make a logical choice.

Modern arranged marriages, in contrast to classical ones, are not based on proscriptions but on pragmatic considerations. Often, parents can contribute to the offspring's life by utilizing the benefits of experience to choose the right mate for him/her. The common misconception is that the concept of arranged marriages imply traditional male-female duties. Modern western societies have also started practising arranged marriages in a cosmopolitan setting [688975][688976]

Arranged marriages are often said to be more stable than love marriages, since matchmaking is done on several dimensions of compatibility, instead of on a whim. Defenders often cite the high divorce rates of love-marriages (50% of marriages in the United Statesmarker end in divorce ) to establish the relative stability of arranged marriages
Other arguments
Proponents of arranged marriage often feel that individuals can be too easily influenced by the effects of love to make a logical choice. In these societies, including China, the intragenerational relationship of the family is much more valued than the marital relationship. The whole purpose of the marriage is to have a family. But even if they do not love each other at first, a greater understanding between the two would develop, aided by their often similar socioeconomic, religious, political, and cultural backgrounds. Proponents may also feel that marriages simply based on romance are doomed to failure due to the partners having unreasonable expectations of each other and with the relationship having little room for improvement.

Furthermore, proponents believe that parents can be trusted to make a match that is in the best interests of their children. They hold that parents have much practical experience to draw from and not be misguided by emotions and hormones. Opponents will note that there are times when the choosers select a match that serves their interests or the family's interests and not necessarily to the couple’s pleasure and find this naturally, unacceptable. However, the community and even the children may see this as an acceptable risk with potential benefits.

If potential partners in a marriage enjoy full freedom to veto persons they do not want to marry, and merely rely on their parents and elder relatives to act as trusted, level-headed introducers and advisers who have their best interests at heart, then arranged marriages become little more than a family dating service with some pre-marriage counselling.


Amongst the arguments against arranged marriage, the most prominent are:

  • Arranged marriage is as good or as bad as the people arranging it. A forced mismatch, based on the values important to the arranger may not be as important to the parties involved.

  • Coercion to marry is commonly considered a violation of fundamental human rights in most Western societies. In the United Kingdommarker, legislation was passed in 2007 to effectively outlaw the practice in Englandmarker, Walesmarker and Northern Irelandmarker. This is primarily because of its usurpation of a choice that, in most Western thought, belongs solely to the individuals involved; people can "find themselves stuck in marriages with persons decidedly not of their own choosing... whom they may find personally repulsive."

  • A further condemnation of the practice of arranging marriage for economic reasons comes from Edlund and Lagerlöf (2004) who argued that a love marriage is more effective for the promotion of accumulation of wealth and societal growth.

Issues common to both arranged and love marriage

  • Although cultures have built several safeguards against fraud (such as the family's reputation being at stake), there are instances where a key fact is left out during the process of the marriage, only to be learned afterwards. An example might be if one of the spouses has a medical condition that is not disclosed before marriage. Although the marriage may not have occurred had that condition been disclosed prior to marriage, it is very difficult to leave afterwards and there may be no legal recourse.

See also


  1. Divorce soars in India's middle class, Telegraph, October 1, 2005
  2. Why cousin marriage matters in Iraq,, December 26, 2006
  3. Hospital mass grave found as India cracks down on female infanticide, Times Online, February 19, 2007
  5. Exodus 22:15-16, Deuteronomy 22:28-29. However Talmud Ketubot 39b and Kiddushin 46a rule that as the father can refuse to allow the marriage, all the more so can she (cf. Rambam Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Naarah Bethulah 22:15); the "shotgun" here is on the groom but not the bride. It should be realized that this case is entirely distinct from that of adultery, in which a man lies with a married woman (the man's marital status is irrelevant, as polygamy was permitted, but a woman was only allowed one husband; thus, her marital status alone was decisive); Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22 rule death for *both* partners (not only the woman) in a case of relations between a man and a married woman; Deuteronomy 22:23-24 is the same case and ruling except the woman is betrothed (which had the same legal status as full marriage except the woman was not yet allowed relations with her husband); Deuteronomy 22:25-27 rules death for a man (but not the woman) who rapes a betrothed woman.
  6. Reaves, Jo. NEWS: Marriage in China Not So Different than in the West. Asian Pages. St. Paul: May 31, 1994.Vol.4, Iss. 18; pg. 4
  7. Blunkett 'attacking Asian culture' with criticism of arranged marriages, The Independent, February 8, 2002
  8. Fox, Greer Litton. Love Match and Arranged Marriage in a Modernizing Nation: Mate Selection in Ankara Turkey. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 37, No. 1 1975-02 pp. 180-193
  9. What Arranged Marriage Can Teach Us
  10. Reaves, Jo. NEWS: Marriage in China Not So Different than in the West. Asian Pages. St. Paul: May 31, 1994.Vol.4, Iss. 18; pg. 4
  11. Xu Xiaohe; Martin King Whyte. Love Matches and Arranged Marriages: A Chinese Replication. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 52, No. 3. (Aug., 1990), pp. 709-722.
  12. Lena Edlund and Nils-Petter Lagerlöf (Implications of Marriage Institutions for Redistribution and Growth), Online Article, first version 2002, revised version 2004:November 27

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