Marriage is a social institution (usually legally ratified) uniting a man and a woman in special forms of mutual dependence, often for the purpose of founding and maintaining a family. Arranged marriages, which had been accepted almost everywhere throughout history, eventually ceased to predominate in Western societies, although they persisted as the norm in aristocratic society up to the mid-20th century.
The usual opinion is that arranged marriages happen only in the east but this was not always so arranged marriages were happening even in Victorian Europe. In England for example most of the kings and queens had arranged marriages up until King George V the present Queen Elizabeth’s father broke tradition by marrying a commoner. Besides popular love lore like Soni Mahiwal, India always had a long tradition of arranged marriages. Education and exposure to the media, started to make people to think and realise they need not be bound by tradition and they can choose their own marital partners without having to rely on parents, matchmakers, relatives or having to consult astrologers. This gave rise to love marriages. Currently in our country we have arranged as well as love marriages taking place.
It is argued that love marriages offer more independence and freedom as compared to arranged marriages where the girl/boy is chosen by the parents so there is pressure to conform to parental expectations like producing a male heir, taking part in family rituals and traditions, putting up with sisters-in-laws, contributing to family expenses etc. One of the usual questions against an arranged marriage is that how can you marry somebody you don’t know. Knowing somebody before marriage allows partners to have better respect and understanding for each other’s needs and desires. This way they are better adjusted in the marriage when they finally take their wedding vows.
Not all love marriages have happy endings. Sometimes discord arises even in love marriages. In the west girls who are fat find it difficult to find suitable dates. There is pressure on the women to conform to conventional male ideas of beauty where women have to be tall and slim with hourglass figures. These kinds of attitudes and perspectives have not only created the kinds of conditions but are also responsible for women suffering a lot of pain and rejection. Beauty contests and the popular Barbie doll with its model of a doll with supermodel’s figure have been accused of reinforcing this mindset. These kinds of pressures would just increase as society gets more modern and technology advances. Then, would women who refuse to conform get left behind? This made us wonder for a moment that maybe society should switch back to arranged marriages from love marriages since this pursuit for perfection in beauty would increase as society changes. On the positive side all this has also led to the feminist movements in the west. Women have come out of the closet refusing to be mere sexual objects pandering to male ideas of beauty.
Coming to arranged marriages, they offer more protection, security to the women. There is not much pressure on the women to look like models. Parents employ maturity and wise judgment when choosing suitable spouses for their children. Sometimes it helps to rely on another person’s opinion and experience when selecting one’s partner, especially when the people marrying are young and need guidance and advice in marrying a suitable person.
This does not mean arranged marriages are the ideal sort of marriages. Having an arranged does not mean that the married couple remains happily ever after or that there is harmony in the relationship. Women have been known to stay on in abusive relationships for the sake of family pride, respect in society etc. Even in an arranged marriage there is a different sort of pressure to be fair-skinned and beautiful. In India the evil of dowry, caste and community issues and the concept of matching horoscopes, sometimes taken to its extreme levels have contributed much to the argument against arranged marriages.
It becomes difficult therefore to predict the ideal sort of marriage. So ultimately it is up to the individual to decide whether he wants to have a love or an arranged marriage after all it is a question of being happy in love.