Planning to take the plunge into a arranged marriage? There are plenty of questions that you will have in your mind. Some of the popular questions you will find in online forums and social media are:
There are no clear cut answers for these questions and you will end up getting a lot of conflicting information. The only conclusive outcome from researching these questions online is that you will end up having a major headache and your blood pressure will shoot up by a few notches.
The only way to solve this issue and calm frayed nerves is to understand the process of arranged marriage and also focus on the strengths and the limitations of the key tools we use to go through the arranged marriage process. Here are a few important points to consider.
1. Parents: Arranged marriages are initiated by the parents. They are key influencers when it comes to deciding when the process should be kicked-off and who is considered as a prospective match.
2. Matrimony Sites: More and more people are nowadays relying on matrimony sites to find suitable matches. They are an integral part of arranged marriages in India. You can read more about online matrimony business here.
3. You: Yes, you play a major role in arranged marriages contrary to popular perception! If you have said no to a marriage and you are forced to agree to marry someone suggested by your parents, it’s called forced marriage.
Relying just on your parents and matrimony sites to find your soulmate will leave you frustrated. Here are some first-hand accounts of people that had spent several years trying to get married. We have changed the name and removed personal details to protect privacy.
We asked young Indians their opinion on arranged marriage and online matrimony sites
We interviewed several young Indians who were either recently married through arranged marriage or going through a long-drawn search for finding a bride or groom with the help of their parents.
Please note that this is not a structured survey with a scientifically chosen target audience. We just had an unstructured conversation and let people share their experiences they had when going through the arranged marriage process. Our questions were open-ended to get the conversation started.
Here are a few questions we asked the participants.
- Tell us about your arranged marriage journey.
- Who initiated the idea of marriage in your family and why?
- What is your opinion on arranged marriage?
- What is your experience in using matrimony sites?
- Tell us some of the experiences you had when meeting prospective matches arranged by your family or through matrimony sites.
The purpose of asking open-ended questions is to cover as much ground as possible in terms of gathering a diverse set of opinion on arranged marriage, parents and matrimony sites. Most of these interactions were phone conversations.
We have changed the name and deleted references to personal information to protect privacy and have also picked only three responses to be published from the fifty people we spoke to.
Jessica Mathur, 27 Years, Employed
I never fell in love with anyone. About 2 years ago, my father initiated a conversation about getting married as he felt this is the “right age” to get married. I never really cared for marriage and did not do anything about it. My father and a close relative of mine decided to create an account with a matrimony site. My father asked me to provide a long list of data about me and my preferences to create my online profile.
He started off with a 3-month paid subscription. He did show me the profile of men that “expressed interest” through the online matrimony site but none of them warranted a response or further conversation. I only logged into the matrimony site a few times after my father insisted that I check out the profile of men that had shown interest. I felt as if I was browsing an ecommerce site for marriage and the profile description was like a product specification! Seeing that I wasn’t really keen on using the online matrimony site, he discontinued the subscription after three months. My father did attempt to circulate my biodata for marriage through a local religious organization, but nothing really has come out it.
Ganesh Kumar, 31 Years, Employed
About 3 years ago, I created a biodata for marriage and made several print copies of it. Along with it, my parents included a copy of horoscope photograph. They have been distributing this to family and friends ever since. Because our personal network is small, we decided to create an online matrimony profile and signed up for a paid membership with one of the popular matrimony sites. I created my profile online and my father shortlisted matches and responded to requests for more information. In the last 6 months, I have been actively using the site as the pressure to get married has grown significantly.
It is frustrating to go through the process of shortlisting profiles, talking to prospective matches only to find that there is a fundamental disconnect in our expectations and repeating this process over and over again. When we shortlist potential matches, I find that my parents seem to reject my choices due to horoscope mismatch. When my parents present their choices to me, I don’t seem to like the choices made. Only a handful of shortlists actually met both my parent’s criterion and my expectations. However, I had to spend a lot of time on emails and chat conversations that made it clear that we were not compatible. It’s been quite frustrating to go through this.
Vaibhav Manjrekar, 30, Employed
My parents and sister started looking for a prospective bride for me two years ago. My sister enrolled in three popular matrimony sites and created by profile. Initially, I was reluctant to use these sites, but in the last 1 years, I have been active in one of the sites. When using matrimony sites, I felt that sending out emails in response to messages or expressing interest was painful as I had to repeat myself every time.
Also, people started asking for my biodata for marriage even after seeing my online profile. I wasn’t sure what information I should include in my biodata for marriage. You end up revealing less or revealing more. Many times, I will ask the prospective bride’s family to send the biodata and then modify my own biodata to match the extent of information provided by the girl. In the end, I was successful in finding my wife through an online matrimony site. But, signing up with online matrimony sites is not for the faint-hearted. You need a lot of perseverance and courage to persist!
Key conclusions from our survey
So what did we learn from our survey? Here is a summary of our findings:
1. Parents play an important role in arranged marriages
Parents are the key drivers, influencers and decision makers in the arranged marriage process. They initiate the arranged marriage process and can reject prospective matches even if their children seem to think otherwise. Luckily, there is a growing realisation that times are changing and many of the parents are content with playing the role of enablers.
1. Parents play an important role in starting the “hunt” for a prospective bride or groom for their children.
2. Parents’ anxiety levels about their unmarried children spikes when they see young people of similar age group, as that of their children, get married. This happens when your cousins or friends get engaged or married.
3. They carry with them notions of how arranged marriage should happen and have a strong propensity to apply the same traditions (aka search criteria) for their children as well.
4. Parents use religious networks associated with their local temple, mosque, or churches to circulate their children’s biodata for marriage.
5. Parents seem to have lost their ability to find a match for their children by just relying on their personal social network. Please read this article on Why Indians Use Matrimony Sites for additional insights on this topic.
6. Parents consider criteria such as caste, “compatible colour or physical appearance”, horoscope, and family background as important factors for shortlisting prospective matches.
7. Parents don’t mind using online matrimony sites and are increasingly becoming tech savvy. A majority of the profiles created in online matrimony sites are created by parents.
8. Parents have also started using Facebook groups that facilitate matchmaking free of cost.
2. Matrimony sites are important, but they fall short
Matrimony sites have replaced local temples / religious gathering places and community associations that played a central role in the matchmaking process a decade ago.
While parents and families continue to rely on their social networks, a vast majority of couples that found a spouse through arranged marriage did use matrimony sites even if they eventually married someone found through offline connections.
So what did we learn about matrimony sites?
1. Matrimony sites are good at one thing – They give you access to a relatively large database of online matrimony profiles. This is particularly helpful when your family’s social network is limited or cannot deliver enough prospective matches for marriage.
2. Matrimony sites are not user-friendly. Many of the survey respondents have complained about poorly designed sites that suffer from information overload and confusing options.
3. Matrimony sites are doing better with their mobile apps. These apps are relatively easier to use. Parents prefer to use the Desktop application while children who are active in matrimony sites prefer to use the smartphone app.
4. Matrimony sites are religion /caste / language / profession oriented. This is because they are trying to mimic the traditional approach to arranged marriage which relies on marrying within the community.
5. Matrimony sites seem to focus too much on upselling and making money. Some users felt that there has to be a connection between benefit and cost and this is a hit and miss in most of the matrimony sites.
6. As pointed out by our survey respondent above, many users felt that they fell like a commodity when creating their profile on matrimony sites. Some of them even said that they are ashamed to let anyone know that they enrolled in matrimony sites.
7. The matching algorithm in most matrimony sites fell short. The “daily matches” and “suggested matches” are not aligned with the user’s expectations. The search parameters are complex and there are way too many search parameters to choose from.
8. There is no provision to easily collaborate with parents or have a meaningful interaction with prospective matches via matrimony sites.
3. There is a lot of wasted time and effort
A key point that emerged from the survey was that process of arranged marriage is inherently inefficient. There was a lot of wasted time and effort across the board in all stages of the process. Here are some of the key conclusions we have:
Here are some of the key issues in the arranged marriage process:
1. Parents are not completely plugged in with their children’s preferences and expectations when it comes arranged marriages. They spend a lot of time talking to family and friends to find prospective matches that don’t meet their children’s expectations.
2. Since most of the online matrimony profiles are created by parents, they are misleading and results in surprises later when the conversation between the prospective bride and groom happens via phone, email or in-person meetings.
3. There is a lot of confusion and wasted opportunities because of horoscope matching, which is a key factor in arranged marriage. The process of matching a horoscope seems to be dependant on the astrologer. In one case, the same astrologer said the horoscope was a great match in the morning to the family of the prospective groom and later in the day rejected the same horoscopes when the bride’s family presented it to him!
4. Because young men and women do not want to be seen using matrimony sites, they pay very little attention to how their own profiles are represented. A lot of the profiles get rejected by active users because they were created by the parents and are not “attractive”.
5. Several of our survey respondents narrated incidents that involved multiple rounds of email exchanges, online chat through the matrimony sites, and even a couple of in-person meetings in a family setting followed by one-on-one dates. Most of these efforts went down the drain as they discovered new expectations or quirks that showed up late in the conversation. Survey respondents felt that they had big expectations from these meetings only to be left heartbroken in the end.
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