Arranged marriages have long had a negative connotation in the Western world, but a number of cultures and families have engaged in the practice for years. Although the concept of having a marriage "arranged" may be foreign to some, other cultures see social and economic benefits of the process.
How Common Are Arranged Marriages?
Even though arranged marriages are declining, the practice is still the leading form of marriage in most of the world, according to Amit Batabyal, a Rochester Institute of Technology professor and author of a book on arranged marriages. Cities and provinces of varying economic status in parts of India, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East participate in arranged marriages, and many young people living in these areas anticipate the time when their mate will be selected for them.
While the parents usually select the future mate for their son or daughter, other individuals can participate in the selection process as well. Elder members of the family, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, can review the qualifications of a potential mate for their younger family member---close family friends are "qualified" to do this as well. The arrangers sort through the professional qualities and societal standing of possible suitors and meet with each other to narrow down the choices before presenting the suitors to the family member who is ready for marriage.
When the elders are selecting a mate for their younger family member, they consider a number of factors, including the family status and reputation of the suitor. A man's line of work will also make him more appealing to a woman's parents when they are arranging her marriage; men with jobs as lawyers, accountants or doctors are often considered acceptable husband material for wealthy or well-to-do families.
Contrary to popular opinion, not all arranged marriages are forced. it is acceptable in many cases for the young person who is getting married to say no to a mate that he or she does not want. Younger family members, such as those in India, are also encouraged to date before marrying, and many Muslim men and women spend short amounts of time with potential mates before making a final choice. According to a February 2008 article in the Star Tribune, some individuals turn down more than one suitor before meeting and marrying a spouse.
Those in Western society also tend to think that divorce is forbidden in arranged marriages. However, the option to get a divorce is available, even in traditional Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. In some countries with arranged marriages, the divorce rates are nearing those in the Western world, according to a 2002 Gallup Poll. However, according to Dia Cha, a professor of ethnic studies and Hmong culture at St. Cloud State University, there are a number of successful arranged marriages, since the couple grow to love and understand one another over time and develop an intimate relationship in marriage, as opposed to Westerners who establish this intimacy before marrying.