Marriage is still held as one of the most important institutions in Indian culture. It is considered to be a permanent bond, and the divorce rate is extremely low, at just over 1%. Arranged marriages are still a major part of Indian culture. However, this is not an oppressive measure. Rather, young and old alike generally view it as valued input from the more experienced older generations. Some parents even begin marriage arrangements when their child is born.

Love marriages, as local Indians call marriages that have been decided upon by the couple themselves, do occur, but usually in the urban, modernised areas. These areas tend to be more influenced by western cultures. Parents may choose to bless this union, and the couple usually seeks this approval before proceeding with the official marriage. As this trend increases, though, the divorce rate has seen an increase as well. This may be viewed as a breakdown of a previously close-knit society, or as the opportunity for women to gain independence and a measure of power.

When parents have assumed the responsibility of finding a mate for their child, there are several factors that are taken into consideration. These include:

Age – the bride and groom should be mature and the bride should be younger than her groom
Image of an Indian wedding couple in their traditional attire
A portrait of an Indian wedding couple in their traditional attire

Social standing / wealth – it is important that both families be of the same social standing
Height and appearance – the groom generally needs to be taller than his bride, and they should be pleasing to the other one in terms of aesthetics
Values – the bride and groom should share similar values, based on beliefs and life experiences
Personal tastes
Background of the potential partner’s family – according to the caste system, individuals of the same ethnic, social and religious backgrounds should be bound together
Astrological compatibility
Personal expectations – these should be shared or agreed upon by both partners
Religion – this needs to be common to both of the individuals, and they should preferably subscribe to the same sect
Mother tongue
Diet – both partners should be satisfied with the other’s dietary preferences and personal habits (e.g. vegetarian, smoker, etc...)
Education – the male should be more educated than his bride
Profession – whatever the profession of either of the partners, it should be acceptable to the other

The parents discuss all of these matters with their children first, and then seek a suitable partner. They often call for the advice of other, more experienced family members, each with valuable input. Once a suitable couple is paired together and both they and their families are happy with the imminent union, a wedding date is chosen according to the couple’s horoscopes. Once accepted by the priest, the families will give one another fruit and beautiful cloths as indications of their approval. In most of India, the giver of the bride is considered to be inferior to the taker of her. Therefore, her family will give more gifts than his from the time of the engagement until at least one or two generations have passed.

Weddings are large affairs, with as many of the bridal couple’s family present as possible. This goes on for several days and the bride’s family is expected to pay for these celebrations. The groom’s family is generally responsible for the hire of a band and expensive gifts for the bride. Only if the bride is old enough will she then move into her in-laws’ home. Otherwise, she will stay with her parents until they decide that she is ready to act as his wife.

These processes change slightly from one region to the next and may be different according to the religions of the families.

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