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Checking out the other sex

August 6, 2008

The unmentionable aspect in arranged marriages is the evaluation of potential brides and bridegrooms as if they are products on display. Some of these “product attributes” are blatantly seen in matrimonial advertisements, but some are not. Some are of the kind that are checked out on the quiet. But I see something similar happening in love marriages…before the actual love happens.

Let’s first see what happens in arranged marriages
Where boys are concerned it is common to hear marriage brokers, parents as well as the girls who want to marry them ask for the height of the boy, his shade of colour, whether he is ‘smart’ or not, his salary, or if this is not forthcoming, his designation, the company he works in, what sort of house he lives in (bungalow, apartment), how rich his parents are, his age and so on. I am not mentioning community here because arranged marriages are usually within one’s community, although this is changing.

When it comes to girls, the marriage brokers, parents as well as the boys who want to marry them check out the age and height of the girl, her shade of colour, her features, her education level (some want more, some want less), whether she has a job or not (some want a working girl, many a homebody), her homemaking skills like cooking, whether she is religious or not, whether she is a virgin, her “reputation,” extra-curricular activities, how well-off her parents are, whether she is an only child (this is preferable as she will inherit parents’ wealth), whether she has a brother (not having one is a disadvantage because it means she might have to look after her parents in their old age), her eye-sight, her overall health, whether she is hep or not (traditional is preferred by most, the reason why most girls wear Indian clothes during “seeing” sessions) and so on.

I am not getting into dowry here at all, because that is not the point of this post and in any case everyone does not demand dowry. And even if one does bring dowry into the picture, the attributes of the girl still matter.

Finally, what an individual deems important depends a lot on his value system so I don’t want to generalise here. As value systems slowly change one finds that people are looking beyond caste barriers…though other barriers take their place. While some criteria for “evaluation” can be repulsive, there are always all kinds of people in the world aren’t there! Even if it was falling in love such people would be careful not to fall in love with the “wrong” person, though exceptions prove the rule.

Shortlisting people according to background before “seeing” them is not that terrible because how else will you shortlist? I can never get over the fact that many people see arranged marriages as some sort of disgusting way of getting married…because I don’t think love marriages are all that different. I mean, it’s not as if all those who go in for arranged marriages have money as the main can also be about looking for people from a similar background. But if there are gold diggers in the arranged marriage system, I am sure there are plenty of those in the love marriage system as well.

But ofcourse I am only talking of arranged marriages in modern India, where no forcing takes place. I had written about this, why I think arranged marriages can be a matter of choice, so I don’t want to go into that again. I had a love marriage so I am not writing something personal here, but trying to look at the issue objectively.

When it comes to love marriages, if a girl or boy is on the look-out for a potential partner won’t he/she hang out in the kind of place where her preferred type hangs out so there is a better chance of meeting the right person? Haven’t we all had an ideal man or woman in our mind ever since our teenage years? We just don’t fall in love with anybody! Stories like Pretty Woman or Raja are rare. All of us have an “ideal” in our minds before we meet the person we eventually marry, and if we are the kind who will never go for an arranged match, we tend to look for that person in some likely places. That is not radically different from an arranged marriage. The main difference as I see it is that arranged marriages are organised by others, while love marriages depend entirely on the individual concerned.

In today’s India where parents and grown-up children have different value systems, arranged marriages are changing their character, with more potential brides and bridegrooms registering on matrimonial sites on their own. It sounds a queasy thing to do for someone who prefers to go for a party where his or her kind of people might attend, but there are similarities in both. The latter could perhaps be a safer bet.

Do people who go for love marriages look for different things in their partners? I don’t think so…take the physical aspect. I mean the checking out of physical attributes of the potential partner. This happens in both kinds of marriages although many people assume that girls don’t check out the physical attributes of guys in arranged marriages. Well, it’s not usually talked about openly, not in India anyway, but guys can be so clueless about this! Even when it comes to dating, girls do check out the physical attributes of a guy although they may not talk about it openly. Men talk about it without qualms.

Let me give you an example of someone I know well. She had laid down some criteria for her prospective bridegroom:

A full head of hair (including checking out if father was bald!)
Mininum height 5 feet 10 (she was five feet six)
No beard

Another had some other attributes:
Thin and tall.
No paunch under any circumstances!

Now, as physical attraction is requisite in any marriage, love or arranged, having these preferences seems normal to me, specially as these might change if one actually meets the person. Chemistry just might happen when people meet, and this can happen even in an arranged marriage.

(Photo is by me and copyrighted)

Related Reading: Internet Marriage bureaus thriving in India
Matrimonial websites get specialized
Why is the divorce rate increasing?
Physical Affair vs Emotional Affair

42 Comments leave one →
  1. August 6, 2008 11:13 am

    @ Nita:

    The list of criteria at the end of the post shows that human beings really suspend all judgement in some matters, and can be really silly in expectations.

    Baldness is shown to travel from the maternal side so it is more useful to check if the maternal grandfather or uncles are bald, rather than the father.

    Beards can come and go (it is like guys saying ‘no girl with hair in the armpits’). I have friends who have kept beards in different phases of life. One kept a beard in times when he felt no control over his life. Shaving the beard would then make him happy that there is *something* he controls (he is an IT industry hotshot in India and now goes without a beard at all).

    ‘Thin and tall’ and ‘no paunch’ are also transient. One of my classmates from b-school was very tall, probably 6’4″ or so. He is still lean and has a paunch. I have seen his photos recently and he looks like a pregnant man! Besides with age, most people’s body shape changes (some women friends say their feet became broader after pregnancy).

    Criteria like this are rather on par with people seeking a bride who is ‘very fair’ when their own son maybe ‘invisible after sunset’. 🙂 Hopefully we can rely on chemisty as you mention, else some may not ever get married – we can assume safely that those who draw these lists are very keen to marry, no?

  2. Ashish permalink
    August 6, 2008 12:01 pm

    As you rightly said that criteria for evaluation are no different in both love and arranged marriage, how they are applied only differ. But that applies in all spheres of life. We consciously and unconsciously judge people for suitability of a role, friendship, interaction by their “product attributes”. In fact, it’s rational approach to judge unknown subject with established criteria for evaluations rather than just going by gut feeling to minimize disappointments in long run. And even if love is emotional, that rationality is built in our mind. That elusive “chemistry” often doesn’t go beyond few years almost always.

  3. August 6, 2008 1:21 pm

    yeah these things happen and i don’t think it is actually wrong even in love marriages to ‘check out’ the person before actaully plunging… though i disagree that many people do it! had young girls and guys been doing it as thorougly as they should be there will be less disastorous effects post marraiage!

    and i liked the link on “man talk anout it blatantly” 😉

  4. Vipul permalink
    August 6, 2008 3:50 pm

    Hi Nita,

    Interesting post …
    We all live in the real world and with it comes certain truths – physical attraction is extremely important! For guys (like me) that would mean wanting girls with the perfect figure, pretty face, …. all the usual stuff. It is just that you get what you deserve based on the pecking order. When did you last see someone like Katrina Kaif going out with somelike like … say … harbhajan singh!

    Chemistry is a bit over-rated. No, not because it’s not important but because we make it sound a bit elusive. People, in general, are nice and one can get along well with almost anyone. It’s just that the probability of having some ‘chemistry’ increases when you date someone in the same pecking order. Date ‘up’ and she’ll let you know … date ‘down’ and you’ll always be looking out for someone else (of your ‘standard’). Unfair maybe, but simple!

  5. August 6, 2008 4:03 pm

    Hi Nita,
    I will like add few points to your *arrange marriage facts*.
    As Shefaly suggested to check grandfathers from maternal side, people really do it. Not for baldness though.
    As far as I know, still many people check for girl/boys mother, her ancestors *purity* (you know this) , mothers relatives, fathers ancestors and their relatives, grandmother’s background etc.

    know this sounds insane but its reality. New generations (I talking about your and the one before your generation) tried to lessen these old methods with little success.

    For them who don’t know why they check so many things, they check for *bad nuts* in family tree. They check for illegal wives and children and make sure no one in ancestors was one of child of *keeps* ( in old days, some people used to have two three wives, only one of them legal and others were called *keeps*. Their children always suffered for crime of being born).

  6. August 6, 2008 4:07 pm

    Reading my comment made me think if it looks too far fetched, but really its not.
    Also I hope its not totally irrelevant.

    Actually I collected this information for writing a post on same subject as you did, but now I think you did put it better. Ask me for more details if you ever need on this subject. I speak by my own experiences and not by any *heard* info. 🙂


  7. August 6, 2008 4:51 pm

    Shefaly, haha yes, if it were not for chemistry we would never be able to choose! How in the world would one choose between two equally good looking men for example!! 🙂

    Ashish, as you said chemistry is often a lot to do with physical attraction. But I have a belief…I think our bodies tell us something. It’s an unconscious kind of thing…the only thing is that following the dictates of chemistry doesn’t necessarily result in a happy marriage. For example a person who has a bad role model of the opposite sex could possibly be attracted to someone who isn’t the right sort…and such people continously get attracted to the wrong person! In this case, I think it’s best they do an objective evaluation! 🙂

    Sakhi, whether a couple is happy or not is dependent on so many things! Often external circumstances like family can interfere and ruin a couple’s chances! So even if everything is right, it may not work. However I do agree that many couples plunge in without thinking!! And regret.

    Vipul, thanks for your thoughts. I agree totally when you say that one tends to get attracted to people of one’s own background and even one’s own ethnicity, particularly if all else is equal and the reasons you have are probably right. There is an understanding of where the other comes from and therefore no judgment on either side.

    Suda, yeah, these “bad nut” in the family tree thing I am familiar with as with the keeps habit that older generations (men) had! That is exactly what I was discussing the other day with some friends…that a couple of generations ago the society was extremely promiscuous and that the only difference now is that it’s all happening before marriage with more equality for women! In any case in those old days people married very young so the chances of doing anything before marriage was tough! 🙂 But today it’s become difficult to check out the family tree, what with internet marriages happening. At one time marrying someone from an unknown family was unheard of…you had to know someone from that family and then automatically the secrets would tumble out!
    And btw, look forward to your personal experiences with regard to this matter!

  8. August 6, 2008 5:16 pm

    hmm…interesting thought….true that when people fall in love too they see these things…i have seen in my school itself when north Indains don’t go around with the south Indians(at least not that much and south Indians here refers to those who are still south enough[whatever that is ] south Indians,)personally i dont care

  9. August 6, 2008 6:44 pm

    You’re so right about the chemistry…
    I know a few people, who have/had a long list of requisite qualities they wanted in their life partner. But, all that goes flying out of the window, when you find someone with whom you share a great vibe !
    Then, the list doesn’t matter so much anymore !
    Similar interests do make a big difference, i think…contribute to the chemistry, if I daresay !

  10. August 6, 2008 7:07 pm

    I think marriage is based on so many things that arranged marriages are no better and no worse than any other way of choosing a partner. After 21 years with my wife we still are a work in progress. If you have respect for each other then you can build on that.

  11. August 6, 2008 7:26 pm

    arranged marriage and
    selling of women… why do I see strong links?

    In fact, the purpose of marriage, minus the pomp and the ceremony, suited the cohabitation structure of the cave man(woman).

  12. August 6, 2008 7:27 pm

    Just read some posts (Brian’s)

    the selling and arrangement is pushed by the relatives and people around you. Doesn’t mean the couple in question ascribe to it.

  13. August 6, 2008 7:45 pm

    In those days, Men checking out Women in the arranged marriage system was considered a bad thing and marriage was termed as a business with Men Shopping for Women. I was hoping people would change, yes they did and the Shopping is now mutual, although I was hoping there will be no Shopping involved.

    But come to think of it, Scientifically it is all ok. It is there in our genes to look for a good looking partner. It seems reasearch (Scientific) has proven that we are wired to select the best looking ones, because the best looking ones are supposed to be the healthy ones. We are wired to select the healthy one to have a healthy family life and give birth to a healthy offspring. Our brain naturally identifies symmetrical faces as good looking ones and Symmetrical looking beings are the healthy ones. I am not saying this, I saw this on Discovery once.

    So it might not be that bad, it might just be Natural Selection at work!

  14. August 6, 2008 7:49 pm

    Arranged marriages can work if you arrange them yourself! I have seen people get in to many arranged marriages and then pretend to have a “courtship” period and fall in love with their fiancé. I think there is definitely a hint of denial about the whole marriage thing in India the kind you have with the fox and the sour grapes. As for physical attraction I mentioned in a previous blog of yours what about checking out the other person sexually? That is not an option in an arranged marriage! That is what matters the most considering you are expected to be “faithful” to a person for the rest of your life. I have nothing against arranged marriages per say but I think they exist in this country in this day and age due to a lack of options for people to meet, date and see each other. However I also see the whole arranged thing disappearing after a few generations, so we are perhaps now at the beginning of the end of arranged marriage. I will not miss it.

  15. August 6, 2008 8:11 pm

    requirements look scary … 🙂

  16. August 6, 2008 8:46 pm

    I married the sister of my best friend. For many years we were just friends in a completely platonic relationship. One day, we just asked each other why we should not get married and we simply did.

    I do not know if that is arranged or love or what kind of marriage. It has worked for us for long and we have had a great marriage. We have seen a lot of ups and downs together and our bonding has become stronger for that.

    I had full head of hair and was slim and tall. I am now bald with a nice paunch and false teeth. My wife has lost some hair and it is almost totally grey. Do you think that this makes a difference?

    I believe that marriages are made and broken in heaven.

  17. August 6, 2008 9:12 pm

    Vishesh, that’s reality for you…I guess this kind of thing happens in friendship too. And in India it happens a lot. It’s said, this regional divide. But I think your attitude is healthy, not bothering about these types!

    Gee, thanks for sharing!

    Brian, I agree one’s relationship is never static and respect is as important as love! I agree totally.

    Katya, cynics have called marriage itself prostitution. It’s how you look at it.

    Dineshbabu, whether we like it or not everyone checks these things out, in arranged marriages there is less hypocrisy I think.

    Odzer, I guess one does get influenced by what one sees around one. My mom came from a very traditional family but she saw three boys, was allowed to reject two. The third one she liked and they were engaged for a year before they married. She told me it was love at first sight and I believe her. Also around me I have seen many arranged marriages (I am only one of two people in our huge extended family to fall in love and marry) and in all the cases I have seen love bloom before marraige. Calk it love or call it infatuation, whatever. But yes the excitement, the starry eyes, the day-dreams, the beating of the heart or whatever, I have seen it all. I guess this must not be true for all, and as you say some people might fool themselves that they are in love. Finally, it’s your own perception after all.
    But as you said, people don’t experiment sexually before marriage in an arranged marriage.
    And yes arranged marriages will slowly peter out, mainly because grown up children and parents will not see eye to eye…but I think people will start arranging their own marriages. I think in India we tend to amalgamate ideas rather than take them as whole. Whether it’s been with music or food or clothes, we have taken and adapted it to our own culture.

    Rambler, 🙂

    rummuser, thanks for sharing your own experience. That’s a sweet story!

  18. August 6, 2008 9:13 pm

    Hi, Nita. I’ve been away from the internet for most of the summer, but I’m glad to be back reading your posts again. 🙂

    I can only speak from an American perspective, so it may not apply to the conversation at all, but I like comparing the two cultures in any case.

    I think you’re right about people having a list of attributes they look for in a mate. I have friends who have a list (or even a list of none of this and none of that rather than a list of things they’re looking for). For myself, I never made a list of physical attributes I was looking for. I never had a narrow set of criteria in what I find attractive. It’s more that when I see someone I find that person attractive or not based on a lot of things (and I think how intelligent or funny or charismatic plays as much a part as how tall or thin or bald or the type of hair cut).

    But I think the romantic ideal of love in America often doesn’t take into account the thought that you need to marry someone who is compatible with you for it to work. So many people think that if they love each other they can overcome any odds. But the realities of life often prove differently.

    I think it’s important to know the type of person you would like to marry, not in a mercenary sense (e.g. only doctors, lawyers, and other highly paid persons), but in the sense that you know yourself and you know who would make t he best partner.

  19. August 6, 2008 9:40 pm

    Nice to see here after a long time OG! I always yearn for a global perspective, so thanks. 🙂 I think what kind of things one looks for in a mate speaks a lot about one’s own value system. And there are all kinds of people in this world and I don’t want to judge them. As long as they are happy together.
    You have brought out an important point about compatibility of two people… and that is something that often people don’t find out until they are married!

  20. August 6, 2008 10:17 pm

    This post on WP home page. 🙂

  21. August 6, 2008 10:23 pm

    Love this post, Nita (you can imagine 🙂

    The true love marriages are indeed rare everywhere and I guess finally many marriages in the West even are sort of “arranged” – either by Intrenet :), or by friends, lesser by family or simply because there is “someone suitable on the market out there”…
    There are surely many criteria how people choose the marriage partner.

    And I agree with you, apprearance does matter. However there is a point that often girl are looking for someone like their father (boys – like the mother) in respect of the appearance and character – but that might be not at all the person that will suit him/she well. I see it all the time! What do you think?

    btw., what does this mean “whether she is hep or not “?

  22. Ravi permalink
    August 7, 2008 12:06 am

    Ordinary girl

    I think it’s important to know the type of person you would like to marry, not in a mercenary sense (e.g. only doctors, lawyers, and other highly paid persons)

    Do we really see women think this way? I doubt it.

  23. August 7, 2008 1:20 am

    “shortlisting” people based on characteristics that one looks for in a partner happens all over the world. This kind of “checking out” happens in the West too.

    What is worse in the arranged marriage scenario is when parents get into the act and start imposing their own judgements as well. Typically, it’s the girl who suffers more due to this, as she comes under more scrutiny.
    I hadn’t known that marriage brokers also do this, and that must be just awful to have someone passing judgements about who you are likely to marry and how “marriageable” you are 😦

  24. August 7, 2008 1:26 am


    you say:”What is worse in the arranged marriage scenario is when parents get into the act and start imposing their own judgements as well.”

    As far as I know this happens in same style in non-arranged marriages exactly the same way!! Mothers often like to criticize their children`s choice (in a way it is a natural protection, they simply want the best mate for their beloved children!). Old story 😉

  25. August 7, 2008 7:57 am

    Shefaly, thanks for letting me know. 🙂

    Axinia, I have read something about this, about how a girl’s role model of the male and for the boy of the female affects the choice later on. But from what I know, it can also have an opposite effect. It’s a very complex subject, but overall I do believe that we do get influenced greatly, at times subconsciously by the parent of the opposite sex. I can talk a lot on this subject and it’s difficult for me to explain here, when we meet again one day, we will talk on this!
    Hep is a slang word for modern. (I have reacted to your second comment at the bottom)

    Ravi, now don’t be so cynical about women! Many girls are romantics you know, more so than men! 🙂

    Lekhni, true the process can get de-humanising, specially for girls and I agree with you that parents are to blame! I hope we see a healthier trend where more girls stand up for their own beliefs. This applies to boys too. They need to stand up for what they believe in and not marry for money. I know several cases in college where boys and girls had affairs but finally married a person of their parents choice and they did it because they were afraid of their parents. Boys did it more often, because they were afraid they would be disinherited.

    Axinia, thanks for that insight. You are right, but the difference is that in the west grown-up children are more financially independent of their parents and often break up or stop talking to their parents. In India this does not happen because of the nature of the society.

  26. Vikram permalink
    August 7, 2008 8:33 am

    This is only a conjecture but I think you can figure out the priorities for Indian males and females by looking at the movie industry. Apart from the so called ‘actors’ and ‘actresses’ from the film clans, the actors usually come up on their acting talent and hard work (Rajeev Khandelwal being a recent example). But the actresses are almost always models, in fact I cant think of one that isnt from a clan or a model.

    This reflects more badly on what Indian men look for than women. In the west, I think ppl are more likely to select their partners based on a variety of factors.

    I see your point Vikram. You are saying that the Indian film industry only takes women on the basis of their looks, and their having talent is incidental. It is indeed a sad reflection on the audience isn’t it. – Nita

  27. vinod permalink
    August 7, 2008 9:01 am

    I look for these in a woman

    1) ok looks
    2) match in the philosophy to life – humility (not equal to obedience!!), learning mentality, pupose and direction, life priorities
    3) inspiration and role model

    The former can be further compromised for strength in the latter two.

    Having said that, it is possible that I have a sub-conscious list of precise physical attributes that I am not aware of.

    Thanks Vinod for sharing your idea of your ideal woman. I like your view of what your ideal partner should be and I hope you find her. – Nita.

  28. August 7, 2008 2:05 pm

    Except few luv stories like heer-ranjha,Soni-mahiwal,India always had a long tradition of arranged marriages.
    I think education and exposure to the media, started to make people to think and realize 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.

    We all feel that arranged marriages is a concept of indian society but history tells us that arranged marriages use to happen even in the Victorian age. In england most of the kings and queens had arranged marriages.
    Arranged or luv d debate will alwayz continue wat we to understand is marriage is based on empathy, responsibility, commitment, love and concern.Itz nt abt luv at first sight or attraction it needs a lot of dedication and effort to sustain a marriage.

    So there is nothing like an ideal marriage it’s all about the way you perceive your marriage. After all you should be happy with your life partner irrespective of love or arranged marriage.

  29. Joss permalink
    August 7, 2008 6:07 pm

    Do you know, Nita, you didn’t mention that the girl’s weight is checked out or not. You said height and complexion but not weight. Well, here in Britain, weight is one of the first things that get noticed. If it matters less in India that is great. But judging by the figures of all the Bollywood heroines I guess it matters just the same as everywhere else!

  30. Joss permalink
    August 7, 2008 6:18 pm

    Another thing, I met my partner on the internet. That is a method somewhere between arranged and love marriage, I would say. You can post far more detail about yourself that way than would ever be apparent in a casual meeting. We arranged it all ourselves, of course, and it has been a very successful relationship so far. We both feel that what got things off to a good start was that any chemistry that initially arose was all due to the words we used in emails rather than our looks, or lack of. We found out about shared interests, backgrounds and lifestyles before we met not after. I think this is a much better foundation for a relationship than looks, which are often very deceptive. I suppose I was judging him not by the hair on his head or the size of paunch (little of the former and much of the latter, as it turned out) but by his ability to communicate … and punctuate. The exciting thing was that when we did first meet, after 6 weeks of emailing, there was definitely a chemistry, straight away. Words carry more weight than weight, or rather lack of it! And as rummuser said up there, looks don’t last, but wit and words do.

    This sounds like a very sweet romance Joss! I am trying to imagine this, because it’s completely out of my experience and it sounds fantastic. But then, you were both honest with each other, that is why it worked. Thanks for sharing! – Nita.

  31. August 7, 2008 6:19 pm

    SaNjAy, as you said the final success of a marriage depends on a lot of things and we give too much importance to the superficial things. I think you are saying basically that one has to work at it, and if one works at it, one can be happy with almost anyone, within reasonable limits. Ofcourse both have to feel this way.

    Joss, the reason I didn’t mention weight is because it is not a usual thing for the girl to be fat, not in middle class families at least. During my time it was almost non-existent, but I see the obesity now in the metros and the well-to-do families and I am a hundred percent sure it matters! In Hindi films we had tun tun in the seventies who provided comic relief (she was obese) There was manorama too, who played the evil mother in law and she was always fat!
    Amongst Maharashtrians, which is my state, obesity is not very common and I guess that is why I failed to mention it.

  32. August 7, 2008 6:22 pm


    In arranged marriages much gets checked out including weight. Matrimonial ads are full of “tall, slim, fair” etc. 🙂

    From the experience of someone close, I know that amongst other things checked out are ‘does she keep her heels and elbows clean?’, ‘does she walk ok or does she limp (suggesting a birth defect or polio etc)’? and ‘will she adjust with our family?’. The last one is checked out by setting seemingly innocuous tasks.

  33. August 7, 2008 7:27 pm

    what i have felt personally is that girls expect much more from a bride groom in an arranged marriage..
    some have crazy demands that groom should be settled abroad or at least should be having a position so that he has an opportunity to go abroad.,
    they usually second the physical appearance…well ,this is more relevent when u take southern states

    how ever the grooms are highly selective considering the physical appearance of the girl

  34. Seeker permalink
    August 7, 2008 9:40 pm

    Although it is undoubtedly true that physical attributes play a part in love marriages as well, I think there is a better chance that a person will look beyond the physical aspect while dating compared to in an arranged marriage. An arranged marriage setting encourages a tendency to reject outright somebody who doesn’t fit our list of physical, often superficial criteria. People often decline an “alliance” after looking at a photo. Even when meeting in person, either in the traditional way with family present or just the boy and girl themselves, the girl and boy often feel like they are on display (which they are) and find it difficult to be themselves. In such meetings it is difficult for a person’s other characteristics – sense of humour, ethics- to become apparent. Also in this process, I think the opinions of parents, siblings/cousins, and friends can affect the outcome. Even if the girl finds the prospective bridegroom attractive, she may be deterred by the fact that the boy may not be considered attractive by her family or friends. Accepted standards of physical beauty hold sway in an arranged marriage – Slim, fair, sharp features for a girl. Tall, fair, full head of hair for a boy.
    Whereas when dating someone and meeting them at party/other social event, there is more opportunity to get to know the person and looks can take a backseat as in “He’s kind of short and starting to lose his hair, but he thinks exactly the same way I do about everything!”. One of my friends, a beautiful, smart, successful girl whom you would think can look as high as she wants in the pecking order is actually married to a guy who certainly doesn’t fit the bill of the traditional Prince Charming :). They met when they were in college and have been together for more than 12 years. It’s natural for people who meet them to wonder what a girl who looks like her can possibly see in a guy like him. But, there it is.

  35. August 8, 2008 9:23 pm

    Arvind, I guess boys are more particular about the physical appearance, but I think both sexes give it importance, unless they are desperate to be married! 🙂

    Seeker, but if one attends a party with the purpose of “hitching up” I think one does go by superficial characteristics and outright rejects someone or the other. You are giving examples of girls and boys naturally getting to know one another, when not looking out, and well, that is ideal isn’t it. However I do agree that in arranged marriages the influence of family becomes disproportionately important, which can work to the deteriment of a couple finding the right person. That is why I think marriages will soon be arranged by the couple themselves! 🙂

  36. August 14, 2008 11:47 am

    Although I am late to comment here, I can’t resist mentioning my opinion that arranged marriages and non-arranged marriages both seem to have advantages. There should be some hybrid system for getting the benefits of both!

  37. Atul permalink
    September 8, 2008 5:46 am

    A mentioned above Indian parents however open minded they are looking at things like getting their kids married within certain age. And with this restriction of time come additional pressure that one has to find a partner and have a love marriage or if unsuccessful have an arranged marriage.

  38. Nisha permalink
    January 25, 2009 10:05 pm

    You forgot horoscope!

  39. Sujoy permalink
    August 1, 2010 12:05 am

    Recently a couple of my friends were discussing a similar point. However we did a check amongst us who were happily married via a love marriage. Most of our partnerships would not have been approved had we gone through a arranged marriage e.g. girl is elder to boy, girl is more educated, other caste, other language, girl taller, one had a longstanding earlier relationship both families knew about …

    So whilst I agree that love and arranged marriages are very much similar in principle, the filter criteria is so much different ….

  40. April 29, 2011 11:54 am

    Arranged marriages and love marriages are not similar, they are fundamentally different.

    While forcing doesn’t take place in modern arranged marriage, they have been replaced by pressure tactics and emotional blackmail. Arranged marriage matches are made on the premise that individuality doesn’t exist, that a person is a ‘character copy’ of the community that he/she ‘belongs’ to. Despite all the perceptions of modernity surrounding it, arranged marriage system is still archaic, a way for parents and the community to keep the youngster in control.

    My parents, for example, constantly crib about how much they ‘know’ me and how they’d choose whats best for me. However, whenever I let them exercise their options, they invariably end up choosing someone that fits their values (orthodox Muslim, prudish, intellectually dim and submissive) which is at an extreme opposite to mine (atheist, naturalist and egalitarian). Now, I love my parents and I respect them for what they are but when it comes to making choices about my life, I prefer to do it on my own, since it is I that has to live with the consequences.

  41. April 30, 2011 2:01 pm

    @ Shefaly:

    Why should women be judged for finding certain physical looks attractive? If a woman doesn’t want a man who is balding, it is not the end of the world. The bald man can find someone else, who doesn’t mind. As for paunches, I do find them ugly and I can understand why some women would do too. What is wrong with that really? It is normal and human to have physical preferences in a potential partner.

    Chemistry isn’t exclusive of physical appearance, by the way.


  1. On marriages, love or otherwise – A space of one’s own

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