The Demise of the Traditional Arranged Marriage?


Samina Akhtar discusses

THE ROAD to finding your perfect life partner is a long and arduous one.

You have your criteria (with many boxes left unchecked) and needless to say, your parents have their own criteria to. Expectations are high, and as it always seems to be, demand exceeds supply. Where have all the good men gone?

In the past, the solution may have been simple. You could sit smug in the knowledge that your parents would find that ideal someone for you. Perhaps ‘aunty-jee’ could use her contacts and arrange for you to meet someone who is related to someone else who happens to be a friend of another someone else.

However you can no longer afford such complacency. Finding a life partner in today’s world a far more proactive effort.

In the age of increasing globalizations and consumerism, glamorous networking opportunities, dinner parties and speed dating events are superseding the traditional arranged marriage. It is a phenomenon precipitated by social change both in terms of challenges to traditional gender roles and ideas related to marriage.

Women today enjoy independence and are increasingly choosing to pursue careers. Equally, men no longer consider themselves as sole breadwinners. As such, marriage now exists not as a structural hierarchy but as a collaborative and dynamic partnership.

It is only right then that prospective brides and grooms explore the marriage market in the bid to find that special someone. Invariably, this has led to the rise of marriage parties.

Marriage parties cater for all sections of the Asian community.

It is possible to attend a marriage networking events targeted at individuals of a shared faith, of a shared caste and even of shared professions. In a truly postmodern fashion the prospective bride or groom can refine and limit their search so as to increase the probability of success and to save that much-valued commodity.

 As with all things in life though this comes at a price. Networking events tend to be expensive and to those of a more cynical nature they are indicative of the greed of a few aunty jees who are exploiting young professionals to fill their own M&S cardigan pockets.

The increasing popularity of such networking events raises a central question. Does this trend threaten the traditional arranged marriage and the role that parents have traditionally occupied as matchmakers?

The tentative answer seems to be ‘no’. This is because networking events tend to encourage parents to accompany their son or daughter. So parents need not feel left out. As ever they are able to exert their influence by murmuring approvingly or disapprovingly at your choices in asking those ‘all important’ questions about caste and family background that they really cant leave without asking.

It seems then that the rise of marriage networking events offers a win-win situation for both parents and prospective brides and grooms. The only questions left to be asked are ‘how much out of pocket will this event leave me?’ Oh, and of course, ‘What shall I wear?’

“Ensuring compatibility between spouses is essential for the long-term success of a marriage.” Said Imran Chaudhary spokesperson for The Doli Project, a charity that campaigns against such issues as forced marriage and domestic abuse. Just as attitudes towards marriage are changing so are attitudes towards divorce. Statistics show that UK Asians are just as likely to end an unhappy marriage as the general population.


Samina Akhtar


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