Arranged marriages have been traditional in Indian society. Even today an overwhelming majority of Indians in India have their marriages planned by their parents and other family-members. . Arranged matches are made after taking into account factors such as age, height, personal values and tastes, the backgrounds of their families (wealth, social standing), their castes and the astrological compatibility of the couples' horoscopes.
Marriage in India is considered a very important institution, with important financial aspects involved (dowry). Although most marriages are arranged, very few couples in India opt for selecting their partners by themselves, based on their direct interaction with those partners. This is often termed as "love marriage" in India. Love marriages tend to be more common in urban areas as contact between people of different gender outside the family circle is still frowned upon in the rural areas. Among overseas Indians, many marriages are still arranged with the assistance of the parents. Even the so called love marriages in India generally happen with the approval of the parents, although they sometimes be reluctant to give their sanction for it.
In India, marriage is thought to be for life, and the divorce rate is extremely low due to societal and family pressures on the consequences of a separation. In India, 1.1% of marriages result in a divorce compared with over 45.8% for USA. The arranged marriages generally have a much lower divorce rate. Nevertheless, the divorce rates have risen significantly in recent years:
- "Opinion is divided over what the phenomenon means: for traditionalists the rising numbers portend the breakdown of society while, for some modernists, they speak of a healthy new empowerment for women."
An arranged marriage is effectively the result of a wide search by both the girl's family and the boy's family.
Indian arranged marriages
The following factors are generally considered in Indian marriages to search for compatibility:
- Values and personal expectations: should match
- Age and height: girl should generally be younger and shorter
- Looks: should be acceptable to the other, although it is preferred that the women have "a fair skin", as it can be noted in the matrimonial advertisements.
- Religion: should be same, preferably same sect
- Mother tongue, caste: should be preferably same
- Diet (veg/non-veg/alcohol/smoking): may differ only if acceptable to the other
- Education: comparable educational levels or the boy should be more educated than the girl
- Profession: the profession should be acceptable to the other
- Financial: The boy's current and future financial situation should be acceptable to the girl.
- Astrological signs/attributes: should be compatible, if the two families believe in it.
The parents may discuss the expectations with their son/daughter before starting to look for a match. The expectations are shared with relatives and family friends who can often bring suggestions. The Indian matrimonial sites attempt to provide databases that can be queried to find matches using similar attributes.
Hindu Dharma accords paramount importance to marriage between two people found compatible, and on an auspicious day, chosen to be compatible with the bride and the groom, with the approval of the elders and, according to Hindu religion "in the presence of the gods, so that the couple will flourish and walk in dharma, and any progeny conceived after such elaborate rituals would be a blessed soul and good human being."
Once the parents of both bride and groom agree with each other, all the relatives and known circle are called from both sides as a witness and to "give their blessing", then in that engagement function itself a date is fixed for marriage as per bride and grooms horoscope and astrologically auspicious day, the priest will announce to all that both the family are agreed to the acceptance of marriage of their son/daughter on the particular date. Then "in the name of god both the families exchange fruits and clothing" as a symbol of acceptance.
An "auspicious day" is chosen in accordance with the religious almanac and the bride and the groom's horoscopes, also if it is moon's phase (ascending is preferred by some) apart from any other logistical consideration.
The wedding is conducted in accordance with religious rites and rituals with the invited guests considered to be the 'society' in whose presence the girl is given away in matrimony to the boy.