"Love marriages" do happen in India but it is not the norm. It is an accepted fact that a person's family will play a role in picking the marriage partner. It is important to remember that in Indian society an arranged marriage is seen as an act of love
Before coming to India, I had a hard time conceiving a marriage which was not based purely on love. How to manage a long-term relationship with someone that you didn’t choose? How to make an arranged marriage last when so many love marriages result in a divorce?
Some Indians, even in the new generations, think that an arranged marriage is an easy alternative to a love marriage. No need to hunt for the “right one”, your family will do the work for you.
An arranged marriage is a marriage that is at some level arranged by someone other than those being married and is usually used to describe a marriage which involves the parents of the married couple to varying degrees (forced marriage, traditional arranged marriage, modern arranged marriage, modern arranged marriage with courtship, introduction only).
In many cultures that are modernising, children increasingly tend to view an arranged marriage as an option that they can fall back on if they are unable or unwilling to spend the time and effort necessary to find an acceptable spouse on their own. The parents then become welcome partners in the child's mate hunt.
Arranged marriages have been part of the Indian culture since the fourth century. Many consider the practice a central fabric of Indian society, reinforcing the social, economic, geographic, and the historic significance of India. Arranged marriages serve six functions in the Indian community: (1) helps maintain the social satisfaction system in the society; (2) gives parents control, over family members; (3) enhances the chances to preserve and continue the ancestral lineage; (4) provides an opportunity to strengthen the kinship group; (5) allows the consolidation and extension of family property; (6) enables the elders to preserve the principle of endogamy.
The practice of arranged marriages began as a way of uniting and maintaining upper caste families. Eventually, the system spread to the lower caste where it also was used for the same purpose. "Marriage is treated as an alliance between two families rather than a union between two individuals".
95% of all current Indian marriages are arranged, either through child marriages or family / friend arrangement. The Child Marriage Restraint Act of 1929-1978 states that the legal age for marriage is 18 for females, and 21 for males, with most females being married by 24 and most males being married by their late twenties. However, many children, age 15 and 16 are married within a cultural context, with these marriages being neither void or voidable under Hindu or Muslim religious law, as long as the marriage is not consummated until the legal age of 18 for females and 21 for males.
-Since marriage is one of the most important decisions a person will ever make and because divorce is not accepted among most Indians, it is imperative that the marriage choice is carefully thought out and planned. How can a young person make such an important decision on his/her own?
-For some parents there is pressure from the community to conform and in certain cultures, a "love marriage" or even a relationship is considered a failure on the part of the parents to keep control over their child.
-For some, it is fear of what the community - social and/or religious will think if their child is not married, often by a certain age. In some cultures, sons and daughters have a "sell by date", meaning the son or daughter are deemed less likely to find a suitable partner if they are past a certain age, and it is considered folly to try to marry them off at that stage.
-The religious and spiritual aspect of arranged marriage can play a large role in finding a "suitable" spouse. Numerology is often used in Indian culture to predict the fruitfulness of a particular match. This can sometimes be expressed in a percentage, ie a 70% match.
-Caste can play a large role in Indian marriages. One reason for Indian parents opting for an Indian arranged marriage, rather than a marriage of mixed races is that the caste cannot be found out or simply does not exist in that culture/country. This ambiguity can create a "fear of the unknown" and so an arranged marriage may be insisted upon.
-Reduction or elimination of incompatibilities: Since marital incompatibility has been found to be the major reason for divorce, arranged marriages ensure a much higher probability of success because they tend to match persons of the same religion, caste, dietary preference (e.g., vegetarian), linguistic group, age group, socio-economic background, education, professional status, physical stature, etc.
-Following one's head is often wiser than following one's heart: What is idealistically called "love" and "individual choice" is often the infatuation of the moment, which often passes when it is too late and the marriage has already taken place. Having elders vet the prospective spouse and their family is a kind of "due diligence" that needs to take place.
-Low expectations: Neither the man nor the woman knows quite what to expect, and there is a lot of understandable trepidation on both sides. This often works out well, because things turn out to be "not so bad after all".
-Forced marriages: Much of the stated opposition to the concept of arranged marriages is actually an opposition to forced marriages. None except the incorrigibly feudal would defend forced marriages where the individuals being married have no veto over the decision.
-"Loveless" marriage: This has, however, been disputed by many people in happy (arranged) marriages who claim that love grows in a marriage, even if the marriage does not start with love.
-Individual accountability: Even if arranged marriages prove to be significantly more stable than "love" marriages, the latter are still preferable. There is something more important at stake than stable families — respect for individual accountability.
The steps involved in an arranged marriage vary by communities and families. Here is the most common scenario, and the process can break down at any step.
-Broadcast of Availability: This is when the guardians of the groom or bride announce that they are in market for an alliance.
-Horoscope Matching: The interested parties trade birth horoscopes as a sign of showing interest. Those who believe in horoscopes consult with astrologers and priests to find out compatibility. The compatibility score is often used to reject an alliance.
-Photo Exchange, Interview, and Background Check: The pictures are exchanged and if in agreement, one or more face to face interviews are arranged, during which elders are also present to help with familiarization
Potential bride-grooms come under close scrutiny. Do they have enough means to support the bride? Do they appear to be men who will make good husbands and fathers? Often, the bride will live with her in-laws after marriage in what is called a joint family. Because of this, the groom's family is also brought under close scrutiny. Do the women of the household seem well cared for? Do they have a big enough house for another person and grandchildren? Does the family have a good reputation?
Potential brides also come under scrutiny by the boy's parents. Since it is a commonly held belief that brides are the embodiment of that family's honor and pride, the girl must be from good family and have good manners. She should be respectable and have no taint on her name. Does she have the makings of a good wife and mother? Does she want to work after marriage or stay at home?
Traditionally, the bride and groom would not even see each other until the day of their wedding. Today, while most marriages are still arranged, times are changing. There is usually a small courtship period where the bride and groom can meet and talk under the careful watch of a guardian. Also, if either one of the two do not want the marriage, it is likely to be cancelled. Very few family's today "force" marriages upon their children.
-Dowry and Contract Negotiations: The logistics of marriage are then discussed. Who pays how much for the wedding expenses, the gold, the dowry, girl's and boy's net worth, the house they'd live in etc.
-Engagement: If all the parties are in arrangement, sweets are shared to announce the engagement.
Listen to interviews.
Visit a matrimonial website.
Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4