Controversies of Love Marriage in Pakistan

Through the centuries, traditional families and marriage in Pakistan operated through arranged, endogamous marriages. Parents or other senior family members arranged the marriages of their children. For pragmatic reasons, young men and women married whomever their families selected for them. Romantic love or personal liking were of lower importance.

Many cultural norms, traditions, and practices have recently changed in Pakistani culture. Modern Pakistanis’ attitudes have shifted in recent years toward more accepting cultural views of love marriages.

Progressive Parents, Happy Children

New cultural norms in contemporary Pakistan are more tolerant and accepting of marriages in which men and women initiate their marital relationships. Some parents are pleased that their children take the initiative to choose life partners on their own. They recognize that their children are adults who know themselves and their family’s opinions well enough to make an informed decision about marriage. Parents may think that “if the decision is theirs, they cannot blame me if, God forbid, something goes wrong.”

These parents believe that their grown children should make their own decisions on matters important to their future lives. And they should deal with the consequences of these decisions. This way of thinking embodies wise parental attitudes toward this matter. Such new cultural perspectives have more frequently come to mind in recent years. It is a rapidly growing part of Pakistani culture that accepts and even encourages children to find their own relationships (Ahmed, 2021).

Conservative Parents, Unhappy Children

However, not all categories of Pakistani society welcome this new cultural trend. Some meet these progressive innovations with resistance. This part of Pakistani culture is more conservative in their view and, therefore, not willing to accept this open-minded approach.

Such parents may feel disappointed because they believe their parents made decisions for them, and now it is their turn to make decisions for their children. These parents are fighting for a chance to decide in the same way that children are exercising their right to choose. It is difficult for them to recognize that their boys and girls try to make their own choices.

Young men and women are increasingly pressuring their parents to listen to them. That is what parents may be reluctant to do. It is difficult for parents to make compromises for their children’s happiness. It is even harder for them to admit that whatever they had expected to happen would not occur. The parents are not content with the decisions being made (Nazir, 2021).

Resistance of Pakistani Parents to Children’s Wish for Love Marriage

A common conservative reaction to a wish that a son or a girl have a love marriage is to condemn, resist, and reject it. Consequences can be negative for children. Violent reactions within the household can also happen.

Some families can be explicitly outspoken in their resistance to the freedom of marital choice. These parents are unable to comprehend, support, or accept the child’s decision. They tell their adult children up front that they will not marry anyone who is not chosen by their parents. They say that they must learn to live with that parental decision, thus asserting their right to an arranged marriage.

What if Boys and Girls Decide to Disregard Their Parents’ Wishes?

When boys and girls choose to disregard their parents’ wishes, some families can go to extremes of violence. Here is one example of a case that occurred in 2012. “Pakistani newspapers routinely carry articles about couples who faced violence as a result of marrying without their families’ consent. In one recent case, The Express Tribune reported last month that a couple, Almas Khan and Shamim Akhtar, were killed in Chakwal, Punjab, over the weekend of Id al-Fitr, the holiday ending Ramadan” (Ladly, 2012).

In Pakistani culture, families can carry out such actions, pretending as if their child has dishonored them. In such cases, both the man and the woman are frequently murdered since they are both deemed to have disobeyed the word of the parents, and ultimately God (Ahmed, 2021).

In Pakistan’s patriarchal society, adults assume that they know their children better and can make these decisions for them. It’s tough for them to accept a child’s decision and regard them as adults in charge of their own lives when they come to them with one.

What if Pakistani Parents Agreed to Their Children’s Desire for Love Marriage?

The parents who have agreed to their child’s wishes are still not truly happy with such a decision. On the surface, family members may accept the child’s own decision, but internally, in their implicit minds, they can plot ways to end the relationship or marriage. Thus, many challenges remain for the new progressive movements in marriage arrangements.

Thus, some Pakistanis remain traditional and resistant to these new cultural tendencies in family, marriage, and interpersonal interactions. They are less willing to accept these open-minded cultural attitudes. They disagree with these progressive changes.

Love in Modern Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

Traditional marriages in Pakistan were formed through arranged marriages. Most of them were endogamous marriages, when parents or other senior family members arranged marriages between the groom and the bride within the same extended family or community clan. Consanguineous marriages ensured the family’s socio-economic status. They permitted people to keep their familial bonds and assets within the same social group.

The traditional marriages in Pakistan have functioned to preserve families socio-economic status and relationships.

These arranged marriages fulfilled family responsibilities for financial, social, and economic security. Love and romance were of secondary importance in these matters. Modern social and economic changes in Pakistani society and ethnic communities have substantially transformed cultural attitudes toward arranged marriages.

However, in recent decades, the modern cultural evolution of marriages in Pakistan has changed the way men and women marry.

Love Can Be Compatible with Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

Modern cultural norms and people try to accommodate the possibility of love in a traditional Pakistani arranged marriage. As previously stated, parents allow their children to have a certain freedom in relationships before committing to marriage. Nevertheless, many young boys and girls come to their parents for their advice and direction in making important life decisions, including marriage. They appreciate their opinions.

It appears that in many cases, love marriages are intertwined with arranged marriages and keep children, parents, and society happy. Many young people know that keeping their parents in the loop when they make big decisions is in their own best interest. This way, both parents and children are involved in making the decision. Senior members of the family feel like they participate and offer advice. This gives them an opportunity to “save face” in the community because it appears that they are playing up their part in the marriage. Children are also happy because they are able to make their own decisions in the selection of their marital partner for life (Ahmed, 2021).

New Cultural Forms of Arranged Marriage in Pakistan

Other boys and girls may use another, new version of arranged marriage. They are set up by adults in the family. And then they get to know the other person and decide if they will marry them. Zara Ahmed describes such an experience as follows:

“This is how my marriage evolved. I was introduced to my husband through our families, we spoke on the phone, were permitted to travel to see each other, and then allowed the parents to hash out the details.” (Ahmed, 2021, p. 5).

This form of mixed “arranged” and “love” marriages is the new norm in Pakistani culture. It gives both parents and children satisfaction. In particular, “women can self-make and build toward a future of financial security and emotional fulfillment in an environment of limited options and considerable patriarchal control” (Maqsood, 2021, p. 94).

The New Cultural Forms of Marriage in Pakistan

The cultural changes in modern Pakistani society change the ways older and younger people view marriage. Now, marriage is not simply a responsibility or an obligation that needs to be taken on. Modern young adults prefer to “create families and homes around companionship and understanding. It is time for parents to shed caste and creed, as this matters very little to the ultimate happiness of their children and future generations” (Nazir, 2021).

These changes take place even though some adults of the past generation may not feel convinced of their reality. These changes are able to make a difference in Pakistani culture. Religion is still respected, and cultural changes are becoming more accepted.

The Modern Evolution of Marriages in Pakistan

Traditional marriage and family in Pakistan functioned through the customary type of arranged marriages. These were mostly endogamous marriages, in which parents or other senior family members arranged marriages between men and women within the same extended family, clan, local community, or tribe. Such consanguineous marriages secured the endogamy of the family to maintain its socio-economic standing. These kinds of family unions allowed people to retain family affiliations and household assets within the family or clan.

In another article, I explained how traditional marriage functions in Pakistan as an arranged marriage.

In an arranged marriage, men and women marry whomever their families choose for them for practical reasons. The marriages were their family responsibilities to pursue financial security, social respect, and economic suitability. Romantic attraction and love were of second importance.

The Modern Time of Cultural Changes in Pakistani Marriage

Throughout recent decades, many things have changed in Pakistani culture. Western cultural influence has evidently had an impact on the cultural norms and minds of men and women. The social mobility of men and women, especially among the urban population, has substantially increased. The mentality of many people in Pakistan has changed in recent times (Maqsood, 2021).

The cultural attitudes of parents have altered and become less conservative. Now, they enable and even advise their children to get educated, socialize with friends, consume locally branded goods, and undertake Westernized leisure activities. They send children to private English-medium schools and even encourage them to travel abroad. This is a new cultural direction for people in Pakistani society.

Many young men and women feel delighted that their parents support their intentions to study, work, and travel, postponing their commitments to marriage. Parents frequently support their children’s interests and advise them to enjoy their social lives. They allow their children to look for themselves and begin to think about marriage when they themselves feel ready.

Modern Change in Cultural Practices of Marriage in Pakistan

Nowadays, marriages are a lower priority for young Pakistani people. Parents enable children to take part in many things to enjoy life before they make themselves committed to marriage. They even allow them to date each other before they make the important decision to marry.

Zara Ahmed illustrated the new cultural freedom in Pakistani society this way.

“I reached out to a family friend in Pakistan, and she confirmed the amount of change that has taken place in the culture back home. Her older sister was married off at the ripe old age of eighteen and was told to focus on the house and her children, rather than worrying about her education and career. It is important to note that the sisters have a ten-year age gap; this allowed for ten years’ worth of change before it was time for my friend to speak to the aspect of marriage. Now my friend regularly socializes with both girl and guy friends, travels to places like Dubai and Turkey with just her girlfriends – no chaperones, and has completed an undergraduate degree and is on her way to completing a graduate degree. Her parents bring up the topic of marriage gently and just as a reminder to her to keep an eye out of any potential partners she may be interested in.”

(Ahmed, 2021, p. 5)

Modern Pakistani culture has come to understand that marriage is not only about obligations and duties but also something more than that. Parents now understand that interpersonal attraction can play a role in marital relationships.

“The local notion of understanding, used to talk about premarital relationships, offers a window on the way love introduces “new conditions of possibility” (Maqsood, 2021, p. 94).

Many, however, are still reluctant to openly accept that love marriages are on the rise in their culture. Some still oppose these kinds of relationships—the tradition of arranged marriages has its lingering effect.

Traditional Marriage in Pakistan

For centuries, traditional marriages in Pakistan have functioned in the culturally customary manner of arranged marriages. These were primarily endogamous unions, in which spouses were married within an extended family, clan, or tribe. Parents or other senior members of the family arranged these marriages.

Such arranged marriages have been culturally prevalent because they make it simpler to keep family assets and affiliations with others. Consanguineous marriages provided the endogamy needed for the family to preserve its social and financial status. The traditional marriages in Pakistan are typically consanguineous marriages. Such consanguineous marriages function to preserve cultural homogeneity.

What Are the Functions of Traditional Marriages in Pakistan?

In an arranged marriage, Pakistani men and women do not expect to have love and an intimate relationship with their future spouse. They marry whomever their families select for practical matters. Economic suitability, financial security, social respect, and family interests have priority over love and romantic attraction. Marriages are family duties.

For women, the most important things were to get a home and find a man who could support her and their future children with resources. Practical matters, rather than love and romantic attraction, are on their minds. In arranged marriages, parents want to ensure that their future son-in-law or daughter-in-law will fulfill social and economic expectations. Parents and other relatives think of marriages as social and economic contracts that will help them have good and safe lives (Ahmed, 2022).

See more in What is a traditional marriage in Pakistan?

Traditional Gender Roles in Marriage in Pakistan

Cultural norms expect that men provide financially for the family and women take responsibility for domestic matters.

Women in Pakistani culture are taught to give priority to their domestic duties and household chores over their education, careers, and even their own health. Women were expected to focus on cleaning, cooking, looking nice, and caring for and raising children. Over generations, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers followed these routine customs. They were all raised with the awareness that marriage and childbirth were the only important things that would happen in their lives (Ahmed, 2022).

Why Do Pakistani Women Remain in Abusive Marriages?

Like women in other South Asian countries, Pakistani women in arranged marriages can become victims of domestic violence. The major sources of such marital violence are the need to protect family honor, cultural normalization of abuse, the abusive personalities of partners, and failing to meet gender role expectations (Ahmed, 2022).

Despite everything, women are likely to remain in abusive relationships due to their cultural expectations and fears of losing their children. For example, women are taught that when they have children, they cannot leave their marriage for the sake of the children.

Another reason that Pakistani women remain in abusive relationships is the worry of being on their own in life. Women are often taught that their husbands can simply find another wife, but they will be alone when they are divorced. Pakistani cultural expectations say that no one would want to marry a divorced woman who has lost her virginity.

Practical Interdependence of Spouses in Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

Arranged marriages are destined to endure despite anything. Women and men are interdependent on each other in several practical household issues. Many women remain in marriages because of their lack of education and inability to find another source of income besides their husband’s. Many men, on the other hand, are incapable of taking care of cleaning, laundry, cooking, and taking care of children. They feel very dependent on their wives for these domestic things. There are also reasons why men and women prefer to remain in marriage because of all these obligations and dependencies. Being happy is of secondary importance to them.

Here is another reason why Pakistani arranged marriages tend to endure. The wife and husband cannot return to their family homes. In such cases, many parents never keep their doors open for their children to return home. Women, as well as men, are told that once they are married, this is forever. They are encouraged to do everything that they can to make peace in marriage. Therefore, men and women need to remain in their marriages to satisfy their families. Their own happiness is a lower priority.

Therefore, children are often forced to remain in difficult marriages because they want to avoid having their parents gossip about them. The sad consequences of arranged marriages, in which adults are not allowed to marry the partner of their choice, are that many young men and women feel unhappy, borderline depressed, and emotionally unstable in their lives (Nazir, 2021).

A cultural Challenge for Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

People in Pakistan are becoming increasingly concerned about the potentially pernicious effects of Western social and sexual values and customs on their children. Due to these concerns, many parents believe that marrying their children off to prospective partners of the same Pakistani culture will solve these possible intercultural clashes (Shaw, 2006).

Consanguineous Marriages in Pakistan

Through the centuries, the traditions of marriage in Pakistan have been maintained in the culturally routine ways of arranged marriages. These were largely endogamous marriages. Parents or other senior relatives in the family arranged the marriages of men and women in such a way that they married within an extended family, clan, or tribe. Often, spouses were more or less directly related to each other.

The Benefits of Arranged Consanguineous Marriages

The arranged consanguineous marriages secured the necessary endogamy that allowed the family to maintain its social and financial status. Potential spouses have descended from the same ancestors and belong to the same kinship. These were first cousins, first cousins once removed, and second cousins. Such marriages have been culturally common in many traditional societies because these settings provide an easier way to preserve family assets and alliances within others (Akrami et al., 2009; Hamamy, 2012; Shawky et al., 2011).

In another place, I explain how consanguineous marriages preserve cultural homogeneity in a society.

Arranged Consanguineous Marriages in Pakistan

Like many traditional societies of the past and present, marriages in Pakistan have been mainly arranged inside extended families to retain riches within the family, keep the bloodline clean, and exert control over the married couple’s decisions. Cousin marriages pursued the utilitarian goal of keeping land or property in the family (Ahmed, 2022; Shaw, 2006).

Families also wanted to enhance their alliances with other families. “Marriage was viewed as an institution that built or deepened the link between families that needed each other’s support” (Khurshid, 2018, p. 98). In the case of any marriage problems that a daughter or son may have, it is easier to come to the home of the family than to the home of a stranger to discuss the troubles.

There was a cultural prejudice against those who married beyond the family group and kin. Others scolded and grumbled, especially when problems emerged, about deviations from commonly accepted marital practice.

Cultural Expectations of Consanguineous Marriage in Pakistani Families

In a prospective marriage, neither men nor women would wish to marry someone with whom they have an attraction or love. They did not intend to form a relationship with their future spouse. Men, and especially women, marry whomever their families choose in order to be at ease. Love and romantic attraction were sacrificed for the sake of socioeconomic stability and practical family interests.

Marriage was rather a practical matter of economic suitability, financial security, and social respect. For women (typically uneducated) and their families, the most important things were to get a home and find a man who could support her and their future children with resources. Marriages were family duties and responsibilities.

Socioeconomic issues, not love or romantic attraction, have been on the forefront of minds in matters of marriage. Arranged marriages have been important because parents wanted to know that their future son-in-law or daughter-in-law would live up to the social and economic expectations that they had for them and their children.

For example, it would be a source of frustration and social shock for the parents of a daughter to learn that she cannot afford the clothes, social outings, or vacations that she once used to have in her parental family. Therefore, the marriages were arranged to avoid social and economic frustrations that could lead to problems in the relationship. Parents and other relatives looked at marriages as social and economic transactions to ensure their gains and avoid losses. These issues primarily guided their decisions regarding marriage.

Cultural Respect for Social Hierarchy in Pakistani Society

As in any Muslim society, the cultural institution of marriage in Pakistan respects not only endogamy but also homogamy. This meant that many marriages took place between people of the same status or caste. Family members would be aware of their status and would only arrange marriages for their children with people who were on the same level as them. Marriages between people from different socioeconomic backgrounds were rarely socially acceptable (Ahmed, 2022; Evason et al., 2016).

The current cultural tradition of marriages in Pakistan resembles arranged marriages in other Muslim societies.

Cultural and Religious Significance of Arranged Pakistani Marriages

Pakistani culture is the cultural values, norms, and practices that people follow in Pakistan as well as in the populations scattered in other countries whose origins lie in Pakistan. Pakistan is a Muslim society with a traditional collectivistic organization that highly values social stratification, power distance, family, and social interdependence. Pakistani marriages are still widely arranged by other members of the family.

Cultural things are tightly intertwined with religious ones in all facets of life, including matrimonial customs. The traditions of arranged marriages in Pakistan are still quite widespread, as they are in other traditional societies, such as India, for example.

Cultural and Religious Mixing in Pakistani culture

Islam substantially influences the culture of Pakistan as a Muslim country. Therefore, many values, traditions, and beliefs have religious and cultural roots. This makes it difficult to argue with any cultural ideals, traditions, or customs while avoiding the risk of offending Islam.

The cultural mixture of religion and culture makes it challenging to distinguish how much is cultural and how much is religious in any given cultural tradition in Pakistan. Arranged marriages are culturally common in these types of societies, so they are widely practiced in Pakistan and cultural diasporas around the world.

What Do Arranged “Pakistani Marriages” Mean?

In arranged marriages, parents or other senior family members select a mate for their son or daughter. Professional matchmakers and community elders may also participate in finding a suitable spouse. A man and a woman have a limited opportunity to choose their spouse, yet they consent to this custom. They may have little freedom in choosing their spouse, but they mostly agree with family wisdom. An extended family usually plans the wedding events and rituals according to cultural customs.

Because Pakistan is a Muslim society, Islam has a significant impact on culture (Zara Ahmed, 2022). So, it is important to distinguish between religious and cultural aspects when we discuss marriage traditions, norms, and customs.

What Does Polygamy Mean in Pakistani Arranged Marriages?

Polygamy is acceptable in Pakistan. Muslim men point out that they can marry four times simultaneously. However, this cultural rule, which they may conveniently forget, is intended to support financially divorced or widowed women who are struggling with resources. Besides, the consent of previous wives is needed. Regrettably, many men increasingly use this loophole to legitimize their extramarital affairs.

As Zara Ahmed (2022) noted, it is important for women to understand Islam. This way, they can resist the forced choices, such as obedient acceptance of their husband’s infidelity or a forced marriage arranged by their parents in the name of Islam.

Arranged marriages are customary in Pakistan, and dating in Islam is not advised. This seems to limit the freedom of choice for a man and a woman. However, it is important to note that Islam says, “The right to choose a husband was understood as a right given to women by Islam” (Khurshid, 2018, p. 92). Practically, this means that the couple getting married fully consents to the union without coercion. “The parental duty to respect a child’s right to veto” does not contradict their religious or cultural duty (Shaw, 2006, p. 213). Thus, parents who attempt to heavily persuade or force their children to marry are following patriarchy rather than true religious teaching.

Arranged Marriages Among Pakistani Diasporas

Such cultural-religious conflations can be especially common among immigrants moving outside of Pakistan. They struggle to retain their culture and religion while being away from their country of origin. It is especially challenging for them to distinguish between the cultural and religious sides of traditions. Because of this, they tend to be stricter with themselves and their family than their religion and culture expect, trying to distinguish between religious and cultural beliefs.

This desperate holding on to outdated cultural ideals can cause problems for their children. Children try to fit into the culture they have grown up in while also respecting their Pakistani culture. Living abroad, they have more freedom to criticize cultural traditions. However, they may still struggle to persuade their parents and families to embrace new mixed-cultural ideals.

The Case of Intercultural Pakistani Marriages

Here is an example that Zara Ahmed (2022) provides: A young man of Pakistani parents fell in love with a non-Pakistani Christian woman. They were expecting a child before marriage. He was determined to marry her and stood by the woman he adored and his unborn child.

However, the adults in their local Pakistani community said his parents failed him in his upbringing. How could this child walk away from his religion and culture by insisting on this marriage? “Ironically, these same people would be judging him for walking away from his child; they would then use religion to demonstrate how he should have supported the child and married the woman. It was convenient for the adults to twist their words to suit their preferences; it was not like every next-door neighbor could advise you on your religious rights.” (Ahmed, 2022, p.2)

Immigrant children look to their parents for religious guidance, so they must accept their interpretation of right and wrong. Four years later, it was evident that it was a strong marriage. They were happy and expecting another child. Once again, as I mentioned above, culturally as well as religiously, it is right that “the parental duty to respect a child’s right to veto” (Shaw, 2006, p. 213).

In the modern world, however, the cultural evolution of arranged marriages takes place in Pakistan and in Pakistani diasporas abroad. In the same way as in many other traditional societies, arranged marriages gradually evolve into love marriages. Love fuses into arranged marriages. even in Pakistani cultures.

Islamic Arranged Marriages

Islamic arranged marriages have been a traditional type of marriage in Muslim countries for centuries. They are still widespread in the Muslim world and among Muslim emigrants in many other countries.

What Is an Marriage?

An arranged marriage is one in which parents or other senior members of the extended family select a potential mate for their daughter or son. Community elders and professional matchmakers might also be involved in finding a suitable spouse. The groom and bride have little opportunity to express their preferences as to whom they want to marry. Parents and other members of the extended family also decide on the proper time and plan the wedding events and rituals according to cultural traditions.

Both the groom and the bride usually consent to all these arrangements out of respect for this cultural tradition. They both rely on others in the planning of their wedding. They may have some degree of freedom to express their wishes about whom they want to marry. However, this preference must be in accordance with family wisdom. Cultural traditions of arranged marriages have been typical across many collectivistic societies throughout the centuries.

Collectivistic traditions and modernization

This kind of marriage has been widespread in collectivistic societies because of the cultural value of relationship interdependence in families and other social groups. Arranged marriages are still practiced in some traditional collectivistic countries, in rural areas more frequently than in urban ones, and among lower-educated men and women more often than among more educated young people.

Collectivistic attitudes toward arranged marriage in traditional societies are quite positive and different from modern individualistic societies.

The current modernization of many traditional societies, however, makes some people doubt the suitability of this old cultural custom for a new generation of men and women.

Let us review such practices of arranged marriage in Muslim societies, in which collectivistic cultures have been traditionally very strong. Here are two of them: Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The Islamic Arranged Marriages in Pakistan

The Muslim country of Pakistan is a typical example of a traditional society with high values of collectivism, power distance, and social inequality (Hofstede, 1998; 2001, 2016).

People of different socioeconomic classes are distinctly separated according to social strata. Societal and personal relationships are structured collectivistically and hierarchically. Members of society recognize and accept social status differences, power distance, and social hierarchy as necessary for the proper organization of society.

Interpersonal connections and relationships recognize both collectivistic values and the value of power differences. Gender inequality and patriarchal families and institutions are common, especially in rural areas.

Islamic arranged marriages have been traditionally highly prevalent in Pakistani culture. Even in an urban Muslim community in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, these kinds of marriages were common in 1961–1964 (Korson, 1968).

Relatives arrange their sons’ and daughters’ marriages, selecting a proper mate from a pool of eligible prospective partners in the community. Families from the lower social classes have a limited pool of potential candidates. So, they choose their boys’ and daughters’ spouses from the neighborhood community. Families from the upper social classes can afford to choose their potential marital partners from the larger regional population.

The Modern Cultural Evolution of Islamic Arranged Marriages

Islamic arranged marriages have been undergoing cultural evolution in recent years, along with the gradual changes in modern Pakistan and its social practices. The tradition is still popular in rural areas and among low-educated people. However, new trends toward freedom of marital choice and love marriages are evident. Educated women feel more empowered in their relationships now than ever before (Ahmed, 2022; Khurshid, 2020).

The Islamic Arranged Marriages in Saudi Arabia

The Muslim society of Saudi Arabia is another example of traditional culture. Collectivism, power distance, and social inequality are culturally acceptable values (Hofstede, 1998; 2001).

Arranged marriages in Saudi Arabian society are similar in many regards to those in other Muslim countries, yet the attitudes toward gender roles, relationships, and marriage are more conservative and culturally old-fashioned.

Personal kinship connections with a prospective mate are often preferred in Saudi Arabian arranged marriages (El-Hazmi et al., 1995). Such consanguinity implies that a potential spouse would be descended from the same ancestor and belong to the same kinship. Such closely related candidates can be first cousins, first cousins once removed, second cousins, third cousins, or more distantly related men and women. Thus, the consanguineous form of arranged marriage is quite common.

Generally, matchmaking and arranged marriages in Saudi Arabia are characterized by

  1. Gender segregation assumes that a woman and a stranger man are not allowed to meet without a “mahram” for the woman to be protected…
  2. “Bir al walidayn” implies family involvement and stipulates that a son or a daughter needs to involve their parents in the marriage process and obey their opinions,
  3. “Khotobah” entails the formal agreement between both families that is necessary for the relationship to proceed… (Al-Dawood, Abokhodair, & Yarosh, 2017, p. 1022).

Nowadays, men in Saudi Arabia may have a certain freedom to select a spouse. However, their choices are limited. A man knows little about a prospective bride. They can meet, but only if they are chaperoned. The more important thing for marriage is how relatives perceive the suitability of a possible match. (Al-Dawood, Abokhodair, & Yarosh, 2017). 

The transformation of cultural attitudes toward arranged marriage in Saudi Arabia has been slow in recent decades. They are still fairly conservative.

Collectivistic Values of Arranged Marriages

The practices of arranged marriages have been common in many traditional collectivistic societies in the past. They are still performed in certain old-fashioned cultural communities in India, China, Muslin societies, and some other countries.

What Are Arranged Marriages?

Arranged marriage is an old, traditional way for men and women to meet for the purpose of marriage and marry each other in many collectivistic cultures. In this kind of matrimonial arrangement, the groom and bride have limited control over who and when they marry and how and when the ceremonies are organized. Instead, other family members, religious leaders, community elders, or professional matchmakers find a decent match for a man and a woman to become a good couple for life. These people, as well as the whole family, are responsible for the appropriate organization of the wedding in terms of the right time and proper rituals.

Practices of Arranged Marriages in Collectivistic Cultures

Collectivistic societies are characterized by the strong individual interdependence of members of families and other social groups. Such interdependence is highly valued and widely practiced in collectivistic cultures. Therefore, arranged marriages are very suitable for family formation in a cultural context where marriage is a matter that concerns the entire family. Being interdependent in a family, a man and a woman cannot afford to ignore its interests. Even though they may feel romantic attraction and experience love for someone, they recognize that an arranged marriage is a cultural norm that they need to abide by. Consequently, they agreed to such an arrangement.

It should be noted that cultural traditions of arranged marriages have substantially varied across collectivistic societies throughout history (Karandashev, 2017).

How People in Collectivistic Cultures Feel About Arranged Marriages

People who were raised in a collectivistic culture feel differently than those who were raised in an individualistic culture regarding an arranged marriage because they have different conceptions of individuality and models of self. Therefore, they understand freedom of choice differently.

People in individualistic societies are more likely to have culturally normatively independent models of themselves, while people in collectivistic cultures are more likely to have interdependent self-in-relationship-with-other models of themselves. These differences determine different attitudes towards arranged marriages.

It should be noted that in Western individualistic cultures and Eastern collectivistic cultures, people’s attitudes toward arranged marriages differ. The example of arranged marriages in India well illustrates these practices in collectivistic societies.

The individualistic point of view presumes that an independent and free choice of who, when, and how to marry is of primacy. This is why people in individualistic cultures strongly oppose the idea of arranged marriage as violating individual autonomy. They believe that they must “follow their hearts” and that romantic passion is the best guide to marriage as a long-term union.

The collectivistic view assumes that the choice of who, when, and how to marry is interdependent with others’ interests. This is why people in collectivistic cultures naturally accept the idea of arranged marriage and abide by it. They believe that they must “follow the wisdom” and that romantic passion, though a bitter-sweet enjoyable feeling, is not the best guide to marriage as a long-term union.

What Are the Values of Romantic Love in Collectivistic cultures?

Romantic love, passionate attraction, and erotic allure are highly praised and finely elaborated in the arts and poems of many Eastern cultures. These artistic depictions of intense emotional experiences serve as great ideals, inspiring people to dream about love, its joy, happiness, and bitter-sweet suffering (Karandashev, 2017, 2019).

However, people of collectivistic Eastern wisdom do not dare admit all these beautiful idealistic experiences as the guide for their long-term marital relationships. The ideas of love and marriage are separated in their minds. That is different from the individualistic viewpoint, in which men and women believe that love will win marriage.

We should acknowledge, however, that due to increased relationship mobility, education, urbanization, and social modernization, the tendency towards Westernization of many Eastern cultures is evident. These changes are shifting the cultural norms and values in those collectivistic societies toward more individualistic norms and values. Consequently, attitudes toward arranged marriages are also changing.

Arranged Marriages in India

In traditional arranged marriages, the bride and the groom have limited possibilities in making their choice of whom to marry and how the wedding is planned. Other family members, religious leaders, community elders, or special matchmakers choose a good match for the couple and make sure they get married in the right way.

The freedom of marital choice for prospective spouses and specific practices of how weddings and marriages are organized vary across different collectivistic countries, in urban and rural contexts, and in traditional or relatively modernized societies. There are no universal or common practices for arranged marriages that fit all collectivistic countries. Cultural traditions of arranged marriages vary across traditional societies.

A Collectivistic Perspective on Arranged Marriage

Arranged marriages are quite common in collectivistic cultures because of the high value of individual interdependence in social groups and families. Marriage is a matter of family, not only of a bride and a groom. Although they may feel their romantic attraction and experience love for another man or woman, as it is beautifully depicted in Indian movies, they usually understand that an arranged marriage is a cultural tradition. Therefore, they usually consent to such an arrangement.

They may have a certain degree of freedom in their choice of a partner depending on cultural variations across regions, social groups, and castes in India. However, they have very limited options to decide how wedding ceremonies are organized. This is a significant issue for the family and cultural tradition. The wedding is an important life experience not just for the couple but also for their families and all others involved. The planning, preparations, and rituals engage strong sentiments and feelings.

The collectivistic conception of self in these societies includes not only the individual herself or himself but also other family members and interdependent connections with them. Therefore, a man or woman in a collectivistic culture understands that the choice of spouse and marriage is a responsibility rather than a freedom. They feel interdependent with their family, so they adjust their decisions and actions accordingly. They feel responsible for the family’s interests and for the future of their marriage. Romantic passion is of secondary importance.

The perspectives of Western individualistic cultures and Eastern collectivistic cultures on arranged marriage differ substantially.

Nevertheless, modernization, urbanization, education, and increased social mobility in those societies have moved modern marital practices away from arranged marriages.

What Is the Tradition of Arranged Marriage in India?

Indians typically marry in their early twenties. Parrents or other kin usually arrange the mating process. The cultural patterns of mating and marriage are diverse in different parts of India. These practices also vary in rural and urban contexts and across traditional Indian castes. Variations are observed even within the same geographical regions (Banerjee, Duflo, Ghatak, & Lafortune, 2013).

Indian culture looks at marriage as a social institution from a collectivist perspective. This view considers the selection of a prospective partner as a family matter. So, young men and women respect the kin’s opinion and engage in a discussion with the family. Matchmaking is an important process that may include professional matchmakers or matrimonial websites. The process is perceived beyond the simple dichotomies of arranged versus love marriages. The modern distinctions between these two types of marriage are no longer as clearly apparent as they once were. Contemporary cultural practices do not enforce a choice between the person and the family. Young men and women treat the family’s permission as a significant but equal factor (Bhandari, 2018).

A wedding is a significant event not just for the couple but also for their families. This celebratory ceremony must be perfectly arranged in terms of rituals and timing. The preparation for the event and involvement in it engage intense sentimental emotions for many who attend. In addition, the arrangement of processes and conditions also calls attention to cultural values, norms, social obligations, kinship bonds, and economic resources (Heitzman & Worden, 1996).

Modern Arranged Marriages in India

Nowadays, in India, social and economic mobility, the proportion of the middle class, and modernization have been expanding, especially in urban areas. New generations of educated young men and women from the middle class have more control over their marital choices and the ways in which they marry (Kamble, Shackelford, Pham, & Buss, 2014).

These young people accept arranged marriage as a cultural practice, yet they modernize its meaning. They manage to reconcile the cultural traditions of family-making with their motives for personal growth. They figure out how to live in Indian culture’s modernity (Sharangpani, 2010).

Since Indian society is regionally and socially diverse in terms of religious and cultural practices (Hindu, Christianity, Buddhism, and Muslim), the extent to which modern innovations in traditions evolve varies across different parts of the country, social classes, and castes.

Transformations of Gender Roles and Arranged Marriages in India

Generally, in modern India, arranged marriages are gradually declining. The increasing geographic mobility of the population, changing relationship networks, and social media act as cultural factors of social change. They open up new avenues for young Indians to choose a marital partner and pursue marriage.

Currently, extended families and kin are less inclined and less capable of overseeing the matchmaking of their children. They are less directly involved in the marital process. It is especially true among Indian urbanites and those living abroad (Agrawal, 2015; Allendorf & Pandian, 2016).

Perceptions of gender roles and the status of women are changing. The transformations in the gender image of a new Indian woman are publicly visible. They are pervasive in many personal narratives and web-based representations. The new gender role models combine cultural rootedness and a modern lifestyle in their relationships between men and women. Therefore, the images of love and marriage are gradually changing. They adjust to the new realities and lifestyles (Allendorf & Pandian, 2016; Titzmann, 2013).

Cultural Traditions of Arranged Marriages

Throughout history, arranged marriages of various kinds have been common in many traditional societies of the Western and Eastern cultures, as well as in other parts of the world (Karandashev, 2017).

Why Did People Agree to Arranged marriages?

This sort of marriage arrangement has been largely related to several social and economic factors that people just needed to abide by. They needed to take into consideration the interests of their family, clan, tribe, and local community, which they belonged to. Individual preferences of men and women were subordinated to the obligations of their social relationships. People mostly had a collectivistic mentality. In many respects, they felt interdependent in their family and community relationships.

How Did Cultures Start to Abandon Arranged Marriages?

Over the last several centuries, many so-called Western countries, like western European countries and the United States, have evolved into individualistic cultures. Their societies largely abandoned the idea of arranged marriages for the sake of individual autonomy. People became individuals who were more independent in their family and community relationships.

In the 20th century, social and economic conditions in many countries modernized. During the last several decades, many other countries in the world have also been in transition from collectivistic to individualistic cultures (Karandashev, 2017). So, they gradually abandoned the old-fashioned forms of arranged marriage in favor of the freedom of individual preference and choice.

Many other societies in the world are still in very slow transition from their old traditional cultures of the collectivistic type. Therefore, in those countries, arranged marriages, or their remaining old-fashioned practices, are still widely spread. In isolated, remote, and rural residential areas, these customs are more persistent than in urban areas, where modernization processes take place more rapidly.

What Is an Arranged Marriage?

An arranged marriage is a form of marriage in which the groom and the bride do not decide who they marry. Other people, such as parents or other family members, select and arrange their marriage, with a limited opportunity for the groom or the bride to express their preferences and wishes. Other members of the extended family, community elders, religious leaders, or matchmakers may be involved in helping to find a prospective spouse for a young person. The groom and the bride consent to such a cultural tradition. They agree and trust others to arrange their marriage. They may have a certain degree of choice about whom and when to get married.

Collectivistic and individualistic cultures differ in their views on the conception of individuality and therefore understand freedom of choice differently.

The collectivistic perspective looks at the choice of spouse and marriage from the perspective of family interdependence. Marriage is a matter of responsibility that includes responsibility for the family’s needs rather than for oneself.

The individualistic perspective considers the choice of spouse and marriage from the perspective of individual independence. Men and women view marriage as a matter of individual choice rather than a responsibility for anyone. The freedom to choose a prospective partner has primacy.