Arranged Marriages

arranged marriage

Definition of an Arranged Marriage

An arranged marriage, also known as pragmatic marriage, refers to a marriage facilitated and approved by a party other than the bride and groom. Most often parents are the initiators of these types of marriages, although other family members and friends may also be involved. Traditionally these types of marriages are determined almost exclusively by the parents, and the recipient having little or no say in choosing their mate. Other predetermined marriages may allow the potential bride and groom various levels of freedom. These are more common in modern eras and are sometimes referred to as semi-arranged or introduction marriages. A bride or groom may have a significant say in their choice of mate -- able to choose a spouse based on photographs and personal profiles, meet with one another, or even date for a period of time.

The practice of arranged marriage is more common in parts of Middle Eastern and South Asian countries such as Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, India, and Japan. Although less common in European and North American regions, arranged marriages may also occur, especially within ethnic, cultural, or religious groups residing in these areas that have traditionally practiced the custom of pre-established unions.

Purposes of Prearranged Unions

Purposes of arranged marriages include the following:

  • One of the main reasons arranged unions are practiced is due to tradition. In areas or groups in which this is a long-standing convention, later generations may continue this practice.
  • The parents are attempting to look out for the best interests of their child/children. In many cultures, the parents' responsibility for the well-being of their son or daughter includes securing an appropriate mate.
  • Fixed marriages may be utilized as a practical solution in areas where dating and courtship are either prohibited or discouraged.
  • Particularly in international arrangements, where someone from one country now lives in another, the family may want the child to marry someone who is originally from the same country or culture.
  • Used to ensure compatibility of a couple in terms of religion, economic status, social class, ethnicity, and education.
  • May be used to improve a family's social standing, especially in highly stratified societies. Thus, arranged marriages may be used in conjunction with the dowry system, in which the bride's family provides the groom or groom's family with a certain amount of monetary and/or material goods upon marriage of their daughter.

High Controversy

Arranged or pragmatic marriages are highly controversial in today's society, with the advantages and disadvantages of regulated marriage often debated. Given contrasting expectations and norms among cultures in finding a spouse, people may have very different opinions on how marriage 'should' be conducted.


Proponents of this marriage system argue that it ensures compatibility and a greater chance of stability in the marital relationship. Since the relationship is not chosen arbitrarily, but after careful consideration of various factors, many feel that the marriage will be more harmonious than choosing randomly based on emotion.

Those who will have their marriages arranged are free from the stress and pressure of finding a spouse, allowing them to concentrate on their studies or careers without distractions and worries over love relationships with the opposite sex. Proponents may view love as an element of the marriage that will grow and strengthen over time, rather than a pre-condition of the marital union.

Supporters may also believe that a marriage that is arranged results in less conflict, reflecting a mature relationship driven by a mutual sharing of life rather than often fluctuating feelings. There is also less likely to be family conflict, as the family approves of the spouse and he or she will be welcomed as a new member of the family.


Those who oppose marital arrangement may argue that people should be allowed pure freedom to choose their spouse. They may also claim that mutual attraction and love is vital at the start of a marriage. Additionally, there may be instances in which one or both of the parties in a fixed marriage have affection for someone else, resulting in an unhappy and troubled union.

Despite the measures of a family to find a compatible spouse, there is no guarantee that the couple will eventually love or even like one another. Critics may refer to the maxim 'opposites attract' to point to the possibility of incompatibility in the relationships. Additional concerns regarding fixed marriages are human rights issues, female subjugation issues, and domestic violence, which may occur if the woman refuses or argues with the choice of spouse.

Related concerns are those of:

  • Forced marriage, where violence, coercion, or abduction is used to command a marriage.
  • Potential enforcement of racist or oppressive social systems.
Arranged Marriages