Countries Where Arranged Marriages are Common

An arranged marriage can be understood as a system according to which the parents or eldest male members of two families proceed through various stages of negotiations and eventually arrange the marriage of the girl and the boy from their respective families. The defining aspect of an arranged marriage is that it is accepted by the spouses as a practical partnership rather than a match based purely on romantic love. In this sense of the term, arranged marriages were practiced in most parts of the world in the past. However with the rise of individualism and a weakening of traditional communities, the practice fell out of favor in Western and other developed societies. However even today arranged marriages are common in countries which largely follow a traditional social model.


In India, all decisions pertaining to the marriage, beginning from the choice of a partner to the date and economics of wedding are taken by the elders of the respective families. Traditionally this would be the eldest male member of the extended family of the groom and bride with senior ladies being consulted privately. This is slightly different from the older arranged marriages in western societies where it would be the father of the boy or girl and not the entire kin-group measuring the desirability of a potential match. The other defining characteristics of Indian arranged marriages are the importance of caste. Arranged marriages in India strictly adhere to religious and caste regulations. Both the partners must not only belong to the same religion but also to the same caste and preferably follow compulsions of sub-castes as well. It is the primacy of the caste regulations that differentiate Indian arranged marriages from those which used to exist in aristocratic Western societies in the previous centuries. While the Western model gave supreme importance to religion, lineage and class, Indian arranged marriages traditionally depended on keeping the caste lines intact. Even now an arranged marriage is fixed in same caste groups with inter-caste marriages still being restricted to love marriages. Other traits of arranged marriages in India like negotiations regarding dowry, the role of the matchmaker, the bias towards patriarchy and matching of horoscopes in found in many traditional Oriental cultures as well.


This is another country from the Indian subcontinent that largely follows the system of arranged marriages, backed by Sharia law which prohibits women from marrying without parental consent. Here the system of arranged marriage is based on Islamic teachings in the Quran that require fathers to protect their daughters, which has been interpreted as advocating arranged marriages. Interestingly even though the Muslim-majority Pakistan is widely different in religious terms from Hindu-majority India, in both countries arranged marriages are the norm. This can be taken as an indication that arranged marriage is more of a socio-cultural and particularly a patriarchal phenomenon rather than being a characteristic of any particular religion. In Pakistan, several types of arranged marriage exist. In certain tribal regions and rural areas there is a custom known as "Pait Likkhi". This involves two families agreeing to marry their children while they are still infants, or even before they are born. The actual marriage takes place when groom and bride are in their late teens or adults. Then there is the "Watta satta" which in Urdu literally means "give-and-take" and involves the custom of exchange brides between two clans. In order for a family to arrange a marriage for their son, they must also have a daughter to be married in return. If there is no sister to exchange in return for a son's spouse, a cousin or more distant relative is also accepted.

Arranged marriages are also common in other countries which follow Sharia or Islamic law as the basis of their legal system like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman.


Among the Oriental societies, Japan is one of those countries where the system of arranged marriages continues to be practiced. By the end of the twentieth century in Japan, approximately 30 percent of marriages continued to be the traditional arranged marriages called omiai. One of the most important figures in Japanese arranged marriages is that of the ‘nakodo’ who can be considered both a formal matchmaker and a more informal “go-between”. After the nakodo initiates a match, the prospective bride and groom meet and decide if they are suitable for each other. The parents are usually present at the first meeting. The couple continues to meet socially over a period of time before deciding to marry.


Modern China moved away from the system of arranged marriages with the ushering in of communism and its impact on all social and cultural institutions of the country. Yet arranged marriages continue to be practiced in many rural areas of China which have been relatively untouched by new political philosophies. Even in semi-urban areas today, Chinese men and women follow arranged marriages with a twist - they usually choose their own life partners and then their respective families take over. The groom's parents usually investigate the reputation and lineage of the bride’s family. According to traditional Chinese pre-wedding rituals, a meeting takes place for the families to meet, usually with the bride and groom present. The bride’s family takes this opportunity to ask about the status and wealth of the groom’s family so as to ensure that their daughter will be treated well. If the parents are not happy about the background of the other family, the wedding may not even take place. If both families accept the match, the wedding and engagement negotiations continue according to traditional customs. In China it is the primacy of family negotiations and observance of traditional rituals that are more characteristic of arranged marriages rather than inability to choose one’s own life partner.


In orthodox Jewish communities, a version of arranged marriages known as Shidduch is practiced. According to the prospective groom and bride are introduced to each other by family or community elders and then they are allowed to get to know each other or even date in the modern sense. In communities that uphold this perspective today, dating is reserved for the purpose of finding a suitable marriage partner. In other words, dating just to have fun or to meet people, is against Jewish law. Even in contemporary, non-Orthodox families, it is expected of young Jewish singles to date only for the purpose of marriage and procreation.