Who Middle Ages, alliances between European nations were

Who should choose your spouse? This lesson explores the reasons that various societies, past and present, have relied on arranged marriages to determine who’s right for whom.

What is an Arranged Marriage?

In different societies, arranged marriages take different forms. While ancient arranged marriages usually involved elders in the community pairing up the youngsters, some modern-day matchmaking websites are playing a role in a new type of arranged marriage. Anytime a third party chooses the spouse for an individual, rather than the two individuals choosing for themselves, an arranged marriage is in the works.

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Arranged Marriage vs. Love Marriage
Love or Arranged Marriage

Who Should Choose Your Spouse?

Who chooses your spouse depends on the community of which you are a part.

If your religious group traditionally practices arranged marriage, then your priest or other spiritual leader might choose your mate. If you were from a royal family in medieval Europe, your parents and the political advisors would find the most advantageous family for you to marry into.For example, the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Francis, heir to the French throne, was arranged by the two royal families to strengthen relations between Scotland and France. In the Middle Ages, alliances between European nations were crucial as royal families tried to shape the political or religious lay of the land.

Modern Arranged Marriages

In India and other Southern Asian countries, Hindus continue the custom of parentally-advised match-making. In this model of arranged marriage, your parents will select and then introduce you to the person whom they deem to be your best match. They will likely base their recommendation on several factors, including the potential mate’s profession, religion, and even caste.

After the initial meeting, it’s usually up to the two individuals – in the 21st century – to ultimately decide whether they will become engaged and marry.

Who Will You Marry?
Surprise Bride and Groom

Modern technology and values have certainly changed the traditional methods of arranging marriages. In 21st century America, and elsewhere, millions of people have deferred to a computerized program that analyzes their personality traits and values, and those of potential matches, to determine who would make the best life partner.

When Arranged Marriages Go Wrong

Do third parties make better decisions about your life than you do? Maybe. With the divorce rate in America today at just around 50%, perhaps we can admit that our modern system of individual choice has some room for improvement. In India today, where Hindus dominate demographically, the divorce rate is approximately half of the American rate.

Will man and wife always be happy in arranged marriages? We could ask the same thing about individually-selected spouses! At least in the case of arranged marriage, the couple has the full support of their families and their entire community. We can’t always say the same for non-arranged marriages.Historically, and even today in some religious sects, opting out of the engagement that has been set up for you can result in dire consequences. You could be excommunicated from the church, disowned by the family, or even cast out of the entire community.

Additional Considerations

Sometimes an engagement is set up between two people out of necessity. In very small clans, where everyone is at least loosely related, there might only be one acceptable choice for you in order to avoid potentially dangerous inbreeding. In cases of teenage out-of-wedlock pregnancy, a forced marriage, also called a ‘shotgun wedding’, might be pushed on the young parents.

Criticism of arranged marriages generally heightens when modern communities are accused of incorrectly administering child marriages. Historically, especially in those cases of small clans or royal families, children are matched up with genetically safe or politically perfect mates almost as soon as they are born. Mary, Queen of Scots, was engaged by age five! In these cases, the actual ceremony does not take place until both children are of marriageable age – generally puberty, but sometimes later. In some modern societies, if a child marriage has allegedly or actually been consummated before puberty, the families and even the entire community can be held responsible even legally.

Lesson Summary

Arranged marriage has been a staple of human civilization for thousands of years. Throughout the ages, it has served various functions for the individuals, their families, and even entire nations. Whether a poor African father is trying to secure a safe life for his daughter in a neighboring town, or a busy attorney seeks the help of a match-making website, people around the world recognize the benefit of having a third party help select the right mate.

Exercise Your Memory

Arranged marriages matches arranged for various reasons including society, custom and family practice
Traditional practices (arranged marriage) a priest or other spiritual leader might choose the mate
Custom parentally-advised match-making
Caste societal ranking of certain groups of people
Technology and values-based matchmaking a computerized program analyzes the personality traits and values, and those of potential matches, to determine who would make the best life partner
Forced marriage a ‘shotgun wedding’ might be pushed on young parents
Child marriages arranged in many third-world countries between families

Learning Outcomes

By the time that you finish this lesson on arranged marriages, make sure you’ve accomplished the following:

  • Highlight different types of arranged marriages
  • Recognize the role a community plays in choosing a spouse
  • Discuss modern technology and values in relation to match-making
  • Indicate potentially negative outcomes of the process of arranging marriages
  • Ponder other considerations for this custom
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