Understanding the Reasons Behind Arranged Marriages: Tradition Meets Modernity

The institution of marriage has evolved significantly over time, adapting to social, economic, and cultural changes. The practice of arranged marriages, while often associated with historical contexts, continues to exist in various forms around the world, including in modern societies.

In this blog post guide, we will explore about the intricate reasons behind arranged marriages, examining their historical roots, cultural significance, and the modern adaptations that have allowed this tradition to persist in the face of global modernity.

Key Takeaways

  • Arranged marriages have historical roots in practices like matchmakers and political alliances, reflecting the social and financial fabric of traditional societies.
  • Cultural norms, gender roles, and societal expectations play a significant role in perpetuating arranged marriages, often linked to family honor and religious customs.
  • Economic factors such as poverty, dowries, and bride prices influence the continuation of arranged marriages, serving as strategies for economic survival.
  • Modern adaptations of arranged marriages incorporate global influences and intercultural unions, showcasing a blend of tradition and contemporary values.
  • Arranged marriages face challenges and criticisms related to human rights, with ongoing debates about consent and efforts to eradicate harmful practices.

Historical Context of Arranged Marriages

Historical Context of Arranged Marriages

Marriage Practices in Pre-Modern Korea

In pre-modern Korea, the institution of marriage was deeply rooted in societal norms and familial obligations. The practice of matrilocality, where a husband would reside with his wife’s family, was prevalent during the Goguryeo period and continued through the Goryeo period. This custom is reflected in the Korean saying about a man “entering jangga” upon marriage, indicating his integration into his wife’s household.

During the Goryeo period (918–1392), wedding ceremonies were typically held at the bride’s family home. The age of marriage varied, with aristocrats often marrying earlier than commoners. The ceremonies involved a gift exchange and a banquet, serving not only as a celebration but also as a display of the families’ social status.

The shift from matrilocality to the more common patrilocal residence, where a wife would live with her husband’s family, marked a significant change in Korean marital customs over time.

Marriage within the same ancestral clan was prohibited, emphasizing the importance of family lineage and social structure in marital arrangements. These practices laid the groundwork for the complex interplay of tradition and modernity in contemporary Korean marriages.

The Role of Matchmakers in Traditional Societies

In traditional societies, the role of the matchmaker was crucial in orchestrating marriages that would benefit not just the individuals involved, but their entire families. Matchmaking has been around for centuries and was considered an art, essential for the continuation of social and familial lineage. The process often began with the euihon, or ‘matchmaking’, where various factors such as social status and personality were evaluated.

  • The first step, the euihon, involved discussions between families.
  • Consideration of social status, personality, appearance, and achievements.
  • Predictions by fortunetellers on material harmony.

Marriage was not merely a personal commitment but a strategic alliance that could enhance or maintain social status.

In some cultures, marriages were arranged as early as childhood to secure political or financial alliances. The breaking of such an engagement could lead to severe consequences for both the individuals and their families. As a result, significant time and effort were invested in preparing for the wedding to ensure the union met the societal expectations of the time.

Political and Financial Motivations Behind Child Betrothal

In the tapestry of factors contributing to child betrothal, political alliances and financial benefits have historically played pivotal roles. Aristocratic families, particularly in the European feudal era, leveraged child marriage to forge political ties, viewing these unions as binding contracts that could not be broken without severe repercussions.

  • Political alliances: Securing stability and power
  • Financial ties: Cementing economic relationships
  • Betrothal contracts: Binding agreements with social consequences

The intertwining of marriage with political and economic strategies is a testament to the multifaceted nature of arranged marriages.

Economic survival often dictates the practice of child marriage, with families perceiving it as a means to alleviate poverty or as a source of income. The concept of bride price further exacerbates this issue, making child marriage a transactional arrangement. In some cultures, the stigma attached to unmarried women and the fear of social blemish drive families to marry off daughters at a young age, thus perpetuating the cycle of child betrothal.

Cultural and Social Foundations

Cultural and Social Foundations of indian arrange marriages ceremony


Gender Inequality and Family Honor

In many traditional societies, gender inequality is deeply intertwined with the concept of family honor. The roles and expectations set for men and women often differ significantly, with women typically bearing the brunt of upholding family reputation. This disparity is not only a reflection of societal norms but also a reinforcement of them, perpetuating a cycle where women’s identities and choices are closely tied to their familial duties.

Family honor often dictates the terms of arranged marriages, with the selection of a spouse being a strategic decision to maintain or enhance the family’s social standing. The pressure to conform to these expectations can be immense, leading to a lack of autonomy for those entering into arranged marriages. The following points highlight the impact of gender inequality on arranged marriages:

  • Women may be judged more harshly by a patriarchal society for their marital status.
  • Educational and vocational opportunities for women can be limited as a result of prioritizing marriage.
  • The perpetuation of traditional gender roles can lead to women’s socio-economic rights being compromised.

The aim of this paper is to initiate a broader discussion concerning the identities of Indian migrants and their perceptions of arranged marriage.

Religious and Regional Customs

Arranged marriages are deeply intertwined with religious and regional customs, reflecting the diverse practices and beliefs that shape matrimonial alliances. The sanctity of marriage within various religions often dictates the terms and conditions of the union, with specific rituals and ceremonies to adhere to. For instance, in Hinduism, there are several types of marriages, such as the Brahma, Daiva, and Gandharva, each with its own significance and customs.

  • Jewish: Traditions like the Levirate, or Yibbum, mandate a man to marry his brother’s widow under certain conditions.
  • Islamic: Practices such as Nikah mut’ah and Nikah ‘urfi reflect temporary or unofficial marital arrangements.
  • Christian: Different denominations, including Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, have their own matrimonial traditions.

In many societies, these religious customs are not merely spiritual guidelines but are embedded in the cultural and family upbringing, influencing decisions beyond personal faith.

Regional variations also play a crucial role, as marriage customs can vary significantly even within the same religious context. These variations are often a blend of ancient traditions and the influence of local customs, which together form a complex tapestry of practices that govern arranged marriages.

Social Pressures and the Stigma of Unmarried Women

In many cultures, the stigma attached to unmarried women and the social pressures they face can lead to early and arranged marriages. The fear of social ostracism for the family and the individual is a powerful motivator. For instance, in some societies, there is a prevalent concern that if a woman remains unmarried beyond a certain age, she may be perceived as less desirable or bring shame upon her family.

Social insecurity and the potential for crimes such as rape, which could diminish a woman’s prospects for marriage, are additional factors that contribute to the rush to arrange marriages. The repercussions of such events are not only traumatic but can also lead to a lifetime of stigma and reduced marital opportunities.

  • The fear of illicit relationships or elopement
  • Concerns over finding suitable matches within the same socioeconomic status
  • The potential social blemish to siblings

The isolation and mental health implications for young brides can be profound, as they often face a loss of social support and increased expectations for submissiveness. This can lead to severe mental health issues, including depression.

Economic Factors Influencing Arranged Marriages

indian happy couple


Poverty and Economic Survival Strategies

In regions where poverty is pervasive, arranged marriages often emerge as a survival strategy for families. The transfer of financial responsibility from the bride’s to the groom’s family can alleviate economic pressures. This practice is particularly prevalent in societies where women have limited access to education and employment, making marriage a critical aspect of their economic security.

Arranged marriages can also serve as a means to consolidate resources and forge alliances between families, which may be crucial for their subsistence and social standing. The following list outlines common reasons why families in impoverished regions might pursue arranged marriages:

  • To reduce the number of dependents within a household
  • To ensure economic support for the bride from the groom’s family
  • To form beneficial familial alliances that can provide mutual aid
  • To secure a dowry or bride price that can improve the family’s financial situation

In many cases, the decision to arrange a marriage is not merely a cultural tradition but a calculated economic choice made in the face of limited options.

Bride Price and Dowries

The exchange of a dowry or bride price is a deeply rooted tradition in societies with a history of arranged marriages. Bride price, often paid by the groom to the bride’s family, reflects a financial commitment and is seen as a form of guarantee for the marriage. In contrast, a dowry involves the bride’s family providing property or wealth to the groom’s family, a practice still prevalent in parts of the world such as the Indian subcontinent.

The bride price can vary significantly, with factors such as the bride’s age influencing the amount. Younger brides often command a higher price, which can unfortunately incentivize child marriages.

Economic challenges often compel families to provide a dowry, which can be a substantial financial burden. This has historically led to the early betrothal of daughters, sometimes without regard to their age or consent. The table below outlines typical components included in dowries:

Item Description
Property Real estate or land bestowed upon the groom’s family.
Jewelry Valuables given as part of the bride’s dowry.
Attires Clothing for the bride and groom, often traditional and elaborate.

The implications of these practices are complex, intertwining cultural significance with economic and social pressures.

Reducing Financial Burdens Through Early Marriage

In many traditional societies, families often view daughters as an economic burden, especially in the context of extreme poverty. Marrying off a daughter at a young age is sometimes seen as a strategy to alleviate financial pressures on the family, ensuring her economic security and indirectly benefiting the parents. This practice is rooted in the belief that it reduces the economic motivations to marry daughters off early.

The economic needs of the family heavily influence the appeal of child marriage, with the aim of decreasing financial pressures and improving the family’s overall economic situation.

However, this approach can have long-term detrimental effects on the girls involved. Lacking education and opportunities to earn an income, they are more vulnerable to persistent poverty, especially if they become widowed or abandoned at a young age. The table below illustrates the potential outcomes of early marriage:

Age of Marriage Likelihood of Education Completion Economic Independence Risk of Poverty
Early Low Low High
Later Higher Higher Lower

It is crucial to recognize that while early marriage may seem like a solution to immediate financial hardship, it often perpetuates a cycle of poverty among children from these unions.

Modern Adaptations and Transformations

modern young indian couple


Incorporating Global Influences into Traditional Ceremonies

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Marriages Between Koreans and Non-Koreans

The landscape of marriage in South Korea has been reshaped by the increasing number of unions between Koreans and non-Koreans. Statistical data reveals distinct patterns of transnational marriage based on gender preferences. Korean women often marry Western men, while Korean men predominantly choose partners from Southeast Asia. This trend is reflected in the data from 2020, showing the United States and Vietnam as the top countries for foreign spouses of Korean women and men, respectively.

Divorce rates in these transnational marriages are notably higher than those among Korean couples. Studies indicate that within 48 months, approximately 19% of marriages between Korean men and foreign wives end in divorce, compared to 13% for Korean women with foreign husbands, and only 6% for Korean couples.

Economic challenges and cultural misunderstandings can contribute to the higher divorce rates and difficulties faced by couples in these marriages.

The following table illustrates the distribution of foreign spouses by country in 2020:

Country (Women’s foreign husbands) Cases % Country (Men’s foreign wives) Cases %
United States 1,101 25.9 Vietnam 3,136 28.2
China 942 22.2 China 2,524 22.7
Canada 257 6 Thailand 1,735 15.6
Japan 135 3.1 Japan 758 6.8
Others 1,806 42.5 Others 1,873 16.8
Total 4,241 100 Total 11,100 100

These figures underscore the complexities and evolving nature of marriage in a globalized Korean society.

The Changing Landscape of Love and Marriage

The institution of marriage has undergone significant transformations, particularly in the context of love and individual choice. As society has evolved to prioritize individual choice, emotional connection, and equality, the traditional concept of marriage as a binding contract has been redefined. In South Korea, the emergence of “love” marriage signifies a shift from arranged unions to those based on mutual affection.

The acceptance of love marriages in South Korean society illustrates a broader trend towards embracing personal happiness and compatibility over traditional familial obligations. This transition is not without its complexities, as it intersects with changing social norms and economic considerations.

  • The rise of love marriages over arranged ones
  • Greater emphasis on emotional bonds
  • The influence of global cultural trends
  • The balance between tradition and personal autonomy

The landscape of love and marriage continues to evolve, reflecting the dynamic interplay between tradition and modernity.

Challenges and Criticisms of Arranged Marriages

Arranged Marriages indian couple


Human Rights Concerns and Child Marriage

The United Nations has unequivocally categorized child marriage as a violation of human rights, identifying it as a practice that undermines the dignity and development of young individuals.

Instruments like the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination of Women (CEDAW), the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights collectively form a robust international framework against child marriage.

Child, early, and forced marriage occurs for a number of reasons, including gender inequality, poverty, insecurity, and tradition. These marriages often result in severe repercussions, including hindering education, increasing health risks, and perpetuating poverty.

In 2013, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution against child, early, and forced marriages, pledging to eliminate the practice as part of the global development agenda.

While international law condemns the practice of child marriage, it is crucial to approach existing child marriages with sensitivity. The aim should not be to align the regulation of these marriages strictly with the age of marriage, but to consider the complex social and economic factors at play.

The following points highlight the primary causes identified by the United Nations Population Fund:

  • Poverty and economic survival strategies
  • Gender inequality
  • Sealing land or property deals or settling disputes
  • Control over sexuality and protecting family honor
  • Tradition and culture
  • Insecurity, particularly during war, famine, or epidemics

The Debate Over Forced Versus Consensual Unions

The distinction between arranged and forced marriages is a subject of intense debate. Arranged marriages are not inherently coercive, as they often involve the free and full consent of both parties. However, the line between consent and coercion can be blurred by cultural expectations and familial pressure.

In many societies, the legal framework seeks to protect individuals from forced marriages. For instance, in the United Kingdom, any act that leads someone under the age of 18 into marriage is considered forced and unlawful. The government provides support through entities like the Forced Marriage Unit.

The challenge lies in ensuring that all marriages are entered into with genuine consent, free from any form of pressure or manipulation.

Efforts to prevent forced marriages are widespread, with organizations and governments advocating for the rights of individuals to make their own marital choices. The United Nations explicitly states that child marriage is always a forced marriage, as children are incapable of giving informed consent.

Efforts Towards Eradicating Harmful Practices

Efforts to eradicate harmful practices such as child marriage are multifaceted, involving a shift in social norms and the empowerment of young girls. Organizations worldwide are working tirelessly to change community perceptions and support girls’ education.

Economic opportunities for girls and their families are being promoted as alternatives to marriage, addressing financial constraints and limited employment options. Programs that combine these approaches have been found to be the most effective.

  • Association for the Treatment and Prevention of Sexual Abuse
  • Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command
  • Jewish Community Watch
  • National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
  • Prevention Project Dunkelfeld
  • The Awareness Center
  • Tzedek
  • United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Sale and Sexual Exploitation of Children

While international law categorizes child marriage as a harmful practice, existing child marriages require a different regulatory approach, one that does not solely focus on the age of marriage but also considers the complex socio-economic factors involved.


In conclusion, the tradition of arranged marriages is a complex tapestry woven from historical, cultural, and socio-economic threads. From the intricate practices of pre-modern Korea to the persistent concerns over social status and economic survival, arranged marriages have evolved yet maintained their significance across various societies.

Factors such as family honor, tradition, and the consolidation of powerful familial alliances continue to influence the prevalence of arranged unions. Despite the modern era’s emphasis on individual choice, arranged marriages remain a testament to the enduring power of traditional values and the adaptability of cultural practices in the face of changing times.

As we have seen, the reasons behind arranged marriages are deeply rooted and multifaceted, reflecting the diverse contexts in which they persist. Understanding these reasons is crucial for a nuanced appreciation of the delicate balance between tradition and modernity in marital customs around the world.


What historical factors have influenced the practice of arranged marriages?

Arranged marriages have been influenced by a variety of historical factors, including the need to secure political ties, display wealth, and maintain family honor. Traditionally, marriages were often arranged by matchmakers, and practices varied significantly between social classes and cultures.

How do cultural and social norms impact arranged marriages?

Cultural and social norms play a significant role in arranged marriages, with factors such as gender inequality, family honor, religious customs, and the stigma of being unmarried influencing the practice. Social pressures can lead families to arrange marriages to protect their status and adhere to traditional values.

What are the economic reasons behind the continuation of arranged marriages?

Economic reasons such as poverty, bride price, dowries, and the financial burden of supporting unmarried adult children can drive families to arrange marriages. These marriages are sometimes seen as economic survival strategies, especially in communities where resources are scarce.

How have arranged marriages adapted to modern influences?

Arranged marriages have adapted to modern influences by incorporating global elements into ceremonies, accepting marriages between different cultures, and evolving attitudes towards love and partnership. These adaptations reflect a blend of tradition and contemporary values.

What are the human rights concerns associated with arranged marriages?

Human rights concerns related to arranged marriages include child marriage, lack of consent, and the potential for forced unions. Efforts are being made to eradicate harmful practices by promoting the rights of individuals to choose their partners and by raising the legal marriageable age.

Are there efforts to change the practice of arranged marriages?

Yes, there are efforts to change the practice of arranged marriages, particularly in addressing child marriage and forced unions. Organizations and governments are working to promote education, raise awareness, and implement laws to protect the rights of individuals and encourage consensual marriages.