India’s arranged marriage culture became the source of international attention thanks to Netflix’s controversial hit Indian Matchmaking. But while the rest of the world may have been fascinated by the “foreign” phenomena, the majority of Indian married couples are the result of unions facilitated by their families.
While Indian culture can be heavily stratified by religion, caste, and ethnicity, arranged marriages—at least those that take place within these divisions—are favored by nearly every group. An overwhelming 93 percent of couples said that their marriage was an arranged marriage, according to a 2018 survey of 160,000 households.
Arranged marriages broadly encompass situations where the parents only introduce the bride and groom to each other and either person can decline the match to situations, more common in rural contexts, where neither party can opt out.
Christianity Today spoke to eight Indian Christian married couples: four in love marriages and four in arranged marriages. Husbands and wives weighed in on the following questions:
· What do you envy most about the other kind of marriage?
· What role has your faith played in sustaining your marriage?
· What type of marriage do you want for your children?
Monica and Amit Chand, married 19 years
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh
Monica: I envy the element of surprise and excitement that is missing in a love marriage.
The more I invite God into my life and marriage, the more he takes control of my life. There have been difficult times and trials in our marriage, and I see that God was there all along. The more I seek him, I see him more clearly.
I advocate that my children go for love marriage and have a developed understanding of each other before they enter into marriage. I do insist that they marry according to God’s will.
Amit: I envy that couples in arranged marriages get to know each other after marriage, thus the novelty of their relationship would be longer.
Christianity is a unique and beautiful faith, and the attraction and adoption of it have been a core part of our marriage since Monica coming in from a non-Christian background.
No, I don’t insist on anything for the kids, because I don’t know what God’s plan is for them. I can only pray that they be led by God into whatever he finds perfect for them.
Koki and Johnny Desai, married 42 years
Marriage counselors, Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Koki: I am very happy with my love-cum-arranged marriage [where the couple choose each other and reveal their liking for each other to their parents/elders and the family gets them married]. Seeking God's will was my priority before I said yes to Johnny.
With Jesus Christ as the active partner and a close friend in our marriage, we have thoroughly enjoyed our marriage. He has been a solution, solace, comfort, counselor, guide, and guardian to us. I wonder how people manage without God.
We gave our three daughters the freedom of choice and decision for their own marriages. We taught them that most importantly they needed to be born again and please God in every decision of their life, may it be career, marriage, or whatsoever. We are happy they chose to bring God in their lives
Johnny: Even though I proposed [to my parents that I marry] Koki, we fasted for 75 days (only taking a single meal) and prayed to get confirmation from God. I believe marriage must have both love and arrangement of honoring healthy culture.
Marriage does not just involve biological, physical, social issues; it has a spiritual component as well. Jesus makes all the difference. He teaches and enables us [to have] love and forgiveness and grace.
Whether arranged or love, unless a person knows Jesus, he or she is not ready for marriage.
Angela and Rohit Mathew, married 21 years
St. John the Baptist Church, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh
Angela: I don’t envy as such, but the one difference is that one enters an arranged marriage without too many expectations. One learns about the other gradually, and people tend to be more accommodating and cooperative. Getting to know each other and growing together in love slowly would be a great experience too.
Our faith is the center of our marriage. We both always turn to God—in good times and bad times. When we are faced with questions or decisions, we seek God’s guidance.
I really do not advocate a particular kind of marriage, either love or arranged. For my own child I pray that God’s will be done in her life and that he reveals to her the life partner he has chosen for her. I always remember my parents covering me in their prayers for this, and I do the same for her. I pray for God’s will, God’s way, and God’s timing for my child’s marriage.
Rohit: I do not envy anything, to be honest. I don’t think I am missing anything in my love marriage.
My faith has cultivated in me patience and understanding in my marriage. I understood that every relationship needs time and when you give it the necessary time, things fall in place.
As parents we have told our child to see the good in a person. We have tried to explain that in relationships there are some adjustments that need to be made. So whosoever the child chooses as a partner—all we have asked for is that they be of the faith and a good human being.
Salome and Philip Yalla, married 9 years
Salome: Christ is the core of our marriage. He holds us when we feel limited to hold on to each other. He helps us think of the other’s best, sacrificially serve the other. Marriage is God’s means to sanctify us, and it has deepened our bond and our love for each other. We love being partners in ministry and working with people together as a couple. Our faith touches almost every realm in our marriage.
As marriage counselors, we encourage couples who are considering marriage (love or arranged) to walk through premarital counseling where they have the opportunity to get to know each other and develop a common understanding of each other. It isn’t possible to fully know who you’re marrying and have a full understanding of what marriage means before getting married. But having that initial time to begin the process is helpful. We encourage them to see the larger purpose of marriage—as being a process through Christ’s sanctifying means for us—and to stay turned to each other and constantly walk in repentance and forgiveness.
Philip: I don’t necessarily envy arranged marriage. Though most of the getting to know each other and growing in love has happened after marriage, however, I do feel that love marriages with a significant courtship period can have a slight advantage over arranged marriages.
I would encourage other Christians and my children to take a similar route like mine and to use courtship less for “checking compatibility” and more for cultivating a deep friendship and choosing to love the other person well. I see an extra bit of beauty in starting this journey before the relationship is formalized, however, not to discount the unique beauty of beginning this journey with “I do.”
In our case, the journey of fostering a beautiful marriage came with its own joys and challenges, given our unique set of strengths and brokenness. If not for trusting in the redemptive power of the gospel, I can’t imagine growing and thriving in our marriage, particularly when we pass through dark times.
Sara Chonghoikim and Lalditsak Inbuon, married 26 years
Sara: My marriage was arranged by my church leaders. I did not want to pursue relationships outside of God’s Word and will. However, like everybody else there were many challenges in my marriage too. Sometimes I feel [that] being in a relationship before marriage, getting to know each other well, and then entering a marriage would have been much better.
I married by faith; I move forward by faith; I take my vows very seriously. Whatever challenges there are, I look to God and his Word for a solution. Amazingly, God is more than enough for all the challenges. When we honor God, when we honor our marriage, God has many ways to solve our problems.
I am not sure what I would advocate. … It depends on their spiritual maturity. The decision I made may not apply to them. But whatever the case, a believer must know and follow what God says a believer must do. Whether arranged or love marriage, they must honor God and include God in their marriage.
Lalditsak: I do not envy love marriages, because arranged marriages are the kind of marriages where you seek God’s will first and decide. In a love marriage, you fall in love first and then start to seek God’s will, and once you have already made your choice, your mind is in no way to receive “no” as an answer from the Lord.
I truly believe that it is God who gave me a suitable coworker. But more than my faith, it is God’s grace and his loving care, his faithfulness [that have] sustained my married life.
Anujit Kaur and Vijay Paul Emerson, married 17 years
Anujit: I envy love marriages as couples get to know each other and each other’s weaknesses and strengths before they decide to get married. One has a choice to say no to a person who has vices that you actually cannot live with, like smoking and alcoholism. These vices might stay hidden in an arranged marriage and later result in a shock, thus affecting a marriage.
My Christian faith plays a major role in my marriage. I firmly believe that God has arranged this marriage for us just as God had arranged Eve for Adam, and in low times I remind myself of this.
I am open to either type of marriage for my children. I just want my children to go for a person that God has chosen for them, be it arranged or love.
Vijay: A person who goes for a love marriage gets to choose a partner according to his/her desire. One has the liberty to choose what he really wants in his partner.
My faith in God has always helped me to go through the hard and tough times in my marriage. My faith helps me to stay in the fear of God and carry out my responsibilities with fear. The Holy Spirit compels me to obey the Word of God and to be faithful to the vows I have made.
I will never force my children to arranged marriage. My only desire is that that person should be a believer who loves God and that they should be compatible.
Priya and Jude Prabhu, married 17 years
Dubai, United Arab Emirates (originally from Mangaluru, Karnataka)
Priya: What did I envy from not having a love marriage? I did not get to go on dates like people in love do. I missed the pampering, the gifts, the chocolate, and flowers which girls during courtship get.
Being in an arranged marriage, we had our own struggles, difference of opinions. We are going strong because Christ is the center of our marriage and family. The church we attend and the Word which is preached in the church have strengthened our relationship.
I would suggest my daughters ask for God’s wisdom when choosing their partners. Whether love or arranged, the foremost thing is that their spouse should be a believer and Christ should be the center of their home.
Jude: I envy the feeling of love at first sight, the sleepless nights, the anxiousness to meet your lover the next day. Forgetting everything, you only focus on your beloved. The romance on special days—birthdays or Valentine’s Day.
There are things that you might discover about your partner that you might not like. But when you are embedded in Christ and you consider him the center of your married life, you try to change yourself. Faith teaches us to adjust ourselves and to take care of one another.
Both love and arranged marriages have their pros and cons. It does not matter which one you choose. What is important is that your partner should be rooted in Christ and the parents of the bride and the groom should also be rooted in Christ to have a healthy marriage.
Shilpa and Mohit Singh, married 19 years
Noida, National Capital Region
Shilpa: Arranged marriages are great! I love the surprise element in an arranged marriage. I think one is more patient and less expectant. We give more time to each other, getting to know each other. It is like opening a gift box. With every layer, you discover something new. The only thing I envy about love marriage is the before-marriage romance, meeting in secret, revealing it to families, and the family opposition drama. In my case everything happened in perfect harmony.
Undoubtedly, our Christian faith is the pillar that has kept us together in times of major disagreements, and we tried to follow the biblical rules, which were a guiding force in our marriage. They have helped us to forgive, forget, and love each other.
I would not give preference to arranged marriage over love marriage or vice versa as every single case of marriage is unique depending upon many factors, like family support or opposition, partners’ compatibility, their willingness to adjust and make sacrifices, etc.
Love or arranged, I believe if the rock of marriage is Jesus it will work out. He can mend everything and make it work.
Mohit: The courtship period is something that clearly stands out in a love marriage. Couples know each other, meet each other, and cherish those memories for a lifetime.
God’s faithfulness and his guidance help us to stay united in our thoughts despite the challenges we face. He helps us to make our marriage work and accept with humbleness and thanksgiving that it is his doing. Faith in God and his teaching has helped me to accept the decisions of my better half, and they have helped our marriage incredibly.
I strongly believe that our kids should trust in the counsel of their parents and God to find their life partners and seek his counsel in their married lives.