I Was Married Off In An Arranged Marriage At 21 — By Choice

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What It’s Like to Get into a Modern Arranged Marriage
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I got into an arranged marriage when I was 21.

Yes, it was too early, especially for modern Indian standards, but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. 

In retrospect, I don't recall why I accepted when my parents said they would start searching for a groom for me. Was it because all my friends were in relationships? Or was it because my immature brain thought dating could be fun?

I'm not sure but today, I can say it was the best decision I've ever made.

Apparently, according to my horoscope (Kundali for Hindus), the years 2021–2022 were the best years for me to get married — and if I didn’t get married during those years, I could face complications in the future.

My parents were hell-bent on not starting the marriage process but because my grandfather was an astrologer, my family vehemently believed in horoscopes for as long as I can remember. And my grandfather had a history of accurate astrology predictions.

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So my mom decided to take the marriage plunge, somehow convincing my father along the way.

Initially, the courtship process was not serious, and my mother only created my dating account on an Indian matrimony site (think: a Tinder equivalent for arranged marriages) to peruse the prospects.

I had set strict rules initially (in addition to my parent’s expectations), so the shortlisting process was quite stringent. My rules were:

  1. No age difference of more than four years
  2. Has to have settled in Bangalore, India, my hometown
  3. I needed a year to get to know him before I married
  4. He had to be okay with me being a working woman

I prided myself on my career. (And if you’re curious as to why this would even be an issue, many Indian men specify they don’t want their wives to work after they get married.)

After about four months of casual searching, my parent's found a guy who fit the criteria and sent his horoscope to my grandfather for matchmaking. 

My mother was ecstatic to proceed once the horoscope matched since it meant his family was good enough for their daughter, plus our family had common connections with his. (Many families in India have gotten into problems when giving their daughters away to unknown families. The man may whisk the girl off somewhere abroad and end up torturing her for dowry. My parents were paranoid because of that.)

While my future was panning out under the watchful eyes of my parents, I was going through my college placements and projects. In fact, I had explicitly informed my parents not to involve me in the background processes since I was okay with meeting my suitor once he met all their list of requirements.

Once I met him in person, I couldn't believe how comfortable I felt with him.

We had three more meetings before I said “yes” to his proposal.

During one of our meetings, I took a huge list of questions to ask my potential husband and ticked them off one-by-one.

The questions helped a ton since I didn't have all the time in the world to go through the usual dating process. Though he was shocked (and possibly mortified) looking at the sheer number of questions I had for him, he seemed honest throughout my questioning.

I still couldn’t decide whether this was the man I wanted to marry and the pressure was mounting from both sides. In India, most couples are only allowed to meet once with families before the approval, and here I was, taking almost two weeks! 

Oh, God! What would people say?

My parents were always supportive of my decision, though, and handled everyone in my family and his. But two things my mom said always stayed with me. She said to make sure that:

  1. The boy ticks all of my expectations.
  2. I was comfortable in his presence.

She also told me it was impossible to ever get to know a person completely, even after years of staying with them. (Apparently, she still cannot figure out my dad after 25 years of marriage.)

I could not find any fault with this potential match. So after a call — in which I made sure there would be no hindrance in me achieving my career ambitions and after us both making a promise that we would be supportive of each other—  I accepted his proposal. (I could always get back to my parents and blame them for the choice if the marriage failed, I figured.)

RELATED: 3 Things Arranged Marriages Get RIGHT About Finding True Love

After I accepted his proposal, everything was a blur.

I had met him on March 5, and the engagement date was fixed for May 27. Preparations began. Two days after the engagement, I had my final exams, so I was busy preparing for them and only taking part in the engagement prep work when required. 

At the same time, background checks were happening. My parents tried to dig up as much information as possible about my future husband and his family to ensure that they were marrying their daughter off to a good man.

After two months of continuous searching, they felt content with their choice.  On my end, I tried to get to know him better. We called each other and texted while I was finishing college.

None of my friends knew I was getting married since I was afraid of the judgment I would face. Usually, women in the city get married at 24-25, and it was highly uncommon to get married so early. It felt like I was living two lives —one  in college and one outside. 

With the engagement now over, I finished my exams, managing to score just enough to keep up my GPA. Then theoretically, I had a 1.5 months break before my job started on July 25th.

Except it wasn’t a break at all.

I was whisked off to tour to all my relative's places. I hadn’t visited any of them for a long time due to college and school commitments, so I had to meet them before my next phase of life began. 

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Work began. I was exhausted by my new career and its commute, but I tried to meet with my fiancé in the evenings to decide on the house, furniture, expenses, and future wedding decisions.

It was only later I realized my situation wasn’t typical in Indian culture. Hardly any other woman I knew spent so much time with their future husband before the Big Day.

My parents said my relationship was practically unheard of: usually, brides get a maximum of 5 to 6 months before marrying their husbands. My parents had to fight to give me one year to get to know my partner.

Knowing my husband before marriage was even more crucial for me to be comfortable enough with him. 

After all, I did not want to marry a stranger, and at the same time, I truly believed in the institution of arranged marriage. I had seen how it had worked first-hand within my family and friends and also witnessed love marriages — what you're probably familiar with, where two people choose each other and fall in love, etc. — failing for various reasons.

I was intent on finding someone whose cultural values matched mine since I didn't want to give up my traditions, especially for another person. 

I married my husband on Jan 27, 2019, approximately 11 months after meeting each other.

On my wedding day, I could only see my parent's bright smiles around me, proud of how much their daughter had grown. 

Looking back, I’m grateful my family prioritized my requirements. I know many of you might consider arranged marriage a duty, but what you may not realize is that many young women in India and worldwide are forced into this institution — and never have a say at all in who they'd like their future husband to be.

At least I had a choice. I had standards. I had requirements.

I am truly fortunate, and I value my marriage today and my husband and I are very happy.

Today, as I gradually try to transition as a writer from my corporate job, I still have my parents and husband's full career support.

Is my life what a modern arranged marriage looks like? I don’t know. But I’m grateful for the man — and life — I've been given.

RELATED: What 7 Years In An Arranged Marriage Taught Me About True Love

Shruthi Sundaram is a travel and social issues writer, passionate about inspiring people through her words.