A female hand with henna drawn on top of a male hand with their wedding rings visible
Marriage in India is often seen as a necessary part of life rather than a choice. Credits: Marcus Lewis on Unsplash.

South Asian communities have a long history of forging relationships through marriage to gain higher status, whether monetary or otherwise.

In countries like India, almost every child is taught that marriage is a ticket to society. Marriage is seen as a union of families rather than a union of love. The arrangement, although common practice, is starkly different to the way marriages are treated in Western communities.

The practice of arranged marriage is still quite popular amongst Indian communities globally. However, times are changing. ‘Love’ marriages are becoming increasingly popular.

Sunny Sekhon, 34, a love coach and matchmaker based in the UK says, “I believe it’s because of the freedom that we have more of in the UK. Although our elders still suggest the life paths they’ve led, you still get your own voice to lead a life you want.”

An indian man in a black suit speaking into a microphone
Sunny Sekhon organises matchmaking events for Indians around the world helping them find love. Credits: Sunny Sekhon

93% of married Indians in a 2018 survey of more than 160,000 households stated that their marriage was arranged. Only 3% of people said they had a love marriage, and another 2% said they had a love-arranged hybrid, which typically means that the families set them up and later the couple fell in love and agreed to get married.

Arranged marriage is an ancient culture, especially in India and it has been going on for thousands of years. People consider it a forced marriage which is not true,” says Sima Taparia, a matchmaker, famously known for her Netflix show Indian Matchmaking. 

“After looking at their own criteria, the boy and girl are given time to know one another, there is no force at any time. After four to five months they should speak out if they want to go ahead with the marriage or drop the relationship,” she adds.

“This arrangement has more success as per my experience.”  

An Indian woman in a yellow attire
Sima Taparia is famously known as Sima Aunty among the Indian communities as a nod to matchmaking relatives. Credits: Netflix

Expectations in marriages and romantic relationships have changed among the Indian communities as opposed to previous generations. 

Sunny says, “This is why we’re so lost in this generation. Back then, everything was simpler. My parents or even grandparents had a structure and a set role. Males were generally the providers and the females were popularly the caretakers. That is how they balanced life and it was a beautiful way of being for that time.”

“However, now we have very strong, independent, ambitious individuals of both genders who become unsure of societal roles. As a love coach, that is actually the biggest teaching that I do with these people, is to help them realise, that the level of energy of wanting a partner is a lot greater than needing one.”

“Change is the rule of time. Expectations have changed in marriages and matchmaking. While the current generation has great ambition, it is important for them to find a balance between professional and personal lives,” Sima believes. 

Traditionally, the parents or relatives play matchmakers and take ‘rishtas’ to families they are interested in. Although the word ‘rishta’ translates to relationship, it is more of an offer for a hand in marriage. Along with the ‘rishtas’, they often make a bio-data for their children, essentially a resume of their qualities and qualifications. 

Biodata is required for a piece of initial information about a person. In support of the bio-data, we also need criteria for the kind of partner they want. However one can not get 100% as they desire in a partner and one has to settle for 60-70%,” explains Sima, a championing force behind arranged marriages.

Sunny disagrees, “There are particular driving forces in humans that make up their personality. For example, someone who loves routine will have an incompatible relationship with someone who has a more spontaneous outlook. It is bound to cause a lot of anxiety in the relationship. When it boils down to it, it doesn’t matter whether the bio-data are compatible or not, or whether the kind of criteria in terms of height or looks is met or not, the compatibility lies in who the couple are as humans” 

Marriage doesn’t necessarily mean a union of a heterosexual couple, however, it may be understood so in South Asian communities. South Asian LGBTQ+ members of the community often find themselves being unable to marry their partners, despite same-sex marriage being legal in the United Kingdom due to a cultural belief system.  

“I think it’s still a taboo, within our mindset and within our culture,” Sunny says.