AskDefine | Define prearranged

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prearranged adj : planned beforehand; "a prearranged signal"

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  1. past of prearrange

Extensive Definition

An arranged marriage (also called prearranged marriage) is a marriage arranged by someone other than the persons getting married, curtailing or avoiding the process of courtship. Such marriages are common in the Middle East , and South Asia . Other groups that practice this custom include the Unification Movement, and royal families.
Note that the term "arranged marriage" is used even if the parents have no direct involvement in selecting the spouse. The match could be selected by a matchmaking agent, matrimonial site, or trusted third party. In many communities, priests or religious leaders as well as relatives or family friends play a major role in matchmaking.

Alternate uses of arranged marriage

The pattern of arranged marriage be employed for other reasons beside the formation of a promising new family unit. In such marriages, typically economic or legal reasons take precedence over the goal of selecting a well-matched couple. Though critics are not always specific, criticism of arranged marriage usually targets abuses such as forced marriage and child marriage.
  • In a forced marriage, the parents choose their son's or daughter's future spouse with no input from the son or daughter. This form of arranged marriage is rare in the modern Western world, but not quite as rare in some other parts of the world. Occasionally, even if the son or daughter disapproves of the choice, the marriage takes place regardless, overriding their objections. In some societies, in order to ensure cooperation the parents may threaten the child with punishment, or in rare cases, disinheritance and death. Motivating factors for such a marriage tend to be social or economic, i.e., the interests of the family or community goals served by the marriage are seen as paramount, and the preference of the individual is considered insignificant.
  • In a child marriage, children, or even infants, are married. The married children often live apart with their respective families until well after puberty. Child marriages are typically made for economic or political reasons. In rural India and several other countries, the requirement of providing a dowry for daughters is generally acknowledged to be a contributing factor to female infanticide.
  • In a shotgun wedding, the groom is forced to marry the bride due to unplanned pregnancy (or other reasons). It is given this colloquial name from the traditional method of force used; holding a shotgun to the groom's head until he is married. This can also be classified as a forced marriage. Although it is worth noting that the concept came about before the invention of the shotgun. Laws of Old Testament Israel said that if an unmarried couple engages in extramarital sex the female can force the man to marry her or pay a fine. A reason is never given in the text, but it is likely predicated on the text's specification that the woman was a virgin; no longer being a virgin, it would be difficult for her to find a marriage, and so her sexual partner must marry her to provide for her well-being. Alternatively, it could be based on family honor, i.e. it was shameful for her to have had relations without being married, and it would be all the more shameful if she had a child out of wedlock.
Coercion to marry is commonly considered a violation of fundamental human rights in most Western societies, primarily because of its usurpation of a choice that, in most Western thought, belongs solely to the individuals involved. People can "find themselves stuck in marriages with persons decidedly not of their own choosing... whom they may find personally repulsive."
A further condemnation of the practice of arranging marriage for economic reasons comes from Edlund and Lagerlöf (2004) who argued that a love marriage is more effective for the promotion of accumulation of wealth and societal growth.


Abuses aside, it is ordinarily a fundamental tenet of arranged marriage that the union is a choice made voluntarily by the two people involved.. The main variation in procedure between arranged marriages is in the nature and duration of the time from meeting to engagement.
In an introduction only arranged marriage, the parents may only introduce their son or daughter to a potential spouse. The parents may briefly talk to the parents of the prospective spouse. From that point on, it is up to the children to manage the relationship and make a choice. There is no set time period. This is still common in the rural parts of North America/South America, and especially in India. The same pattern also appears in Japan. This type of arranged marriage is very common in Iran under the name of khastegary. It should be noted that this open-ended process takes considerably more courage on the part of the parents, as well as the prospective spouses, in comparison to a fixed time-limit arranged marriage. Especially women, but also men, fear the stigma and emotional trauma of going through a courtship and then being rejected.
To contrast, a traditional arranged marriage may be finalized in the first meeting. The parents or matchmaker select the pair, there is no possibility of courtship, and only limited conversation between the prospective partners is permitted (while the parents are present); then the prospective partners are expected to decide whether to proceed with the marriage. The parents may exert considerable pressure to encourage the potential bride or bridegroom to agree to the match. The parents may wish the match to proceed because the son or daughter is beginning to engage in courtship (and the parents disapprove of courtship), the parents believe that they know best what kind of partner will make a happy marriage, the parents seek to fulfill the desire for parental control, or for other reasons.
A more moderate and flexible procedure known as a modern arranged marriage is gaining in popularity. Parents choose several possible candidates or employ a Matrimonials Sites. The parents will then arrange a meeting with the family of the prospective mate, confining their role to responsible facilitators and well-wishers. Less pressure to agree to the match is exerted by the parents in comparison to a traditional arranged marriage.
In some cases, a prospective partner may be selected by the son or daughter instead of by the parents or by a matchmaker. In such cases, the parents will either disapprove of the match and forbid the marriage or, just as likely, approve the match and agree to proceed with the marriage. Such cases are distinct from a love marriage because courtship is curtailed or absent and the parents retain the prerogative to forbid the match.

A culture of arranged marriage

In cultures where dating, singles' bars, etc., are not prevalent, arranged marriages perform a similar function--bringing together people who might otherwise not have met. In such cultures, arranged marriage is viewed as the norm and preferred by young adults. Even where courtship practices are becoming fashionable, young adults tend to view arranged marriage as an option they can fall back on if they are unable or unwilling to spend the time and effort necessary to find a spouse on their own. In such cases, the parents become welcome partners in a hunt for marital bliss. Further, in several cultures, the last duty of a parent to his or her son or daughter is to see that they pass through the marital rites.
In some cultures, arranged marriage is a tradition handed down through many generations. Parents who take their son or daughter's marriage into their own hands have themselves been married by the same process. Many parents, and children likewise, feel pressure from the community to conform, and in certain cultures a love marriage or even courtship is considered a failure on the part of the parents to maintain control over their child. The practice of arranged marriage with such thoughts is absolutely unacceptable. In such cultures, children are brought up with these cultural assumptions do not feel stifled. They experience them as natural boundaries. The stratification of society using caste system and its involvement in marriage is often experienced by most of the Indian parents.
Parents in some communities fear social and/or religious stigma if their child is not married by a certain age. Several cultures deem the son or daughter less likely to find a suitable partner if they are past a certain age, and consider it folly to try to marry them off at that stage.
In these societies, including China, the intragenerational relationship of the family is much more valued than the marital relationship. The whole purpose of the marriage is to have a family.

Factors considered in matchmaking

Although matchmaking primarily on an economic or legal basis is harshly criticized, such considerations are often factors of secondary importance and significantly influence the rank order of a potential spouse.
Some of these factors in some order of priority may be taken into account for the purpose of matchmaking:
  • Vocation: For a groom, the profession of doctor, accountant, lawyer, engineer, or scientist are traditionally valued as excellent spouse material. More recently, any profession commanding relatively high income is also given preference. Vocation is less important for a bride but it is not uncommon for two people of the same vocation to be matched. Some preferred vocations for a bride include the profession of teacher, doctor, or lawyer.
  • Wealth: Families holding substantial assets may prefer to marry to another wealthy family.
  • Appearance: There may be a preference that beauty and weight be comparable. In India the bride is expected to be as fair-skinned as possible.
  • Religion: The religious and spiritual beliefs can play a large role in finding a suitable spouse.
  • Pre-existing medical conditions: Two persons with a physical deformity or disability who are otherwise marriageable may be matched.
  • Horoscope: Numerology and the positions of stars at birth is often used in Indian culture to predict the success of a particular match. This is sometimes expressed as a percentage, for example, a 70% match. Horoscope becomes a determining factor is one of the partners is Mângalik (lit., negatively influenced by Mars).
  • Height: Typically the groom should be taller than the bride.
  • Age difference: Typically the groom should be older than the bride.
  • Other factors: City of residence, education level, etc.


Among most Indian Hindus, the hereditary system of caste (Hindi: jâti) is an extremely important factor in arranged marriage. Arranged marriages, and parents, almost always require that the married persons should be of the same caste. China adopted the caste system at least 100 years ago. Sometimes inter-caste marriage is one of the principal reasons of familial rejection or anger with the marriage. The proof can be seen by the numerous Indian marriage websites on the Worldwide Web, most of which are by caste. Even within the caste, there is obligation, followed strictly by many communities, to marry (their son/daughter) outside the gotra (sub-caste or clan). E.g., most Vaishyas (the business/merchant caste) prohibit marriage within the same gotra, because being of the same lineage the spouses would be though of (almost) as brother and sister. It must however be noted that modern India, being a secular democracy, does not prohibit inter-caste or intra-gotra marriage (by the Hindu Marriage Act), but neither does it prohibit the caste system completely (only caste discrimination is prohibited). Caste Associations are still very much legal (sometimes they call themselves by more acceptable names, like samâj, lit., society). Recently, one of such caste associations fined its member (a state legislator) for permitting his son's inter-caste marriage: A Congress MLA from Chhattisgarh had to pay a fine of Rs 24,000 to the community he belongs to following his son’s inter-caste marriage.
On the other hand, many Indian families who consider the caste system as an artificial excuse for social inequity have the opposite preference. They prefer to marry persons of differing caste and tend to avoid matches within the same caste. It is believed that intercaste marriages weaken the caste system and thus reduce social inequality caused by the caste stratification. Such families are also often open to marriages across national borders. But even among them are some families who, if of the upper castes, will not accept marriage with the so-called low castes (like dalits)


In few arranged marriages, one potential spouse may reside in a wealthy country and the other in a poorer country. For example, the man may be an American of Indian ancestry and the woman may be an Indian living in India who will move to America after the marriage. Alternately, the man or woman may be a citizen of the United States of America and the other person is in Russia or another country and is willing to move to the USA after the marriage. The arrangement may be accomplished by a business created for such a purpose.
  • The parents of the wealthy man may feel secure knowing that their son is to marry a person of their own country and traditional culture rather a woman corrupted by Western influences.
  • The parents of the bride hope that their daughter enjoys a higher standard of living.
  • Couples and their parents need not have to cope up with differing cultural and social backgrounds.
  • Couples may be incompatible due to cultural differences. One spouse may retain traditional values while the other spouse has accepted practices of the country he or she is living in.
  • The time window available for the entire process is narrow. Prospective brides must be lined up for a series of meetings when the man is able to take leave to travel to his home country. The decision must be finalized and the marriage registered before he leaves so that visa formalities for his wife can be commenced immediately. Sometimes two or three visits (over as many years) are required to sort out all the legal details.
  • The two parties cannot directly meet without traveling to the other country. The upfront cost increases the pressure to make a decision yet less is known about the prospective mate because of the great distance separating the two.
  • Limited choice: In some cases, the parents may mandate that the bride must originate from their son's home country.

Arguments against Arranged Marriage


Amongst the arguments against arranged marriage, the most prominent are:
  • Arranged marriage may prove loveless. Some people dislike the prospect of being married to someone they do not already love. Partners in an arranged marriage are usually less likely to divorce for cultural reasons, so if the marriage does not work well, it can be a trap, particularly for the female partner, who is often disempowered (socially and economically).
  • Individuals are the best arbiters of their own lives. Arranged marriage can be a great denial of individual rights—of the self. This argument is often rebutted with the substantial asymmetry of knowledge about marriage between the person wishing to get married and the third-party. The parents or matchmaker likely have been married for more than 20 years whereas the person wishing to be married has no experience (at least for a first marriage).
  • In developed countries arranged marriages are often used as a form of colonization. Arranged marriages are often used by people who have not integrated into the host nation as a way to marry and maintain what they see as their culture even though they may be second or third generation descendants of the original immigrants. This can lead to racial tension in the host country.
  • In case of countries like India, arranged marriages almost always encourage the continued existence of the caste system in the society.

Issues common to both arranged and love marriage

  • Although cultures have built several safeguards against fraud (such as the family's reputation being at stake), there are instances where a key fact is left out during the process of the marriage, only to be learned afterwards. An example might be if one of the spouses has a medical condition that is not disclosed before marriage. Although the marriage may not have occurred had that condition been disclosed prior to marriage, it is very difficult to leave afterwards and there may be no legal recourse.
  • Parents and other relatives who have been involved in the marriage arrangements have an emotional investment in the success of the marriage and form a valuable support group to the couple. If there are problems in the marriage, well-meaning elders may intervene to sort things out. Of course, this is a two-edged sword — outside interference can often make things worse between a couple.
prearranged in Spanish: Matrimonio arreglado
prearranged in French: Mariage arrangé
prearranged in Dutch: Huwelijkspolitiek
prearranged in Norwegian: Arrangert ekteskap
prearranged in Portuguese: Casamento arranjado
prearranged in Finnish: Sovittu avioliitto
prearranged in Swedish: Tvångsäktenskap
prearranged in Chinese: 包办婚姻

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

all ready, all set, armed, armed and ready, booted and spurred, briefed, coached, cocked, cooked-up, cut out, cut-and-dried, cut-and-dry, equipped, familiarized, fixed, good and ready, groomed, in arms, in battle array, in readiness, in the bag, in the saddle, informed, loaded, loaded for bear, mature, mobilized, on ice, on the mark, packed, planned, plotted, preconcerted, precontrived, premeditated, preordered, prepared, prepared and ready, prepped, primed, provided, psyched up, put-up, ready, ready for anything, rigged, ripe, schemed, set, set-up, stacked, up in arms, vigilant, well-prepared
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