Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marriage: Arranged By Whom?

Narelle here. My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. As usual, our kids dug out the old VCR tape of our wedding (which we need to transfer to DVD before the tape breaks!) and their questions started: Who’s this person? Where do they live? Our light hearted, fun viewing became deadly serious when we’re asked to explain the current location of the deceased wedding guests on the tape.

I've been married for more than a third of my life. Like all couples, we’ve had our share of ups and downs, dealt with the external pressure of work, kids, extended family etc. We’ve hung in there during the tough times. I look back and I’m thankful I made a good decision when I accepted my husband’s romantic marriage proposal. After lunch at a gorgeous restaurant on the beach, he proposed, bending down on one knee in the sand.

Not long ago I met a young woman who was about to fly home to get married. Her Asian homeland has different cultural values to the western society I live in. Her parents arranged the marriage and she hadn’t yet met her fiancĂ© in person. For those of us who live in the western world, this concept is foreign, possibly horrifying and is reminiscent of a plot line in an historical romance novel. To her credit, this young woman respected her parent’s decision, accepted their choice of husband and was determined to make the best of her marriage.

In progressive western societies, our right to choose our life mate is held in high esteem. Yet, as time goes on the divorce rates climbs and more relationships break down. I realize that cultural and religious values make divorce an untenable outcome for many couples in arranged marriages, but I assume many, quite possibly the majority of these couples, are satisfied with their relationships.

Which makes me wonder, do our parent’s know best? Are our parents, who have lived longer than us and maybe learned life’s lessons the hard way, better equipped to choose our life partner? Did your parent’s influence your decision regarding your choice of a spouse?

Marriage of convenience is a classic plot line in the romance genre. Do you like reading books set in foreign lands that explore different cultural traditions? Have you recently read a book that draws on the unique cultural heritage of the country where the story is set? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Narelle Atkins writes contemporary inspirational romance. She resides in Canberra, Australia with her husband and children. She can also be found around the inkwell at the Inkwell Inspirations blog. To learn more about Narelle, please visit her website.


  1. Congratulations on your wedding annisversary, Narelle, and you made me shiver at all those precious videos we too should somehow get tranferred to DVDs.
    Yes, I rather like romance novels set in different cultures but not too sure about arranged marriage themes in romance novels. I have read some, especially historicals and including by Georgette Heyer. Some like hers do work but others? Not always for me!

  2. You raise interesting questions which I too have pondered. Having lived and taught for 15 years in a 'foreign' culture I admit I don't look at arranged marriages with the horror some people do since I've had several friends who were most content and happy with their marriages. One reads terrible things of course but that's the disaster end of the spectrum- a lot of people are happy enough and their concerns are the same as a western marriage- interfering mothers in law, husband late for dinner, who to invite to play with their children...Its a topic which interests me, as you can tell, but I truly think there are no universal rights and wrongs in this.

  3. I don't know if mail order brides were common in Australia, Narelle, but they certainly were in Canada. A little different from arrangement marriages in that both the bride and groom had a mind to marry and needed a partner. Each could cancel the arrangement when they met face to face, but most carried through with the wedding. Usually the man came from Western Canada where women were scarce, and advertised for a bride in a major newspaper. Many adventurous young women took this means of finding a husband and starting a new life away from the restrictions of more populous areas.

  4. Thanks, Mary :-) I think it's more difficult to use the marriage of convenience plot in a contemporary romance than in a historical romance. Some historical periods eg. regency lend themselves more easily to this type of story because of the nature of society in that time period. And I haven't seen many contemporary marriage of convenience romances in the Christian market.

  5. Heckety, thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences of friends living in arranged marriages. BTW, I recently met up with the young woman I mentioned in my post. She's very happy and her wedding photos (wearing the traditional dress of her homeland) were stunning :-)

  6. Alice, I don't think mail order brides were as common here as in Canada and the US. Mail order brides are a fascinating part of your history and I'm not surprised many North American historical romances include mail order bride stories :-)

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