How We Love Now
Long-distance relationships, office romances, and marriages arranged online are new items on the romance menu.
The Internet Changes Arranged Marriages continued...
Before the Internet, when a son or daughter of Indian descent was ready to
marry, parents often looked for a suitable match through relatives and
matchmakers. Some families used marriage bureaus that screen candidates in
person and then make introductions for a fee. Another popular route: placing
classified newspaper ads.
But in roughly the past decade, many Indian matrimonial sites have appeared,
such as Suitablematch.com, Shaadi.com, Indianmatrimony.com, and
BharatMatrimony.com. The sites enable people to search for specific attributes
in a mate, including religion, caste, language, education, and
The sites aren't labeled dating sites, although in practice, some people use
them as such. Instead, they are marketed as marriage sites, which are more
culturally acceptable to conservative Indian communities.
One U.S.-based site, Suitablematch.com, was launched in Massachusetts in
1996. Its founder was an Indian father, Narain Bhatia, whose daughters had
reached marriageable age.
But parents actually post only 5% of profiles, with sons and daughters
posting the rest, says Suitablematch.com president Bharat Manglani. At another
site, Shaadi.com, parents in the U.S. write 10% of profiles, compared with 35%
in India, says Vineet Pabreja, Shaadi's general manager for North America. When
parents assume the lead, they vet the candidates before the young people
While such arranged marriages still exist among Indian-Americans, they're
becoming the exception, not the rule, Pabreja says. The sites are creating a
power shift between parents and children -- a blending of Old World and
The sites allow offspring to write their own profiles and to search actively
on their own behalf. Furthermore, they can choose their own spouse from a much
larger pool than a local matchmaker or well-connected auntie can produce.
It's a change that Indian parents, whose own marriages were typically
arranged, are learning to accept, Pabreja says.
"In the U.S. and Canada, parents -- observing the way the American
system works -- have come to accept the fact that they may not always have the
final decision in whom their kids intend to marry. There will be a select group
of parents who will still require their children to comply with their
choices," he says. "But what we observe, by and large, they have come
to accept the fact that kids will make their own choices.
"But having said that," he adds, "Indian parents do take a lot
of interest, even though they realize that they may not have the final
decision. They do take a lot of interest in whom their kids are dating and whom
their kids intend to marry, and giving suggestions of all sorts."
Shaadi has made more than 800,000 matches since it began in 1997, Pabreja
At Suitablematch.com, Manglani says, "We've had marriages occur
virtually within a month." But that's unusually fast, he adds. Other
members may meet at least four or five times and marry in three to six