Arranged marriage in the digital world

7 Mins read

Millions of Indians living abroad use matchmaking services and websites to find their ideal life partner, with a shift in how Indians view arranged marriages.

The Indian subcontinent is a mixture of thousands of cultures and traditions. However, the most common one, which has been followed for decades, if not centuries, is the tradition of arranged marriage.

For generations, families in India have been involved in the process of arranged marriages, where two people are brought together by their parents, through familial connections or friends.

There are two ways arranged marriages take place; through friends of your parents and their families or professional matchmakers.

When the internet became more accessible in India, many matrimonial sites opened up to help provide matchmaking services online such as and (‘jeevansathi’ translates to ‘life-partner’ and ‘shaadi’ loosely translates to ‘wedding’).

Today, most arranged marriages take place through matrimonial websites, and a key difference between arranged marriages then and now is the extent to which parents are involved.

Until the 1980s-90s, parents were heavily involved in their children’s marriage and prospects, some couples did not even have a say in whether they wanted to get married.

While this practice is still prevalent in most underdeveloped areas in India, in metropolitan cities and other urban areas parents are slowly surrendering to their children.

Research from 2012 shows that 74% of youth in India prefer arranged marriages. For single Indians living abroad, consulting matchmakers is one of the few ways to meet people with similar backgrounds. 

Shekhar Deshmukh*,29, who has lived in Chicago for seven years now, says meeting people through matrimonial sites is more convenient, as there are not many Indians around him.

“I have been actively using matrimonial sites ( & caste-specific matchmaking services) since 2019, and it has been the only way I have been able to meet people of similar socio-cultural backgrounds.” 

For Maharashtrians (from the state of Maharashtra), Anuroop is one of the most well-known matchmaking services. Anuroop was founded in 1975 by Mrs Anjali Kanitkar as a marriage bureau, personally consulting people looking for partners. Now an online business, it is run by her daughter-in-law and grandsons.

Talking about how Anuroop deals with clients living outside India, Tanmay Kanitkar, a director there, said: “It is a bit different. For younger people living away from home, their expectations are more related to the lifestyle of the other person and how they can grow together since there is less interference from the parents and minimal concern about caste and economic background.”

There is an overall positive outlook when it comes to matchmaking services for Indian ex-pats [Unsplash: Pablo Heimplatz]

Using a matrimonial site is fairly similar to dating apps. “To register an account with us, it will be almost like Bumble and Tinder, but we ask more in-depth questions, about your lifestyle, your family, what your expectations are from a partner. Once your profile is created, you will be able to search for the kind of people that you want, through filters. You can choose their location, religion, caste etc,” explained Tanmay.

Though arranged marriage has existed for centuries, it is noticeable that many young people today are dating and finding a partner by themselves. In big cities and urban areas, people can openly date without it becoming a topic of discussion.

Dating, as a concept, is very new to India, and most of the credit for this goes to dating apps. Someone having a “love marriage” used to be discussed in whispers over tea. Now, most urban parents would prefer if their son or daughter sought a match of their own. 

“When I was a teenager, or even during my higher studies, my parents were very strict about dating or having a boyfriend. It was simply not allowed. In school, for some reason, there was a lot of shaming associated with having a boyfriend, mostly from parents and older people. So suddenly when I started working my parents started asking me if I like someone, or if there is someone I want to marry, it’s just confusing! You never let me date and now you ask me if I am seeing someone!” says Sanika*, a 27-year-old living and working in London.

Love marriages have been taking place for years but are slightly more normalised today. If you look at the definition of arranged marriage, it says the parents, or individuals other than the couple, meet and decide if they will marry or not.

There is almost no involvement of the two people getting married, and all the decision-making is done by someone else. Over the years, this has gradually changed, and the process has opened up to the choices of young people rather than their families.

 A “semi-arranged” marriage, the most common practice today, is when the couple meets outside a formal setting, without the presence of their families.

Simply put, the couple can date each other and get to know each other before deciding if they want to take it forward or not. This process can take weeks or months.

Prakruti and Avinash* met through a matrimonial site before getting married in 2016. “I was using Anuroop for over two years before I met him. He was living in Australia, so most of our conversations were online or on the phone. After we were introduced, within 6-8 months we had gotten married. For me, it was never about it being an arranged marriage or a love marriage. Any marriage can work if you have respect for each other and each other’s work and personal space.”   

Love marriages might have been a rare occurrence before, but it has become more common. An arranged marriage has become something of a last resort for youngsters.

Varsha* (27) says “Initially I was a little embarrassed that it had to come to this. It took me a few months to accept it and embrace the process. I live alone, in another country, and I am not surrounded by that many Indians. I do want to get married and settle down, so I realised this is the only way for me now. It is also easier that the people I meet will already be screened before, as Anuroop does an identity check and background check of sorts. 

“For my family, and I think most families in India, marrying within the same caste and community is very important. Since I live in a different country, it is tough to find people who fit that criteria. It is great that I’m surrounded by so many people of different backgrounds and cultures, but at the end of the day, when it comes to finding a partner I want someone who understands me and my upbringing, my culture, traditions etc.,” says Sanika.

“Matrimonial sites just make it easier for people like me, who are living outside India, since you get more options to choose from. It’s convenient because it’s not enough just to find someone from the same community, you also have to get along with them and be able to see a future with them.”  

Tanmay Kanitkar agrees. “That is part of what we do as well. Getting in touch with similar people, so you don’t have to feel like you are compromising. We host regular networking events across different countries. It is kind of like speed dating, so the parents are not at all involved, and the client gets more liberty in who they engage with.

“At the end of the day, we want what is best for our clients, and we are there to help them in any way we can. This process can be mentally taxing and younger people can have a few misconceptions about it, which come in the way of them giving in to the process and making the most of it, so we also offer counselling sessions with professionals to help them get through these hurdles.” 

Arvind* (29) lives in Manchester and has been active on matchmaking websites for over two years. He says “It is very tiring. I go through so many profiles every day, and out of them the two or three that I like and start conversations with, still end up going nowhere.

“Everything happens so fast, and you have to make decisions very quickly. You have the same conversations with so many people in such a short amount of time, and it takes a toll on you.”

Similar to dating app burnout, users of matrimonial websites also state that using the service for a long period of time can lead to mental exhaustion.

Varsha says “It is a very time-consuming process. After a point, self-doubt begins to creep in, because you have been on it for so long and still have not managed to find someone. I have had conversations with a lot of people, out of which I ended up meeting only a few substantial matches, but even that did not work out. It is very stressful, and the pressure on you only increases the longer it takes.” 

“Matrimonial sites just make it easier for people like me, who are living outside India, since you get more options to choose from.”


Despite the persisting problems, there is an overall positive outlook when it comes to matchmaking services. There have been an uncountable number of matches made through professional matchmakers, and this practice is part of a strong foundation of the institution of marriage in the Indian community.

As the needs and expectations of young people change, these services need to make similar changes and approach arranged marriages in a more modern and open manner.

“I do believe that it works, I have grown up seeing happy arranged marriages around me, and while there are issues that go much deeper in the country, it depends on your approach to the process. If I am sure of what I want in a partner and stand by that, it is only a matter of time before I meet that person,” says Sanika. 

Ultimately, what matters most is that people find the love and companionship they desire, be it “organically,” through dating apps, or matchmaking professionals. Today, young people want to respect traditions and culture when they find their match.

Arranged marriages today are a balance between tradition and modernity. Millions of Indians migrate to other countries every year, and Indians comprise the world’s largest diaspora.

For Indian ex-pats, matrimonial sites and matchmaking services are a way of meeting like-minded people, and seeking a partner in them that they believe would be difficult to find otherwise.

In 2023, WHO (World Health Organisation) declared that there is a loneliness epidemic. There is also a severe lack of work-life balance among youngsters. Humans are social creatures, and we need other humans to lead a content and happy life.

After the COVID-19 lockdowns, more people feel the need for companionship. In the long run, does it matter if you meet someone “organically” or in an arranged setup? So much pressure has been put on meeting people naturally, that there is a sense of embarrassment in using other methods.

“The funny part of this is, my parents are a love match! It isn’t that they forced me into this or anything. There have been a number of love marriages in my family, and we are very open-minded about it, but even my parents want me to find someone soon and settle down, so a couple of years ago I decided to give this a chance.” Varsha says.

“It has been tiring, but it has also helped me connect with great people, regardless of whether it worked out with them or not, so I do still have hope.” 

* Different names used for the people, as per request to keep them anonymous

Featured image by Jayesh Jalodara via Unsplash.

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