Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The History of Arranged Marriages

This month, I'm happy to welcome my guest and fellow historical fiction author, Linda Matchett, who wrote this post about arranged marriages.

About twenty years ago when living in the Washington, DC area, I worked at a high-tech firm with a young man from one of the Middle Eastern countries. A handsome man, he caught the attention of more than a few of our single, female employees. However, he was not interested in dating because he was engaged. To a woman he’d never met. As was the custom of his family, his wedding would be the result of an arranged marriage. In the span of a few weeks, he returned to his home country, wed, went on his honeymoon, and came back to work.

Having married my best friend, I had trouble relating to the man’s arranged marriage. But according to several recent news reports, the practice is making a comeback; one article stating that “internet dating has exhausted many people.” Another essay indicates the U.S. divorce rate of 40-50% can’t compare to a rate of less than 4% among arranged marriages.

The concept of arranged marriages goes back thousands of years, and there are plenty of stories in the Bible and other ancient literature about these couples. Fast forward to the 1500s and arranged marriages still occurred, especially among royalty and the upper classes in Europe and Asia. The middle classes elsewhere in the world soon followed as an effort to improve their standing in society.

During medieval times, men were sometimes able to choose their bride, but most marriages were political agreements. Husbands and wives were generally strangers, and if love was involved at all, it came after the wedding. Parents of the bride and groom handled the arrangements, with girls typically in their teens and boys in their early twenties. The bride’s family would present a dowry to the groom. After the “deal” was done, a notice would be posted on the door to the church.

Fast forward 200 years, and arranged marriages continued to be in vogue, and were still handled the same way, with money changing hands after the arrangements were complete. However, rather than marrying only weeks or days after the understanding was put into place, the young couple would “court.” Courting allowed young men and women to meet and socialize at a variety of entertainments, such as church, balls, parties, and friends’ homes. Time getting to know each other often enabled the prospective bride and groom to fall in love.

By the early 1800s, arranged marriages were a thing of the past, with only a small percentage of weddings occurring as a result. However, in the U.S. the phenomenon of mail-order brides became prevalent at this time, once again seeing the union of two people who barely knew each other. The West drew men with the promise of fortune, adventure, and a new beginning. Women saw moving west as a chance for the same thing, literally providing a ticket to a new or better life. With the low ratio of women to men, many western states made a deliberate effort to recruit women by promising them liberal women’s legislation about retaining ownership of property upon marriage, the legal right to initiate divorce, and the ability to vote.

Would favorable laws be a good enough reason for you to marry a stranger?

Linda Shenton Matchett is an author, speaker, and history geek. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, she was born a stone’s throw from Fort McHenry and has lived in historic places all her life. Linda is a trustee for her local public library and a volunteer docent and archivist for the Wright Museum of WWII. 

Website http://www.LindaShentonMatchett.com or Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/LindaShentonMatchettAuthor 

Love’s Allegiance

With most U.S. boys away at war, Rochelle Addams has given up hope of marrying. Then she receives an offer from a distant relative to consider a marriage of convenience. Conscientious objector Irwin Terrell is looking forward to his assignment at Shady Hills Mental hospital. At the arrival of the potential bride his father has selected for him, Irwin's life is turned upside down.

Inspired by the biblical love story of Rebekkah and Issac, Love's allegiance explores the struggles and sacrifices of those whose beliefs were at odds with a world at war.

Purchase Link: https://amzn.to/35ubEKF


  1. It's hard to imagine marrying someone you don't know. Thanks for the interesting post!

  2. Hi Connie: Thanks for stopping by. I can't imagine marrying someone I didn't know. It's hard enough with someone I did know for a long time before we got married. :-)

  3. Hi Linda, Thanks for the great post!

    1. Thanks Marilyn! I appreciate the opportunity to share.

  4. Benazir Bhutto, assassinated Prime Minister of Pakistan, was once asked why she was returning from Oxford University to Pakistan to an arranged marriage. She replied that in the West people marry for love - things often get worse later on. If you have an arranged marriage things can only get better...! She was a great politician.

  5. Thank you for sharing. I wasn't aware of this.