While there are many religions that practice arranged marriages, the Christian denominations do not. However, throughout history, it was not uncommon for European nobility and aristocratic Christian families to arrange marriages for their sons and daughters. These unions often had political ramifications. However, modern Christians are able to choose their own spouses and marry for love.
Cultures that Practice Arranged Marriage
Arranged marriages are common in the Middle East, India, Asia and parts of Africa. The arrangements might be made by the bride and groom's family or a matchmaker. Individuals from the same social class are paired together and a dowry is exchanged. In some cultures, the bride and groom do not spend time alone before the wedding. This is to ensure their chastity. Both parties must approve of the marriage for it to be considered legal.
The Difference Between Forced Marriage and Arranged Marriage
If the bride or groom do not give their consent to the arrangement, but are married anyway, this is known as a forced marriage. The United Nations, in its Universal Declaration of Human Rights, says: "Forced marriage is a violation of internationally recognised human rights standards. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." Child marriage, though practiced by some cultures, is also considered forced marriage and is illegal in many countries. The definition of "child" and the age of consent varies.
Arranged Marriages of European Aristocracy
Since the time of the Roman emperors, royals and members of the aristocracy have encouraged intermarriage to strengthen the bonds between countries and increase a family's social standing. Arranged marriages were the norm for the Christian kings and queens of Europe, as well as for the daughters and sons of the nobility. These weddings were often forced but were seen as necessary for preserving the social hierarchy and purity of aristocratic blood. This practice led to some examples of cousin-marriage and inbreeding.
Arranged Marriages in the Modern Christian Church
Although many Christian churches take a stand on the subject of forced marriage, they are largely silent concerning arranged marriages between consenting parties. Some extreme Mormon-based sects in various states have been known to practice child marriage, but the state governments intervened. In 2008, Texas Child Protection Services carried out a raid and took 401 children from a polygamist compound in Eldorado, Texas. This group and other fundamentalist organizations are not recognized by the Mormon Church.
- Visage/Stockbyte/Getty Images