Arranged Marriage: How Are Promises of a Lifetime Made in One Day?

by Sonakshi Srivastava

I grew up with a mother who constantly wondered what her life would have been if she hadn’t gotten married at 23. What if her college days were spent in Delhi instead of in her own small town? Would the lap of a big city nurture a strong independent woman just like itself?

My mother was meant to go to a renowned college in Delhi but for some reason had to settle for the one which was a bicycle ride away from my grandparents’ home. After she finished her MA and graduated top of her class, the wedding talks started.

I am 23 years old now, and my mother was already married by the time she was as old as I am.

I have heard more about the antics of my oldest cousin on that fateful day when my mother met my father than I have about what my parents said to each other. He was a big-city man with a bank job (stable!), and she was fresh out of college. How are promises of a lifetime made in one day

What made her do it is a question I ask her often, and I think she is still looking for the answer to that question. Her immediate answer to this question and many others that I ask (I can be quite annoying) is that “in those times, things were like that.”

[Read More: ‘A Board Game About Escaping Arranged Marriages Exists and You Need to Play’]

Life is not usually as dramatic as a Bollywood film, so there were no villains in this story who forced my mother against her will, no blackmailing, no cajoling and no drama whatsoever. My grandfather was a respected Hindi poet and teacher who was reluctant to get his only daughter married so young. He asked her if she was happy with the decision and wanted to go forward with the wedding.

My mother sometimes ponders if it was my grandmother’s worry that got to her or was it the lack of exposure to the outside world and opportunities? We both usually jokingly settle on the latter, and she insists that the marriage was ultimately a great idea because she got great offsprings out of it. She did go on to become a strong independent woman in spite of the two abovementioned offsprings and found her strengths, interests, and passions.

From a young age, it appeared to me that the answer to a lot of world’s problems is education, exposure, and opportunities. I believed that poverty, pollution, illiteracy, sexism, classism and a variety of other -isms could be solved through these three essential ingredients. My mother’s experience of arranged marriage made me believe that all a woman needs to do is get a taste of the real, diverse, incredible, complicated, tough world and it would be too hard for her to settle for anything less?

When I was 16, I moved away from India and was constantly barraged with questions about India and arranged marriage; it seems like we have a bit of a global image when it comes to arranged marriage.  My answers were always a combination of cluelessness about marriage (I was 16!) and the Indian middle-class’ despicable tendency to blame everything even slightly “controversial” on the poor. It was always a thing that happened in the past or in the present only the uneducated and unaware resorted to it as they could not afford the organic ingredients of education, exposure and opportunities.

[Read More: Stop Asking me About and Making Me Apologize for Arranged Marriages]

It has been some years since and now marriage does not seem like such a distant reality with the everyday announcement of another classmate or friend getting engaged. Although there is little change in the story that I have heard for the past decade, the girl and the boy (man and woman probably) meet once or twice and decide that they want to spend the rest of their lives together. How are promises of a lifetime made in one day?

These are friends that I studied in school or university, women who I have shared my opinions, hopes, and dreams. Women who have previously acknowledged the absurdity of having to decide on a husband one fine day. My friends can afford the organic ingredients of education, exposure and opportunities, so they have definitely tasted the real world.

Questioning the arrangement of arranged marriages is not necessarily a point on the love marriage side. There are great marriages and terrible marriages on both sides. Yes, arranged marriage has evolved from the bride and groom meeting for the first time on their wedding to some sort of a dating app wherein the family swipes right for you, and then you meet/date that person for the sole purpose of getting married. Perhaps a lot of times, it is an informed decision, and there is nothing wrong in actively seeking companionship for life.

Recently, a friend said that she actively plans on fighting the pressure that she knows will eventually come. In a sense, we all know that pressure is coming so when someone finally decides to go for an arranged marriage, I cannot help but wonder if she made an informed decision or was just tired of all the fighting and finally gave in? Was she looking into the boy’s eyes and falling in love or seeing a reflection of herself as some crazy-cat-lady without him?

Another friend who recently got engaged, mentioned in passing the older girls of the community who did not want to get married when the “time was right” and are now at 28 somehow equivalent to the soggy-brownish, leftover lettuce on the supermarket shelf that nobody wants to buy.

It is this phenomenon of a woman having an expiration date where much of the fear and coercion lies. This is also where the major gender difference lies as men don’t have the same expiration date and are perhaps not as commodified as women (does not mean that there is no pressure on men, just that it is a whole other thing.)

The communities are tight, gossip is plenty, and the options are seemingly limited. So even if you traverse the world and come back to the same smirking aunties and uncles whose foremost adjective for you is unmarried, then it is understandable how mindsets don’t change. Even if you are top of your class but are somehow still bringing shame and worry to your family just by the mere act of being single, then I see why most women take the decision that my mother did. The pressure in our “modernized” Indian society has become implicit rather than explicit.

Irrespective of how the marriage turns out, women often make this decision because they have to and not because they want to. I just wish that someone looked into the eyes of all the old uncles and aunties, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers and asked them, how are promises of a lifetime made in one day?

Sonakshi Srivastava lives and works in Hong Kong. She has a day job and an evening job so she usually writes late at night about the things she loves like animals, books, Bollywood, feminism, TV shows and culture. She can be reached at

By Brown Girl Magazine

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5 Indo Caribbean Vendors to Know This Wedding Season

indo caribbean wedding
Photo Courtesy of DvS Photography NYC

Wedding season is in full swing as the world resets from the coronavirus pandemic that halted mass events for years. Indo Caribbean weddings have rich diversity due to their varying religious and regional intricacies, but are generally large celebrations that require planning, coordination and preparation. Growing up, I was both excited and stunned at the busyness associated with streamlining a multi-day wedding celebration. 

[Read Related: 5 Indo-Caribbean Influencers who Will Spruce up Your Newsfeed]

The vibrant diaspora of first-generation young adults and their families may look to vendors who can understand the nuances of Indo Caribbean weddings.  Below are five Indo Caribbean vendors you need to know about this wedding season!

1. Henna by Anil Tulsi

A self-taught mehndi artist for more than 16 years, Anil Deonarine was fascinated by the delicate, deeply stained details that adorned the hands of Indian actresses and classical dancers. His passion for art inspired him to watch YouTube tutorials and meticulously freestyle designs on his sister’s hands.

Soon after, he began practicing mehndi on himself and perfected his signature designs that drew inspiration from traditional Rajasthani textiles and Arabic floral patterns. Deonarine is also known for his speed, and can craft a flowing, freestyle design in 3-5 minutes without much pre-planning that is symbolic and personalized to the individual.

As a member of the Indo Caribbean, Latino and LGBTQ communities, mehndi was a therapeutic means of growth for Deonarine at the intersection of his identities. With his mother’s aid, he began introducing mehndi to those that celebrate Quinceneras, Noche Buena (Christmas Eve Dinners) and Three Kings’ Day. Within the greater South Asian community, Deonarine frequently applied mehndi on family and friends for weddings/events and participated in cultural events such as holidays.

He initially faced some negative reactions from members of the South Asian community as a male artist, such as being chastised that mehndi is only for women, called slurs and told to stick to traditionally manly activities. However, Deonarine instead focused on bettering his skills, advocating and supporting other male artists, and soon built a loyal and excited clientele that fully supported and accepted him. It is his dream to design mehndi at a queer wedding to further defy stereotypes and champion mehndi’s inclusivity for all, irrespective of race, sexual orientation, religion or gender. 

2. Diana’s Candles 

indo caribbean candles
Soap bars | Photo Courtesy of Diana’s Candles & Soaps

Offering soy candles and natural soaps, Diana Sookram’s products have been used as bridal shower and wedding favors and gifts in bridesmaid, bachelorette and groomsmen boxes.

Sookram began creating natural products in 2016 after her daughter developed respiratory issues from store-bought candles. She fell in love with the creation process and soon began taking small-batch orders from family, friends and co-workers. Now, she is expanding her business through summer networking socials and prepping for mass orders during wedding season by stocking up on top-selling supplies such as small candle jars, lids and soap packaging.

Sookram’s products can be color and scent customized to match the theme of any occasion. Popular scents during wedding season include beach linen, honeysuckle jasmine, lavender and chamomile and honeysuckle rose. Whether a couple envisions a beachy, garden or opulent wedding, Sookram is able to create complementary colors and scents. 

She admits the hard work that goes into promoting a small business and jumps at the opportunity, particularly within the Indo Caribbean community, to network and collaborate.

3. Vibrant Garlands 

Fresh flowers are a staple in weddings and plentiful throughout the Caribbean. In some Indo Caribbean weddings, couples exchange garlands of fresh flowers, called malas, to signify their consent and joy in choosing one another as partners. This fundamental ritual dates back to ancient times and is deeply symbolic, as malas also adorn the statues of gods and goddesses in Indo Caribbean temples.


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A post shared by Mallika ?? (@vibrant_garlands)

Since the age of seven, Mallika Balgobin sat alongside aunties and uncles in temple and watched them handcraft malas. She was inspired to learn the techniques and in 2018, established her business, Vibrant Garlands, to make and sell malas for special occasions. 

Balgobin finds the preservation and teaching of traditional craft vital to her Indo Caribbean heritage, as she is able to make malas for some of the community’s biggest events such as weddings, religious ceremonies, holidays and funerals. 

Her recent 2023 trip to South India aided her in learning new techniques and she was encouraged by how the tiniest, simplest flower is arranged to symbolize auspiciousness and beauty. For weddings, Balgobin loves stringing white carnations, red roses, baby’s breath and pink lilies to evoke feelings of unity and love. Balgobin works with couples to customize fresh flowers. She provides fresh flowers or suggests couples buy the flowers of choice prior to customization.

4. G Star Tassa

The pulsating and electrifying rhythms of live tassa are a grand component of Indo Caribbean weddings. Since 2017, G Star Tassa Group has brought unique beats and energetic vibes to Indo Caribbean special occasions. While derived from Indian traditional drumming, tassa is a distinct musical experience particular to the Caribbean. It is generally associated with the splendor of wedding festivities due to the excited ambiance it produces. When arriving at a wedding where tassa is performing, the music is loud and center, indicating that a celebration is taking place. 


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A post shared by VAAN MUSIC (@vaan__music)

Watching, listening and dancing to tassa is a multisensory experience that heightens the audience.

For the members of G Star, playing tassa is a means of, “expressing culture, rather than representing it. When we play, we like to believe we are invoking emotions from every person who can hear it. Our culture embodies happiness, togetherness and love, all of which can be found in the sweet sound of Tassa.”

5. DvS Photography NYC: New York & Florida Wedding Photographer

Photography and videography offer couples some of the strongest mementos to relive their special day. Nicholas Mangal at DvS Photography brings high energy and professionalism to capture the right angles, looks and moments of a wedding. Located in both New York and Florida, Mangal prides himself as one of the only individuals in the Indo Caribbean community who shoots and edits both photography and videography in specially curated, all-inclusive packages for couples. With an emphasis on portraits, he personally caters to each couple and involves them after the shoot in the editing and final stages of his products. 

Mangal understands the complexity  that can accompany an Indo Caribbean wedding, but believes that this, “forces me to think outside of the box and create new perspectives, ensuring that I try different styles.”

He loves to document the aesthetics of Indo Caribbean weddings, from the rich embroideries of the outfits to colorful decor. 


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A post shared by Nicholas M (@dvsphotographynyc)

Ultimately, he aims to highlight the timeline of wedding rituals by capturing people in motion and interacting with the crowd to create lifelong memories that the couple can cherish forever. For Mangal, photography/cinematography is a deeply subjective form of art that can be used to capture the unique beauty and experience of Indo Caribbean weddings.

These vendors bring an important cultural and niche aspect to the Indo Caribbean wedding industry. Their products and brands are tailored to the community. As a 2023 bride, I am excited to see the diversity of vendors available to help guide and support those getting ready to begin their new journey of married life.

To inquire about services, please visit the vendors’ social media pages.

By Priya Deonarine

Priya D. Deonarine, M.S, NCSP, is the quintessential Pisces who has been dramatically shaped by her experiences and emotions. She … Read more ›