Changing Trends In Sikh Marriages
Sikh marriage patterns are showing signs of significant changes in the following areas. First, a difference between the education of the groom and the bride is narrowing. This preference for comparable educational qualifications in the selection of prospective partners, leading ultimately to the earning capacity of both spouses, shows the growth of individualism and decline in joint families and kinship ties. Such marriages have become possible due to the impact of economic and educational factors, including the processes of urbanization and modernization. Second, a favorable attitude towards intercaste marriages shows the decline of caste ties. Caste as a principle of endogamy is, however, losing its importance more in urban cities than in rural villages. The Singh Sabha reforms within Sikhism in the last century have enhanced this process. Third, young men and women now marry later than they did in earlier times. Finally, obtaining the consent of the young man and the woman in matrimonial alliances, favoring widow remarriage, agreeing to divorce as a last resort, and getting married again after divorce, are the practices that indicate the impact of Western urban influences (Rajagopalan and Singh 1967).
Another tradition has been an important part of the Sikh marriage process. The fundamental respect for the judgement of family is reflected in the ancient practice of not meeting one's partner between the time of engagement and the time of marriage. It is understood that, at the time of engagement, a spiritual commitment to one's fiancé(e) has been made. Respect for the family makes impossible any second-guessing of that commitment. Over many centuries, this practice expanded and became tradition, so that even when the family is unavailable or uninvolved, the custom of not meeting one's fiancé(e) before the marriage ceremony continues. In recent decades, however, many young Sikhs have chosen not to follow this established tradition, and the rigid procedure surrounding Sikh arranged marriages is on the decline. Nevertheless, for many devout Sikhs, the above practice continues to be an important reflection of their faith and tradition. To be forced to ignore or violate long-standing tradition by meeting one's fiancé(e) between the engagement and the ceremony could cloud the sanctity of the marriage process in the minds of those devout Sikhs involved.
In the diaspora, Sikh marriages are undergoing significant changes. The second-generation Sikhs are raising questions concerning the traditional form of marriage. Like their peer groups from other religious faiths, they tend to follow the idea of romantic love in choosing their partners. They frequently date prospective mates to test their compatibility in standard situations. Living in a complex multiethnic environment, they are exposed to people of different faiths and cultures. Not surprisingly, this results in occasional marriages between Sikh and non-Sikh partners. These marriages provide new challenges to both partners to make necessary adjustments in their lives.