I found a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Each religion or sect has prohibitions and recommendations. The legal rules change across time and locale. As the tuxedo company ads like to point out “every wedding is unique.” However, “tradition” is considered to be the best and only correct tradition for each group keeping that tradition alive.
One of the strongest and most long lasting tradition - still common in much of the world - and a large part of Western culture until a few hundred years ago - is the arranged marriage. Traditionally it is NOT the couple to be wed deciding who the spouses will be. Most often it is family that makes the choice, but they can also involve matchmakers, marriage brokers, astrologers, priests, Rabbis or Imams.
This in turn made me think about my own marriage. As much as my parents have accepted my husband into the family I know he is the person they would have set me up with. I know that their choices would have been based on many of the same concerns that have guided parents for millennia. They would have wanted to create a secure financial and social future for me, my children and perhaps themselves.
On the other hand they would have had other considerations as well. I’m sure their preferences would have been for someone who looks and sounds like them: someone who votes republican, works in a stable, upwardly mobile profession and likes football over basketball. No democrats, non-whites, musicians, vegans, artists, Jews, Catholics, Moslems or atheists need apply. Additional points would be given to men who’s parents were still married, were from evangelical churches and who watch Fox news.
Since there aren’t as many clergy and matchmakers around these days, they might have to resort to personal ads or the internet. Their personal ad for their ideal mate for me would probably look something like this:
Wanted: White male, college educated, conservative, Christian, with six-figure earning power to wed college educated, daughter who can cook. Golfer with private club membership preferred.
Of course the fly in that ointment is that the men they would have recruited would be unlikely to be interested in a stout, liberal, sci-fi/comic book/word geek writer, who embraces many spiritual traditions.
Clearly they would have had their work cut out for them. Of course many cultures where arranged marriages are the norm also give limited freedom, education and mobility to women. If I was not educated, had very little contact with a wide variety of people and had not learned about other religions, it might be easier for me to be happy with the choices they might have made for me.
I wonder how many people who want to protect “traditional marriage” want their parents or their priest or their golf-pro to pick their partner?