Rules of Engagement (Love Marriages)

Photo Credits: Travis and Haley G
  1. As an American there are usually two ways an engagement happens:
    • You see it coming, or you don’t.
  2. As an American-Desi:
    • You always see it coming.

When my husband and I broached the topic of marriage (seriously), there were so many moving parts. His acceptance to med-school, my graduation, meeting my parents, meeting his parents, discussions of best and worst case scenarios for money, back-up bio-datas for, and of course which ring to buy.

There are certain moves my husband and I very consciously made to ensure that our family was a part of the process. We didn’t want our love marriage to end up as a cautionary tale to a younger generation of Desis. Although some of these suggestions may seem logical to many of millennial American Desis, it’s never not helpful to have a checklist.

Whether both partners are Desi, or from the same caste, or from the same tribe, or from the same country, or from the same village, or there is a non-Desi partner involved, or they are a different religion; our love stories are not the classic Love Actually and more like Kabi Khusi Kabi Gham (I mean that’s the goal, really).

k3g poster

Some basic rules of Engagements:

Do NOT try to surprise your SO with a proposal without taking the following steps:

  1. Talk about the idea of marriage, and what cultural conflicts may arise. Are you more Westernized? What Desi values and principles do you want to see in your home?
  2. Introduce your SO to your parents, and Vice-Versa.
  3. Get in good with the parents.
    • Now, this may seem very contradictory to the K3G storyline– but I have seen over time that if you cannot get along with the parents, your partner loses an entire system of support. While there are always anomalies to situation, there is so much grief that has to be processed when you don’t have familial support. If the parents absolutely CANNOT come to terms with the relationship, perhaps have a conversation with your partner about what values appear to be lacking?
  4. Have an open discussion with the parents about how much you value your SO and why.
  5. ASK FOR PERMISSION even if you’re the girl.
    • No, this is not a Southern thing. No, this is not antiquated. No, this does not go against feminism.
    • It’s a symbol of respect. Period.

If you are both Desi but come from different places:

  1. Try learning your partner’s language. At least a few words.
  2. If you’re both into the idea of kids, discuss what language you want to pass down, and how that will look.
  3. Research what traditions are different between the two types of weddings
  4. Talk to your families about what you DO have in common.

Pro-tip: Wear Desi clothes when going over to your potential in-laws home. It’s just so much more endearing to see you in ways that are similar rather than different.

If you have different religions:

  1. Have a discussion with you partner about your own beliefs and how it impacts your life on day-to-day basis. Ask them to do the same.
  2. If you decide on having children: What traditions will they follow? Why those traditions? How will you explain the significance to your kids?
  3. Emphasize in a discussion with your parents why you feel comfortable introducing another religious aspect in your future home.

If you come from different castes or tribes:

  1. Discuss what makes your caste or tribe unique with your SO.
  2. Approach stereotypes about your people head on.
  3. This is the time to, perhaps, talk to your parents about where you fit in the global community and how castes and tribal systems fall into that.


At the end of the day, anything worthwhile is worth the effort. Once you get through this somewhat procedural aspect of a romantic idea, you can set in motion the actual proposal. Our proposal story is somewhat of a mess, but certainly a teachable moment!

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