This Indian-American couple sets the record straight about modern-day arranged marriages

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Priyank and Priyanka Patel pose for a photo on the front porch of their house in Ooltewah, Tennessee.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Priyank and Priyanka Patel pose for a photo on the front porch of their house in Ooltewah, Tennessee.

Arranged marriages make up half of the world's unions, but in the U.S., where "love marriages" dominate, one may wonder what arranged marriages look like in modern culture.

Despite the undeniable air of chemistry that surrounds Priyank and Priyanka Patel, who both immigrated to the United States from Gujarat, India, they admit that they did not fall in love until after marriage.

Priyank moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, in 1995, when he was 10 years old. Priyanka called Cleveland, Ohio, home in 2000, at 17 years old.

In 2008, Priyanka's parents were returning from a trip back to their home in Nashville, where they briefly lived due to work. They stopped at an old acquaintance's house whom her dad knew from school, who also happened to be Priyank's father.

Priyank's mom mentioned that her son, who was working as a pharmacy technician at the time, was single. Priyanka's mom expressed an interest in the potential match for their 26-year-old daughter, who was also a pharmacy technician.

"My parents came home," Priyanka explains. "They said, 'We have a boy for you, if you like him.'"

Priyanka was hesitant at first. It seemed like each month, they had a new man in mind for her, and never one she was all that interested in. When she heard his name was Priyank, though, she was curious, especially after seeing his picture.

"I was like 'Oh, he's a good-looking guy!'" she says.

Priyank remembers well the day that they met: September 22, 2008.

He was 25, and like Priyanka, his parents were introducing him to many candidates in hopes he would find "the one."

"I went to go see a couple girls and felt pity for them sometimes," he says. "It's hard for me to say no. I didn't want to do that to someone."

After growing up in America, Priyank preferred the idea of a love marriage. Also, like Priyanka, he was doubtful before meeting her.

"I told my parents I didn't want to get married," he continues. "I was just like 'Whoever I find, I find.' But I also wanted to respect my parents."

But when he saw a photo of Priyanka, he was more willing.

"I looked at her pictures and was like, 'OK, she's cute. I don't mind talking to her.'"


Priyank and his family visited Priyanka and her family at their house. Following tradition, a mediator joined to host a Q&A-like session between the two families to learn more about the two of them and if they would fit well into each other's lives.

"When we talked, the first thing I said was, 'I don't care if you don't take care of me. Can you take care of my family?'" Priyank recalls.

They both decided to see each other again, this time alone. Priyanka took Priyank to Opry Mills mall in Nashville for their first date, where they were able to discuss their values, hobbies and lives.

From there, they told their parents they wanted to continue seeing each other and move their relationship toward marriage.

"Formally, we said yes," Priyank says. "We started dating, and we would go see each other."

Due to their long-distance relationship and short engagement, they didn't have as much time to interact as they would have liked before marriage, but their connection deepened, and they trusted the process.

"You don't technically fall in love, but you get to know each other," he says.

Their families and a priest determined a wedding date, which would be 11 months after they initially met.

On August 15, 2009, Priyank and Priyanka married, with a traditional, multi-day Indian wedding. Their ceremony was at the Gaylord Opryland Resort, near the same location as their first date.

They partook in all of the traditions, such as painting Priyank's face for "Haldi"; "Barat," a welcoming ceremony for the groom; and a "Doli" to carry Priyanka to the Mandap, or altar, for the wedding ceremony. Henna tattoos adorned her hands and arms.

"A lot of people say henna is good luck," Priyanka says. "The darker it is means the more your husband will love you."

Either the henna worked, or their profound connection kept Priyank and Priyanka together to this day. After their wedding, they settled in Ooltewah, Tennessee.

The Patels are now owners of several businesses in the Chattanooga area and have two daughters: Ruchika, 12, and Riddhi, 9. They also say they're very much in love.

Priyank says that he doesn't mind whether or not his children want arranged marriages, and the practice of it has come a long way in just the past few decades.

"The culture is changing," he explains. "Back in the days, during our grandfather's age, they didn't have a choice."

Now, however, Priyank says a majority of arranged marriages are consensual and compares them to a blind date or being set up by a friend, just with more family involvement to ensure both parties will fit well into their significant other's life.

"There are always going to be ups and downs in marriage. It's just how you want to work it out," Priyank says. "That's my perception towards arranged marriage, non-arranged marriage or whatever it may be. Just don't take it for granted."

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