I was fascinated by an answer to a comment question I asked under Is the term “would-be” just an Indian usage or universal? about a term for a non-arranged marriage in India. Love marriage was the answer—rife with implications.

Are there other English terms or phrases that convey the same meaning as love marriage? I'm wondering specifically about regional terms that define an engagement or marriage in opposition to those that are arranged.

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    You aren't talking about having people translate from other languages, are you?
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:26
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    Since Arranging marriage is not a thing traditionally practiced in other English speaking countries (as far as I can think of - may be wrong), I would think that any you do find would be translated if not borrowed from other languages.
    – Karl
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:29
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    In India, it's so common for elderly people to look disapprovingly at you and go "They fell in love before their marriage" if yours was not arranged. In certain parts of Kerala (South India), they use the word unorthodox - as opposed to orthodox for the arranged marriage.
    – JoseK
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:30
  • @Kosmonaut: No, I understand that is off-topic for this site. I'm wondering if there are other English terms that are not translations. Like @JoseK's answer. Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:32
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    This is off-topic if the answers are things like "in my language, we say flergel, which literally means 'improper marriage'". When you ask for "English equivalents", it sounds like you are asking for translations.
    – Kosmonaut
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 13:49

3 Answers 3


If I am understanding the term love marriage correctly, the closest English equivalent would be elope or elopement:

To elope, most literally, merely means to run away, and to not come back to the point of origination. More specifically, elopement is often used to refer to a marriage conducted in sudden and secretive fashion, usually involving hurried flight away from one's place of residence together with one's beloved with the intention of getting married. (Wikipedia)

The negative connotations I am hearing for love marriage is similar to the connotations of elopement. The idea of "running off together" is sending a rather strong message to your family and friends and stereotypically occurs when the couple do not have the blessing of their elders. Again stereotypically, the parents of the bride have taken issue with the groom. I do not know how often elopements actually occur or what the circumstances around them are.

The exact opposite of an elopement is referred to as a shotgun wedding:

A shotgun wedding is a form of forced marriage occasioned by an unplanned pregnancy. Some religions and cultures consider it a moral imperative to marry in such a situation, based on reasoning that premarital sex is sinful and unsafe. The phrase is an American colloquialism, though it is also used in other parts of the world. (Wikipedia)

As far as forced marriages go in stereotypical American society, a shotgun wedding is a close as it gets outside of extreme emotional or social coercion. When a shotgun wedding occurs, the bad reputation is still placed on the couple. Even the proverbial shotgun wielders are assumed justification for their actions.

  • Love marriage in India no longer has a negative connotation. The example I gave in an earlier comment is that elderly (i.e. old-fashioned) Indians tend to think so, but today even "love marriages" have family blessings, and the whole ceremony in church/temple/council office - so it's not necessarily linked to elopement. But it's interesting choice of words that you have brought up "shotgun wedding" because unfortunately in Northern parts of India, a couple that elopes runs the risk of being shot by (usually) the bride's family
    – JoseK
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 15:16
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    @JoseK: Er, in that case, love marriage would simply mean marriage.
    – MrHen
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 15:24
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    In my experience, elopement is losing its negative connotations: it's used for couples who decide to forego the hoopla (and expense) of the typical wedding. People plan elopements almost as far in advance as weddings.
    – JPmiaou
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 17:38
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    @JPmiaou - you could have elopement rehearsal dinners and elopement planners, and reality TV shows about elopement planners, and ...
    – mgb
    Commented Apr 5, 2011 at 19:14
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    @ShreevatsaR: In the US, that is just called ''marriage'' since it is the expected norm. Also, as JPmiaou pointed out, ''elopement'' is losing its negative connotations and doesn't necessarily mean "hurried and secret" anymore. It just means, "No big ceremony."
    – MrHen
    Commented Nov 2, 2011 at 13:29

I've only ever heard "love marriage" in Indian contexts. In the US (I don't know about elsewhere), "marriage" by default is decided on by the couple, and any other method of decision (parents/relatives, church/community, etc (?)) is out of the mainstream, 'unorthodox', and so would would be needed to be marked as "arranged".

As to different regional variations on "arranged marriage", I don't know.

For "marriage" (which means "love marriage" to Indians), there are some slight variations here. There's "living together" which is an informal arrangement. There's "common-law marriage" which refers to the legal status of a couple who have been living together for long enough time to be considered married.


"Love match" is a not uncommon phrase for a marriage without regard to prospects, money, etc. (The opposite, shown to perfection in Jane Austen, was sometimes called a "suitable marriage", but never an "arranged marriage", even if if had in fact been arranged by others.)

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