Book Review: First Comes Marriage

As a homeschooling mom I’ve known families who have taken an active role in helping their children find suitable spouses. Though I am eager for all my kids to find the right spouses when the time is right, I’ve never been especially keen on the idea of an arranged marriage. Seems like too big a decision to hand off to others.

And yet a few weeks ago when I randomly clicked on an AOL story that featured First Comes Marriage, I was fascinated by the author’s twist. Not ‘is arranged marriage a good idea for everyone?’ but rather, ‘what things work about this idea?’

Turns out, there’s plenty that works. Enough that after I roared through the book in three days flat, I handed it off to my 18 and 20 year old daughters and told them to read it, poor girls! (This was before Amanda got proposed to, by the way.)

I believe that anyone would do well to take such a considered approach to finding a spouse. Women featured in the book talked about the peace that comes from knowing that you have similar beliefs on a foundational level. Not on the froufrou you learn when dating such as ‘do we like the same movies?’ but the deep questions that can bind together or tear apart a marriage such as ‘how will we raise our children?’ and ‘do we agree that this marriage is forever?’

Turns out when loving families are given input in the selection, they often have a firm grasp on two things: #1– Things that the young people themselves would wish for and need in a mate. And #2– Issues that are truly important in ensuring a lasting relationship.

I still believe that young people should be able to choose a mate on their own. But there is a lot to be said for getting feedback from loved ones who know you very well. I believe that if more people knew how to look at core values instead of surface stuff right from the start in a relationship, they’d greatly improve the odds of a happy match, the kind that actually makes it to ‘as long as we both shall live.’

This thoughtful book is one I am very glad to have read.


  1. I remember my therapist saying to me that she thought that even employers needed to understand the level of thinking and obsessing and considering that can go through a young woman’s mind as they are making the decision about whom to marry and make allowances. I thought that was kind of extreme at the time, but I get it now. It is a decision that will impact many generations to come. We tend to undervalue the entire process. It’s nice to join you in reflecting on its importance.

  2. I always think about how much smarter I am now than I was when I “chose my spouse” (and I didn’t have any help). It makes me think how lucky (aka blessed) I am to have gotten a good one! The things I loved about my husband now are not necessarily the things I loved about him then. I could’ve used some advice back then, but I wonder if I would’ve listened?

    I think about how easily I could’ve made a dreadful mistake back then, I was such an airhead in my early twenties – but I’m so glad that the Lord had us in the palm of his hand (even before we both knew Him)! I thank God for my husband, because I know he is a gift to me.

  3. tm5– Ditto here, in every aspect!


  4. >>there is a lot to be said for getting feedback from loved ones who know you very well<<

    Oh, how I wish my brother had listened to the advice of us four sisters, mother, and favorite aunt before the wedding.

    Seven years of married misery before she left him for someone else, two children to support and arrange visits for holidays.

    Pretty much all the things we family folks worried about came true.

    I’ll look to see if our public library has the book.
    Although I have learned to hold back on offering my opinion, then respond to certain matters only if I am asked first.

  5. i had an intern once, an Indian woman of 25. She explained arranged marriage to me and it make very good sense. We talked a lot about it. It wasn’t that she would be forced to marry someone, rather that her parents were people she trusted to present her with suitable options in men who would already share the values she and her family espoused. She maintained that marriage, being forever, should be based on more than a fleeting feeling (infatuation that so many of us base these decisions on) but of ‘respect’ that grows into something deeper and ever binding as years go on. The spouses enter the relationship / marriage after of course giving their own personal consent but accept the concept of meeting through their parents as people who love them, know them, and have their own best interest in mind. It really made sense when we’d discuss it and it wasn’t something she was being forced into at all. She preferred it this way. And she was older, too, in her mid 20s, so she was looking forward to meeting a spouse soon (at that time). Also, I rented a wonderful film at Blockbuster the other day called ‘Arranged’. About this very topic, in modern day New York. It’s great movie for anyone (nothing objectionable in it) and it beautifully depicts arranged marriages in an Orthodox Jewish family and a Muslim family. I loved it.

  6. I read that article on aol a few weeks ago too. I thought it was very interesting and that her points were very well made. I put the book on my Amazon list to take up eventually. I’m a bit farther off from that stage of parenting 😉 I printed the article and gave it to my husband and we chuckled about much of it. By sheer dumb luck, much of what she writes about in her article and book held true for my hubs and I. By dumb luck I mean I was a dateless wonder ’til I was nearly 27 – couldn’t have made a bad choice if I’d wanted to! Hubs was my first and only adult relationship and the first since note-passing days of 7th grade. By the time I met him, a lot of what she talks about had already taken root in my brain thanks to my parents and watching a few cousins and friends make some pretty awful choices. I think it’s fantastic there’s a book like that in this day and age. And that a publisher was wise enough to print it!

  7. AMEN~ I am 25 and married for 4 1/2 years and I am SOO thankful that my family loves my spouse. I haven’t read the book but I definitely agree that the core values are what is important. Marriage is tough, then you have kids and that is hard too. I am so thankful that my family encouraged me how they did. I didn’t have an arranged marriage either=)

  8. Our culture programs our youth to be mistrustful of family members. Even books and movies aimed at young audiences, the parents are portrayed as idiots that the kids have to work around in order to save the day that adults are incapable of saving.

    Peer dependence and culturally-imposed, generation-specific boundaries also teaches them that the people who are best capable of teaching them what is right/wrong are their own age.

    It doesn’t seem to me that arranged marriages and our crazy culture would mix well. It’s a shame.

    I’d be interested to know whether the author addresses this?

  9. After reading about courtship and betrothal, I think I’d need to check this book out as well. These are difficult waters to navigate. I’m so grateful to have others like yourself in the water as well. It makes a difference. I love your blog!

  10. celina in canada says:

    i am always shocked when i talk to folks a few years in marriage…and they don’t agree on, sah parenting , amount of children, if any, carreer paths, religion…HELLO DO YOU NOT TALK BEFORE GETTING MARRIED..i met dh when i was 15 and he was 17, we got married 5 years later, and we had discussed all the big points several times and at length…he knew i needed a mate that would put family before career, he needed a wife that would want to be a mother,…NEED to be a mother…and so on…

    stuff comes up, but the big ones, the big decisions . the ones that frame your life should not be surprised…

    and if you have a great loving family, with great parents, then yes, their opinions would be invaluable, my mom loved my husband (shes passed now)…it’s like the whole submit to your husband thing, i get flack for that..and my answer is always the same…who the heck did you marry, that you distrust him so much, that you feel he’ll make really bad decisions…i mean i don’t submit to what i want for breakfast. submitting, is the BIG things, i do get to think for myself, and very very rarely does he go in a direction i would not have chosen…and usually the odd times are when i’m overly emotional about the situation…

    congrats on the impending nuptuals


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