I Tried Indian Matchmaking, and Here's What It's Really Like

POPSUGAR Photography | Anvita Reddy
POPSUGAR Photography | Anvita Reddy

My parents met in middle school. They grew up together and ran in similar circles, and as the years went by, they fell in love and got married in their early 20s. They had what you could call a "love marriage." Growing up hearing about their love story, going through their old photos with love notes written on the back, I always thought that it would happen that way for me too, as though a love marriage is somehow genetic: I would organically meet someone, fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after. It seemed so simple, like it was meant to happen.

So, armed with that assumption and a healthy dose of Bollywood rom-com delusion, I started the search for my husband in middle school. I got my first boyfriend in seventh grade, but we broke up because he switched schools. I later fell in love with a family friend, and in high school, he ended up being my first kiss; to me, it was the start of forever, but for him, it was "just a hookup."

As time went on, I had a few not-so-stellar significant others, one of whom forgot my birthday. I fell into the low-maintenance archetype trap, meaning I lowered my standards for how men should treat me just so I would be chosen (see: the famous "cool girl" monologue in "Gone Girl"). I put up with hookup culture for far too long and just grew tired of feeling like I was being punished for wanting romantic love. The search for a romantic partner ultimately led me to feeling used, disrespected, and unlovable, and I knew I deserved better.

A love marriage, or finding someone on my own, didn't feel like it was in my destiny, but I didn't lose faith. I had a plan to ask my parents to set me up, and even though the pandemic put a halt to weddings globally, my plan was put into action when "Indian Matchmaking" premiered on Netflix.

My parents and I binge-watched the first season and had plenty of fruitful conversations about what to look for in a partner (along with discussing all the drama). In a way, watching the show together was my way of telling my parents that I wanted them to set me up. The very next day, we created my biodata.

The Matchmaking Process and Biodata

POPSUGAR Photography | Anvita Reddy

Much like a résumé, a biodata includes personal information such as education, career, family background, horoscopes, hobbies, personality, and partner preferences. You can add or leave out certain information, but I found it helpful to offer a holistic view, rather than minimal information.

A biodata also includes a few pictures; just like dating apps, they should be high-quality, wholesome pictures from recent years (and yes, I have noticed that men tend to fall short on this). When setting up a biodata, it's important to remember that it's not just your potential partner who's going to see it, but their parents too — so you have to impress both.

Getting set up the "arranged" way is acknowledging that your parents got involved in finding your life partner, and you can go about it in two ways: one involves using a network of extended families and family friends to find your significant other (which I call the "auntie network"), and the other is signing up for a matchmaking service. I did both.

To do this process, you need to have immense trust in your parents, believing that they want the best for you. My parents provided a filter of sorts for me, and I only looked at the profiles they approved. Just like dating apps, it's good to outline relationship deal-breakers, preferences, and nice-to-haves. We agreed on a few core things, including an appropriate age difference, family background, the ability to speak the same native language of Telugu, and a preference for those born and raised in the US. Essentially, I wanted someone who could relate to the Indian American culture and lifestyle.

The questionnaire contains several problematic elements that many may not admit to, but certainly exist, including information on caste, skin color, and selections limited to specific jobs, e.g. only doctors. It is important to note that there are cases where parents do this process without the consent of their son or daughter, either because the parents disapprove of their current partner or they just want to assert some type of control. To ensure this isn't the case, I always ask the potential partner if they are doing this with their own will. Parents, if you are doing this, please stop, it's extremely selfish and hurts multiple parties involved, which is more important than your ego.

Both methods, whether the auntie network or the formal matchmaking service, are only there to facilitate an introduction. Once phone numbers are exchanged, it's pretty much like normal dating, and parents are supposed to be hands-off.

My Experience With Matchmaking

I sought out matchmaking because I thought it would help hold men to a higher standard. They had to treat me with respect and genuinely get to know me, because their reputation (and their family's) would be on the line. In other words, the bar wasn't as much in hell. Both parties go into the experience with a similar intention: to find a life partner.

We started by enlisting the help of my extended family and family friends and sent them my biodata and pictures via WhatsApp to see if they knew anyone who would be potentially interested. If not, they could then forward my biodata to their networks to see if the broader community could help set me up. Luckily, I have a very enthusiastic aunt and uncle, who were able to set me up twice.

They introduced me to a guy from North Carolina, and it was the first time I was officially matched. He was kind and nerdy, but in a cute way. We hit it off, and for about a month, we had lengthy text conversations and would talk on the phone for hours. Since we're based in different states, we talked about setting up a plan to meet in person. But then all of a sudden, I got ghosted. I reached out to talk one more time, and never got a response.

This was exactly the kind of behavior I was trying to avoid, but it is what it is, I had to move on. Explaining the concept of ghosting to your family is quite the experience, but the silver lining is that my parents got a bit of insight into what dating is like currently.

Several months went by, and my aunt and uncle set me up with a guy from Georgia who was sweet, thoughtful, and intelligent. We talked for six hours on the phone the first time we spoke, and every night after, we would engage in lengthy conversations. We lost a lot of sleep, but without a single regret.

This was exactly the kind of behavior I was trying to avoid.

We decided to meet in person after chatting for a month and a half, and meeting him was both exciting and comfortable. After meeting in person a second time a few weeks later, we became exclusive. We visited each other as much as we could, trying to learn more about each other's lives and meet each other's friends. We worked on forming a deeper connection, but unfortunately, around the three-month mark, he broke up with me, noting that we were a bit too different and he couldn't see himself falling in love with me. Although it stung at first, looking back, he was right; we were too different, and more than that, I knew I would have had to sacrifice a lot to make it work with him.

When I was ready to get back into it, my parents and I decided to try a matchmaking service recommended to us, EliteMatrimony. (Think: Sima Aunty from "Indian Matchmaking" meets The League.) It was reputable and seemed to source profiles that fit many of my preferences. To be completely transparent, we paid around $6,000 for six months of concierge matchmaking services. We had a dedicated broker, who would source profiles they thought would be a good fit for me.

Given the preferences we had in place, we only got maybe four profiles sent to us that fit the criteria. Luckily, I ended up mutually matching with one person. We talked over the phone several times and FaceTimed once, but after a few conversations, a romantic connection just wasn't there and we ended things.

Because we had invested in this, we thought it would be best to keep an open mind and expand the search by widening our preferences. Even so, it brought in a handful profiles that we still ended up not accepting. A matchmaking service is only as valuable as its network, it was clear that EliteMatrimony just didn't have enough profiles in their system that fit our criteria, especially if you're looking for people based in the States.

Overall, paying for a matchmaking service isn't what I expected at all. I thought it would be a more personal experience, but I was instead receiving links to profiles and saying yes or no. For the $6,000 fee, I got sent 10 profiles at most, and only four of them met the bare-minimum criteria — the rest were compromises. My parents and I agree that it was ultimately not worth the investment.

Final Thoughts on Matchmaking

For most South Asian families, giving your parents the ability to choose your life partner is like giving them the ultimate golden ticket. I've officially been in the matchmaking process since 2021, and I know my parents are trying their hardest with absolutely no matchmaking experience themselves.

Amid a world of apps and situationships, I can't blame them for not being able to understand how hard it is to find someone. Although I think they could try to milk the auntie network a little more, I cut my parents some slack. EliteMatrimony, not so much.

Though that particular service didn't work for me, I wouldn't disqualify matchmaking services altogether — just make sure they have what you're looking for in terms of demographics and criteria. Polling your friends and family, as well as their networks, for help is never a bad idea either. In fact, it's worked for a few of my cousins.

When the auntie network isn't as fruitful either, it can be a tough pill to swallow. I thought the auntie network would bring in more profiles than just a few, and it left me questioning whether they see me as worthy. Am I not conventionally attractive enough? Is it because I'm not a doctor and have a job that is a bit unconventional for the South Asian community?

Overall, the process can be a tough journey in self-reflection and self-worth, especially when the scarcity mindset hits. And I'm not the only one going through the emotions of false hope, heartbreak, and questioning my worthiness — my parents are too. When all their friends' kids are getting married, it's hard not to internalize that. But I know that in reality, it just comes down to luck and destiny. There is no one singular method guaranteed to work, because once the introductions are made it's up to you and the potential partner to decide if it's worth a life partnership.

It was clear, however, that my parents and I needed a break from matchmaking. At the time of writing this, I am still single, but I have not lost hope. I'm on the apps, trying to meet people IRL, asking to be set up, doing whatever I can to find someone (short of going on a reality show).

The biggest lesson I've learned from this ongoing process is to not put my self-worth in someone else's hands. I've built a nice little life for myself, and I am happy with or without a partner. Whether arranged or not, I'll meet him in due time. For now, life's too good to not enjoy it.

Anvita Reddy is an assistant editor for POPSUGAR Shopping. She has a passion for products and is an avid reviewer of everything including furniture, mattresses, home gadgets, cookware, tech, and more. Having dealt with acne as a teenager and into adulthood, her expertise lies in beauty. She has tried and tested plenty of skin care, makeup, hair care, and countless other beauty products.