The only trustworthy and reputable websites that seem to provide truly suitable mail-order brides for their Western suitors are, when all is said and done, very much like traditional dating sites. In fact, the term “mail-order bride” is an old-fashioned reference to what is now essentially considered an international marriage. It was not always that way, of course, as this type of marriage originally came about much differently, which we will talk about later.
But modern day or not, this process of dating and marrying is often still a stereotypical concept, and an ugly one at that. Many people envision a man picking out his bride from some type of online line-up, then “shipping” her to him, and saying “I do” the first time they ever formally meet. But even back in the first-ever days of mail-order brides, this was not the case. Even then, the future spouses would write letters to one another first (though some did literally pick a wife from a catalog, and married her without getting to know her). This is how the term “mail-order” bride came about, from the correspondence that could only be done through the mail. It is actually kind of romantic, in its own way.
How a couple meets is only one of the stereotypes surrounding mail-order brides, though. There are many more (you’re picturing a desperate but hot girl who will do anything- including marrying a fat old white dude- to leave Siberia, aren’t you?). And there are many other aspects of the mail-order bride industry that defy its stigma, as well. The aforementioned stereotypes are precisely why they are surprising, as we will soon see. Following are 13 shocking and little-known facts about a type of marriage even stranger to us in this day and age than being in an arranged marriage or “sold” for a dowry, both common practices in several countries worldwide even now.
13. The Biggest Consumer Complaint
Sadly, even though it is well into 2016, some men still think their wives- or perhaps women in general- are unequal to them. According to the writer and operator of mailorderbrideprices.com, the two questions he gets asked most are if it is necessary to pay shipping for the bride, and if she comes with a 30-day guarantee. It is pathetic that this even needs to be said nowadays, so I will be blunt: mail-order brides are people; they are not for sale (that is illegal, and it is called human trafficking). But a small percentage of the men that pursue this specialized kind of marriage do not understand this, and complain to the companies they used that their new wives are not “behaving”, or not minding them. Luckily this situation is the exception and not the rule. Thank God.
12. The Bride’s Reasons Are Not Always What You Think
Most people, myself included until I did this research, thought of mail-order brides as self-loathsome women who also loathe their country and want nothing more than to leave it, at any cost. The stereotype is that they are young, gorgeous, and will take any man that will have them. Wrong! While these scenarios do exist, there are many more reasons behind a woman choosing this path to marriage. For example, I read of one woman called Ekaterina from Russia, who was in a good place in life and generally happy, but sought love, travel, and adventure. Others feel a desperate need to provide for themselves and their children (yes, mothers can be mail-order brides, too).
In Russia, there is a shortage of men, and there (as in many countries) it is seen as essential for a woman to marry relatively young (25 years is considered old to marry). Russian women are raised to cook, clean, and raise children well, and they know that these qualities are more appreciated in the west, where they also see themselves as having more freedom and where men are (generally) not as sexist. One Colombian woman now living in the States said in an interview, “I met men in Colombia, I was married, I had my experience. I decided to look for something different, try men from another culture that might be better than ours. American men are more serious: [they] worry and respect their wife.”
11. The Shocking Divorce Rate of These Marriages in the U.S.
Another stereotype of this version of an arranged marriage is that once the bride has been on American soil long enough to become a citizen on her own, she will up and leave her husband. Stereotypes exist for a reason, but this particular scenario is not as common as people think. There have been many a success story for the mail-order bride industry. In fact, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services says that “marriages arranged through mail-order bride services would appear to have a lower divorce rate than the nation as a whole, fully 80% of those marriages having lasted over the years for which reports are available.” The divorce rate for these couples is roughly half of that for traditional couples. Why, you ask? Well, some say that both sides have something to gain and also something to lose if they were to divorce- the men gain a wife, but are at risk for being scammed. And the women often risk their safety for a chance at a better status in life, something they desperately want. More on this next...
10. It Is Dangerous For The Women… And The Men
Ladies first, of course. Obviously moving across the world to marry and live with a man you hardly know is a risk. There are several stories of mail-order brides who wound up in abusive marriages, and even some who were murdered at the hands of the men who sought them out. One case I read about even involved a husband forcing his new wife to bury the body of his first wife he had killed! More often though, brides can be mistreated, cut off from their loved ones who cannot seem to contact them, and controlled.
Then there is the other side of the coin. There are countless stories about men being scammed by foreign women just looking for a visa, or who are simply money hungry. For the guy truly looking for love, this would especially suck. Either way you look at it (because both genders face valid concerns), it is sad that people are so desperate for love that they would put themselves in such a risky situation.
9. It is Outlawed in the Philippines, But They Have a Huge Market Anyway
It is surprising that the Philippines is one of the biggest players in this game of international love, because there, it is actually prohibited by law to organize or facilitate marriage between native women and foreign men. In 1990, the Philippine Congress enacted Republic Act 6955, also known as the Anti-Mail-Order Bride Law, as a result of local news stories about mail-order brides being abused by their foreign husbands.
But the clever people there found a loophole, or a way around it that is obviously working if their country is at the top of the game. Men will often advertise themselves in order to contact foreign men on behalf of their female friends and family members, and secretly facilitate the start of a relationship. Hard to believe the government can’t figure this one out, though. Or maybe they can, and just cannot prove it.
8. Groupon Will Not Work With Mail-Order Bride Companies
This one is kind of amusing, but since the “international dating” sites are associated with and often turn into the old-school concept of “mail-order brides”, Groupon will not work with any such company. On reddit.com, one woman (not Russian) who has worked for the website hotrussianbrides.com (and its sister site russianlovematch.com) for 2.5 years was asked if they would be offering a Groupon. She responded, “We actually would, but due to all the ‘mail-order bride’ stereotypes, sites like Groupon won’t work for us.” Bummer. Guess anyone wanting this type of marriage will not be saving with online discounts, which brings me to my next point: the cost.
7. How Much Does It Cost?
All I can say is, start saving now. Of course, some people say you actually save money with a mail-order bride when compared to a traditional relationship filled with years of dates, an engagement ring that is supposed to cost 3 months’ salary, and the hugely expensive wedding I like to call “modern-traditional” (church, flowers, drunken limo ride around town to take pictures before the over-the-top reception with every detail like seat covers and place-cards meticulously planned out- and paid up the wazoo for).
You decide. According to mailorderbrideprices.com, there are 3 types of costs associated with this type of marriage: communication, travel expenses, and bureaucratic charges (visa, passport, etc.). Though it is possible to do it much cheaper, the average cost when all is said and done is anywhere between $15-30,000.00. Wowza! Then there is the cost of a wedding, perhaps a honeymoon, and the added expense of having a second person to provide for who in all likelihood will not be working right away.
6. They Almost Always Meet First
Contrary to what many people think, this process does not include essentially meeting at the altar, or once the bride gets to her new home country. The protocol nowadays, for the most part, is really more like online dating than it is some crazy scenario of meeting your bride at the altar, like many people think. Then, if all goes well, the couple will arrange a meeting, usually in her country, and then obtain a K-I visa for her, or a so-called “fiancee visa”, meaning she can come to America but must be married within 90 days or face deportation. This has been more widely understood lately due to the TLC show 90 Day Fiance, though in many of those situations the couples met by chance while traveling. Not all, but some, were actively seeking a foreign marriage.
5. The Origins of the Mail-Order Bride
Would you be surprised to know that all of this originated on the American Frontier? That’s right. In the 1800’s, European-American men found financial success as they migrated west, but they were missing the women. It was difficult for them to settle down, marry, and start a family because so few women lived there at the time. So they sought the company of women back East. They wrote letters to churches, or placed advertisements in magazines and newspapers. Women would respond with letters and photographs, and this would continue until she agreed to marry her faraway love, and that was how it all came to be. I think it is fair to say the process is a bit different now, but as with all things, it evolved with the times.
4. There Is Such a Thing as a Mail-Order Groom
Well, there is everything nowadays, is there not? One of the best examples of this lesser-known match service is the Irish mail-order husband service, getyourgombeen.com. This was started by Russian entrepreneur Olga Shirove in 2009, and has quickly become a surprising success. It aims to set up foreign women with impoverished Irish men who long to have a fresh start abroad. Miss Shirova was a mail-order bride herself, and when a handsome Irishman swept her away from her hard life in Siberia, she jumped at the chance. After a few years she had her citizenship and wanted to be rid of her husband, and she had realized that many women find Irish men desirable, so she divorced him and put him on Ebay as a joke. But a woman from Latvia “snapped him up”, though it remains unclear how, exactly, that worked. In any case, Miss Shirova says Ireland is “… a goldmine of shiftless layabout men with poor hygiene and no money, and it seems the world is full of perverts who like that.”
3. Romance Tours
It is best to meet a prospective wife in her home country, and thus the “romance tours” are a popular approach, as it bundles travel prices to save money. Also, the men are able to meet women they have both already contacted online, and those they have not. The leader in the romance tour industry is none other than loveme.com, which makes dozens of trips every year to various countries with available brides. The cost will still vary depending on the length of your trip and of course the destination, but generally it is still cheaper than doing it all individually (and probably a lot less stressful).
The company provides translators, personal advice, and cultural insight. This last thing may not seem so important, but when trying to woo a woman, it is best not to inadvertently offend or disrespect her, which is surprisingly easy to do while abroad (for example, in the Philippines, gesturing to “come here” with your fingers is very rude, and considered something you would gesture to a dog, not a person).
2. The Numbers
Let’s break it down according to stats, shall we? So roughly 150,000 women per year seek American husbands through the “mail-order” process. Four per cent of these women are successful, resulting in approximately 5,000 marriages each year. Leading mail-order bride website AnastasiaDate.com averages 2.6 million visits per month. In 2012-2013, the mail-order bride industry saw a 29% increase in traffic. Upwards of $45 million was spent in 2014 to market these brides to American men. 65% of the brides are between the ages of 21 and 30. There are about 400 brokerage companies in the U.S. whose sole purpose is to match men with mail-order brides. In Taiwan, men spend an average of $10,000 for a mail-order bride, and part of that money goes to her family in a sort of dowry, but the Taiwanese families of the bride only see 5-10% of that amount in actuality. Finally, the average social gathering where the men meet the brides may have 60 men for every 1000 women attending!
1. Where Do They Come From?
Well, from what I gather, Russia has far more mail-order brides (called “Natashas”) by a long shot than any other country in the world (remember those 100,000 women per year who are “available?” 25,000 of them are Russian, and many are also Ukrainian). Countries in southeast Asia, especially Thailand and the Philippines, come in second for the number of brides available. In third place is Latin America, often Colombia and Brazil.
But what about the men? This should come as no surprise, but the prospective husbands come from primarily the Unites States or Western Europe, although there is also a market for the brides in Japan and South Korea. This is not shocking, as these two countries are arguably the two most Westernized and developed countries in Asia.