• Lifestyle

Here's Everything You've Been Too Afraid To Ask About Mail Order Brides

The phrase "mail-order bride" conjures images of black-and-white photographs of stern couples marrying for convenience. The practice has its origins in the American Wild West, when male settlers, cowboys, and prospectors required not just female company, but loyal wives. Men would arrange for a woman to join him out West – sight unseen in many cases – where they would marry and start a family. Times have changed quite a bit since then, but do mail-order brides still exist?

The concept may seem archaic and sexist in modern culture, but real-life mail-order brides are absolutely still around, thanks in large part to Internet dating sites. There are many facts about mail-order brides that will surprise and shock, and since the practice continues to grow around the world, it's worth learning more about what it means to be a mail-order bride or marry one.

Despite all the problems that can happen with mail-order marriages, plenty of success stories offer hope to would-be mail-order brides and their prospective partners. Whether you're intrigued or repulsed by the notion of this type of marriage, it seems to be here to stay.

  • Photo: farrelley / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Brides Come From All Over The World

    Nowadays, you might think of mail-order brides as being predominantly from Russia and the former Soviet Republics. Part of this has to do with severe economic woes suffered by those countries; millions of citizens are looking for ways to leave and start a new life elsewhere.

    But in reality, these brides come from all over the world. High numbers of women from Asian countries, from China to the Philippines, are also quite visible on the mail-order bride market. Women from South American countries are also sought after as brides.

  • Photo: Thomas Hawk / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    There Are Marriage Brokers And Dating Sites

    There's a difference between marriage brokers and dating websites. The latter functions just as mainstream websites do, only the emphasis is on finding a marriage partner specifically. However, many marriage brokers consider the basic dating sites as inferior and even tawdry compared to what they offer. A marriage broker typically provides a more private experience, during which the broker helps pinpoint ideal matches for a client.

  • Photo: Urban Mixer / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Using A Marriage Broker Can Be Expensive

    Men interested in pursuing a mail-order bride via a marriage broker should be prepared to lay out the cash. To start with, the brokerage will arrange a "romance tour" to the country in question, where the potential groom will have multiple opportunities to meet a number of available women. This comes in the form of private, arranged dates, parties, and other events. The romance tour alone will cost thousands of dollars. But not everyone is ready to make a lifelong decision yet. Additional tours and visits are often necessary.

    If a man meets someone he'd like to pursue further, the brokerage may charge additional fees, and then the prospective groom begins the often equally expensive process of courting the woman of his choice. This can ultimately prove quite costly, not just due to gifts and dinners out, but also because of international travel expenses, and eventually, the cost of obtaining a visa, along with immigration attorney fees.

  • Scams Are Common

    Video: YouTube

    Like with anything else on the Internet, online surfing for a potential bride can leave you open to falling for a scam. The FBI receives around 6,000 annual complaints about "romance scams," during which women extort vast sums of money from men – about $70,000 on average.

    Even the bigger online dating sites can be ethically murky. Some users report paying for each individual chat they conduct with a woman. If they fly overseas under the pretext of meeting these women in person, often the supposed brides-to-be are nowhere to be found. In other cases, the men go on a series of dates, only to go back to the United States alone, and with considerably less cash.