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Rokugani Samurai don't marry for love, they marry because their lords decree so and because it is their duty. At times their betrothal is blissful or bitter.1 The general rundown of the process of arranging a marriage (mi-ai) is even explained a little in the core book, pointing to the Nakodo, and interview, and that gain is usually the aim for both families.2 But in general, there is just very little solid information on the process here.

What could be considered the standard rundown of a mi-ai when consulting further books and sources?

citations

1 - L5R 4E Core, p.146 & 156.
2 - L5R 4E Core, p.31. As I was informed by someone: There's a misspelling, it's Nakodo!

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As Saelvarath mentioned, Sword & Fan contains a detailed rundown.1 But it is far from the first time that the topic came up in Legend of the 5 Rings. For example the 1st Edition Winter Court Kyuden Seppun had a chapter, which is virtually the origin source for much of the material.2 And some more clan-specific things creep up in different other supplements.

Matchmaking

Before anything about the process of marriage is laid out, a few explanatory words describe the role of married couples in Rokugan and Society. Marriage isn't for love, it is the steel core of Samurai society. Whenever there is a peace to be signed or a big trade deal dished out, a marriage happens to reinforce the deal.

While the spouses leave their old family behind, and while they don't forget where they come from, they are now part of their new family and have to strive to live up to the new name. Because of the impact on society as a whole and the duties of each samurai, marriage is carefully arranged by the courtiers.3

The Role of the Nakodo

Matchmakers or Nakodo are typically experienced courtiers, but needn't be so, and they are tasked with arranging a family in a fashion that is less emotionally laden. The role of the Nakodo can be picked up by pretty much anyone a family chooses: Be it a good family friend for a poorer samurai family, or even an uncle, the only requirement is, that the prospective Nakodo has to know a few people who might be either looking for marriage or act as Nakodo for someone else. Other families rely on dedicated matchmaker groups, which can be tasked with the dealings. Those can contain specialists in arranging with specific other families, but it is rare to ask someone outside of the own Clan to act as Nakodo unless you happen to be Imperial.

The most successful matchmakers are courtiers of higher rank, but while many are female, not all are. The most, maybe even only, qualifying points for the Nakodo are information and connections: They need to find a possible spouse that not just might need their client, but they also need to find leverage to make the marriage happen. Spiritual counseling can also impact the search for a spouse. All the while they need to keep the specific orders of their client's family in mind.

After the search, the results are compiled into a list and sorted by desirability and favorability by the family. Up till here, the Nakodo is fully optional, as the family - mostly parents and grandparents - can just write their own list of preferences. But at the latest now the Nakodo comes in to approach the go-betweens for those on the list.4

As a stand out: Among the Crab, arranged marriages only happen after someone turns 22. Before that, each Samurai can try to get married themselves and call in a Nakodo on their own. The Mantis in turn have a mandatory visit at the Matchmaker at 22 and take everything out of the Hand of the would-be spouse. In general, specific marriage customs can be found in Emerald Empire at each clan. 5

And if they get too old, a Crab commander might take over the whole role of matchmaker and family and just order their subordinates of age to now be married to someone specific and send them on a vacation to deal with their marital duties. Skip anything else, welcome to marriage! [citation needed]

Omiai: “Meet and Look”

Having found their Nakodo, now the real game begins: The Nakodo approaches the parents of the would-be spouse or their Nakodo, and pretty much offers their client to figure out if they can make something happen.

So, assuming the prospective spouse's Nakodo managed to find enough common ground or leverage to begin discussions in earnest, they arrange for a first glance at one another. Maybe a portrait is sent, or one is led to pass the way of the other or some other way to share a first look.

Having passed the first look test, it is common for the parents to meet and discuss actual terms at what is called omiai, but even here the Nakodo (or Nakodos) can replace their client - after all long travel can be problematic. If the would-be spouses talk (or see each other) at all, it's very little. Typically, about 3 of these discussions happen, before the actual marriage contract is finalized and offered to the other side.

Note that it is not a given the would-be spouses are informed, or see one another - Duty can keep samurai in places for a long time after all, and some very powerful families arrange marriages for infants. 6

Marriage Gifts

Nobody would pay a Nakodo for their service, that would be plain disrespectful. But a series of gifts is in order, like in so many other occasions. The Nakodo gains such for their work, the families exchange them in the Omiai for just showing up (or sending delegates), the spouses exchange them during the meetings (even if only their pictures meet), and during the marriage itself, the spouses are showered with gifts and well wishes. Most of those gifts are trinkets to symbolize good luck.

Four valuable things change hands during the marriage: The Nakodo gains a gift that is of substantial value. One Samurai leaves behind their family, Family, or Clan. The new couple is bestowed with a dowry gift paid for by the better of the two families, usually a title, holding, or office, but stakes in a trade or money are also common. And finally, behind the scenes, the marriage contract comes into power, tying the spouses' families together and executing whatever is in that.7

After Marriage

Even as the Samurai leaving their family, Family or Clan behind, they will always be part of them in a related way. They can act as envoy or connection back to them.

To ensure the prosperity and lineage of the new family, concubines can happen, and there are rules about them. They ensure going on of the line even in case the spouses don't (or can't) have kids with one another.

But marriages in Rokugan are not just smithing a new small family, they form an alliance. Alliances fail. If the Families go to war, the families feud, or they just can't manage to make their alliance work within a reasonable time, a marriage can be dissolved. If the lords agree, and the dowery bestowed on the couple is returned, we are back to square one. However, reasonable time elapses the moment kids are on the way.8

On genders and Edition changes

Note that 4th edition describes concubines as entirely female and all marriages between a man and a woman, while the 5th doesn't mention anything in this direction at all: neither naming genders nor describing concubines - and instead delivering a paragraph or three on adoption.9

Depending on one's group one might want to adapt the gender and role of concubines even in a 4th edition game, and it might give the group more avenues for Drama.

  • One might soften the hard genders in a marriage. If your group feels like you want to allow same-sex samurai to marry, also consider how they will keep the line on. Will they be ameanable to concubines or do they need children to adopt? All that is sources of drama and plot.
  • If you prefer to keep marriage strictly heterosexual, the longing and forbidden love for their dream partner can serve as a hook.

In any way:

Rokugan your way

Citations

  1. Sword & Fan, p. 178 - 181.
  2. Winter Court Kyuden Seppun, p.76-79.
  3. Sword & Fan, p. 178.
  4. Sword & Fan, p. 178-189.
  5. Emerald Empire, 4th Edition, p.47 (Crab), 53 (Mantis).
  6. Sword & Fan, p. 179.
  7. Sword & Fan, p. 180.
  8. Sword & Fan, p. 180-181.
  9. Emerald Empire, 5th Edition, p.52-53.
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Sword and Fan p. 178 - 181 has a very detailed rundown

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    \$\begingroup\$ While this may answer the question, it is better to include the essential parts of the answer here, for those without access to the cited resource. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 22 at 8:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess... But the question read as 'where can I find the official info' to me, There didn't seem to be more essential parts to provide. \$\endgroup\$
    – Saelvarath
    Commented Feb 22 at 20:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question reads: What could be considered the standard rundown of a mi-ai when consulting further books and sources? - a basic rundown would be therefore more than just a page number. \$\endgroup\$
    – Trish
    Commented Feb 22 at 22:31

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