"Early Colonial Courtship Rituals"

Essay by denverlaxgirlHigh School, 11th gradeA+, December 2003

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Colonial Courtship

Courtship in the colonies was a strictly supervised tradition based only upon proper appearances and what the colonists knew from their (or their relatives') previous lives in England. Although not highly regarded because of the tremendous lustful temptations involved, many colonists viewed it as a necessary evil that would produce marriages that would eventually bring the ever-desired "healthy family" situations (i.e. many children) that supposedly gave character to the colonies, especially in the south.

A colonial courtship did not really begin until the process of finding a match had been completed to the satisfaction of the town's standards. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, English methods of matchmaking were, for the most part, divided into two categories: higher class and lower class. Because the higher classes were rich and often had much political power, they were allowed by their own political standards to find matches more freely than those in the lower classes.

Therefore, many sons and daughters of the higher classes were able to make a match through love, as long as their chosen lover was one of proper consequence. This potential spouse was evaluated by the mother and father, and if seen to be of proper financial security and political position, the match would be readily agreed to. However, in lower classes, the majority of marriages were arranged by well-meaning parents wishing to give their children the best possible life. Since many of the colonists in the New World were not rich and supported themselves through farming or industry work, their matchmaking were grounded in those of the English lower classes.

The social aspects of courtship in the colonies varied from region to region. In New England, where its influences were highly Puritan, a courtship would be conducted during town get-togethers and church-coordinated events...