Renaissance dating and marriage

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However, an extra layer, what we call "dating," has been added to the process of courting.

If you are familiar with computer programming terminology, you can liken dating to a sub-routine that has been added to the system of courtship.

Men filled out their names on a woman's dance card (basically a roster), which she wore delicately tied around her wrist, and left their personal calling cards if they wished to call on her at home at a later point.

If the woman liked what she saw, she gave him her card, and the courtship was on.

Not in ways that meant anything about being a loving husband, obviously: tests ranged from chariot racing to singing and grueling interviews with the bride's family.

One of the most famous bride competitions, from the historian Herodotus, involved the king Cleisthenes, who made his daughter's suitors compete for an entire year (the favorite ruined his chances when he got drunk on the last day and did handstands at a party). In the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe, a "fan language" developed for women to be able to communicate to interested parties without opening their mouths.

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It's one of those words with which most people are familiar, but have vastly differing opinions of what it means. It summons visions of men women with small tokens of affection and asking their hand in marriage on bended knee.

It was actually rather kind; rather than letting two strangers marry, each partner was put inside a sack, and they were allowed to get to know each other, talk, and even spoon — without any premarital hanky-panky.

We don't know how common this was, but it certainly seems to be nicer than being shoved down the aisle with a person you've never exchanged four words with.

There was a trend in the Italian Renaissance for prospective lovers to give their lady friends erotically inscribed belts.

Belts pop up in a lot of poetry of the time, as symbols of sexuality and beauty which women of all societal positions could wear and receive as gifts: at one point in Boccaccio's Decameron , a woman seduces a man by giving him her belt (via a friar, who thought he was returning an unwanted gift).

For social scientists, studies of courtship usually look at the process of "mate selection." (Social scientists, among whom I number myself from time to time, will never be accused of being romantics.) For the purpose of this article the , prior to the early 20th century, courtship involved one man and one woman spending intentional time together to get to know each other with the expressed purpose of evaluating the other as a potential husband or wife.

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