Colonial dating and marriage

Since most young adults will marry, the process employed in finding a husband and wife is still considered courtship.

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

Bundling, or tarrying, is the traditional practice of wrapping one person in a bed accompanied by another, usually as a part of courting behavior.

The tradition is thought to have originated either in the Netherlands or in the British Isles and later became common in colonial United States, It is possible the precedent for bundling came from the biblical story of Ruth and Boaz, in which Ruth, a young widow, and Boaz, an older wealthy landowner, spend a night together in a grain storage room while not touching; the pair later get married.

Until two centuries ago, said Harvard historian Nancy Cott, "monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion" of the world population, found in "just Western Europe and little settlements in North America." When did people start marrying?

The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia.

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.

"Whenever people talk about traditional marriage or traditional families, historians throw up their hands," said Steven Mintz, a history professor at Columbia University. '" The ancient Hebrews, for instance, engaged in polygamy — according to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines — and men have taken multiple wives in cultures throughout the world, including China, Africa, and among American Mormons in the 19th century.

Today on the Colonial Quills blog I posted on colonial weddings, so I thought I’d carry that topic over to this blog as well. We read in the Sewall diary of a Sewall bride thus “coming out,” or “walking-out bride,” as it was called in Newburyport.

The following is an excerpt from an article by historian Alice Morse Earle in the Journal of American Folklore (April-June 1893). Cotton Mather thought it expedient to thus make public with due dignity the marriage.

In Larned’s “History of Windham County, Conn.,” we read a description of such a scene in Brooklyn, Conn.

Further attention was paid to the bride by allowing her to choose the text for the sermon preached on the first Sunday of the coming-out of the newly married couple.

The man and the woman usually were members of the same community, and the courting usually was done in the woman's home in the presence (and under the watchful eye) of her family, most often Mom and brothers.

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