Letters dating to 1700
Sometimes these affairs ended happily, sometimes not.
For young girls, it was prudent to hide a couple of friends in the closet to secretly witness the pledges and forestall backsliding.
For couples that could not secure their families' blessings, this was a consolation.
You joined hands and declared that you took each other to be a lawfully wedded spouse, and lived together. This short but sweet ritual went by the name "handfasting" or "spousal." Parental permission did not enter the picture.
Beyond doubt, most people stayed strictly within the bounds of propriety, but in the mid to late 1700s, more than one girl in three was pregnant when she walked down the aisle.In Romeo and Juliet tradition, status, property, and wealth were the dealmakers or the dealbreakers.In early colonial days, marriage might have little to do with the emotional entanglement of two young people. Romantic love did not figure in the parents' equations, and it was not until about the middle of the eighteenth century, when parental influence began to decline, that the concept of love got serious consideration as a matrimonial prerequisite.Darcy and the demure Miss Elizabeth Bennett, where ne'er a lusty thought or word between them passed.But the rituals of Austen's Pride and Prejudice—idealistically drafted in 1796—as shining examples have long since been passed over, and courtship, that delicate art of hooking a prospective mate and playing the fish all the way to a preacher, is all but dead.
The woman's father was expected to provide a dowry.