But any red-blooded young male who independently set his cap at a particular young lady and approached the parents with a view to instigating a formal courtship was in for a hard slog.
As far as chaste courtship is concerned, the good old days have been overrated, almost as mythical as the Standish-Mullins-Alden triangle that Longfellow invented.In such situations, couples had to wait into their late twenties before formally entering the connubial state—which some historians say created fertile ground for extracurricular shenanigans, broken promises, and court battles.For the more unfortunate, if the parents disapproved of their son's choice, they could veto the alliance.Leon Kass of the University of Chicago says that nowadays "for the great majority, the way to the altar is uncharted territory: It's every couple on its own bottom, without a compass, often without a goal.Those who reach the altar seem to have stumbled on it by accident." It may be that the traditional route to conjugal correctness—chaste courtship, formal engagement, church wedding, consummation, and parenthood, in that order—is less traveled.No priest, minister, magistrate, or license was called for, although it was not unusual for blacksmiths to officiate—the anvil becoming a symbol of where long-lasting unions were forged.The ceremony could as easily be performed in a field, a garden, an alehouse, or, as was often the case, in a bedroom. It's easy to imagine a libidinous youth promising in a few words to have and to hold in order to secure his wicked way with a young country maiden, later to renege on the deal.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.The woman's father was expected to provide a dowry.The well-heeled were aware that there were scurrilous and ruthless fortune hunters looking to ensnare wealthy heiresses. For some couples there was heartbreak; for others, resignation.