When men and women did meet, they obviously enjoyed each other’s company. After dinner we assemble in the hall where the sweet Judah favored us with a good deal of her incomparable music.” (Peter S. ] Carr, July 28, 1787.) Young white men began courting in their late teens.
There is much speculation going on as to the preference I shall give & tho I do not intend to practice one Coquettish air as you are pleased to call my little innocent gaieties yet for my own amusement do I intend to leave these speculating geniuss to their own conjectures for some time at least till I have made up my mind as to the time—for you must know I know I mean make one Surprize do for all by being married off hand—believe me it is impossible for me to think too long on the subject lest I should in truth be whimsical.” (Eliza Ambler to Mildred Smith, February 1785.)“It has ever been my wish to keep my Daughters single ‘till they were old enough to form a proper judgment of Mankind; well knowing that a Woman’s happiness depends entirely on the Husband she is united to; it is a step that requires more deliberation than girls generally take, or even Mothers seem to think necessary; the risk tho always great, is doubled when they marry very young; it is impossible for them to know each others disposition; for at sixteen and nineteen we think everybody perfect that we take a fancy to . With the rise of the affectionate family, arranged marriages became a thing of the past.
Those who disliked their children’s choices might withhold permission or, if the children were of age, leave them out of a will. Young people rarely courted far from their social class, and respected parental opinions most of the time. W[illiam] C[olston] came here and Communicated his intention of waiting on my daughter Lucy.
I told him I had long entertained such a Suspicion and really with Pleasure for his Virture and unexceptionable behaviour had long attached my good wishes to him.
Everyone had an obligation to support and nurture the new family unit. The minister led the group down the aisle of the church or family parlor, followed by the bride and groom in their finest clothes, the parents, and the bridesmaids and bridesmen. we continued dancing till twelve.” (Robert Hunter, Jr., December 1, 1785.) Anyone who slipped away from the dancing to rest could be hunted down and forced to return.
Favors, like gloves, fans, or hat bands, were sometimes given to the attendants. Various wedding customs might have taken place during the party.