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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.
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.
Influential relatives had almost complete control of the course of events.
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.
The survival and consolidation of the families' power and prosperity were at stake.
Courtship and marriage were arrangements that would be of mutual benefit to the families. There were instances when young women and men tried to circumvent the order of the day.
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.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 lad had to sit at the negotiating table with the young woman's parents or guardians and show that financially he had what it took to keep his future wife in the style to which she was accustomed.