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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.Today, love is popularly considered the reason for a marriage, but for the best part of 150 years, colonial marriages among the gentry were arranged in the same way that they are still agreed upon in parts of the world.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.
Defying parental prohibitions, youths occasionally caught the quickest ride to their connubial destination.
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.
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.
Sometimes a younger son or daughter could not be betrothed before his or her elder siblings.
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.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.