Courtship & Marriage Customs

Victorian Era

By: Olivia Mathieson


Courtship is seen as one of the most romantic topics in history, but the truth is it is more like a career move than a romantic gesture. This makes it a very serious affair.

From the time a girl can walk and talk she is being prepared for her career as a mother and a wife. She is taught how to dance, how to sing or play an instrument, and how to have small talk about literature. After a girl finishes her education, around the age 18, she is ready to come out or enter the marriage market. The girl is ready to be courted. Courtship, like a sport, has a season; this season runs from April to July. The main goal of this time is to find a spouse to marry. Like most sports there is a set of rules that the women had to follow. These rules included not approaching someone of a higher class, not being too intelligent, and not talking to a gentleman with out an introduction. Also, single women were not allowed out of the house with out a chaperone. Premarital sex was not allowed, but the strictness of this rule varied from class to class and also depended on gender. In the upper-class females participated in no premarital sex while the men would do this with servants or prostitutes. In the working class the rules were not as strict. In this class premarital sex was alright as long as the couple got married. In fact, one third of the brides in the working class were pregnant on there wedding day.

With all these rules one may think it is difficult for men and women to meet. They meet by getting introduced at parties and then getting reintroduced by a friend. Women were also allowed to flirt with there fan. Courtship has many steps as it progresses.

Stages of Courtship:

  • the first time the couple speaks
  • the first time walking out together
  • keeping company


Six Gun Sadie. "The Oh So Romantic Language of Fans." Stage Coach West 1880. Word Press. 8 January 2015. Web. 17 March 2015


In order to get married, the next thing you have todo is get engaged. The man should ask the girls father for her hand in marriage. When the man proposed to a woman he would have been very straight forward and clear about it. The woman did not have to agree to marry the man on the first proposal; she could make him ask several times before agreeing.

Once the couple was engaged, they would wait to announce it outside immediate family. This was just incase the engagement was broken. Just like today, the engagement was finalized with a ring. This was when the distant family and friends were informed of the engagement. Now that they are engaged, couples are allowed to be more intimate; couples could hold hands and kiss. The average engagement lasted for 6 months to 2 years before the couple got married.


Marriage was the ultimate goal of Courtship. Brides lost a lot of there freedom by getting married. After she was married a woman had no legal status and didn't have any money of her own. Even the children she would have could not be claimed by her.

The actual marriage ceremony was performed in either a church or a home which were decorated beautifully with flowers. The attendance at the ceremony went from very few to very many depending on the wealth of the couple's families. The wedding day was usually full of superstitions. The ceremony was required to take place in the morning by law. The vows shared by the bride and groom came from "The Book of Common Prayer" from the church of England, also known as the Anglican or Episcopal church. At the end of the marriage ceremony a marriage certificate had to be filled out, this is the couple's proof of marriage if they were to move.

After the ceremony there is usually a reception serving breakfast. Any gifts for the couple were for the bride. These gifts would have been displayed decoratively in the place of the ceremony. The flowery decorations would also decorate the place of the reception. Unlike today, wedding cake wasn't consumed at the reception, it was sent home with guest in boxes at the end of the party. The bride and groom would go on a honeymoon after there wedding day. The location of the honeymoon was kept top secret; the only person who knew the location would be the best man.

What did Modern Day Weddings get from the Victorian Era?

  • Wedding Dresses
  • Honeymoons
  • Internet Dating (they would post ads about themselves in the newspapers)
  • Wedding Rings
  • The Groom not seeing the Bride on their Wedding Day
  • Other Superstitions


Hoppe, Michelle J.. “Courting the Victorian Woman.” Literary Liaisons. 1998. Web. 17 March 2015.

Masonsal. “Courtship and Marriage in Victorian England.” University of Missouri-Kansas City. Word Press. 31 January 2012. Web. 17 March 2015.

Roth, Christine. “Victorian England: An Introduction.” English UWOSH. University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. Web. 17 March 2015.

Stromquist, Kat and Demand Media. “Victorian Era Wedding Traditions.” Synonyms. Demand Media. 2001-2015. Web. 3 March 2015.

“Victorian Days.” Angelpig. Network solutions. Web. 17 March 2015.