How has the journey from courtship to marriage changed within the last 100 years and how has this been reflected in their wedding and lifestyle choices?
‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ asked Shakespeare back in the 16th century. ‘Mr Jones, may I have your daughter’s hand in marriage?’ asked lots of men in the 1950s—a practice that’s slowly fading out. ‘I met him on Tinder’, said someone in 2016.
Has love itself ever changed? Perhaps not. But the way we discover it and express it has. Given Valentine’s was in the air, let’s look at love over the decades. How has courtship and marriage changed over the years?
I love you
It could be argued that the way we date has changed almost beyond recognition, driven in large part by looser sexual codes and technology. The idea of ‘wooing’ someone, slowly, over time—usually a man ‘announcing his intentions’ to a woman—is seen as old-fashioned today.
Nowadays, the dating scene is remarkably different. Technology means we’re only a text message or email away from someone. Social media means it easier than ever to meet new people – close to where you live or anywhere in the world.
And the rise of online dating has created a ‘hook-up’ culture, making it quicker to get into a relationship, whether it’s a casual fling or something more long-term.
When dates didn’t really exist
Of course, let’s not forget that there was a time when dating didn’t really exist. In some cultures, courtship and marriage was decided and managed by peoples’ parents.
The 1960s and ‘70s were a time of sexual liberation, especially for women. The idea of men being the ‘dominant sex’ was flipped on its head as what we might call ‘second-wave’ feminism became prominent in the US and other parts of the western world.
Over this period, it could be argued that sexuality became more open. People felt freer to talk about their love lives and sex, while perhaps still a dirty word, wasn’t quite as dirty as it once was.
From the church to the registry office to…
In the UK at least, fewer couples now get married in a church. The Marriage Act, which came into effect in 1994, meant more premises (like hotels, castles and sports centres) could be used for civil ceremonies.
The effect was significant. Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that:
In the 1980s, the number of religious marriages was roughly equal to that of civil ones
But in the 1990s, this started to drop
By 2011, under 30% of marriages were religious ones
Since 1995 the percentage of marriages in approved premises has increased from 1% to 58%
If you’re looking for an interesting venue to get married in, check out this list of vintage wedding venues (we like the Barbican Conservatory).
Introduction of civil partnerships and same-sex marriage
Gay, straight or somewhere between, we’re all the same. Thankfully, in the UK at least, this has now been formally recognised.
In England, Wales and Scotland, gay marriage is now legal (read about the first same-sex weddings). And in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, civil partnerships are too.
How do you think courtship, love and marriage has changed over time? Let us know.
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