Courtship is defined as the period of a romantic relationship before marriage or the act of paying attention to somebody with a view to developing a more intimate relationship. In societies in which individuals choose their own partners, young people typically date prior to marriage. Dating is the process of spending time with prospective partners to become acquainted. Dates may take place in groups or between just two individuals. When dating becomes more serious it may be referred to as courtship. Courtship implies a deeper level of commitment than dating does. During courtship the individuals specifically contemplate marriage, rather than merely enjoy one anothers company for the time being.
Courtship may lead to engagement, also known as betrothal—the formal agreement to marry. Couples usually spend some period of time engaged before they actually marry. A woman who is engaged is known as the man’s fiancée, and the man is known as the woman’s fiancé. Men typically give an engagement ring to their fiancée as a symbol of the agreement to marry.
In the past, dating, courtship, and engagement were distinct stages in the selection of a marital partner. Each stage represented an increasing level of commitment and intimacy. Although this remains true to some degree, today these stages have tended to blend into one another. For example, modern dating and courtship often involve sexual relations. Studies indicate that most of the young people now have had sexual intercourse in their teenage years. Furthermore, the contemporary mate-selection process frequently includes the practice of cohabitation—living together in an unmarried sexual relationship. Cohabitation often precedes marriage, but in some cases, people continue to cohabit without entering the bonds of marriage.
In general, people tend to date and marry people with whom they have characteristics in common. Thus, mate selection typically results in homogamous marriage, in which the partners are similar in a variety of ways. Characteristics that couples tend to share include race, ethnicity, religion, economic status, age, and the level of prestige of their parents.
A lot of factors may be taken into consideration in courtship. But the very essence of courtship is that it is a positive affirmation on both sides. It is a positive statement or declaration of the truth or existence of one's love towards another and the assertion of agreement towards the other.