In fact, the buttoned-up repression we often associate with the Victorian era misses the fact that Victorians were pretty creative when it came to inventing ways to get around sexual restraint, especially in the sphere of dating. In the Victorian era, many saw marriage as an economic arrangement from which the families of both the bride and groom — though often the groom — would benefit. And typically, an event known as The Season precipitated all the upper-crust matches that would lead to these arrangements. Families who took part in the event had one goal in mind: To find their daughter a suitor.
Can I see Mum this Mother's Day? Rules for what you can and can't do
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Even if the flirtations — covert or overt — yielded a match, more work lay ahead. Indeed, the path to the marriage bed had as many rules and conventions as courting did. First and foremost, women were expected to be virgins on their wedding night, and sex before marriage was forbidden. Second, a woman did not have to accept the first proposal offered to her. In fact, even if she wanted to marry the man who had proposed, she was allowed and maybe even encouraged to make it a little harder for him — especially if her family had wealth that he wanted. Upon the formalization of an engagement — which often went unannounced for a time, lest someone call it off and humiliate the family — the betrothed had more freedom to spend time together.
Drone shows Victorian-built railway getting 21st century upgrade in Warwickshire
This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish and expensive funeral, curtailing social behavior for a set period of time, and erecting an ornate monument on the grave. They gave copious instructions about appropriate mourning etiquette. For deepest mourning clothes were to be black, symbolic of spiritual darkness.
The rules and suggestions for courtship and romance occupy most of the space in Victorian etiquette and letter writing books. There are usually flowery forms for written proposals from the suitor as well as a plethora of gushing acceptances from the bride-elect. Near the end of the section there is generally one curt letter of refusal to a marriage proposal.