Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1700s

Part of the fun of historical fiction is stepping into another era . . . both the good and the bad. Beautiful gowns—yes, please! Wearing tightly-laced corsets under those gowns—maybe not. A simpler life with less technology might be appealing, but the lack of indoor plumbing certainly isn’t.

One of the best things about reading is that it can take us into the past while still keeping us firmly in the present. At the same time, there are customs of the past that we would love to see brought back into style today. For many of us, that includes some of the traditions of romance in years gone by.

I interviewed several of our historical fiction authors about the difference between romance and courtship today and in the time period they write about. Every Friday this month, I’ll post a different time period . . . with a fun giveaway at the end of each post!

Join me as we go back several centuries and talk with Jody Hedlund about love and marriage in the 1700s.

When Susanna’s heart for the poor and Ben’s disillusionment with British rule cross paths, the two find themselves bound in a dangerous fight for justice.

Book Title and Setting: Rebellious Heart, 1763 Boston

My Question:
How was courtship different in the era of your novel compared to now?

Jody’s Answer:
First, courtship in the 1700s was a family affair. Parents often had a hand in choosing potential suitors and steered children toward appropriate matches. While such involvement may have had an overbearing quality to it, young adults of today could save themselves later heartache by obtaining family input on potential marriage partners.

Picture of Abigail Adams via Jody's Pinterest board.

Abigail Adams, who Rebellious Heart‘s heroine is based on, via Jody’s Pinterest board.

Secondly, courtship in the Colonial era had an aspect of supervision. Most often young couples were together in groups or spent time with each other’s families. They were rarely given an opportunity to be completely alone without chaperones.

Young couples today have perhaps gone to the opposite extreme, pairing off alone too often. Having the benefit of group activities or chaperones helps couples focus on developing a friendship rather than letting the physical aspect of the relationship cause false intimacy.

Sitting room

A typical sitting room of the time where young ladies would receive suitors, from Jody’s Pinterest board.

Finally, courtship in bygone days was seen as a serious step toward marriage and commitment. Young people didn’t get involved in a relationship unless they were considering marriage.

While there may be some benefit to checking for compatibility by dating numerous people, all too often it leads to broken hearts, painful partings, and disillusionment. Perhaps modern young people have something to learn from the practice of waiting to court or date until they are more mature and ready for marriage.


Connect with Jody on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.

Now it’s your turn, readers! Which one of these aspects of Revolutionary-era courtship would you most like to see make a comeback today, and why? Comment below, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of Rebellious Heart. The winner will be posted in next Friday’s blog post, so be sure to check back to see if you won!

52 thoughts on “Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1700s

  1. I think all aspects of Revolutionary-era courtship had merit, but I think the one we should bring back is the seriousness of courtship. When I was younger, I knew I didn’t want to deal with a broken heart (if I could help it), so I didn’t start dating until I found the one person I knew I would want to marry. I was seventeen when I started dating David–and seventeen years later, we’re still together. We’ll celebrate our thirteenth wedding anniversary in June. He was the only man I have ever kissed. 🙂 I know it’s rare, but I hope my children can avoid broken hearts.

  2. I find that to bring back the custom of arranged marriage might be somewhat beneficial, but it has it’s drawbacks. It is better to have parental involvement, but children of divorced or unmarried parents may have some trust issues, as to weather it will work for them. Arranged or overly encouraged marriages often have not been happy ones. It is better to marry young for the right reasons, often based on friendship. I find that too many people today marry because they think they have to settle, either because they think that they can do no better, or because of their age, weather older or younger. They often try to fit in with their crowd, and often make foolish decisions because of it, and do not consider how those decisions may impact their extended family, and potential children. It is best to know a person for many years before marrying them, unless you have discussed your expectations thoroughly, and know the person well.

  3. I liked that they only used their given names when they were very well acquainted, or as a sign that they were definitely committed to each other. I think the casualness of today can sometimes lead to disrespect, or at least taking a relationship for granted. I don’t think it is a tradition that will ever catch on again, but I like the formality in the books I read!

  4. I especially like the family aspect. It’s important to me, even today, to have my family’s input and guidance in relationships. Thanks for the giveaway! I’ve heard great things about this series!

  5. Pingback: Love Never Fails: Romance in the 1700s | Faithful Acres Homestead

  6. I wish couples today would approach marriage as a forever commitment instead of ‘trying it on for size’ and walking away when difficulties arise. As a first step to that end, a more serious, intentional courtship would seem like a good thing to bring back.

  7. I think that family supervision is a good idea. Dating today is occurring among younger participants than ever before and their time alone should be limited at the beginning of their relationship.

    Thanks for a chance to win this new book by a favorite author!

  8. All of these aspects have worthy motives and goals. Since young adults often no longer live with, or in the same locale as their families due to employment, I would select the aspect of supervision which can be facilitated through group activities allowing couples focus on first developing a friendship before pursuing their romantic inclinations.

  9. I think young couples should have more supervision now. They have too much free time, and that usually allows them to get into trouble that could have a lifetime of consequences.

  10. I think that they all had merit. Too many times people choose a spouse without their families approval. I think that having a chaperon is a good idea. In the Revolutionary-era just a touch could give you chills and butterflies, but now people hug goodbye the first time they meet someone. We lack boundaries that should still be there. Thank you for the giveaway!

  11. I think that the parental input was important. Nowadays a lot of couples make decisions in the heat of the moment (which they usually regret), and this problem might be avoided more often with parental advice and input.

  12. I think that having your entire family meet and regularly interact with a potential spouse is invaulable as long as their input is taken into consideration. Additionally, limiting alone time between the young man and woman would dramatically lessen unwanted pregnancies, divorce and unhappy marriages since any sort of physical relationship would not cloud the relationship.

  13. I think all of the above mentioned aspects have great merit!! Dating seems to begin earlier and earlier,pairing off leads to trouble. thank you for an opportunity to win!!

  14. One thing from the past that could be implemented today is the close, extended family unit. In the past, two things contributed quite effectively to avoid the potential of couples pairing off. One was large families. With so many siblings it is hard to get alone time, no matter how hard you try. The same is true on a lesser scale, when you have several generations living in the same house. Great-grandparents might not be so mobile, but provided they have not lost their sight and their hearing, they can sit in one place and see and hear more than a young couple might wish for. I know my grandparents did, and although I might not have been thankful for their interference at the time, I am now.

  15. I agree with @courtney207! I think the family aspect is often overlooked today. I have a 16 year old daughter and I constantly feel like I’m looking for new ways to communicate, guard, and protect her relationships. I think a storyline with this theme or idea would be great for mothers of tweens / teens!

  16. I think that today’s dating could use a healthy dose of solemnity and family involvement. There is too much experimentation and hence, unplanned pregnancy. Men also have stopped being the pursuers of a relationship. Marriage is a joining of families and should include developing a relationship with the family as a whole too. I got married in 2004 to a wonderful Christian man who took the time to pursue a relationship with my family and me; I’m so blessed!

  17. I think courtship with a focus on marriage would be good to bring back. Casual dating doesn’t seem to have much point and can bring heartache.

  18. I like the idea of young couples getting together for group activities rather than pairing off alone. It builds a good friendship foundation and takes the pressure off to be more intimate. I also like the idea of courting or dating with marriage in mind. Going through high school, I was the person my friends confided in regarding their relationships. I think many of them could have saved themselves so much heartache if they had waited to date. At 24 years of age, I have never gone on a date, and I know it will be so much more special when I do, hopefully with the man I will end up marrying.

  19. When raising our boys, I thought courtship was a good idea. However, I neglected to notice that they did not like it at all, as none of their friends did this and no one around did. It was an idealistic idea for us that failed miserably.

  20. With three teenagers of my own ( and three more who will be) I wish the family was still more involved in the process of dating and choosing a mate! My children, so far have listens to parental advice.

  21. Wisdom is getting together with lots of people and especially with each other’s families. Is the root respecting and honoring the older generation by wanting their feedback? I think so. Plus, the character of a person isn’t taken into account enough versus chemistry, which is so easy to have and loose. Knowing character would come with time. My vote is 2.

  22. i think Sex and marriage is taken too casual in todays culture. Too many kids have experimented in sexual activities of some sort as low as 4th and 5th grades, according to surveys. It’s really a shame it’s gone this far. Most 16 to 18 years aren’t as mature as past years. And, not just my opinion. Too many are raised with no responsibilities, and have most any thing they want. They are not equipped yet for responsibilities of homemaker or rearing children. Which is what happens too many times. When I was 16 I knew how to keep house, cook, and tend babies. Also how to plan a bugget for a certain amount of money. I married at a young age(tho I’m not saying that is a wise decision). But I did know my husband for a number of years and our families were close friends. Most of our dating was with other couples. I think it would help if people raised their sons to respect their dates and treat them as they would want their sisters treated. Too many think it’s just all right for them to do whatever. So, I think the group settings is a great idea. Too much time as a all time couple does today leads to letting their hormones make decisions that should be made more wisely. Also I think they should be more respectful of listening to the wisdom of parents. And when they do decide on marriage, I think they should discuss what each expects from the other, and their religion, and how to raise their children. I think that would help have less divorcing. I would love to win this book.
    Maxie Anderson

  23. I like the supervision of the families and the group dating. I think this still goes on in Christian families today. Dating is not allowed til a certain age, group dating is only allowed and even courtship.

  24. I definitely think the family involvement and supervision is a great idea. And to only date someone you are considering marrying is good and can save a lot of heart ache.

  25. I would definitely like to see teens waiting until they’re older to date. I hate hearing little 13 year old girls talking about their “boyfriend.” I always want to say “No! You are nowhere near old enough to date! Talk to me again in 5 or 6 years. You might be old enough then.” That may be a bit extreme, but they don’t need to start dating that young. They have quite a few years left to find a husband.
    I’d also like to see the families being more involved in who their children are dating or perhaps marrying. A lot of parents don’t seem to care and that’s the wrong attitude to have. This is your future son or daughter in-law, they could marry your child. You might want to start paying attention.
    Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now! Thanks for the interview, Jody! I’d love to win your book!

  26. I love all of those I think they all should be brought back. There is a reason divorce rates are now 50%. If I absolutely had to choose, I would pick having no alone time unchaproned. Nowadays this is an extremely fleshly world and women and men alike generally do not focus on purity like there once was.

  27. I think in todays world I would like to see more family involvement and supervision. dating today starts way to young and they have to much free time with no supervision.
    There is little or no respect for parents opinions on dating in a lot of cases.
    Pressure from peers often leads to bad decisions with no thought to the consequences. We are losing the battle for a moral compass in our country and it carries through allowing our children to do as they want with whoever they want .The standards and advice of past times would hold us to a higher standard when being mature enough to date.

  28. I prefer the old courtship ways as well. Its just a matter of who I am – especially now that I have 3 daughters. And this post is brilliant at pointing to all the positives. But I think that there were some downfalls in that system as well and those aren’t discussed here.

  29. courtship in the Colonial era had an aspect of supervision which is how it worked for us in our jr high/high school days in the 70’s – we were a huge bunch of friends that would hang out – date – meet new people thru each other. We go to concerts, Cedar Point and the lake for boating and water sports. We kind of watched over on another and enjoyed the fun.

  30. Well I have a son that is 38 and has no plans to marry….
    But I have the perfect girl for him if he would just give it a chance.So I think family involvement is a good thing if he would just listen . I love him dearly and want him to be happy.

  31. I liked the way the Colonial era did with supervision, today too much familiar-ness is prevelant and kids get in trouble before they know it. Would like to see dress changed to having more instead of less. I so enjoy reading the bygone eras in my books. thanks for sharing this today.

    Paula O(

  32. Supervision can seem restraining but I think it provided stability, safety, and accountability. I don’t know that I would bring such strict supervision back; but at least, I would encourage not being in situations totally unchaperoned. Today’s culture lacks commitment. A marriage relationship requires commitment through ups and downs and I think true love develops more and deeper after marriage. Today, many couples op for living together without marriage and I think their relationships lose sight of that something truly valuable is worth waiting for and worth the investment of their time, energy, and faithfulness. Enjoyed the insights posted here as well as your historical perspective shared with us.

  33. Once you add human nature into the mix there are no guarantees.
    I agree with the idea of having family play a more important role in introducing their children to the “right” sort of people, but then I don’t like the idea that someone may be overlooked or slighted based on factors beyond their control. (Like where and to whom they were born.) And we all know that if parents disapprove of someone that makes the attraction stronger. I think modern fashion could use some ideas from days gone by. I’d love to see more family events where people get to socialize and mingle. Get introduced to the cousins of friends, etc.

  34. I like the idea of more supervision while courting. Time alone can sometimes lead the couple into temptation.

    Thanks for the giveaway.

  35. Interesting. I think the idea of courtship with family involvement is a great idea. However, even those dating trends can sometimes lead to heart ache. All couples need time alone to discover whether or not they are compatible one-on-one, as conversational topics are greatly generalized in group settings. I think a balance of the two would be most helpful.

  36. I think that entering dating with a great level of commitment and seriousness should make a comeback. Our culture plays at dating too much and breaks a lot of hearts and creates commitment issues in the process.

  37. I think the dating with more seriousness should make a comeback and dating with a group to start out could save a lot of heartbreak later too

  38. I think all of the ideas of the 1700s have merit. Unfortunately, I don’t see them all reviving. But I do wish the group activity, and the seriousness of courting would come back. Couples today often think, ‘well if it doesn’t work out we can divorce’, but that’s defeating the seriousness and commitment that should be a part of marriage.

  39. My ideas on courtship and marriage are old-fashioned. I’d like to see a young person pray about a marriage partner. Not waste their time on anyone who doesn’t fit their standards. When they stand before the God , the Minister and each other – to commit to the marriage until “death do us part.”

  40. More emphasis on the commitment is much needed. More development of friendship is needed. Marriage with your best friend can be a wonderful fun and enjoyable journey.

  41. Not get serious in a relationship unless considering marriage. Couples meet today and go out a couple times and have sex! They don’t even know if they really like the person, never mind love the person. Frustrated!!!!

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