22 Old-Fashioned Courting Rituals That Would Shock Gen Z

Swipe left, swipe right—that’s today’s dating lingo. But back in the day, courting was an art form, complete with its own quaint and sometimes bizarre rituals. Ready to be shocked, amused, or maybe even a little inspired? Explore these 22 old-fashioned courting rituals that could leave Gen Z scratching their heads!

Formal Family Introductions

Instead of meeting at a coffee shop, dates began in the family living room, with parents, siblings, and possibly even a nosy aunt all lined up to meet potential partners. The family’s approval was crucial, and a bad first impression could mean game over. People had to keep their cool, charm the family, and pray their little brothers didn’t bring up that embarrassing story from last Christmas.

Calling Cards

Before texting could ever leave anyone on read, there were calling cards. A gentleman visiting a lady would leave his card at her home, and she could then decide whether to respond with an invitation. It was a formal way to express interest without directly saying, “I like you.” Think of it as the original “poke” on Facebook.

Chaperoned Dates

Freedom on a date? Hardly! Dating often meant being accompanied by an adult chaperone to ensure everything stayed proper and under control. It’s like having a referee for romantic interactions. This practice ensured that decorum was maintained at all times during those early interactions.

Love Letters

In an era long before WhatsApp or Snapchat, expressing your feelings required a pen, paper, and a lot of heart. Love letters were carefully crafted, often perfumed, sealed with wax, and delivered by hand or post. These messages were treasured and read repeatedly, carrying a weight of affection that today’s digital messages might lack.

Dance Cards

At balls and dances, ladies carried dance cards on which gentlemen signed their names to reserve a dance. Filling out your dance card was a social triumph, and managing it required some strategic thinking—whom to dance with, whom to avoid, and how to keep a slot open for a late-coming crush.

Parlor Visits

When a suitor came calling, he was received in the family parlor, under the watchful eyes of family members. These visits were a chance to converse and show off one’s conversational skills while sitting stiffly on the best furniture. Every word and gesture was scrutinized, adding pressure to the already nerve-wracking experience.


If you were genuinely smitten, you might stand under a loved one’s window and serenade them with a romantic tune. This bold display of affection required not only musical skills but also the courage to publicly declare one’s feelings. It’s a far cry from sending a Spotify playlist!


This curious practice involved a couple being allowed to share a bed, fully clothed, often with a bundling board between them. It was a way for the couple to talk and bond all night without taking things too far. Sounds awkward, right?

Fan Language

Ladies used their fans to send secret messages. How a fan was held or flicked could communicate interest, disdain, or a desire to talk further. It was a silent language that required both parties to be well-versed in the subtleties of fan movements.

Horse and Buggy Rides

A date might involve a leisurely ride in a horse-drawn carriage, allowing the couple to enjoy private conversation and scenic views. This slow-paced, intimate setting was perfect for deep conversation—or for those less talkative, just a quiet ride through town.

Token Exchange

Exchanging personal items like lockets, handkerchiefs, or rings was a common way to signify affection and intention. These tokens were often cherished as symbols of a bond and were far more personal than a Facebook relationship status update.

Sunday Promenades

Dressing in one’s Sunday best and strolling through public spaces was a way to see others and be seen. It was social media before social media, where you could literally “walk” your profile around town.

Ice Cream Socials

These community events were perfect for a casual meetup, where young people could socialize, share ice cream, and maybe steal a few glances. It was a sweet, low-pressure environment for sparking new connections.


These small bouquets conveyed secret messages through the language of flowers. Each flower had a different meaning, and combining them could tell an entire story. Giving someone a tussie-mussie was a delicate way to express your feelings, much subtler than a text message.

Victorian Ballroom Etiquette

Attending a ball wasn’t just about dancing; it was a complex social ritual. Strict rules governed everything from how you spoke to how you moved. Balls were all about presenting yourself in the best possible light, with every step and word calculated.


When a man gave his fraternity pin to a woman in college, it was a sign of serious social commitment, akin to saying, “We’re official.” This tradition signified that the relationship was exclusive, much like changing your relationship status online, but with a tangible symbol worn proudly on one’s sweater.

Poetry Reading

Sharing poetry was the go-to move in the game of love. Whether you penned it yourself or borrowed lines from famous poets, it was all about flaunting your sophisticated taste and heartfelt emotions. It really hit the spot for those looking to impress both the romantic and intellectual sides of their crush. Who could resist a well-delivered sonnet?

Seaside Strolls

A walk along the shoreline was a classic romantic gesture that allowed couples to enjoy quiet, uninterrupted time together. Then again, it is still that today. The serene backdrop of the ocean and the casual pace just make it ideal for deep, meaningful conversations or comfortable silences.

Attending Lectures

Believe it or not, attending lectures was once a popular courting activity. It provided an opportunity to show off one’s intellectual curiosity and engage in stimulating conversation about the topic afterward. Going to such events was both a social outing and a chance to learn something new together. That sounds like something we’re down to experience.

Garden Parties

These elegant affairs provided a perfect setting for showing off one’s social graces and attire. Amidst the beauty of manicured gardens, potential couples could mingle, chat, and enjoy light refreshments. Think about it this way; it was networking with a romantic twist.

Playing Parlor Games

During parlor visits, games like charades and 20 Questions were all the rage, serving as perfect icebreakers and tension relievers in the often stiff world of formal courtship. These games not only livened up the room but also let everyone show off a bit of wit and whimsy. Who knew that guessing pantomimed clues could be the secret to romance?

Hat Flipping

If a gentleman was interested in a lady, he might toss his hat onto her property. And if she picked it up and brought it inside, it was a sign of her interest. If the hat remained outside, well, that was a pretty clear message to move on!

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