This section of the book is from the "Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette" book.
Preceding the marriage comes the courtship, an event which, since the world began, has been one of vital interest to man and woman, but which is so varied in its incidents and characteristics that no set rules of etiquette can be made to apply to it. It may suffice to say that when a gentleman feels such admiration for a lady as to induce him to make a proposal of marriage to her, it is the more manly and courageous way to do so verbally instead of in writing. During courtship anything that offends good taste, or is conspicuous in the conduct of a betrothed pair, should be sedulously avoided, such as making public each other's sentiments. These concern the pair alone; they lack interest for the public at large, and etiquette demands that they should be kept secret.
A sufficient public announcement of the engagement is made by the ring, which it is usual for the gentleman to give the lady, as a token of the new relation existing between them. This may be a diamond solitaire, if the means of the gentleman will permit. Otherwise, a plain gold band is in order. It must be worn on the third finger of the left hand.
When the engagement is once formally made, it may be made known by the young lady or her mother to relatives and intimate friends. Good form, however, requires that the gentleman should gain the consent of the guardian or parents of the lady before making his proposal to herself. This is particularly important if he is in moderate circumstances and she wealthy.
The length of the engagement must depend largely upon the wishes of the parties most particularly concerned. Of late years it has become the fashion to shorten the time, and unless the marriage is likely to take place within six months it is better to make no public announcement of the engagement.
Hasty marriages, on short acquaintance, are in all cases to be avoided. The loving pair should grow to know each other well and intimately before courtship is allowed to pass its preliminary stage of attractive acquaintance; and many an unhappy marriage has come from undue haste in this particular, ardent fancy being permitted to take the place of cool reflection and growing; knowledge.
There is a delight in courtship, moreover, which is often unwisely abridged by too quick a marriage. In the words of one wise maiden, who was asked why she did not marry when she had so many lovers, " Being courted is too great a luxury to be spoiled by marrying." But all this is matter for which it is useless to attempt to lay down rules. Men and maidens have followed their own inclinations in regard to the length of the period of courtship since civilization began, and will probably continue to do so.
It is only when the engagement has been made and formally announced that etiquette can have anything to do with the matter. A couple once betrothed, and the betrothal made public, have placed themselves, in a measure, in the hands of society, and must yield in some degree to social obligations, if they wish to avoid invidious comment.