Two of the three marriages
in the Ballard household in 1792 show us the differences between what
was expected then and what we expect today. Marriage was a process, a
series of events, not just a single, special day.
Courting took place within
the confines of work and community. Interspersed with daily work, young
people saw each other at school, at corn huskings, at dances after quiltings
and barn raisings, at Sunday meeting, in the local tavern, or riding to
visit neighbors. (Mr. Pollard's and Mr. Thomas's in these entries are
two taverns in town.) Young people also went to other households to work,
and might have found friends and companions there.
By law, marriage banns had
to be posted in a public place for fourteen days or announced at three
public religious meetings on three different days. This was called being
"published." The marriage itself lacked pomp and circumstance.
The honeymoon, if there was one, probably consisted of visiting friends
and relatives, often in a group that travelled with the newlyweds.
Even after the wedding day,
the bride did not necessarily leave her parents' house immediately. First
the couple had to gather or make the goods to set up a household. Before
and after the 1792 weddings, the Ballard family engaged in making and
buying essential household items. Meanwhile the grooms came and went,
sometimes for meals, sometimes to stay overnight. We see in the Ballard
diary that finally, when they had made enough preparations, a married
couple could "go to housekeeping."
Thus the rituals of courtship
and marriage, under control of the community, confirmed family ties and
led to a new economic relationship between two people.
For more information, see the
film A Midwife's Tale and Chapter Four in the book A Midwife's