Difference between Courting and Dating

By: | Updated: Mar-2, 2018
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You know dating is hard. Everybody knows that. You sometimes wish there was a different way to find a life partner – something similar to how people used to do it centuries ago, maybe. Does the involvement of other people imply that you have nothing to say on the matter, or is it somewhat the same thing? What is the difference between courting and dating in reality?

Summary Table

Courting Dating
Was done before becoming officially engaged Is done before a couple starts a relationship
A period for the two young people to get acquainted and used to the idea, and for the parents to sort out the details A period intensely used by young people to get to know each other
Was done with the purpose of finding a spouse Can be done for fun; could end in a relationship
Was official and involved the parents Can be casual and can be a one-time thing
Physical contact was not allowed Physical contact is permitted if consensual
Is still practiced in some communities Is practiced almost all over the world



Courting was the sum of actions through which two people showed interest in one another before the announcement of an official engagement was made. The rules of courtship are different in all parts of the world. Usually, the man comes courting at the home of the woman he is interested in. The entire family is involved. The parents are made aware of the interest of the young man, and the two potential lovers are left alone together in a room to socialize only if this is the norm in the community. In some religious communities, the two never speak to each other and the parents do the matchmaking.

Romanticism has put a particular glow on the whole idea of courting, with novels of authors such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters painting a picture of Victorian courtship practices. The people involved were supposed to be modest and proper. The parents’ consent was very important. Letters could be exchanged and the young people would be chaperoned when they were allowed to spend time together.

In nature, even animals court each other before mating. It consists of the male showing a fertile female that he is interested in her.

Dating is a modern concept and a way for two people who are interested in each other to get better acquainted. It can take place at any time of day and involves doing some pleasant and relaxing activity like sharing a meal, walking, or seeing a movie or play. Some dates may end in intercourse if the partners consent to it. Not all dates end in a relationship, however.

Dating can be a one-time thing if the two do not seem to get along well, or it can be a regular thing before the two become a couple. The purpose of dating is to find out as much as possible about the other person before investing in a relationship or giving up on personal space and freedom.

Courting vs Dating

So what is the difference between courting and dating?

Courting was done when the entire family was involved in the marriage decision of the children. This usually happened because the move was strategic and because positions and wealth had to be consolidated, not lost. Matches were made in accordance to the young people’s status. According to the local custom, the two were or were not allowed to spend time together, exchange letters and declare their love. Courting, when allowed by the parents, was done with the purpose of getting married.

By contrast, dating places the choice of a partner fully in the hands of the two people directly involved. It is a time when they can discover each other in every possible way and in every possible context. Similar to courting, dating gives the young people a chance to make sure that they are the right fit. Unlike courtship, dating does not involve parents’ consent and does allow physical contact as part of the process. Dating can only be about having fun. Preferably, it will end in a relationship and a steady arrangement.

Old-fashioned people or those looking to experience something different can still resort to old courtship practices. Some religious communities still keep to these practices as well.

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