Courtship and Marriage

Men and women are expected to marry unless they choose careers as priests or nuns. Lifelong bachelors and spinsters generally remain important within their family circles, regardless of where they live, especially as aunts and uncles to their siblings' children. Concerns for the preservation of property and social status always affect families' attitudes toward their children's marriage choices, and in the past many marriages were arranged, but love is a principal concern today and, in the modern economy, a couple's future is usually more closely tied to their own achievements than it is dependent upon their respective families' fortunes.

Spanish courtship is stereotypically long and marked by distinct formal stages, beginning as two people of courting age choose to be seen together in public (at dances, in the public paseo or stroll), and successively the man is received into the woman's house, their two families agree on the match, the man formally requests the woman's hand, an engagement is announced by both families, banns are eventually posted in church, and a wedding takes place, following which a new household is formed (except in stem family areas) and the couple joins the ranks of married adults. The length of a courtship and the ostentation of its associated household and public rituals can vary greatly. At the simplest end of the spectrum, couples elope. Elopement is not uncommon, nor in many areas is a couple's lifelong cohabitation without engagement or wedding. These solutions occur most in poor social strata and aid couples in escaping the expenses of the traditional public engagement and wedding, but they are occasionally chosen by others who would flout convention. The convention remains the measure by which alternative decisions are taken.

Marriage was traditionally seen as having its chief purpose in establishing a reproductive family; hence the marriage of anyone beyond the normal age of reproduction—either widowed people or older unmarried individuals—was often greeted with derision in their communities. The association of marriage exclusively with reproductive sexuality is becoming a thing of the past, and mature adults' needs for marital companionship apart from family building are well recognized.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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