Marriage is a highly desirable state for men and women and most expect and want to marry and set up a family of their own. The aspiration is that a successful relationship will be consolidated through marriage.
In Naples many people recognized two forms of engagement. Engagement "outside the home" referred to relationships that might still be on trial, or more casual, and that did not involve the couple's families. Engagement "in the house" referred to an official and recognized relationship. This was achieved through fairly formal visits to each other's homes and meetings between the families. It was expected that the relationship would result in marriage. Once formally engaged, a young woman's social life changes considerably and she is expected to behave with decorum. Parsons' research in the 1950s suggested that the period of courtship was extremely stressful for young women as they are vulnerable both to gossip and to the volatile nature of the courtship relationship (see "Gender over the Life Cycle").
Ideally, married couples will live neolocally, but the shortage of housing and secure jobs poses problems for many young people and courtship can last many years. During the courtship years the couple will prepare for the future. The girl might well have started to put together her corredo3 or dowry even before courtship. But once engaged, the process of accumulating items for the home will be accelerated. An ideal wedding is a white wedding, held in church, although many couples opt for a civil wedding particularly if they are not practicing Catholics.
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