Top 10 Strange Courtship Rituals


“Should I give him my number?”

“Why hasn’t he called yet?”

“I can’t be in a relationship because I have commitment issues.”

“I like you but I don’t love you… yet!”

“I am ready to get down on my knees and take this relationship forward.”

“….She said yes!”

We have heard the stories. We have even seen them. The story from every dorm room, to the stories on our celluloid screens…love and courtship. Courtship, today, has become boringly synonymous with active dating, but this was not always the case. From offering sweat-brushed apples to severed heads, courtship used to be a different ball game altogether. While some people moved to more sophisticated woo-ing, there are still some who continue with other bizarre rituals:

10. Baby Look What I Got You… A Severed Head!


A very bizarre courtship ritual, practiced in Taiwan up until the 1930s, was discovered through 150-year-old letters of botanical experts at Kew. A tribe called the Atayals was very enthusiastic about head-hunting, literally! The men often used severed heads from their battles to woo the women they coveted. Once accepted, these prized possessions were not promptly removed from sight. They were, instead, kept in open air on a narrow platform, for everyone to see.


9. A Man Sure Knows His Way


If an old Nordic custom is to be believed, playing hard-to-get is only a modern phenomenon. Among some Nordic tribes in the 19th centuries, it was pretty easy to find out if a girl was single and ready to mingle. All she had to do was to wear an empty sheath on her belt, for all eligible men to know that she was seeking her true love. The plan was simple. You like the girl, you put your knife in her sheath. If she kept it, then say hello to your fiancée, because she continued wearing it as a sign that she is betrothed to you. If she returned it, then you just have to move on because she was just not that into you!


8. Grab That Gypsy Gal


A weird courtship ritual among the Gypsies of the UK has come under the limelight recently, where a guy grabs a young girl for a smooch, sometimes forcefully so. Unfortunately, the girls don’t have a say in this, or in their own lives for that matter. They are not allowed to approach a guy, or even make a move. These girls, mostly between the ages of 14-21, are generally pulled out of schools by their parents to get married, serve their husbands, and bring honor to their families. Shocking, right?!


7. I Came, I Saw, I Conquered…And I Got A Wife!


God bless womankind for what all they had to put up with in their lives in ancient times! Pick up any book on our ancient history, and you will find a mention of how women were just picked up by invaders from villages and tribes during a raid, and brought in as “wives” to carry on with their civilization.  So just imagine, one day you are baking a dish for your loved ones, and the next day you’re washing the dirty laundry of some jerk you are forced to call your “husband.” Sigh!

6. I’ll Have A Groom, Please


You flirted with many, hooked up with some,

Got committed to Danny, yet married none.

It could be the story of your life. Well, the story of many women, as a matter of fact. But these Indian girls know how to save them from the burden of socializing, and still end up with a groom. While the 21st-Century India is still going through its socio-cultural reforms, a small state of Bihar has adopted a strange popular ritual of “kidnapping the groom,” as a way to fight the custom of dowry. The father of a girl, not able to afford dowry for her daughter’s wedding, can simply steal away an eligible young bachelor for her daughter, and wed them off in a traditional secret ceremony straight away, against his wishes.


5. Sweaty Apples. Yummm!


Going through some strange courtship rituals so far, surely we must had some eyebrows raised. Now let’s see that cringe on your face, as it’s time for something gross!

We are talking about 19th century Austria, where pretty lasses had the liberty of courting men they liked with a slice of an apple. Not just any apple slice mind you, but the one soaked in their armpits during a dance ceremony, presented to them later. If interested, the men would happily gulp it down in acceptance. How sweaty! Sorry…how sweet! Glad they don’t do it anymore.


4. Talking About Precautions Here


There is always a thin line between intercourse and intimacy. Rather, we have a thick blanket here between those! There could be nothing more challenging than to test the patience of young adolescent lovers through “bundling,” a common practice during 16th-17th century in Europe and America. Young girls and boys were actually allowed to stay together, in the girl’s house, overnight, sharing the same bed…fully clothed…wrapped in separate blankets…with a bundling board between them. Phew! The sole purpose of this practice was for both of them to know each other well, while resisting any kind of temptation!


3. Anyone Looking For Some Free Love?


Welcome to the perfect modern world. You can only yearn for a simple natural way to live your life the way the Dai people of China & Southeast Asia live. Followers of Buddhism, the Dai people are famous for their courting and marriage rituals. Flirting, dating, premarital sex, you name it and they’ve got it! They also have an interesting traditional courtship ritual. Various people gather at one place. You’ll find all the young women sitting around a bonfire, and turning their spinning wheels. The men, clad in red blankets, will be playing a musical instrument. Everyone can approach a woman of their choice and, if it’s a yes from her, she’ll invite him to sit on a stool with her. He will drape his blanket around her, and they can just have all sorts of mushy fun together. Love just blossoms!


2. Our Little Girl’s All Grown Up


The Dai folks might have a free-spirit kind of approach to love, but the Kreung tribes from Cambodia have simply taken it to a different level. Here we have parents, who actually build what they call “love huts,” for their teenage daughters. The girl can spend the night with any guy, or as many guys, as she wants to, until she finds her ideal life partner. Hallelujah!!!

She better choose wisely though; once married, the couple cannot split apart. It’s a strict social taboo. Hallelujah?


1. Mi Casa Es Su Casa


Considering the current condition of women in Egypt, it is hard to believe the kind of liberty they enjoyed in ancient times. Married women had equal rights, were independent, had the right to property and wealth and, most shocking of all, they had the right to divorce a man if they like. Remarriage was also allowed.

Courting for marriage was simple. They just had to move in and live together, without any formal ceremony. So that means no starving till your wedding, no drunk guest turning up at your wedding, no weird pause before you say “I do,” and best of all, no pre-wedding jitters!


Written By Simmi Mankani

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  1. All these cultures have somethings to teach us. It is not our place to judge them or analyse them through our vision of the wolrd

  2. excellent list. did not know about any of these really 4, 7 and 8. the groom stealing one definitely creeps me out the same way it would with bride stealing. is that actually what Amish people wear to sleep??

  3. Note on bundling: the kids would be placed in a bed with separate blankets and a board… and would then be sewn into the bed so as to further prevent any immoral events. As stated, it was usually done at the girl’s house (so her parents could prevent any bad things from happening) and the 2 were expected to talk all through the night.

    So, if you’re thinking to yourself, “well, they’re teenagers and they’re going to figure out how to make things happen”… keep in mind that most homes of the period (up until the early 19th century) were 1-room affairs. At best, the kids would be up in the attic with the rest of their siblings, with mom and dad downstairs. So privacy wasn’t exactly widely available. Not to say it didn’t happen, but it would’ve been a challenge.