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Courtship (or the slang, going steady) is the process of selecting and attracting a mate for marriage.

In many "traditional" societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with well-known rules. In many societies, courtship is reduced to a minimum, or eliminated altogether, by the practice of arranged marriages, where a partner is chosen for you, typically by your parents. In some societies, the parents or community choose potential partners, and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited.

In liberal Western societies, a date is an occasion when one socializes with a potential lover or future spouse. In this sense, the purpose of a date is for the people dating to get to know each other and decide whether they want to have a relationship. However, the term is also used to mean a social evening between people who have an established relationship, particularly if the goal is to relax away from day-to-day responsibilities, such as caring for children. Dating may be the term for the relationship of two people attending a date, but other terms are often used. These terms imply different degrees of commitment and monogamy, in mid-20th century America teenagers commonly dated or "went out" (on dates, "going out") with multiple people before "going steady" with just one, but "going out" now generally implies monogamy.

In the United States, around the 1990s, a movement against dating and casual romantic relationships arose in the conservative Christian community. This movement favored a more family-oriented model of Christian "courtship," as reflected in the writings of Elisabeth Elliott (Passion and Purity) and Joshua Harris (I Kissed Dating Goodbye).

Animal kingdom

Courtship activities are widely observed in the animal kingdom, where they play their part in the process of sexual selection. See: animal communication.

See also