Marriage agreements in 17th century Holland
In the 16th century it was the parent's right and duty to find a suitable husband for their daughters, but in the 17th century they used a more subtle approach. Parents could not force their children to marry someone, which the child found unacceptable, but at the same time children could not marry somebody, who the parents had rejected. Permission of the parents was required for boys under 25 and for girls under 20. When both marriage partners were of age but couldn't show proof of permission, the magistrate would inform the parents and they had two weeks to make their case. The magistrate would then decide if the parents' refusal was well-founded. All in all we can conclude that parental marriage arrangements were still in fashion, but children had increasing power to make their own choice.
Moral behavior before marriage in the 17th century had its own written and unwritten rules. The obvious rule was that intimacy had to wait till after the wedding ceremony. Partners had to be chaste in body and soul. In reality, most young lovers did not necessarily adhere to this. It was generally agreed that sex was not allowed before the engagement, but after that most people would turn a blind eye. Intercourse before marriage was legally a crime and the man (not woman) could be fined, but this rarely happened. If a girl got pregnant but the young couple would get married soon after, then all legal problems were solved.
An engagement in the 17th century was an agreement between a man and woman, in which they promised to marry. They gave each other a "marriage penning", which could be a ring or a coin to affirm the decision. This agreement was binding and could not be terminated by one party alone.
Before the marriage took place, the prenuptial agreements were formulated and officially notarized. It defined the gifts and goods, which each party brought into the pact.
At this period marriage was not just a matter exclusively for the church. A couple had the choice to get married at a church or town hall. The minister or magistrate would first determine if all consents and paperwork were in order and then the marriage ceremony could take place.
After the marriage ceremony a wedding fest would take place. The groom's friends would "roast" the groom with bawdy songs and stories. At the end of the party the guests would "dance the couple to bed". Wild dancing guests (mostly men) swirled around the couple and groped and touched the bride after which the couple retreated to their private room.