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Finding true love: A look at the history of dating

Whether its for true love or partnership, finding your intended is based as much on the times as it is on fate. 'Today' host Katie Couric reports.
/ Source: TODAY

Back in colonial America, marriage was less about romance and more about men finding women who could bear children to help share the heavy workload that frontier life demanded.

By the mid-1800s a shortage of women in the rapidly-expanding West forced men to place ads like this one, which appeared in an Arkansas newspaper:

"Any gal that got a bed, calico dress, coffee pot and skillet, knows how to cut out britches and can make a hunting shirt, knows how to take care of children can have my services till death do us part."

Practical life demanded less romance and more of what a woman could bring to the marriage.

Flash forward to the 20th century where romance played an increasingly important role in dating. In the 1950's courtship was formal and elaborate — a routine of going steady, getting pinned and then engaged, all under the watchful eyes of parents.

The 1960s brought feminist freedom and the birth control pill. Still, traditional courtship existed.

In that same era, dating services found their way on to the scene. Back then, big computers helped people find a mate.

And long before the days of shows like "The Bachelor," 1965 brought us "The Dating Game," the forerunner in TV dating shows for singles.

“It was a magic formula because, here you have a woman picking from three guys, so at home everybody's saying, “Oh, she's gotta take that number two, he's so handsome." The fact that women were making choices was a total different thing for dating,” said Jim Lange, host of the show until it went off the air in 1980.

“The Dating Game was perfect for it's time.”

The free-wheeling 1970s made shows like the dating game seem downright chaste.  No one felt the need for a marriage license to have sex and the pick-up scene at bars stayed in full swing throughout the next decade.

The advent of new technology in the 1990s saw the most significant shift in dating yet.  As the internet expanded, couples were able to meet in new ways. Men and women could post personal profiles on a virtual bulletin board and then get to know each other through e-mails.

“I liken the emails to modern day love letters,” said Stephanie Kandel, who met her husband Tyler Kandel through in 1999. “I learned so much about Tyler through those emails, where as when you meet someone in a bar you don't really get in depth and really get to know that person.”

“I do remember asking Stephanie if I could kiss her on the first date,” said Tyler. “And, she said, 'No. I never, never kiss on the first date.' And, then about 20 minutes later we were making out.”

They've now been married for four years.

For those still wanting to meet in person, a new phenomenon has emerged. Speed dating is a series of 10 to 20 dates in one night, each lasting as little as five to eight minutes. It is fast and efficient for those with little time to find a mate the old-fashioned way.

“It's putting you face to face with a person that gives you an opportunity to see what they're like. And, I don't think you really need more than five minutes,” said Denise Brown, who met her husband Larry through a service in Los Angeles called Rapid Dating.

“She happened to be the very last woman who cycled through my table. So that was, I guess, the woman worth waiting for,” said Larry Brown.

They've been married a year and a half.

“Gloriously, deliriously happy. I couldn't imagine anything else,” said Larry.

And this modern method of dating isn't just for the especially young people out there with busy work schedules.

“Rapid Dating is like shopping at Loehmann's.  Sometimes you have to go back until they put the good things on the rack,” said Sally, who met her boyfriend Ken through Rapid Dating.

“My seventh time there is when I met Sally,” said Ken. “And, actually, her personality entered the room before she did. We had a very funny conversation.  We laughed,” said Ken.

“Laughed 'til we cried,” said Sally.

“After that we started seeing each other fairly regularly several times a week,” said Ken.

“I think right away, four days a week, and now we're living together,” added Sally.

With all the changes that have taken place in American courtship, everyone agrees once you find it, nothing beats true love.