Generally, during much of recorded history of humans in civilization, and into the Middle Ages in Europe, weddings were seen as business arrangements between families, while romance was something that happened outside of marriage discreetly, such as covert meetings.
From about 1700 a worldwide movement perhaps described as the "empowerment of the individual" took hold, leading towards greater emancipation of women and equality of individuals.
In the mid-twentieth century, the advent of birth control as well as safer procedures for abortion changed the equation considerably, and there was less pressure to marry as a means for satisfying sexual urges.
Social rules regarding dating vary considerably according to variables such as country, social class, religion, age, sexual orientation and gender.
Behavior patterns are generally unwritten and constantly changing.
While the term has several meanings, the most frequent usage refers to two or more people exploring whether they are romantically and/or sexually compatible by participating in dates with the other.
With the use of modern technology, people can date via telephone or computer or meet in person.
Although in many countries, movies, meals, and meeting in coffeehouses and other places is now popular, as are advice books suggesting various strategies for men and women, in other parts of the world, such as in South Asia and many parts of the Middle East, being alone in public as a couple with another person is not only frowned upon but can even lead to either person being socially ostracized.