Courting Candles

Courting in your ancestors’ days was entirely different from now. Suitors first called on the girl’s father and got his permission and a time was set. There was no pulling up in front of the house and honking the horn. Nope. There were rules to be obeyed.

At the appointed time of the young man’s arrival, the father would get out a courting candle—a metal contraption that consisted of a heavy coil. He’d set a taper in it and adjust it by turning the candle to whatever height he saw fit. It was purely at his discretion. He’d then place it either in the parlor or on the porch.

If he liked the suitor, he might set the candle high so it would burn for a while.

If he didn’t approve of the boy, he’d set the candle low.

But whether high or low, when the candle burned down to the top of the coil, time was up and the father would show the young man to the door. If the suitor argued about it, the dad might show him the toe of his boot! I’m sure many a one left that way.

On rare occasions when the suitor met with joyous approval, the father might let a second candle burn after the first was all the way down.

These courting candles were used by rich and poor families alike and set boundaries that must be adhered to. They provided a quiet yet firm reminder that the girl’s father was boss and his word was final.

I sort of like this old tradition where no words needed to be said. The candle spoke loud and clear.

The most recent courting scene that I wrote was in Catch a Texas Star when Roan Penny courted Marley Rose McClain. Duel didn’t much want them to see each other because Roan was a drifter. Roan didn’t like it a lot when Duel told him he’d have to prove he’d stick around. Which he did.

Longing for a Cowboy Christmas is out and I’m so happy. My story, The Christmas Wedding, is about Rebel and Travis from the outlaw town of Hope’s Crossing. To take her mind off the fact that Travis has been captured by a bounty hunter and she hasn’t seen him in months, she and the other women decide to celebrate the Advent and make the entire town the calendar.

Do you have a courting story to share or maybe one in a scene from a book? I’ll give away a copy of Longing for a Cowboy Christmas and will draw the winner on Saturday.


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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!

61 thoughts on “Courting Candles”

    • Good morning, Denise. I think courting candles are so cute! I’m sure they add the right vibe to your beautiful country farmhouse. I need to come visit and see them! Thanks for coming.

  1. Good morning Linda- I am so glad you and Jodi made it home safe and sound. Get you some rest these next few days.
    My very 1st date I ever had, I was so nervous, I was 16 and the boy was 17 or 18, he arrived to pick me up and meet my parents. The meeting of each went well but as we were leaving out the door to go on our date to eat and see Silverado at the movie, my dad had one bit of advise for my date.
    I wanted to just hide under a rock, I was so embarrassed.
    Dad told Mitchell, “She’s a good girl and I want her brought back in the same shape she left here in!”
    Mom even said she wanted to hide under a rock with me!
    Our date went perfect and he was a gentleman the entire night. Only a goodbye kiss at the end.
    Sadly he was killed the next year on a hunting expedition.
    My dad was just being protective of me, but I still remember his words to this day.

    • Good morning, Sister Friend. How funny! I would’ve died. I wonder what Mitchell thought? Bet he was nervous and a little scared. How sad that he lost his life. I’m sorry. Yes, some rest is definitely in the cards!! I’m exhausted from the trip. My body felt every one of those one thousand plus miles. Love you dearly, friend.

  2. I never heard of courting candles before! Thanks for sharing! I don’t have a courting story per say but this did remind me of the first guy I went out on a date with. When I asked my parents about it my daddy said I could go out on a date with him if he came to the house and had supper with them first so my Dad could meet him. My father grilled steaks and as he went in and out of the house he stomped and slammed doors and such. We did get to go out on the date and when Tim and I got out to his car he said, “Does your dad think I’m going to take you out and rape you or something?” So embarrassing but my Daddy did let us go so all in all he approved of Tim. Lol

    • Good morning, Ms. Warrior Friend! Dads are so funny and when they’re trying to be really protective, they do strange things. Your poor date!! It’s a wonder he got up enough courage to take you on an actual date! And afraid also to bring you home. He probably expected your dad to be waiting with a shotgun. Thanks for reading my post, Miss Steph. You have a wonderful and inspiring day.

    • Good morning, Miss Dale! Oh wow, it’s really nice to see you. Courting candles used to be in every home at one time. But I had never heard of them either until I read a book where a father used them. Then, I had to go read about them. Thanks for coming, sweet lady.

  3. Hi Linda! I never heard of courting candles until I read about them just recently. Can you even imagine? And if the girl asked dear old dad to let the candle burn longer for a certain courted, he’d be sure to watch “that boy” a lot closer than the others! My parents would never allow my dates to “drive up and honk”-/they had to get out and come to the door. As a teenager I thought that was a silly rule, but Mom said it showed a lack of respect if they wouldn’t even get out of the car to come ting the doorbell and walk you to the car. Guess what? When my daughter started dating we had that same rule. I totally got it! Lol!

    • Should say courter instead of courted and ring instead of ting. Trying to post this from my phone who thinks it knows better than me!

    • Good morning, Cheryl! I get you. I understand “phone speak.” HaHa! It’s a must these days. The courting candle played a huge role in The Book Woman that we both read. It was almost like one of the characters. 🙂 Honking is really rude but I can understand the boy’s reluctance to face your parents. 🙂 It would take a lot of nerve. And yes, we can see the reasons behind our parents’ logic after we have our own kids. Love you, Filly sister!

  4. When my kids was at the dating age and I had one of each. I told them anyone interested in going out with them had to meet me. Told me who had the guts to come in sit down and hear my rules. I told one guy who was brave to come meet me and if course I didn’t hear good things of him, but he showed up. I said have her home by 11 and if she was one minute late I had a gun lol which btw I didn’t. I was going to hunt him down. Was outside with the lady few houses down. They happen to drive by and saw me pointing my hand he thought it was the gun. He went around block hardly stopped to let my girl out. She laughed and said he thinks you was serious lol. One down with many more boys to weed out. I never heard of the courting candles till now. Ty

    • Good morning, Kristi! You were really a protective Mama bear. I’m sure you scared many a boy! That’s so funny. Your daughter must’ve been embarrassed! But you sure made a believer out of them. Thanks for coming. I hope you have a splendid day.

    • Linda I’ve never heard of the Courting Candle but I have one that works on basically the same concept. The candle itself is spiral and shaped like a beehive with a metal clip that you put the candle through. When it burns down to the clip it goes out. I really haven’t burned it because my niece and her husband gave it to me and I just kept it as a trinket! Hope you are doing well! Hugs

  5. Good morning great post. No i don’t have a courting story. Your post was very interesting. Thankyou

  6. I have never heard of the courting candle before. I can’t really think of any dating issues that I had but then again that was so long ago I wouldn’t have remembered any of them.

    • Good morning, Quilt Lady! I’m happy you found my subject interesting. I think most of the dates I ever went on I had to sneak out. My parents never let me have an actual date. They were over protective to the extreme. I hope your day is filled with love.

    • Good morning, Debra! Thanks for coming over. I agree about starting a courting candle tradition. The world might be in a better place if we still had them in the family structure. I love how these candles enforced the rules without having anyone say them aloud. Much love, lady!

  7. Great read Linda! When my husband gets home from Wyoming, I’m getting out a taper candle and tell him he’s courting me! Courting candles, wouldn’t that be a fun find in an antique shop! Loved reading this today.

    • At my house growing up you certainly came to the door and definitely did not honk the horn. My mom was very strict. She knew everything before you did. I never had to worry about suitors because mom wouldn’t let us girls date. If they were lucky enough to get to have a caller, they got the third Degree. And she was a pretty good a first impressions. And usually right about them.

      • Good morning, Charlene! It’s okay to post on Kathy’s. I’m sure she doesn’t mind. It sounds like we had the same kind of mother! Mine was like that too. Fortunately, my much older sister took pity on me and I went to visit her a lot and finally got to date some. You have a wonderful day! Love you.

    • Good morning, Kathy! I love seeing your name pop up. Yes, you should do that to hubby. You know, you can order a reproduction of the candle. They’re even on Amazon. I looked. I’m thinking of getting one. 🙂 Love you, lady.

  8. I’ve seen pictures of courting candles before. I like that idea! We plan on doing more formal dating/courting with our daughters. I don’t like what happens out there nowadays and we both have been through that! We shall see!

    • Good morning, Susan! Yes, get you a courting candle. That really would help set some rules I think. You should try it. Reproductions are for sale online. They even have some on Amazon. 🙂 Love you, lady!

  9. I have often seen these in antique stores and were told they were used for baking – timers – LOL

    • Hi Teresa! It’s great seeing you. Baking timers? HaHa! Those people didn’t know what they had. Too funny. They have a lot of reproductions for a little of nothing on the internet. Amazon even has them. Thanks for coming.

    • Hi Caryl, I’m so happy you could come. If you think of the title of the book let me know. It might be the same one I read called The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Have an inspiring day.

    • Hi Tonya Cherry! Thanks for coming. It’s great to see you. How funny about your little niece as a chaperone. 🙂 Hey, reproductions of these are for sale on the internet. Amazon has some too. Have a day full of love.

  10. Welcome. Congrats on your newest book out. This is a very interesting article. I wish that this or something like this were still going on today. When I started dating, my father was gone most of the time, but my mother always had the boy come over for the first few dates. We had dinner, played a game, talked, whatever, but mom was always near by. Mom had discernment, just one of her gifts from God, and she really could tell if this was going to be a good young man or there was something else going on. I had too many of those later guys. Sigh. When my now husband started coming over. He really like hanging out with all of us. I also had three brothers and a younger sister. Mom really liked him right away. So we were given the green light to date outside of the home. With our two children, we did a similar thing. And we always set a time for them to be home. My husband was always home and one of his God given talents was also discernment. He could read these young men so well. LOL He could read the young ladies to a point, than he relied on me. And since this was not my gift, I used common sense and because mom was nearby, mom, myself and the young lady and my son would all go for lunch or something and mom could feel her out. Many time he would ask questions to our son to get him thinking. Now our son is married. Mom never got to meet her, but she would so approve. And our daughter is seeing a young man that both my husband and I totally approve. Long story short, we need to rely on the gifts that are given to us by God, as well as common sense and rules, and stick by them.

    • Hi Lori! Wow, what a story. Your mom sure had a gift of feeling these boys out. And so do you it seems. I totally agree about using the gifts God gives us, common sense, and rules. I hope your day is filled to the brim with love.

  11. I have never heard of a courting candle before. It really is a neat idea.

    I am so glad that Longing for a Cowboy Christmas is out. I have really been wondering what happened to Travis.

    • Hi Cheryl C……Wow, it’s so nice to see you. Thanks for coming to read about courting candles. I have no idea why people stopped using them. But they are interesting. Yes, Longing for a Cowboy is out and you’ll finally get to learn what happened to Travis. I think you’ll like The Christmas Wedding. Sending lots of love your way.

  12. Linda , Times were sure different, weren’t they? Young men now would probably just blow out that candle! My kids always enjoyed the story of when their future father my then current classmate came to my 14th birthday party (middle of summer, poorly attended), told me he would have to check his calendar because he was pretty booked up for the next 3 weeks or so but would like to see me again, and called me at 7:30 the next morning wanting to come over! It was our 50th anniversary this past June so he’s managed his calendar pretty well since then I guess.

    I love Christmas stories and am looking forward to reading Longing for a Cowboy Christmas.

    • Hi Sally! Thank you for stopping by to read about courting candles. How funny about your husband’s full social calendar!! 🙂 🙂 LOL I guess he got it cleared pretty fast. Took him no time to make room for you. I hope you find lots of good Christmas stories this season and especially hope you like Longing for a Cowboy Christmas. Lots of love.

  13. Oh, for heaven’s sake, Linda! Leave it to you to find such a fascinating detail from our pasts. I’ve never heard of courting candles. How very interesting!

    • Hi Miss Pam, I’m happy you liked my courting candles. I had heard of them long ago when I used to read the early historicals but had forgotten about them until I recently read a story where one was featured prominently. It almost became like a character. That’s when I went to research them. Fascinating stuff. I love finding things like this and I figure if it intrigues me, it will others. Love you dearly, dear friend.

  14. As many Historical Romance I have read how have I never heard of courting candles. You always have the best history lessons

  15. Hi, Congratulations on your new book, it sounds like a very good read, I love the cover it is Beautiful! I had never heard of courting candles, but they sure sound like a very good idea. When my daughter was dating my now son in law, he came first and met us, he was brought up to be very respectful, he opened and still opens the car door for my daughter and they have been married for 15 years now. I think honking the horn on a date is very rude and disrespectful. You know now we have a granddaughter who is 13 and my son in law tells her that when she starts dating, the guy who dates her will have to meet “Meet and Greet” first, Meet and Greet are his fists, 🙂 Have a Great week. God Bless you.

    • Hi Alicia! Thanks for the laugh. I love Meet and Greet fists! I’ll bet your granddaughter rolls her eyes. I like a person who has manners and is respectful. That speaks volumes about them. Thank you for the compliment on our cover. I just love it. It’s so pretty. Enjoy your week. Much love.

  16. I’d never heard of courting candles before, but what a great idea! I guess it also kinda gave you an idea of what your Dad thought of the dude from what he did with the candle!

    • Hi, Trudy! I’m so happy you came by. Yes, a father didn’t have to say much. The candle spoke for him and the suitor knew right away what his chances were. How funny. Much love.

  17. I’d never heard of courting candles before. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait for your new releases.

    • Hi Alisa! I’m so happy you came by to read my post. Glad you found it interesting. I hope you’re enjoying the Florida weather. Bet it’s so nice. Love you, lady.

  18. I learn something new on every blog you write. Maybe courting candles need to come fashionable again. Might make it easier for some families.

    • Hi Veda! I have to get up early in the morning to find something you’ve never heard of. Glad I could. Yes, we need to bring them back and for parents to start acting like parents again. I hope you’re recovering well from your surgery.

  19. I finished SAVING THE MAIL ORDER BRIDE for the second time today. I was going to save your story in LONGING FOR A COWBOY CHRISTMAS until after Halloween. Not going to happen. I can’t wait to get back to Hope’s Crossing. It will be the next thing I read, hopefully in a few days.
    I will have to say that Nora and Jack’s “courting” was not what one would expect or want. It did get them to know very much about each other in a short amount of time. Sort of a crash course on who your intended really is.

    • Also, I have had my order in for a courting candle in for a long time. It would only take my son a short time to make one. He is so busy, he doesn’t have much time to work in the forge. the neighbor has a field of corn planted not that far from the forge. The plants are dry, so he can’t use the forge until the corn is harvested. It has been several years since I asked for the courting candle and I had forgotten. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll have to bug him again about it.

  20. I don’t have a courting story but I actually have a courting candle. I wanted to put the picture of it on here but only the Img. #’s come up not the picture.
    It is a cool idea. Wish I would have had that when my daughters were teenagers!

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