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About 2000 years ago in Israel, was a virgin free to choose her future husband (or even to decide whether to marry or not marry at all) or she was absolutely submitted to the will of her father?

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Generally minors (i.e. girls under 12) were not married by their fathers unless the situation was desperate, the father could not support them, and instead found his daughters a husband who could support them.

Even in such a case, the marriage was not usually consummated, but rather the girl would live with her husbands family till she got older. And usually the husband was around her age.

One large difference from today is age, people got married a lot younger.

In general people chose those own spouse, not only was that the custom, it is the halacha (law) - a non-minor can not be married against their will.

You may be interested in reading about Tu B'Av - unmarried girls would all dress identically in white clothes (so no one could tell rich from poor) and dance in the vinyards while the unmarried boys watched. (They would sometimes squish grapes with their feet to make wine while dancing.)

My understanding is that if either party saw someone they were interested in they would ask their parents to arrange an introduction.

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Can you source any of this? – Double AA Jul 15 '12 at 3:46
@DoubleAA I wish I could, it learned it such a long time ago. Where I wrote "My understanding" is the part I did not learn, but rather am assuming. – Ariel Jul 15 '12 at 3:51
Toward the end of taanis I bleive, I'll try to find it exactly, been a while for me too. – user3114 Sep 1 '13 at 15:45
26b, 31a taanis, about tub'av – user3114 Sep 1 '13 at 15:55
Kiddushin in 41a, Rav prohibits marrying off a daughter who is a minor. Also see tosafos on ravs statement, implying that marrying off minors occurs out of necessity, as Ariel said. – user3114 Sep 1 '13 at 16:04

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