The date is fairly casual in most European-influenced cultures, but in some traditional societies, courtship is a highly structured activity, with very specific formal rules.

In some societies, the parents or community propose potential partners and then allow limited dating to determine whether the parties are suited. In Japan, there is a such type of courtship called Omiai, with similar practices called “Xiangqin” (相親) in the Greater China Area. Parents will hire a matchmaker to provide pictures and résumés of potential mates, and if the couple agrees, there will be a formal meeting with the matchmaker and often parents in attendance. The matchmaker and parents will often exert pressure on the couple to decide whether they want to marry or not after a few dates.

Courtship in the Philippines is one known complex form of courtship. Unlike what is regularly seen in other societies, it takes a far more subdued and indirect approach. It is complex in that it involves stages, and it is considered normal for courtship to last a year or longer. It is common to see a man showing off by sending love letters and love poems, singing romantic songs, and buying gifts for a woman. The parents are also seen as part of the courtship practice, as their approval is commonly needed before courtship may begin or before the woman gives the man an answer to his advances.

In more closed societies, courtship is virtually eliminated altogether by the practice of arranged marriages in which partners are chosen for young people, typically by their parents. Forbidding experimental and serial courtship and sanctioning only arranged matches is partly a means of guarding the chastity of young people and partly a matter of furthering family interests, which, in such cultures, may be considered more important than individual romantic preferences.

Throughout history, courtship has often included traditions such as exchanging valentines, written correspondence (which was facilitated by the creation of the postal service in the nineteenth century), and similar communication-based courting. Over recent decades, though, the concept of arranged marriage has changed or simply been mixed with other forms of dating, including Eastern and Indian ones; potential couples have the opportunity to meet and date each other before one decides on whether or not to continue the relationship.