One of the attacks often mounted against Hasidic life is a notion that Hasidic parents take a seventeen year old girl and eighteen year old boy, place them in a room against their will and an engagement is declared thirty minutes later.
I won’t start quoting now Talmud, Jewish by-law and other Sefurim to debunk this. However, let us just look how it works: “Shiduchim” (matches) are read to boys, girls and their parents. If either one of the list rejects, it is off the table in many households, while in other households even if the parents object, the Shiduch proceeds if the boy and girl so decide.
Because teenagers and even full adults in Hasidic society have great respect for their guiding Rabbis and deep trust in their loving parents, they are confident enough to move forward with a match if Rabbis and parents recommend it, and if the boy and girl like what they see in each other in the few thirty-sixty minutes sit downs that they have among themselves. Is this an odd approach? Well, since “the other side” was fully vetted by the parents, rabbis and perhaps friends (and vetted they are), most feel comfortable to move ahead after just a few sit-downs if both like what they see. There is such a thing as love at the first sight. Is there not?
In certain Hasidic households the interest of the parents and family-name sadly trumps the objections of the boy or girl. However, this is a very small number within the Hasidic community, just as dates are very out of the main stream in the Hasidic Community. However, looking at the middle 90-95 percent of Hasidic life, the boy and girl are the ones who make the ultimate decision whether to proceed with an engagement or to shoot it out of the water. Furthermore, because Hasidic life respects and is aware of the smarts in women, the boy in most engagements will be older than the girl, with the hope that the twenty year old groom will have the brains of his eighteen year old bride. Heck, I am five years older than my wife and I barely keep up with her.