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EL3-Bethrothal

The koon-ut-la of Spock and T'Pring in 2237.

The koon-ut-la was a betrothal ceremony on Vulcan usually performed between two young Vulcans in their seventh year after they successfully completed the kahs-wan, or "test of maturity". The betrothal was performed by a Vulcan high priestess who joined the minds of the male and female. The bond would be far stronger when the betrothed pair were married some years later. Once they reached sexual maturity, their telepathic link would drive the couple to plak-tow, or "blood fever", and to sexual consummation of the marriage during the koon-ut-kal-if-fee. (TOS novel: Spock's World)

The koon-ut-la was an occasion of celebration and was attended by family and friends of the betrothed couple and followed by a banquet and ritual music and dancing. Females were prominent during the ritual. (TOS novel: Dwellers in the Crucible)

The betrothed couple were often not well acquainted with one another before or after the betrothal ceremony. However, a betrothal ceremony between children usually, but not always, resulted in a successful marriage when they were adults. The couple was expected to develop a regard for one another with time and growing familiarity. A bonding ceremony, which was recognized as an official marriage, between adults was also sometimes separate and held before pon farr, or the "time of mating". It was customary for the male and female to live together for one year following the ceremony, perhaps to deepen the telepathic bond between the married Vulcan couple prior to pon farr. Vulcans reached legal adulthood before they reached sexual maturity and some betrothed couples chose to complete their bond and live together when they were legal adults, years before pon farr. Many Vulcans had no direct sexual experience before they married. Other Vulcans chose to engage in emotional or sexual relationships with people other than their betrothed mates in the years before they took part in an official marriage ceremony. Such relationships were traditionally stigmatized. A child who was born to unbonded parents was called "krenath", meaning "shamed one", and was considered to have been shamed by his parents. (ENT episode: "Breaking the Ice", TOS episode: "Amok Time", TOS novels: The Vulcan Academy Murders, Dwellers in the Crucible, Vulcan's Glory, Yesterday's Son, VOY episode: "Gravity")

An adult male who delayed in formalizing the relationship with his betrothed when they reached legal adulthood may have been required to pay her family a bride price each month until he was ready to assume his responsibilities towards her. The male rather than the female was required to pay the bride price, based upon his ability to pay, as he was the one considered fortunate to gain a life mate. (TOS novel: Vulcan's Glory) The betrothal might also be broken by the parents of the male if his betrothed delayed the marriage ceremony or refused to follow Vulcan tradition in other ways. Neither the betrothed man or woman needed to be consulted in such an instance. (ENT episode: "Breaking the Ice") Betrothals also could fail in other ways. For example, Spock was betrothed to T'Pring when they were children, but their union was severed when T'Pring called for kal-if-fee rather than agreeing to marry Spock at their koon-ut-kal-if-fee. T'Pring wanted to marry Stonn and the challenge was the only legal way for a Vulcan woman to end an unwanted union under those circumstances. (TOS episode: "Amok Time") T'Pol and Koss were betrothed as children and married as adults, but Koss later had their coerced marriage annulled. (ENT episodes: "Breaking the Ice", "Home", "The Forge", "Kir'Shara", "Babel One")

Matchmaking was common on Vulcan and extended family members often assisted in finding a suitable bond mate for a young relative. (TOS novel: The Vulcan Academy Murders) A betrothal was traditionally arranged by the parents or extended family of the young male and female when they were children. In the past, such betrothals were often arranged to forge a strategic alliance with a powerful or wealthy family. (TOS novel: Dwellers in the Crucible) When selecting a prospective bond mate for a son or daughter, families still took into account the social status of his or her clan as well as the prospective mate's character, career prospects and physical appearance. (TOS novels: Vulcan's Glory, Dwellers in the Crucible) Some people were betrothed as adults. Sarek arranged a betrothal for his adult son, Spock, and his ward, Saavik, when both were adults. (TOS novel: Vulcan's Heart) Some Vulcans chose to leave their children unbonded and allowed them to seek their own bond mates as adults, based on mutual affinity. (TOS novel: The Vulcan Academy Murders)

It was traditional for the girl's uncle or another male relative to perform the role of pele-ut-la, or chaperone, prior to the betrothal ceremony. Spock assumed this role for his young relative Teska prior to her koon-ut-la ceremony. When they met, the girl addressed him with the words "Pele-ut-la" ("we meet at the appointed time and place"). He replied: "Koon-ut-la" ("possessor of the flame which burns from the time of the beginning, I am your servant"). The male relative and the girl then bowed to one another. It was also traditional for the female to eat tono-pak berries every hour during the two days before the betrothal ceremony, as a symbol of the end of her childhood and coming womanhood. (TOS novel: Mind Meld) Children were instructed about the pon farr and the facts about Vulcan sexual reproduction prior to the bonding. T'Pau wrote a meditation on the sensations and theories about pon farr which was considered appropriate for young females to read prior to their betrothal ceremonies. (TOS novel: Mind Meld) Certain Vulcan families were more traditional than others and instructed their daughters in ancient classical arts that men might find attractive, such as how to walk gracefully (TOS novel: Vulcan's Glory) and how to braid hair. Some Vulcan girls also were instructed in the ancient tradition of gathering herbs and making tea for the Vulcan masters and in other arts such as playing the ka'athyra. (TOS novel: Dwellers in the Crucible) An unwed Vulcan female traditionally wore a small red ruby earring in her left earlobe. Some Vulcans were familiar with ancient, classical Vulcan literature that discussed the nature of love and passion. (TOS novel: Dwellers in the Crucible) Deep green, the color of a Vulcan’s heart’s blood, traditionally symbolized passion on Vulcan. A woman who wore a deep green dress was attractive to a male in pon farr. Vulcan women rarely wore the color after the time of Surak. (TOS novel: Vulcan's Heart)

Following the betrothal ceremony, the boy and girl were traditionally subject to restrictions on their interactions with the opposite sex. A Vulcan female was traditionally forbidden to touch a male family member except under ritual circumstances. (TOS novel: Dwellers in the Crucible) It was also against custom for a Vulcan man to embrace a woman who was bonded to another man. Sarek was therefore hesitant to dance with the wives of other diplomats during a ball. (TOS novel: The Vulcan Academy Murders) It was considered undignified for a woman to serve a man she was not bonded to. (TOS episode: "Amok Time") However, the wife of a Vulcan man was expected to comply with his wishes, at least in a public setting. (TOS episode: "Journey to Babel", TOS novel: Vulcan's Glory)

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