As I went over my blog stats, I saw this question pop up in the search engine list. I thought it was kind of self-explanatory, but obviously not everybody understands why a courtship might be kept secret (in certain groups/families).
First off, not every girl (or family) feels the need to keep a courtship a secret. As you can imagine, some girls are so happy about being courted that they just can’t keep it to themselves. Openly talking about courtship is something you’ll see in the more “liberal” groups of the P/QF movement. It’s especially important to differentiate between P and QF here – strictly patriarchical families are more likely to keep it secret than families with a strong emphasis on the QF theologies.
And yes, there are families who aren’t patriarchical but live quiverfull. Others again are full-blown patriarchical families, but don’t believe in the quiverfull theologies (aka NFP and sometimes condoms are allowed, but it’s the man who decides when the wife will get pregnant).
The thing is simply that the patriarchs feel very much like they have to use the (successful) courtships of their daughters to show off how well they filtered potential suitors before hand. A failed courtship can imply that the father did not pick well and this might reflect back and his authority and leadership skills – at least in the public eye of the movements. Of course this isn’t true for every case, but the motto is usually “better safe than sorry”.
And it’s not just the fathers. In very strict groups, a girl turns into “damaged goods” faster than you might think. Even a failed courtship might label her as damaged goods and have a negative influence on the range of future suitors. It’s all about the “value of the bride”.
Imagine you’re in a store for soft pillows. The shelves are full of soft, handmade, expensive pillows. Lots of people come in to buy pillows. Now, some pillows might have attracted more customers in the past – they look a tiny bit “touched”, there might even be a little stain. They’ve never been slept on (no pun intended), but one or the other customer already picked it up to inspect it more closely. Now, if you do want a flawless pillow, you won’t even buy the “inspected” ones – you’ll go for the ones in the back, the ones nobody ever inspected, fresh from the storage room – if possible still wrapped in plastic.
It works very much like that in strict courtship movements. If a girl has one, or, even worse, more than one, failed courtships, there’s something “wrong” about her. A girl breaking off a courtship is something rather “wild”. The idea is that the girl will certainly like the man her dad picked out because, well, her dad knows her best. If you hear of broken courtships, the general idea that comes to mind is that the guy broke it off for some reason (or the dad, which then would be kept secret again because dad doesn’t pick “the wrong guy”). The girl’s value decreased with every courtship she goes through. She’ll be labelled damaged, easy to get, high maintenance and so forth. And simply because of that, it’s so much easier to keep courtships secret until the day of engagement.