Marriage in the ancient world was so different from what it is today. Couples never got the privilege to choose their future spouse, and Jewish culture was no exception.
In the tradition of Jews, a matchmaker helped to suggest a spouse for a young woman at the age to be married. Ultimately, God was given the final choice, through prayer, but the decision was rarely left to the young couple.
It was in that same case that a similar situation occurred with St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary.
Different traditions hold it that Joseph was an older widow, while other traditions claim he was a strapping young man. In either case, there was one narrative from the Protoevangelium of James (an early non-canonical “gospel” that preserved some oral tradition) that offers an explanation of how the two met.
It was told that the Virgin Mary was entrusted to the Temple at an early age that when she reached puberty, a proper husband would sought her.
So the high priest went in, taking the robe with the twelve bells into the holy of holies; and he prayed concerning her. And behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him, saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and gather the widowers of the people, and let each of them bring his rod, and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, the Virgin Mary shall be his wife. And the messengers sent out through all the circuit of Judæa, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all ran to assemble before Zacharias.
When Joseph got the message, threw away his axe, went out to meet them; and when they had assembled, they went away to the high priest, taking their rods with them. And Zacharias, took the rods of all of them, entered into the temple, and prayed; and as he ended his prayer. He took the rods, came out and gave them back to them but there was no sign in them, and Joseph was the last person to take his rod and lo, a dove came out of the rod, and flew upon Joseph’s head. Seeing this, the priest said to Joseph, You have been chosen by destiny to take into your keeping the virgin of the Lord. And Joseph said to Mary behold, I have received you from the temple of the Lord; and now I will leave you in my house, and I will go away to build my buildings, and I shall come back to you. The Lord will protect you.
The other stories are similar in style, though substituting the older Joseph for a younger one.
Whatever the case may be, it is verified that God chose Joseph as the husband of Mary, knowing he was a “just man,” with the honor to protect the new ark of the covenant (Mary) who would bear the savior of the world.
As it may not have been a romantic meeting according to our modern perception, their meeting was providential, and they grew in their love of each other, they provided an excellent home for the child Jesus to grow up in.