The Amish have a reputation for their commitment to their traditional values, and their wedding customs and traditions are no exception. The Amish church considers family as its core, so it goes without saying that young men’s mate choice is taken very seriously.
Young people in Amish communities are required to join the Amish church. They are then baptized into the Amish faith, where they are guided by the Ordnung, a set of rules they are expected to follow. Different communities have slightly different traditions, but they all believe that joining the church helps them prepare for courtship, and ultimately marriage.
Amish weddings are steeped in tradition and involve various practices which reflect on their faith, community, and family. The weddings are generally viewed as sacred covenants between two people and their community.
In this article, we will discuss the various Amish wedding traditions. We will look at what happens during dating and courtship, the engagement, wedding preparations, and the wedding day. Additionally, we will look at what the newlywed couple does after the wedding.
Dating and Courtship
The Amish community takes courtship very seriously, mostly because divorce is prohibited. Typically, the Amish start dating when they turn sixteen years old. By the time they are around 22 years old, they are ready to get married and start a family.
Amish youth socialize at various events or functions including church events, home visits, and frolics. A common event in the Amish community is Sunday night singing. Youths from various districts congregate at a selected Amish home to sing hymns and socialize.
The Amish boys and girls sit on opposite sides of a long table singing the various hymns and socializing after each song. The event usually lasts till around 10 pm. The host then brings drinks and baked goods for the young adults to eat and drink as they mingle and socialize till around midnight. If a boy is interested in a girl, he offers her a ride home. This can quickly turn into a relationship.
Unlike the usual English dates you are probably used to, Amish dates mostly involve participating in group outdoor activities organized by the Amish church or taking buggy rides together.
When a young couple decides to take the next step in their relationship, the young man proposes to the young woman. Instead of a diamond ring, he gives her a clock or china.
Engagements are generally very secretive. The newly engaged couple usually tell their families about the engagement just a few weeks to the day of the wedding, mostly in July or August. The Amish girl tells her parents first followed by the Amish boy.
The families in keep the engagement and prospective wedding date a secret until one of the late October church services.
That notwithstanding, you can guess which families expect to have a wedding by their conduct. Such families tend to plant a significant amount of celery in their Amish farm. The celery is used to make soup for the wedding and decorate wedding tables. You are also likely to see them painting their houses late October.
Before the wedding
Amish weddings take place in November and December, right after the harvest season and before harsh winter. However, some larger communities hold the weddings in both early spring and summer, so they don’t necessarily limit themselves to the Amish wedding season.
The wedding ceremonies are usually held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the preferred day days because the groom and bride’s family need a day before the wedding to make the necessary preparations and the next day to clean up.
This means that if the weddings took place on Saturday or Monday, the preparations or clean up would fall on Sunday, which is against the Amish traditions.
Most Amish brides prefer to make their own dresses instead of buying a new dress. They also make their bridesmaids dresses, commonly known as newehockers. The bridal wedding dresses are usually a shade of purple or blue.
Every bride gets to choose the color of her dress, but most Amish women prefer blue wedding gowns. The Amish bride never has a maid of honor, the same way the groom doesn’t have a best man. Everyone is considered an equal participant.
Most English guests are usually surprised at how plain the wedding dress is. Usually, it is mid-calf length with no fancy trim or fancy lace. Additionally, it doesn’t have a train. The bride and her bridal team wear white aprons and white capes over their dresses.
The bride is expected to wear high topped shoes on the wedding day. Almost all Amish women later wear the wedding gown to Sunday church services.
The groom and his groomsmen wear black suits. They pair their black pants with white shirts, bow ties, and black shoes. The groom dons a black hat to complete the outfit.
The Wedding Day
Several activities take place on the wedding day, including the Amish wedding ceremony. A typical wedding day starts at around 4 am. The family members take care of any last-minute preparations before heading to the church.
The helpers arrive at 6 am and by 7 am, the friends and family that are part of the wedding party have eaten breakfast and changed into their wedding attire.
The ceremony itself takes place at the home of the bride. Guests start arriving as early as 7.30 am and are ushered in by selected married couples who are ushers on that day. They guide the guests to wooden benches in the church room of the home or the selected large room where the wedding takes place.
The wedding ceremony starts at around 8.30 am and lasts until around noon. After scripture reading and a long sermon, the presiding bishop guides the Amish couple to a separate room to give them words of wisdom and private instructions while the congregation sings various songs.
He thereafter gives them his blessing and leads them back to the church room where they exchange vows in front of the church members and a final prayer is said.
The guest list for most Amish couples ranges from 250 to 500 wedding guests. The couple invites family members, coworkers, and friends, including English friends. The family members, friends, and bridal party are tasked with serving food, clearing dishes, cleaning the dishes, and caring for guest’s horses.
The festivities begin at the bride’s home right after the final prayer. The married women head to the kitchen to get ready to serve food while the men arrange the wedding tables in the living room in a U-shape. They reserve one corner table for the bridal party, groom, and bride. The Amish call this corner the ‘Eck’ which translates to ‘the corner’.
In the living room, the single women sit on the same side as the bride and the single men on the same side as the groom. Immediate family members sit in the kitchen, with the bride’s father and the groom’s father sitting at both ends of the table.
In the Amish culture, wedding guests eat two meals, the noon meal and the evening meal. Depending on the number of guests invited, the tables are set twice or thrice during each meal. The noon meal menu has a wide range of dishes including mashed potatoes, roast chicken, casserole, dinner rolls, creamed celery, coleslaw, pies, and doughnuts among others.
The Amish don’t dance at their wedding party, but this doesn’t mean it is a dull event. After the noon meal, the newlywed couple hands baskets of candy to the guests. This gives them a chance to personally interact with all the guests and hand out wedding favors.
The guests spend the rest of the evening matchmaking and playing games. The bride would try to match the young people she thinks are compatible and make them sit together.
Some of the guests leave after this session, but others remain for the Amish wedding dinner which starts at around 5 pm. For this evening wedding meal, the bride’s and groom’s parents move from the kitchen table to the main table and are served first.
The evening meal menu is different from the noon menu. It includes meals like fried sweet potatoes, chicken stew, pumpkin, lemon sponge pies, cookies, macaroni and cheese, among others.
The remaining guests eat and socialize until around 10.30 pm. The wedding cake is unheard of in Amish wedding celebrations.
After the wedding
Unlike English weddings where the newlyweds leave for their honeymoon after the marriage ceremony, a newlywed Amish couple spends the wedding night at the bride’s home. They wake up early the next morning to help clean the house.
The Amish version of honeymoon is quite interesting. The new couple visits all their new relatives, collecting their wedding gifts as they go. During these home visits, relatives give them practical gifts like canned food, cookware, dishware, and other household items.
The couple lives with the bride’s parents until they can afford their own home. Every Amish man is encouraged to work hard so he can move his wife to their new home.