Shopping with Sunshine: Amish Weddings

Just like every culture out there, the Amish culture can vary in different states, and even different communities here in Wisconsin. What may be tradition and the Amish way of life in one part of Wisconsin, may not be the same in another. 

For us English (English is the word the Amish use to differentiate between us and them), the latest wedding trend seems to be shorter ceremonies and shorter receptions. My own wedding was similar with the ceremony being at the same location as the dinner reception. For the Amish, weddings last the entire day. 

On my last shopping outing with Sunshine, the subject of weddings came up because the following day she was attending the wedding of a neighbor. From what I understand, weddings are almost always held on Thursday. For the longest time I was under the impression that weddings only took place in late fall after the harvest, but this wedding happened to be in early August. Because the communities are growing larger and larger each year, they probably needed to allow weddings to happen in the summer months due to the amount of couples getting married.

The bimonthly publication that I receive from an Old Order Amish district has had wedding announcements in every issue for the past couple of months and at it's currently the beginning of November.

She walked me through what her day would be like and the day was going to begin early for her. Her family was planning on leaving as early as 7 am to get to the bride's parents house. Amish weddings are traditionally held at the bride's parents if they have the room. Amish weddings are a community event and usually several hundred people are invited. If the parents of the bride can not accommodate the guests, a neighbor or close family member may host the event instead. Days before the wedding, the women gather together to prepare the meal, the house is scrubbed from ceiling to floor, and the tables and benches are set up. The Amish do not hire wedding planners, caterers, or help. They work together as a community. The Amish rely on each other in every aspect of their lives and the preparation for the wedding is much like the preparation of their every other week worship on Sunday. 

First thing in the morning is the actual ceremony, which lasts hours. The bride usually wears a new blue linen dress which is the same style as their every day dress with a new apron. There are no wedding rings exchanged but the groom will grow a beard to signify he is married. This dress may also be worn on future special occasions. Their attendants, which I will explain in just a bit, also wear new dresses, all the same color. There are no wedding flowers and definitely no wedding pictures. 

After the ceremony is the afternoon meal. At this time, everyone who attended the wedding will stay to eat. It's traditional for us English to hire a waitstaff at a hall or restaurant to serve food to our guests. Or even more common is having a buffet style meal which usually helps the cost. In an Amish wedding, what we would call our attendants, they call tablewaiters. The tablewaiters do exactly what it sounds like. They wait tables and serve the food to the guests. In our English world, that would be considered work. In the Amish world, it's an honor to be a tablewaiter. 

Much like traditional English weddings, the Amish also have witnesses. The witnesses could be comparable to a maid or matron of honor and a best man. During the meal, the witnesses will sit at the head table just like other cultures. 

After the meal, the bride and groom will open their gifts which usually consist of practical items to start their new household. It's common in an Amish wedding for the bride and groom to purchase napkins or pens embossed with their names for the guests. At this particular wedding, the bride and groom bought each guest a candy bar. These were not handmade candy bars, they were actually purchased in bulk from a very well-known bulk food store. After the gifts are opened, most of the guests start to depart leaving behind family, close friends, and young adults. 

Before the evening meal, the young unattached girls stand together and the young unattached boys stand together. The boys then approach a girl and ask her to eat the next meal with him. If he is not interested in anyone, or his interest is not at this wedding, he will ask his sister or cousin to sit with him. The girls that were not asked then sit together during the meal. After the evening meal, older family members and friends usually leave and the rest of the night is left to the newly married couple, their friends, and the young adults. From what I understand, this is done to allow new love interests to get to know one another while still being chaperoned. The night usually ends with songs, story-telling, and practical jokes. 

That night, the bride and groom will spend their first night as a married couple at the bride's parents home. That is definitely a custom that the majority of the English world would not be happy with. 

The wedding is then announced in the church paper listing all of the witnesses and tablewaiters. The Amish signify families by listing the fathers name after each name. If the family is from out of state, they may also list the state or town they are from. This is probably also done because there are so many like names in the Amish world. 

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