Amish wedding traditions vary from community to community. Traditionally, Amish weddings are held in late fall after harvest time, in November or December. In some communities, Amish weddings are celebrated in the spring since there are so many there would not be enough days to host them if they were all held in the fall.
Amish weddings are often planned on Tuesdays or Thursdays. They are not held on Saturdays since the day after the wedding is used to clean up and that would interfere with Sunday church services and the Amish do not work on Sundays.
Amish boys and girls start looking for a partner as young as 16 years of age. Many marry in their early 20s. Both must be members of the Amish church and baptized in the faith to marry. The bride to be does not receive a ring, instead the groom might give her something like china or a clock. Once a couple becomes engaged, they keep it secret for some time. The bride will confide in her parents so preparations can begin.
Couples planning to marry are announced to their church congregation following a Sunday church service. Their engagement is then considered “published.” The bride and groom do not attend church the morning their engagement is published. They remain at the bride’s home where she prepares a meal for the groom and they spend time together before all the wedding preparations kick in.
The Wedding Dress
The bride gets a new dress to wear on her wedding day. The bride or her mother may sew it. The colors vary between Amish communities. In some, brides will wear a black dress with a white cape and apron. Shades of purple or blue are also popular choices for Amish wedding dresses. In some communities, the bride can choose the color of her dress and it is worn with a white cape and apron. After her wedding day, the dress will become her Sunday church dress. Amish brides do not wear veils.
The Bridal Party
Attendants for both the bride and groom are known as newehockers, which is Pennsylvania Dutch for “sidesitters.” Dresses for both the bride and her attendants are plain with no frills. Attendants in the bridal party wear dresses that match in color and the groom’s attendants wear black suits with shirts that match. There is no designated best man or maid of honor, all attendants are equal.
The wedding ceremony is held at the bride’s home. Everyone is up early on wedding day. Morning chores are completed and the wedding starts before 9am. An Amish wedding ceremony can last up to 3 hours with a long sermon and the singing of hymns. The bride and groom meet with the minister and they are counseled privately while the service is going on.
The ceremony itself is lengthy, involving the singing of hymns, prayers, scripture reading and a sermon. The minister poses questions to the couple about their marriage and offers a blessing.
Preparing for an Amish wedding involves a lot of work, since as many as 200-400 relatives, friends and church members can be expected to attend. Conservative settlements may only invite close family and friends while more progressive ones may invite family and friends from their home community and neighboring communities as well as some English friends.
The bride and groom rely on help from many on their wedding day. Helpers aid in serving the meal, washing dishes, and caring for the guest’s horses.
Amish wedding celebrations are long, lasting most of the day. Right after the ceremony, the women serve the meal while the men set up dinner tables. It can take two servings to feed all in attendance. There is a corner table called the “eck” that’s reserved for the bride and groom. Attendants sit near the eck during the wedding meal. Attendants are usually not married and the bride and groom may try to play matchmakers for them during the celebration. Hymns are sung before and after the celebration meal.
The food selection at an Amish wedding includes fried or broasted chicken, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, creamed celery, coleslaw, vegetables, applesauce, pies, donuts, pudding, fruits and breads with butter and jelly.
After the meal, the bride and groom may go around to guests with a basket filled with candy to give out as wedding favors. This gives them a chance to greet everyone who came.
There are usually several wedding cakes at an Amish wedding since there are so many guests.
Sometimes it’s easy to guess if a girl has become engaged. Once the bride to be tells her family they often plant lots of celery which is a giveaway to those who notice their celery garden! The celery will be used in an Amish casserole that’s part of the wedding dinner—it’s a mixture of chicken and stuffing with plenty of celery included. It’s also used in creamed celery, a standard side dish at every Amish wedding. And instead of flowers, the Amish use the celery as decoration, often for table centerpieces that consist of mason jars filled with celery stalks.
The Wedding Night and Honeymoon
The first night as a married couple is spent at the bride’s house as she and her new groom will participate in the clean up the following day.
For their honeymoon, the newlyweds take time to visit relatives and friends who attended the wedding. It will take several weekends for them to visit everyone and they are given wedding presents as they make these rounds. They visit several homes each weekend, then return to the home of the bride’s parents and live there until they can set up their own household. Once married, the groom will begin growing a beard which indicates he is married.
For more on Amish wedding traditions, be sure to visit Amishamerica.com