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An Amish 'I Do'

Katherine Ryder Published: December 1, 2011 1:25 PM

Wedding ceremonies within different parts of the world and different religions generate many different traditions and customs. For readers who are fascinated by the Amish lifestyle, it would only seem practical to explore how this culture practices one of the world's oldest celebrations " matrimony.

As with most Amish customs, traditions and practices vary depending on the church and the family as an individual.

The same goes for an Amish wedding ceremony.

For the majority of wedding celebrations, an Amish couple is married within a church service. The couple will choose either a Tuesday or Thursday within April-October for their ceremony. Sometimes there may be conflict with another couples' wedding and so on occasion a Friday may be chosen.

After the bishop's sermon, the bride, groom, wedding party and witnesses gather toward the front of the church to make their promises to one another. At this time the bishop or minister will read scripture from Genesis 1-9 about God's design of what a marriage is and how man was created out of His image. These passages are a critical part of the ceremony and how the couple will approach their married life together.

Everything done within an Amish wedding ceremony is very strategic. There is a lot of thought and tradition placed into the vows that the couple makes to one another as well as how it is done.

A typical ceremony includes a minister's scripture readings and the couples' affirmations for the understanding and expectations of their married life.

These readings are found in both the Old and New Testaments and can range anywhere from the stories found in Genesis, Judges and the book of Ruth featuring the meeting of Isaac and Rebecca, the marriage of Jacob and Rachel, Samson's riddle and the marriage of Boaz to Ruth.

The bishop or minister will recite the following vows:

Both are asked, "Can you both confess and believe that God has ordained marriage to be a union between one man and one wife, and do you also have the confidence that you are approaching marriage in accordance with the way you have been taught?"

The couple will answer, "Yes."

The bridegroom is asked, "Do you also have confidence, brother, that the Lord has provided this, our sister as a marriage partner for you?"

The man will answer, "Yes."

The bride is asked, "Do you also have the confidence, sister, that the Lord has provided this, our brother as a marriage partner for you?"

The woman will answer, "Yes."

The bridegroom is asked, "Do you also promise your wife that if she should in bodily weakness, sickness, or any similar circumstances need your help, that you will care for her as is fitting for a Christian husband?"

The man will answer, "Yes."

The bride is asked, "Do you promise your husband the same thing, that if he should in bodily weakness, sickness, or any similar circumstances need your help, that you will care for him as is fitting for a Christian wife?"

The woman will answer, "Yes."

Both are then asked, "Do you both promise together that you will with love, forbearance, and patience live with each other, and not part from each other until God will separate you from death?"

The couple will answer, "Yes."

A prayer is then prayed. After the prayer, the bishop takes the hand of the bride and places it in the hand of the bridegroom and says, The God of Abraham and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you and help you together and give his blessings richly unto you, and this through Jesus Christ, Amen.

Unlike the English tradition, once an Amish couple is married, they do not kiss, nor does the minister announce them as "Mr. and Mrs." but rather their bond is sealed through their vows made in the church, with their hands clasped and the bishop's hand clasped over them.

Once the church service has concluded, a large and bountiful meal is served. These meals are planned and prepped for days, if not weeks, in advance. Often, the family with rent out ovens and supplies as to not destroy their own kitchens in preparation of the meal.

The reception is where the majority of the wedding preparation and detail takes place as the meal is featured as the main event for gathering and celebration.

Most Amish, no matter which variety, invite the entire church as well as the bride and groom's relatives to witness and celebrate the couple's wedding day. This can amount to 400 plus people.

Neighbors, mothers, sisters, aunts, etc. come in to help clean the barn, home, or other possible reception locations, as well as help prep the food that will be served.

Even though simplicity is always kept, the reception is made to look immaculate. Tables are set days in advance and cakes are frequently professionally made. Dcor usually includes centerpieces and possibly favors for guests. There is no music or dancing; however, on occasion there may be singing.

Afterward there is a lot of cleanup and even more preparation for the evening meal, which is most often dedicated to a younger crowd, close neighbors and friends, and family. During the afternoon the bride and groom will open their wedding presents. The day is viewed as a way to cater to and celebrate the newly married couple.

Most often when an Amish man and woman decide to marry, their engagement is announced in church. As English engagements frequently tend to last anywhere from six months to two years, it's very different in most Amish traditions. An engagement is typically announced only a few months before the wedding takes place.

As with all traditions, even those within the Amish community, details change from one family or church to another. One thing remains constant, however, the marriage ceremony is a conviction of the couples' love and how they celebrate their lives together in a way that is pleasing to God.


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