The months of November and December do not immediately evoke thoughts of weddings within the general populous, but within the Amish community early winter weddings are a deeply rooted tradition. One of the most prevalent reasons Amish weddings took place predominantly in the colder months was due to the inability to prepare food in advance without storing it within a cool area. Today, weddings among the Amish community occur all year round due to the rental of trailers containing coolers and ovens for baking. The weddings are now planned for a year in advance due to the demand on the trailers and the baking begins weeks ahead of the actual day.
All the cooking is completed by women of the families connected to the wedding couple. The number of guests at each wedding is dependent upon the size of the surrounding community because neighbors, church members, and family relations are all invited. Typically, an Amish wedding will have between 300 to 400 people in attendance. In short the preparation for the meal must be started before the day of the ceremony and the cooks must rise very early on the morning of the event.
The day of the ceremony the bride puts on a dress of blue, a white apron and a black headpiece. This attire will be worn by the woman for the church service, after its conclusion, the black head piece will be switched out for a white one, marking the woman as married.
Pre-selected ushers greet guests as they arrive at the church and help them to their seats. Depending on the Order the Amish couple is affiliated with, there may be two or four ushers. In most cases the women are seated on one side of the church while the men sit on the other. The first two benches are reserved for close family members.
The church service is officiated by a bishop with the support of fellow ministers. Before the sermons can begin, the bishop and residing ministers go into a private room with the couple. At this time the duties of each party within the marriage are discussed and understanding is encouraged from both parties. The man is encouraged to be understanding of his wife when she has just had a child and a woman is asked to be understanding of her husband when he has had a long day at work.
Once the bishop and ministers have finished their counsel, the wedding couple returns to the congregation. The clergy remain closeted for a time after to talk over the marriage. At this time they may confirm who is saying what part of the service.
Upon leaving the clergy the wedding couple meet with their witnesses and enter the main congregation. Generally four witnesses, consisting of two couples, are selected; one by the bride and the other by the groom. While the wedding couple and clergy were away the congregation maintained the singing of songs pertaining to marriage.
The wedding service focuses on the family structure and the institute of marriage as laid out by the Bible. An opening sermon will be given by one of the ministers and followed by a scripture reading. The bishop will then give a main sermon speaking from the old and new testaments focusing specifically on relationships and marriage. Then the wedding vows are exchanged between the bride and groom.
Following the vows, a prayer is spoken by the congregation. The bishop then takes the hand of the bride and places it in the hand of the groom saying: "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." Concluded with a song by the congregation, the church service is finished and the group moves to a separate building for a meal.
The bride and groom are seated behind a table with their witnesses on either side of them. The wall behind the couple is decorated to the bride's specifications and may contain candles or similar items.
Each guest is served a meal of chicken, potatoes, salad, dinner rolls, and dressing. Followed by a dessert of ice cream, cake, or pie and coffee. The decorative wedding cake is traditionally three tiers, but is not served to the guests. Instead the wedding cake is given to the servers, ushers and witnesses who have supported the bride and groom throughout the day.
As each guest finishes their meal they will rise and greet the newly wedded couple before departing. There are two shifts during which the guests will eat; the first wave will eat directly after the church service. When this group is finished they will rise, greet the wedding couple and depart. There is another meal served around five o'clock.
The Amish Order the wedding couple is associated with will determine who eats at which meal. In the older Amish Orders the first meal is eaten by those who attended the church service and is the general eating time. The meal provided at five o' clock is more intimate and eaten by the family, people of the church and the younger friends of the bridal party. In the new Order of Amish the first meal is served to the married couples who will then rise at the conclusion and greet the wedding couple as they leave. Then the tables are re-prepared and the unmarried guests eat at the later meal.
Similar to English weddings, the Amish have traditions that are deeply associated with their religion and culture. Several little differences exist between the way the old Order and the new Order of Amish go about the ceremony and the meal, but the meaning behind the marriage is the same. They all spend the day celebrating the family structure and reveling in the joy of new creation.
This article was sourced by an Old Order Amish Minister and a New Order Amish Minister.
Amish Wedding Vows
First they are both 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 bride and groom then answer yes.
"Do you also have the confidence, Brother [Sister], that the Lord has provided this, our Sister [Brother], as a marriage partner for you."
The bride and groom respond yes.
"Do you also promise your wife [husband] that if she [he] should in bodily weakness, sickness, or any similar circumstances need your help, that you will care for her [him] fitting for a Christian husband [wife]?"
The bride and groom respond yes.
The couple is then addressed together:
"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 in death?"
They both respond yes.