The Amish have a very particular set of rules when it comes to their day-to-day lives, but what about marriage?
Do the Amish change their way of living once they have someone’s hand in marriage? Is Amish polygamy a thing? Spoiler alert: no, it’s not, but there are several Amish marital traditions that may come as a surprise to you.
Join us as we break down some of the Amish marriage rules and the overall structure of their weddings.
What this article covers:
Amish weddings differ from traditional Western nuptials in many ways. Their commitment to maintaining their traditions and celebrating without compromising their humble values makes weddings a unique experience, but some of the overall structures the rest of the world can recognize remain.
The Wedding Party
For starters, the bride and the groom don't have a Maid of Honor or a Best Man
Instead, they have two couples, most often pairs that are close to the bride and groom, stand with them at the altar.
The bride selects a couple, and the groom does the same. That way, both parties have a couple standing next to them in their corner.
The youth of the families attending the ceremony help in the service by handing out booklets or treats to the reception.
Speaking of treats, these wedding services have an enormous number of cooks to compensate for the large reception.
The bride picks out the colors that the wedding party should wear, and she selects the color to set the theme.
The groom, as well as most of the men, wear button-up shirts and a bowtie,
The bride doesn’t wear a white wedding dress and is usually a darker blue or grey color.
Amish weddings typically take place inside the bride’s house or the family will ask a local shopowner if they can use the store as a venue.
If the venue is at the bride’s home, landscaping and maintenance will need to be done.
The Amish have a corner of the venue known as the “Eck” that acts as the bridal table at more traditional weddings.
Shortly after the engagement, the couple needs to reserve a cook wagon and a cooler. ‘
The former is an RV-sized wagon in which most Amish wedding foods are prepared, and the latter is a slightly smaller wagon used to store beverages and cold meats.
Each waiter at the wedding serves a table, being responsible for the utensils and dishes being served.
After the church service, the bride and groom invite everyone to be seated.
Once the tables are full, the bishop does a silent prayer followed by a hymn.
During this time, the wedding party starts to bring out the food so that it’s ready to be eaten when the hymn’s finished.
The food served at an Amish wedding includes mashed potatoes with gravy, a noodle salad, and meats like chicken or meatloaf.
The chicken is typically grilled and the meatloaf is smoked.
The Eck receives more special food, like steaks and some of the couple’s favorite dishes.
Desserts come in the form of pudding pies, a fruit mix, and a good amount of ice cream. The latter is a highlight for children, who can also enjoy grabbing from a jar full of candy.
The food is sent out in order and a new dish is only served once the majority of the previous dish has been cleared.
The wedding itself is from 9 am to 9 pm. The day begins with a church service at a neighbor’s house that’s within walking distance of the couple’s home.
The church service is 3 hours long, so it's a similar length to the average Amish Sunday church service. The bridal couple sits in the front, and it’s a very solemn experience.
With the service underway, the cooks are already preparing the Amish wedding feast.
Once the wedding party walks into the service after the food’s been prepared, the preacher stops preaching and waits for them to be seated. They’re an important part of the wedding, so it’s only right that they get to witness the couple getting married.
After the marriage has been made official, the wedding party heads back to the kitchen and seating area where the food will continue to be prepared and tables will be set.
You will find the couple at the “Eck” and their family seated and enjoying their meals.
The wedding party will get a chance to sit with the reception at 7 pm as the bride and groom invite everyone to eat.
Once the feast has ended, all the plates are collected and the waiters wash the plates and cutlery.
Most traditional weddings have a big honeymoon after the wedding, seeing the couple travel and enjoy each other’s company.
The Amish don’t believe in honeymoons and the newlywed couple has to help clean up after the wedding.
They also don’t live on their own immediately. Instead, they stay with their parents until they’re ready to live in their own home together, and their house is usually built with help from the community.
Amish Marriage Beliefs
Many ask at what age Amish get married and find themselves in shock after finding the answer. The typical age is around 20 years old, which to some may seem like a young age.
Typical Amish courtships take place for a few months, and then the man asks the woman for her hand in marriage.
Most Amish relationships start at a young age as the youth see each other almost every Sunday. Outside of practicing hymns after church, they’re able to mingle and get to know each other.
The proposal is like more traditional proposals in that it’s still romantic. The difference is that there are no Amish wedding rings.
The Amish don’t wear any jewelry, choosing instead to adorn themselves with inner beauty.
The bride-to-be informs her parents of the proposal and wedding planning starts immediately.
Other than the family of the bride and groom, it remains a secret from the Bishop until a month before the actual ceremony.
Once the Bishop knows, it will be announced in the church so that the congregation can be informed.
The groom will start growing out his beard a few days before the wedding so that they can at least have some stubble on the day.
Men in the Amish community don’t grow beards until they are married and is a good way to tell if someone’s married or not.
Once an Amish man is married, he’s encouraged to do all the work and labor. This includes landscaping, garden work, and farming.
Amish men also need to step in as fathers and ensure that they are safe. This includes taking them to church every second Sunday and ensuring they go to school.
If Amish women don’t wear jewelry, more specifically wedding rings, how would you know if they’re married? Introducing bonnets.
Amish bonnets are head coverings that women are encouraged to wear at all times.
There are different types of bonnets. A white bonnet will typically symbolize that an Amish woman is married, whereas a black bonnet symbolizes the opposite.
Women going out of town or to church wear black bonnets to show that they haven’t yet been courted.
After marriage, Amish women take care of the children and do chores around the house such as cleaning and cooking, often becoming masters of handcrafting woven storage baskets for shelves, wicker pie carriers and even woven dog bed baskets.
If they don’t have children, they work outside the house, and they can assist their husbands if he’s comfortable with it.
Non-Amish Guests at the wedding
In most Amish weddings, there are a few non-Amish guests, and this may seem daunting for the guests as Amish people tend to distance themselves from the outside world.
In this case, however, the outsiders are friends of the bride and groom, possibly co-workers.
Amish people may have their rules about social interactions and how they present themselves, but they have respect for fellow Amish folk.
The bride and groom's friends can be trusted so they are treated as equals at the wedding, but they must conform to the Amish ways of dressing and etiquette if they don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb.
There are two parts to the Amish wedding. The Church service and the ceremony.
The non-Amish guests aren’t allowed to attend the church service as that would require them to know the prayers and hymns. The ceremony is mostly about eating and uniting the couples.
In most cases, gift-giving at a more traditional wedding would be items in the form of jewelry, vouchers, or cash.
However, since the Amish aren’t too fazed about material wealth, the gifts they receive are practical and center around helping them begin their new lives together.
These gifts include towels for around the house, wheelbarrows, shovels, or appliances like kettles.
Amish Arranged Marriage
It may surprise you, but marriages in the Amish community are rarely arranged.
Usually, couples meet quite organically, as the community encourages the youth to mingle after church or Amish school.
Kids play together on the road, run among the fields, and build relationships through conversation and quality time.
Naturally, Amish parents have thoughts on whether the person their child chooses is the right pick, which isn’t too dissimilar to the rest of the world.
However, they won’t handpick a partner for their child, nor will they go out of their way to arrange a marriage.
Do Amish Need a Marriage License?
While many believe that the Amish don't obtain a marriage license, in reality, many Amish couples do get a marriage license from their county recorder's office in their local county. However, the affirmation of their marriage is also evident in their traditions, such as the beard and bonnet customs.
This doesn't mean that those without a license have an unofficial marriage. The Amish community has its own education system and set of rules that govern their lives.
Whether it's the bishop confirming the couple’s union or a deep trust between the couple that solidifies their bond, practices can vary across different Amish communities.
Regardless of the approach, the Amish tend not to place significant emphasis on formal titles.
In short, yes, Amish marriages differ from the modern mainstream. Gender roles and traditional family values dictate the flow of marriage, and Amish marriage rules reflect this, but marriage is meant to be about partnership and devotion.
The Amish follow these rules to ensure that the focus is never on having a sparkling wedding at the expense of financial security, or simply to be ostentatious.
Weddings are certainly celebrated by the Amish, but marriages are revered and sacred because lifelong partnerships are the lifeblood of every Amish community. These rules are a huge part of why Amish divorce is such a rarity, and if marriage is meant to be until death, maybe the rest of the world could learn a thing or two from Amish couples.
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