The Amish people live a life that’s separate from modern society. The only glimpse that most outsiders have of the Amish world is when they spot them riding their horse buggies out on a country road. As a result, many erroneous beliefs about the Amish persist.
One of these is that the Amish are polygamous. But are Amish polygamists? And if not, where does this belief come from? Read on to discover the facts about Amish marriage customs, their views on polygamy and forced marriages, and so much more.
What this article covers:
Do the Amish Practice Polygamy?
The misconception surrounding the believe that the Amish are polygamists is the result of two factors: a lack of knowledge about Amish beliefs, and confusion with other religious groups.
The Amish don’t practice polygamy, and they have never done so since their formation as a people. This is a common myth about them, but it’s completely false.
Do the Amish Believe in Polygamy?
Not only do the Amish not actively practice polygamy, they certainly don’t believe in it.
They view polygamy as adultery. Although the various Amish settlements may interpret certain rules slightly differently, there is no deviation from this law. The Amish believe in traditional marriage between one man and one woman.
How Many Wives Can an Amish Man Have?
An Amish man may only have one wife. Should that wife pass away, he is free to remarry. The same goes for Amish women. They may remarry in the event of their husband’s death.
However, they’re not required to remarry after the death of a spouse, and a waiting period before remarrying is usually observed.
Where the Myth Might Have Originated
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons, brought the practice of polygamy to Utah in the 1800s.
People may believe that the Amish have similar practices to religious groups such as these.
Whatever the reason, it is a myth.
The Facts About Amish Marriage
The Amish place great importance on their marriages and families, as these are deeply rooted in their faith.
Let’s look at the facts about Amish marriage:
Pre-Marital Sex Is Prohibited
Pre-marital sex isn’t allowed, and there are very strict rules for Amish dating practices. Amish couples may, however, engage in a practice known as ‘bundling’. This is quite common even in very conservative Old Order Amish communities. It entails spending the night together, fully clothed and not touching.
It allows young people to become acquainted with their spouse-to-be, without sexual union. It requires discipline and self-control and is linked to religious prohibition on sex before marriage. This is a very old tradition that was practiced in certain European countries.
Most Amish youths become baptized into the Amish faith and way of life between the ages of 18 and 22. After this, they will be expected to behave per Amish society rules at all times. They usually get married shortly after this age.
No Wedding Rings or ‘Honeymoon’
Amish people don’t wear jewelry, and hence there are no Amish wedding rings either, but there’s a very simple way for a young Amish man to know if a girl he likes is already taken.
The bonnet she wears is how to tell if an Amish girl is married. An Amish woman wears a white bonnet on her head once she gets married, so any would-be suitors won’t make a mistake.
Amish weddings are usually very simple affairs, as Amish folks don’t believe in ostentatious displays. Amish women are expected to wear modest attire at all times, and the same goes for marriage outfits. Every traditional Amish wedding dress is nonetheless beautifully made, and expertly hand-stitched.
Amish couples don’t go on a ‘honeymoon’ as non-Amish do. Instead, the Amish tradition is that the newly married couple must spend their first night of marriage at the house of the bride’s parents. After this, they’ll live together in their own home, constructed by the community.
Wedding Ceremonies Are Simple But the Food Is Great
While marriage ceremonies are low-key, don’t be fooled. The Amish definitely view marriage as something to be celebrated.
The Amish love good food just like anyone else, and this is evidenced by the delicious Amish wedding foods available at the reception that immediately follows the marriage ceremony.
Amish women aren’t just good at sewing and weaving. They are keen bakers too! The handmade recipe card boxes that grace every Amish kitchen are crammed full of delicious recipes, handed down from mother to daughter. They certainly put lots of love into preparing roast meats and baked goods at weddings.
Traditional Marriage Roles
The roles of husbands and wives are very traditional, which may appear outdated to many modern societies.
The husband’s role is the father, breadwinner, and head of the household. The wife’s role is the mother and caregiver.
This may seem stereotypical, and can even be incomprehensible to modern non-Amish people, especially feminists. However, these are the traditional family roles that have supported the continuity of human culture throughout the ages. The Amish aren’t the only people who still adhere to these traditional roles.
Amish women aren’t simply allowed to enjoy leisure activities, they are actively encouraged to do so. Their traditional crafts have become an important income stream for their families, amend their communities at large. This is because the women in the community are fantastic seamstresses and masterful basket weavers.
In fact, their handmade quilts and rustic wicker baskets are in great demand outside of their communities. Their harvest baskets and children’s Easter baskets are always popular, legacy-building favorites among enthusiasts.
Couples Do Not Get Divorced
The Amish don’t believe in divorce. In fact, to the Amish, divorce can be grounds for excommunication. Although there may be reasons for exceptions in certain communities, divorce is contrary to Amish teachings on marriage. Marriage is meant to last for life. So, as you can imagine, the Amish divorce rate is practically non-existent.
Many religious groups hold the same belief, and until fairly recent times, it was rare for devout Christians to get divorced. As marriage is seen as a union sanctified by God, divorce is viewed as contrary to God’s word.
Adultery Is a Sin
While there are slight differences in the practices of the Amish from one settlement to another, the common thread between them; their devotion to their religion and their families. Their faith and their set of rules (the ‘Ordnung’) are their guides for married life, too.
Amish people view adultery as a sin. It’s not expressly forbidden in their book of rules, the Ordnung. That doesn’t, however, mean that it’s tolerated. The Amish understand that it’s forbidden in the Bible, and therefore prohibited in their communities.
The Amish tend to get married while still very young and have many children. The reason for this is two-fold and, like most of their customs, is connected to their faith. They don’t use contraception; which when combined with marriage at a young age, naturally leads to large families.
They also believe that children are a blessing from God, and biblical texts would support this idea. Large families are the norm in Amish society, and this works in their favor as they rarely marry outside of their communities.
Marriage to Outsiders Is Rare
Can an Amish Man marry an outsider? What about the Amish women? Yes, they may do so. It’s rare, but it does happen.
However, there is one caveat. That outsider will be expected to convert to the Amish faith and be baptized accordingly. They would then remain in the Amish community, and live as the Amish do.
Amish people are expected to marry within their community. This makes outsiders wonder: “Are Amish marriages arranged?” While there may be a degree of this in some communities, it’s not a custom.
Same-sex Marriage Is Taboo
Gay marriage isn’t allowed in the Amish community, irrespective of the secular laws of the state they live in. This is because homosexuality is seen as contrary to God’s plan, and therefore a sin. Marriage is allowed only between a man and a woman, and they’re expected to fulfill gender norms directed by the Bible.
This doesn’t mean that a homosexual person would be driven out by the rest of the community. However, they would receive counseling on the issue. If the person cannot deny their homosexual desires, they would be expected to refrain from acting upon them or risk being shunned.
The Amish community places great importance on the sanctity of their marriages, and the importance of family life. These are values that are sadly lacking in many segments of modern society today.
When any community is misunderstood, myths and misinformation tend to spread, but with a deeper look, the light of knowledge exposes the truth.
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