Can Amish marry non-Amish?

Marriage in the Amish church requires membership by baptism

amish marry non amishThe Amish require that both parties to a marriage be baptized within the church.

Due to the structured nature of Amish culture, allowing mixed marriages would threaten to destabilize Amish society.  Most Amish youth become baptized between the ages of 18-22, after which they are likely to get married.

In rare cases, an outsider may join the Amish in order to get married to an Amish person.  Amish do accept converts, though they generally do not proselytize or encourage outsiders to join.

It has also occasionally happened that a married Amish individual has left the faith while the spouse has stayed behind.

Read more on Amish marriage.

Photo credit: Garret/Kitty Wilkin

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Lee Ann

      I can understand why they only want the Amish to marry within their church, but it could bring in new blood to help things if they allowed members to marry outsiders.

      I think it could work if the two respected the difference in religon(sp?) and worked to make their relationship strong. I was in a marriage where there were two different religions.

    2. Valerie

      Never say never but to this-

      Sorry Lee Ann, I usually will not say never say never but this will never happen. I can’t ever see the Amish budging on this and they have a silo full of reasons why and would not look at it that way at all, (as beneficial). Even in their own church, if you’re not thinking Amish enough, they could send you away to get counseling to get more Amish minded (or be asked to leave-yep, happened to my Amish born friend) so any challenge to the mentallity or belief already there is seen as divisive.

      1. Traci Banville

        Leave the alone.

        The Amish have not survived this long by mixing with outsiders. Visit the areas, buy their products, enjoy your vacation and then go home. If you want to change your life, turn over a new leaf, renew your faith, etc. then find another church near you. Try the Jehovah’s Witnesses.They will take anyone, the more “sinful” the better. They love to recruit.
        Being Amish is not just a religion, it is a lifestyle, a history.
        People do not just up and decide that they want to be Hasidic Jews because they have seen a film or read a book. I see no difference in people “wanting to be Amish”.
        A close friend wanted to be a nun for most of her life but she had been raised Protestant (though she had never been baptized). She wrote letters, visited Catholic churches and a convent, studied and practiced and then lost count of how many people talked her out of it. She was told that she would have to convert to Catholicism first but that even if she did, there was no guarantee that she would be able to become a nun, that it would take too long, she was too old to start, etc. etc. etc. And yet you will read that divorced women with children have become nuns. She is a very good person, has a clean history, but cannot “get her foot in the door”. It has broken her heart. If the Catholics are this closed-minded, why would people expect the Amish to have an open door policy ? In the case of the Amish, I do not blame them.

        1. Ed

          Traci I think you said it well. I’m also interested in the many parallels between Amish and Jewish practices. Like Amish, Jews are a distinct culture as well as a religion. Like Amish, Jews also circumscribe marriage with outside – at least the Orthodox communities do. Reform Judaism — like mainstream Protestants — is more open to the practice.

          I agree that it would be almost impossible to keep up Amish cultural practices in a mixed Amish/non-Amish household.

          I also think being a religious minority even within the areas they have settled is important. The effect of a handful of, say, Catholics marrying Protestants is unlikely to be perceived as a threat to either religion. But with a group as tiny as the Amish, out-marriage has real consequences on the stability of the church district itself.

          1. Michelle Smith

            Been there Done that...

            My dad was a Baptist preacher’s son, and married my mom, who was from a very strict Roman Catholic family in the 1960’s. It was perceived as a threat to BOTH religions by both of my grandmothers! John F Kennedy had just become the nation’s 1st Catholic president at that time. My sister and i were both christened in the Catholic church as babies, and Mom converted to Protestant on her own accord a few years later, but my Grandma (her mother) always had a problem with it, and always tried to convert my sister and me in the corner – haha. I grew up associated with and respecting both religions, but my husband and I are practicing Protestants.

        2. lorraine

          The Jehovah’s witnesses are probablythe best that there is. I studied with them for over 20 years.

        3. Sumac

          I'm suspicious of the story.

          As a Catholic woman for many years, and one raised Protestant, I know it would not be so hard to join a convent. I nearly did it myself. But I found out which ones would accept an older person. It really is not that hard, and I am uncomfortable with the assumption that your friend had trouble because Catholics are somehow too closed-minded. On the contrary, I am willing to bet that your friend was unwilling or unable to give up all the things she would need to about the outside world, in order to be accepted. Also, as far as “getting a foot in the door”, convents require a trial period, during which she could have done exactly that, before taking full final vows.

          As someone very familiar with the Amish people (I worked with Old Order communities) I cannot imagine how anyone from the outside would ever be an asset. I would think such a person would always have a hard struggle, and would always have to repress ideas that would be a threat to the simple and faithful way of life of the Amish. Every Amish community is different; a more liberal one in Ohio welcomes my business associate – Mennonite raised but now quite secular business woman – into their homes for visits regularly and encourages friendship. But the more conservative guard their way of life and for good reason.

        4. Troy Heffernan

          Amish and anti-Semitism

          Are the Amish anti-Semitic?

      2. Leo

        still trying to marry AMISH WOMAN

        Valerie, I see what you mean in this scenario. I am old fashioned to the core. I have been pursuing my quest for many years, Finally looks like I have made some progress but not there yet, Amish Lady invited me to her church and to meet her father and folks. I was very warmly welcomed at their church. I will have to dance with so many of them first. (a figure of speech), I am ready and willing to move right in to their area and have already found some property and a house with in 1 mile of their church. Wish me Luck folks. Love that ‘give me old time religion’

    3. Don Curtis

      Mark's answer

      I asked my son, Mark, about this. He said that Amish can and do marry people who have come to the Amish from the “Outside.” They do not, however, marry people who are not members of the Amish church. They wouldn’t be Amish, anymore, themselves if they did because they’d be excommunicated from the church. Mark knows a number of Amish who have married people of non-Amish backgrounds who became Amish. They key thing is they became Amish. As for Leo, Mark wonders about his motivation. Why does he want an Amish wife? If he doesn’t join he will take her from her church, family, and people. If he does want to join the Amish then he needs to do it because he is in agreement with their faith and beliefs. That must be the primary motivation. Marriage is only secondary.

      1. jelena

        well honsetly it does not metter its only meters love and love is love and i understand its there rules to marry only Amish but still love is love and why would they only allow him or her be back to community or Church honsetly? well they are stricked people with rules which i honestly seem far fetched.

    4. Jeremy Janson

      Personal Experience with This

      Oddly enough, I actually had a personal experience with this, and the way that the Amish handled it was unbelievably brilliant.

      I was 21 years old, about to turn 22 (or in other words, pretty close to the age when most Amish get baptized), and taking the train from Atlanta to Seattle, with a layover in Chicago between the Capitol Limited and the Empire Builder, on my way back from Georgia Tech for the Summer. A large number of Amish were on their way to a wedding in Montana from Illinois. An Amish girl, presumably promised to no one and probably a bridesmaid or a relative of the bride, and presumably also in a romantic mood from the upcoming wedding, had taken a shine to me at some point when I was wandering the station. I’ll never know which one.

      At some point, on I believe the second day of the journey, I was in the club car, and the community elder of the Amish town showed up, and immediately approached me. We started talking – at no time did he let me know what was going on, I’m sure this is because he figured it reduces the risk of dishonesty. We (quickly) get to the subject of Christian faith, and talk about all manner of issues, especially with regards to non-resistance, education, the duties of a Christian towards his family and the basic teachings of Jesus. I can tell, at first, the Amish elder is pretty impressed with me, and I was and still am a devout Christian and a fairly well-read one at that, and at that time was still Protestant (I’m now Catholic) from a Lutheran background. We seem to be getting chummier. He’s actually more or less okay with my idea that engineers and scientists should get educations. Then, it comes up that I consider the vocation of a military officer to be a good reason to get a college education.

      “A MILITARY OFFICER!” He goes bright red. He’s about an inch from losing his temper, but, like any good Amish man, sets himself a’right and then calmly but with conviction states what he believes. I can’t remember exactly what he said next, but he was not happy, and it more or less ended the conversation. He was in a hurry to leave, and not merely because it is unpleasant talking to me, but because he clearly has something to do. I suspect that much of his anger at a young man who he doesn’t even know for a detail neither pointed nor meant to offend stemmed from the fact that he now had to go and tell enamored young girl that she hadn’t found a potential husband (we all know how much fun that is). The fact that the Amish do like to marry their girls quickly I’m sure didn’t help either, and I know nearly for certain I would not have been approached if someone else was in line for her heart and her hand.

      What was most brilliant about handling it this way, and showed a profound understanding of the female heart, is that the elder DID NOT introduce me to the girl, and wouldn’t have, until AFTER he was sure I would work. As a result, there would be no midnight serenades, no heartfelt pleas of affection, no beautiful gifts, no invitations to run away and no carrying off to the melodious rapids of a starlit country stream to watch the fireflies and whisper sweet nothings, which we know from the tender wondrous depths of the female heart, is a game the man almost always wins.

      1. Mark -- Holmes Co.

        So, my question is, what gave you the idea the “community elder of the Amish town” (a strange position in itself, as there is no such position) was looking for a young man for an Amish girl? A more realistic situation would be the Amish parents or adults doing everything they could to keep their girls AWAY from young non-Amish strangers! You write very well, but as an Amish man AND father, this story sounds very imaginative. I don’t doubt meeting Amish people on a train and/ or chatting with them, but the idea of setting up a relationship with a non-Amish stranger (or wanting to) goes against all I have ever heard or experienced. Your last paragraph was very nicely written, by the way. You have a talent.

        1. Mark, your comment on Jeremy’s comment expresses what I felt too – a rather fanciful scenario written by someone with obvious talent 😉 Maybe there is a basis to this story, but if so there seems to be a good bit of fiction-style embellishment or speculation going on here. But, nicely-written.

      2. AJ

        Great Amish Fiction!

        I sense a great Amish romance-fiction scenario going on here!

    5. Tony Engel

      Lost my way.....

      I was reading a brief history of the Amish (cliff’s notes edition, I guess) and through clicking found my way here. I absolutely admire the Amish, and their sense of community. That’s a dedication I don’t think I could ever have, so I tip the cap to you! – Best Wishes!

    6. Kristin L Chester


      Perhaps the young man was approached by the “Amish elder” but I see the story differently…..

      The elder tells the young Amish woman who fancies this man on the train it will never work etc, and being the honest fellow he is set out to gather evidence on exactly why it would not work. It was never his intention to introduce the two, but rather soften the blow to a young girl’s heart which he would inevitably break given the chance. The elder spared her this by immediately ruining the crush she’d developed instead.

      I myself have always fantasized about meeting the handsome hardworking Amish man of my dreams….there’s just one problem….I don’t believe in god. Although in reality I have very little expectations of ever seeing my fantasy through to fruition, I do love everything else about Amish culture….the off-grid lifestyle, close-knit helpful families, doing things manually and the old-fashioned way, no watching ridiculous tv shows etc, and if it wasn’t for the whole god thing I could totally see myself keeping one lucky Amish guy happier than anyone else he’s ever met! It isn’t a goal, but why can’t I fantasize about meeting a man society associates with good values and hard work? Oh well…life goes on lol!

    7. Matthew Kresse

      Want to know more

      I want to know more about the Church, possibly convert maybe. I fell out of the Catholic belief.