What Do Amish Brides Wear?

Amish wedding season is in full swing. I was reminded of this yesterday speaking with an Amish friend about visiting Thursday – he had to stop to think if they had any weddings that day. Thankfully the schedule is clear, but it’s not uncommon to have multiple weddings to attend in a week, and even on the same day (Tuesday and Thursday being the traditional days for weddings).

Following our look last week at the wedding wagon, Lovina Eicher is back with this week’s column answering a reader question about the wedding dresses of Amish brides. Here’s Lovina:

This can vary from one community to the next. In some communities the brides will wear a black dress with white cape and apron. In our community, the bride chooses her color of dress, but wears a white cape and apron. Also in our church community, a bride wears a black covering to the wedding service. After she is married she changes to a white covering and won’t wear a black covering again. The unmarried girls wear black coverings to church services, but wear white coverings at all other times.

Daughter Elizabeth was married in a burgundy color dress and our daughter Susan chose a green dress. I hope this explains it well enough.

Dress “ready for a wedding” with cape and apron. Via Lovina’s Amish Kitchen

And who makes the dresses?

Some brides sew their own dresses, while other have their mother or someone else sew it. Daughter Elizabeth sewed her own wedding dress but I sewed Susan’s wedding dress. I made my own wedding dress but I didn’t have a choice in the color because all brides in that community wore black dresses with a white cape and apron to get married.

Lovina originally comes from the Swiss Amish settlement of Adams County, Indiana, if you’re wondering which community she’s referring to. For that matter the Swiss Amish have several of their own specific customs uncommon or unseen in non-Swiss communities.

She also describes the cape, an item which makes an appearance on female attendees at weddings:

It is the triangular piece of fabric that goes from the waist and over our shoulders and crosses in front. Then the apron is put over the bottom of the cape and belted around the waist. In our community capes are usually worn to church weddings and special occasions. For church, a white cape and apron is worn, but for a wedding we wear the same color cape and apron as our dress color and material, which we call a “dress suit.”

One more bit. Stephen Scott, in his book The Amish Wedding, shares an interesting detail on dresses at Amish weddings:

Samples of the wedding dress and second-best dress (worn alternately with the wedding dress for several months after the wedding) are made available to girls who preserve them in scrapbooks. (p. 36)

I’m not sure how prevalent this custom is (and where it’s most common), as this edition of Steve’s book has some years on it. But it’s a a good example of the importance of physical keepsakes in Amish culture. It must be a nice feeling to open a scrapbook years later and have an artifact of a loved one’s or special friend’s special day – one that you can actually touch.

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      Dress Samples

      At Old Order and Markham Waterloo Mennonite weddings in Ontario, the bride also has small samples of her wedding dress material for her guests. The OO girls wear plain navy while the MW girls wear paler blue or even grey dresses. In both cases, cape and dress are the same material.

      1. Interesting, thanks Osiah. Nice custom to share the material. Feels like something meaningful in that.

    2. C. J.

      Wedding Dress, Cape and Apron

      I enjoy reading Lovina’s posts, but this one I don’t understand … IF the cape and apron match the wedding dress color, why is there a picture of a green dress with white overlay, (Maybe the dress Lovina made for daughter Susan’s wedding?) & the picture states, “Ready for a Wedding?”
      Maybe someone can explain? THANK you!

      1. Good question, sounds like the part where Lovina is discussing the cape and apron being the same color as the dress is more about attendees to the wedding. She references the cape/apron also in the first excerpt I posted on the wedding dress itself, and here it’s noted that the cape and apron are white while the dress can be another color:

        “In our community, the bride chooses her color of dress, but wears a white cape and apron.”

    3. Jeff Masters

      We were blessed to be invited to an Amish wedding this fall. I remember this young lady as a child sitting on my lap, so needless to say this was a wonderful event. She wore a blue dress with a white cape and apron. She was quite stunning in her simple dress. What a wonderful day for us, to be able to visit with so many friends and meet many more that we consider friends now as well. While the wedding was a little different than our English weddings, it was still a very special occasion. So wonderful to think of a new family, and all the blessings that will bring. Most of my really close friends are Amish. I appreciate their pragmatism, and self reliance. Mostly, I appreciate their faith in GOD above.

      1. Beg to differ

        The Amish wedding we were honored to attend was totally different from any English wedding my wife and I have ever attended. The ceremony itself was 3hours long. There were no extra fancy garments. No exchange of rings. No musical instruments playing. There was lots of beautiful singing. The entire ceremony was given in Pennsylvania Dutch. There was absolutely no pomp and circumstance; just a straight forward Amish wedding ceremony. I believe the only things in common with an English wedding were the opening of the presents and the reception. We will be prepared for the next Amish wedding we will attend and will understand more of the wonderful ceremony. To be as close to our Amish friends that they honor us with invitations to worship with them, to share meals with them, share in their weddings, is an amazing feeling. There is nothing that we won’t do for our Amish friends and families.