What happens at an Amish wedding? Amish researcher Karen Johnson-Weiner discusses Amish wedding customs in a recent article for Lancaster Online.
The piece focuses on the Lancaster community, though it also mentions more conservative settlements.
Karen shares that typical wedding customs have been changing – and not just in the more progressive communities.
If you’ve ever wondered how the food works, how many guests attend, or what else happens at an Amish wedding, you’ll like the article.
Topics covered include:
- How food arrangements are handled (not everything is homemade nowadays)
- When a couple is typically “published” (the upcoming wedding announced in church) and how it varies across settlements
- How the traditional fall wedding dates have become more flexible as vocations have changed
- Why weddings have grown in size…and why “wedding trailers” may come in handy
- Points of emphasis in the ceremony (with preaching from the Old Testament and Book of Tobit)
- Entertainment and matchmaking after the ceremony, and examples of food-related practical jokes: “a mousetrap in the eck salad, gummy worms sprinkled over food or a bowl of prunes sewn together.”
The article also includes a chart plotting the number of weddings in Lancaster County up until 2010 (180 that year, continuing a steadily upward trend).
Based on those numbers, you can estimate that close to 2,000 weddings happen each year across Amish society.
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A few years ago, the Adult Sunday School class of my church invited a Beachy Amish couple, who had been raised and married as Old Order Amish, to speak to our class about Old Order Amish faith and life. One thing I remember is that the husband said that their wedding cost $3,000. When asked for details about expenses, his reply went something like this, “We had no expensive clothes, decorations or flowers. The majority of that money was for the food that was served for dinner after the ceremony and for supper to the guests who stayed for the evening/singing. We had several hundred people at our wedding.”
I wonder how a $3K price tag would compare to the average American English wedding? Just a guess, would it be 10-20%?
English wedding cost
Well, a quick Google search later, if this site is to be believed, the average cost is around $26K. So, I was in the ball park 🙂 About the cost of a decent sedan.
That’s interesting information, Erik, especially in light of the Beachy Amish (formerly OOA) man thinking their wedding was expensive. By the way, this couple is from Daviess County, Indiana, a settlement which I know you are familiar with.
Over the Fence
Great post Erik….thanks for sharing. I didn’t know about the celery tradition. One of our Amish friends were married last October. Several of the boys threw the groom over a fence, then threw the bride over the same fence with the groom catching her. Lot of people laughing. Apparently a tradition in Lancastwr county. I wonder about other areas.
I was just told that this bride & groom are soon taking a belated wedding trip to Alaska. I will see them next week & I plan to ask them how they plan to travel. Train, bus, or what. Going to be a long trip.
Sounds fun Bob, glad you liked the post. I enjoyed the article. In addition to Karen’s research, Rich Stevick’s book Growing Up Amish: The Rumspringa Years has some nice info on weddings, including the pranks, this one rings a bell.
I’ve seen a similar photo of an Eck in The Connection (Amish) magazine. The simplicity, cleanliness & beauty make me wish more “English” brides would consider a simpler wedding…with more emphasis on the people involved (families, relatives, friends) and less on “excess and boastfulness”.
The wedding trailer is something I think the English could take to heart—keep the cooking/cleaning up confined to the trailer—this would free up more people to have weddings in their homes or less expensive venues (local VFW hall, or church basement, etc.), if they didn’t have to stress so much over the meal & serving.
Interesting post & lots to ruminate over.
I like this idea but I don’t know if the wedding industry would agree Alice Mary 🙂
I agree Alice Mary. We were married in our Quaker Meeting, and as custom we said our own vows. “In the presence of God & these our friends, I take thee Xxxxx to be my wife, promising with Devine assistance to be a loving & faithful husband so long as we both shall live”. My wife then repeated the vow, and that was it.
That was 1960, so guess it worked….
I am not Amish but when we got married 25 years ago, I didn’t have a big fancy wedding. My Grandpa bought me a dress that cost $25.00, a pair of shoes that cost $15.00. We didn’t have flowers, or music, no bridesmaids, no bestmen, no flower girls. My Uncle surprised us with a wedding cake. My Dad stood by me at the Alter and my husbands brother stood by him and we had maybe 25 Church member’s at the wedding. We never went on a Honeymoon and we still haven’t had a honeymoon(I think I deserve one soon) lol. My point here is you don’t have to have a huge expensive wedding, or honeymoon. Love is what you need to have a beautiful marriage, and yes, you have to work on it all the time.
Well said, erlinda. Makes sense to me 🙂
are English folks ever involved in the actual wedding, best man,maid of honor, or witness?
Glen, not that I have ever heard of. There isn’t a “best man” or “Maid of honor.” There are two male witnesses and two female. Around here we call them “navahockers” or side-sitters.
In our group, non-Amish people (usually relatives or co-workers) might be invited as “help,” like servers or cooks, but not as part of the wedding ceremony.
Less than $3000??
From what I have read I have gotten the impression that among many of the more conservative Amish a wedding probably costs even less than $3000. If I am not mistaken, the Beachy Amish are among the more liberal of the various Amish groups and might therefore spend more. Among the more conservative groups I have read that much of the food is made at home by various friends and relatives and brought as a kind of potluck. Among the foods are roast chicken with gravy and mashed potatoes as well as creamed celery, the celery being symbolic among the Amish for a wedding. Various home baked desserts are also served. Much of the food is raised on their farms further reducing cost. Women make their own wedding dresses which can then serve as their Sunday church clothing. I’m not sure what the men wear to be married, but I’m sure it is just as wisely frugal. There is no “maid/matron of honor” or “best man” as all are held to be of equal importance which one could say is Christian practice at its best. There are no rings or flowers so no cost there either. It all stands in stark contrast to the obscene, foolish extravagance of modern mainstream American weddings.
Children attending Amish weddings
I was wondering if children attended Amish weddings held during the week. I don’t see how they would be excluded, but if there are a number of weddings in a community that would involve a lot of days off from school
Also, I watched an Amish man on a video who said the Amish don’t get marriage licenses. Is this typical or just in some of the more conservative groups?