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How the Amish Work

        Culture | Subcultures

Courtship and Marriage

The Amish are a close-knit community, so members of a group know each other from childhood. There is school, church, barn raisings, singings and other events. The Amish do not like to depend on outsiders, so neighbors are always helping each other.

Singings are the usual mixed recreation and are the primary courtship activity. These events are only open to young singles and are the equivalent of a teen dance. The Amish do not dance or play musical instruments, but they share the Pennsylvania German love of singing. The songs are not all religious. Folk and country songs are also sung.

Unmarried Amish choose their own husbands/wives, and the woman is very much involved in the process. Courtship often begins with a young man transporting a young woman to and from one of the many singings or Sunday worship. The couple will be allowed to spend time together in private, but to spend this time alone behind closed doors would be scandalous. But as with courtship everywhere, couples like to be together out of sight and earshot of others, and the Amish, too, will contrive ways to accomplish this goal. Porches are appropriate, and you will often see them traveling in open buggies. It is wise to have a chaperone present somewhere for appearances, but a good chaperone does not spy or eavesdrop.

The step of marriage is a major one in Amish society, so the preparation and the execution is quite involved. A quick trip to the Justice of the Peace with a couple of witnesses will not suffice. The sequence of events will be covered only briefly here. The links at the end of the article provide additional detail.

Weddings take place after the fall harvest. November is the favored month because the winter weather has not yet begun. Sixteen is the age when courtship begins, but couples will likely be 20 or older when they marry. Both parties must be church members.

Although it is obvious to all when a couple becomes serious, the intent to wed is kept secret until July or August. The man will give the woman a practical gift (no jewelry), and the woman will inform her family. Two weeks after fall communion, those couples who have provided the proper credentials are "published" -- that is, at the end of the Sunday service, the deacon reads the names of the women who intend to marry and the man to whom they will be married. The couples do not attend this service. They are at the home of the bride-to-be having a private meal together. It is now the end of October.

The wedding and "reception" take place in the woman's home. She and her family are now working at a frantic pace to make preparations (remember, on a farm there is never a holiday from the chores). The man is out extending personal invitations to the guests. The guest list extends into the hundreds.

Blue is the favored color for a wedding dress. The dress must be new, but it will be used on future formal occasions. The dress is without lace or a train. Bride and groom wear high-topped shoes, and the men may don bow ties.

The wedding service lasts for many hours, at the end of which the minister questions the bride and groom, and then extends his blessing. The feasting begins and continues well into darkness. The newlyweds spend the first night at the bride's parents' house.

The "honeymoon" consists of weekend overnight visits to various relatives, during which new acquaintances are made and wedding gifts are presented. The newlyweds live with the woman's parents until the spring, when they will establish a place of their own.


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