Last fall I went to my second Amish wedding. I have known the bride since she was young... I’ve watched her grow up, have her heart broken a time or two, and finally, in her mid-twenties, meet her soul mate. I was delighted to be asked to her wedding, which was held in this barn.
Amish weddings take place during the week, in the morning, often at the home of the bride, often in the barn. Spring is a popular time, since the barn isn't so full of hay or straw. There are no special decorations. The backless wooden benches used for church services are set up, men on one side in six or eight rows facing the center; women and small children on the opposite side in six or eight rows, facing the center; the elders, deacons, and preachers on the third side; and the few “English” attending on a bench or two on the fourth side, nearest the door. The bride and groom dress in their usual church clothing and sit with their attendants in the front row.
The wedding begins with the usual Amish church service—three hours long, all in “Dutch” (the German dialect the Amish speak as their first language). Then at the end of the regular service, the bride and groom step forward with their attendants for the ceremony, which lasts about fifteen minutes. Wedding rings are not exchanged; the Amish don’t wear jewelry, not even wedding rings or wrist watches.
For the first two hours, I was nearly the only non-Amish person, along with a few Mennonite relatives of the bride. But then a dozen members of the groom’s family began to filter in—five of his nine siblings had not remained Amish when they became adults. (Sidelight: members of an Amish family who do not join the Amish church are not shunned; shunning is for baptized members who leave.)
After the service, the food is brought out. Usually there are four seatings, in nearby buildings or outside in tents. The first seating is for those who attend the wedding. The second seating is for those who arrive afterwards—friends and relatives who could not attend the wedding, due to space restrictions in the barn or other reasons. The third seating is for those who helped prepare and serve the food. The fourth meal is held later in the day, for the young adults. Over a thousand meals are usually served that day!
Amish weddings aren’t for the fainthearted, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!