I recently went to another Amish wedding. It seems like every time I learn something new, and this was no exception.
The groom was the kid brother of one of my closest friends here. As you might guess by the invitation (below), this young man is a horse trainer (in addition to his day job at Grand Design RVs). The bride also worked in an RV-related factory, although typically the bride quits her job in time to do final preparations for the wedding.
I arrived early and followed the signs for “car parking.” Nearby by, in the field between the farm where the wedding would take place and the bride’s home (where the meals would take place) was a pasture filling up quickly with buggies on one side, and horses on the other side.
There were rented tents everywhere. Some of the activities take place in the shop buildings (in this case both the wedding and the reception meal), but plenty of tents are needed for staging areas, cooking, and sometimes for the opening of the gifts. Bench wagons from several church districts might be needed, along with rented “wedding wagons” containing extra stoves, ovens, freezers, and refrigerators. Dishes and flatware are rented and have arrived a few days earlier in sturdy wooden boxes. It was a beehive of activity; nearly 1,000 meals will typically be served during the course of the day!
I ended up making a run to the grocery store before the service began, but I’ll talk about that in Part Two…
So a bit before 9 a.m., the invited guests began filing into the shop building being used for the wedding. There’s a form as to how this is done. Sometimes, at weddings, I end up being seated with the few “English” guests, but the last couple times I’ve been seated with the Amish aunts and grandmas in the second row, which I really like. As people filed in, they passed by the couple and their four witnesses (like our groomsmen and bridesmaids) who were seated on a bench in the back. When the service began, they moved to seats of honor in the very front.
The guests were seated in the usual “U” shape, with the men on one side, the women on the other side, the young people at the bottom of the U, and whichever minister was speaking at the open end at the top of the U. There were empty rows of benches at the bottom of the U, for the cooks and table waiters to come in for the last hour, so they wouldn’t miss the actual wedding ceremony, which takes place at the very end. As usual, I didn’t take any pictures from inside the building, since photography is against the Amish religion.
After the ceremony, we all filed out into the open air to socialize a bit and make the walk across the field to the bride’s home, where the reception meal would be served shortly. I saw my friend “Katie” (the young woman with cancer about whom I’ve written twice before), so I stopped to chat with her for a few minutes.
The noon meal took place in their shop building (typically used for buggies, storage, or a home business). 12 very long tables were set up, with 24 seated guests at each table. Each table had its own pair of table waiters (one male, one female). Being asked to serve as a table waiter is considered an honor. The table waiters all wore matching shirts or dresses.
The meal, of course, was wonderful. The bridal party sat at a special table at one end. The families sat at a table nearby. The rest of the guests sat at the 12 very long tables, men on one end and women at the other. Luckily for my husband and I, an Amish couple we knew “adopted” each of us and each of us was able to sit with one of them. Sometimes there is a separate table for “English” guests, but there were so few at this wedding) and most were conservative Mennonites by their looks), that we were mixed in with the rest of the guests. Typically in this type of situation, the guests sitting nearby will speak mostly English as a courtesy, which I greatly appreciate!
After the meal, there was another flurry of activity as the guests congratulated the couple and filed outside. Immediately, the table waiters and other helpers swept up the dirty dishes, cleaned them on the spot (table by table), and reset the tables. There would be three more meals served that day!
Normally the a.m. guests either stay as long as they like after lunch, the adults socializing, the young people playing volleyball, and the younger kids just running around having fun. But I had work to do, which I’ll talk about in Part Two.
More about Amish weddings here and here and here.
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