By Marcia Eichhorn
When I tell my guests at Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast about an Amish wedding, they are amazed by the number of people invited. Unlike us “Englishers”, Amish families don’t share that the young folks are getting married until 6-8 weeks before the wedding, when it is first “published” (announced) in church. Then invitations are sent. The size of the weddings have grown over the past 10 years. Today a couple invites between 800-1,200 people. Can you imagine knowing that many people?
The Wedding Wagon
To help prepare for an Amish Wedding, a “Wedding Wagon” is rented and reserved a year in advance. It is a 40 foot long RV trailer consisting of 5 ovens, 2 sinks, and a walk in cooler. Just to give you an idea, among the 24,000 Indiana Amish population in 2011 there were roughly 1,000 weddings. Along with the wedding wagon is the dish wagon, which holds place settings of china, glassware, silverware, pots and pans, dish tubs, and baking pans.
An All-Day Affair
Amish weddings are held either on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, but not Saturday as clean-up needs to be done before Sunday. The service begins with singing at 9am and ends around 12:00. Three preachers participate. First, a small sermon is given, then one reads scripture, and lastly a message on marriage. A neighbor family hosts the wedding ceremony, and then everyone goes to the bride’s home for the meal.
Up to a week before the wedding the “bench wagons” are delivered. Neighbors and family come to prepare the food, trim the lawn, and clean the house. The men have been busy cleaning the shop house where the meal will be served, removing buggies, wiping down walls, and sprucing up the homestead.
The bride has chosen dress colors for the servers and two women in the wedding party. She mails a sample piece of material she has chosen to the ladies. They go to the local fabric store and buy the fabric and sew their dress. The bride chooses a different color for her dress. The styles are fashioned like the traditional Amish dress. The bride wears a white cape and white apron over her dress, along with the white covering for her head. Men wear the traditional black suit, called mutza (with no lapels) made by family.
The Big Question- Will there be enough food?
Preparing the wedding meal for an Amish wedding takes a great deal of organization. Recipes serving 100 plus are passed down from generation to generation. Relatives and neighbors come 2-3 days ahead to prepare the food. Cooking for 1,000 people requires peeling and mashing 400 pounds of potatoes! The bread for the dressing will need to be toasted, chicken cooked, and broth reserved. Choices of meat vary between ham, poor man’s steak, and chicken. Traditional salads are tossed salad, fruit salad, taco salad, or creamy grape salad. The vegetable is usually home grown. Fifty loaves of homemade bread, 20 cakes or puddings, and over 80 pies are made the day before. Finally, after having all the food you might want, it is tradition to pass a bowl full of candy bars. All food is served family style. Friends of the couples are servers. The names of the servers are printed in the Die Blatt, the Amish newspaper.
Tables are covered with rolls of paper. They are adorned with candles and flowers. The bride and groom have a special corner decorated with a plaque called the Holy Matrimony, which lists the bridal party and servers’ names. That is where the wedding party sits and where the wedding cake is placed.
Feeding the Multitudes
How do they serve 1,000 people at once? Well, they don’t. When you receive your invitation there are 4 times listed. If your invitation has a check mark by 9:00 a.m. , then you are invited to the “wedding ceremony” and the meal. Others arrive later. The workers eat at 4:30. Young married and friends eat at 5:30 and young single folks eat at 7:00pm. By 10:00 p.m. things are winding down. Dishes are washed and dried for the last time. Dishes and pans are packed in their special box and placed in the dish wagon. Gifts are taken into the house, tables and benches are taken down. The couple spends the night at the home of the parents. The next morning final work is done. The young people soon have a place to rent and start their future together. Amish weddings are a true celebration! What a full and memorable day.
Try Your Hand at an Amish Wedding Dessert
Lemon Wedding Pie
Baked 9 inch pie crust
1 ½ pkg. 8 oz. cream cheese
½ c. powdered sugar
1 ½ c. cool whip + T. lemon juice
Beat this all together.
1 ¼ c. sugar, divided
5 T. cornstarch + ½ t. salt
1 ¼ c. water
2 T. butter
2 t. grated lemon peel
4-5 drops yellow food coloring
½ c. fresh lemon juice
- In a saucepan combine ¾ c. sugar, cornstarch and salt. Stir in water. Bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Reduce heat stir in remaining sugar. Cook for 2 minutes or until thickened.
- Remove from heat, gently fold in lemon peel, food coloring, and lemon juice.
- Let cool about an hour. In pie crust put cream layer, then the filling. May add whip cream for topping. Marcia Eichhorn is the owner of Bright Morning Star Bed and Breakfast which is nestled in Northern Indiana Amish country among beautiful Amish farms. Her guests often ask questions about the Amish & Amish recipes and she is happy to share what she has learned throughout the years from her Amish friends and neighbors.