A bittersweet Amish wedding

churchbenchwagonbybrucestambaugh
The day after the wedding, only the lonely church bench wagon marked the spot where the bittersweet wedding had taken place. Out of respect for the Amish, no pictures were taken prior to or during the wedding.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The cool morning’s haze hung in the low, sweeping valley, kissing everything animate and inanimate with thousands of moist droplets. The sun, just now slipping above the distant hillsides, began to undo the dew.

An Amish church bench wagon stood alone, a silvery silent phantom in the dampened alfalfa field. A week earlier the wagon likely went unnoticed. It had been brought there to supply some of the seating for the hundreds of guests who attended a very special wedding.

The bride, a good friend and neighbor, was the happiest, most excited young woman about to be married that I had ever met. Only a year earlier this same 34 year-old had adamantly proclaimed to my wife that she would never get married.

Life events change things above and beyond our poor power to anticipate or comprehend them. We can only accept them.

Months earlier, the groom was suddenly a young widower with six children, teenager to toddlers. When the life of a wife and mother is taken at 34, a huge, horrible hole is created. Now, through a series of miraculous happenings, the modest, stalwart man was about to take a new bride.

It clearly was a bittersweet wedding. In fact, the bride used that as the theme in the invitations, throughout the preparations and the wedding itself. She went out of her way to include the children and their grandparents in this transition.

amishhomesteadbybrucestambaugh
The home of the new bride and groom and their family.

If ever there was a model for the positive blending of families, this wedding was it. There were tears of joy for the new couple, for the young children who would once again have a mother, and for the new groom, who would no longer have to worry about how to care for his family while holding down a fulltime job.

Step by step, it all came together. Even the minister had to wipe away a tear or two as he preached his sermon in his native Pennsylvania Dutch. During his animated sermon, he spoke reverently to the children, all dressed in matching gold shirts and dresses. He shared personally and passionately with the bride and groom on the incomparable commitment they were making.

In the Amish community, weddings and the meal that follows are a crowning celebration. They are a commitment for a lifetime to each other and the community. Surrounded by hundreds of family and friends, my friend followed her heart, and filled that family’s aching emptiness.

The reception was held across the narrow township road from the bride’s parent’s home. A large white tent had been erected to accommodate the reception goers. Usually the wedding party sits in the eck, or corner, while the guests enjoy their meal at long decorated tables.

This was no ordinary Amish wedding. The guests were afforded a glimpse of how life would be in this newly established household. Centered at the back of the tent was a huge, antique dining room table. Around it sat the bride, the groom and his six children. The bride fed one toddler while the groom fed another.

This marvelous couple had only been married a few minutes, and already they were modeling the family way. I had to wipe away a few tears of my own.

Just as the joy of this marriage warmed the spirits of the wedding guests, the strengthening sun quickly melted away the dewdrops around the church wagon. It was an honor and a blessing to have witnessed both.

silverliningbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013