Just like their “English” counterparts, newlywed Amish couples often have their getaway vehicles festooned with “Just Married” signs, streamers, and balloons. The obvious difference is, however, that it’s a horse-drawn buggy that is decorated instead of a car, limo, or pickup truck.
Most Old Order Amish weddings are held on Thursdays in the spring and summer after the planting is completed. Fall weddings usually occur after the harvest season. However, with so many young couples in the community wanting to marry, there just aren’t enough Thursdays to go around. Alternatives are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and even Saturdays, which is the day for most New Order weddings.
Weddings are considered worship services by the Amish. They usually last three hours, followed by a full course meal attended by hundreds of guests and family members. Some churches continue the tradition of also hosting an evening meal for those attending the wedding.
Whether we realize it or not, we make memories every day.
Memories don’t have to be from times long past. Often they are the moments at hand that we cherish the most. The older I get, the more emotive I am about the everyday happenings in my life.
Some memories come from yesterday. Others bubble up from the yesterdays of long, long ago. Some are innocent, innocuous ditties while others are serious, life-awakening treasures.
The odd thing about memories is how they so often just pop up at the strangest times and places. It’s why we need to be mindful of our constant memory making.
A spark down deep spontaneously ignites and I’m hiking a switchback alpine trail inhaling thin, clear mountain air. Another moment I’m in the delivery room of the local hospital watching my lovely wife deliver our second child. Soon our family doctor holds our newborn in front of us, exclaiming, “She’s a boy!”
In another flash, I’m a child myself, belly flopping on my Flexible Flyer through heavy, wet snow, shouts of glee echoing off the blanketed hillsides. I still have that magic sled.
I remember our daughter, only two at the time, ordering a male guest who tried to leave to sit back down. Her little tea party wasn’t ready to end. The man laughed and complied.
I remember racing to beat the rapidly rising tide to the beach in a shallow bay on Cape Cod. I’ve checked the tidal charts ever since. Then there was the warm summer’s evening I climbed the 897 steps in the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital. The walk back down wasn’t nearly as exciting for this 16-year-old.
Other less joyful memories we wish we could erase of course. But they, too, are indelibly etched in our minds, resurrected at the strangest, most inappropriate times. We cope with thoughts and prayers and tears, always moving forward in our too short lives.
Many of the memories my wife and I have mutually maintained involve travel with family and friends. I hadn’t been to Hocking Hills State Park since I was a teenager. I enjoyed a recent trip with friends as much as I did the one 50 years ago with family.
We strolled trails, discovered waterfalls, explored caves, and enjoyed every color of green imaginable. We wandered forests of towering trees with unfolding canopies and floors of thousands of feathery ferns.
The best memories don’t have to come from exotic, far away places either. They can be pretty close to home. And, too, some settings are made to be memorable.
Ideally, wedding ceremonies and the ensuing reception are memory machines. This celebration was especially so. We witnessed the wedding of our Amish neighbor’s daughter. It’s always an honor to be guests at such occasions.
We loved the focus on family and personal commitment. It was a happy yet solemn occasion. The combination of the simplicity and the significance of the marriage sealed the moment into my mind. There was no flowing wedding gown, no tuxedos, no flowery bouquets, only serious contemplation.
At the reception in the barn, the buzz of the lively conversations further seasoned the already scrumptious food passed up and down long, pleasantly decorated tables. It truly was a life celebration worth remembering.
Memories are potent reminders of life’s sweeping landscapes. What endearing memories will we make today that will be worthy of future recollecting?
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.
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.