A Mennonite Wedding
The day prior to the wedding Mark* came to help dad and the boys move the furniture down in the basement. Then they went outside to finish the outside things. Mom and we girls were getting the last food ready.
*Names changed to protect identity.
After lunch I went down in the basement to put icing on the cakes. Mark came down and sat in a chair to watch me. Soon Edna and a few other siblings came down till we had quite a party. We were laughing and talking and I was trying to cut the cakes. I told Mark laughingly, "If you don't stop watching me we'll have crooked cake pieces." (I think each cake piece had white icing decorated with intertwined teal and pink hearts. There was no big fancy cake where bride and groom feed each other the first piece. )
"Then let me do it," he replied with a grin. So he cut the cakes. Edna was laughing at him and throwing candy at me.
Mark left mid-afternoon. It was snowing and blowing outside. After supper the head cook and waitresses came for instructions. (They were the ones in charge of the rest and to make sure everything is taken care of and managed as the bride wishes.)
After they left we got to work on scrubbing all the floors. Then we all headed to bed so mom could wax the floors. It was close to 11 pm till we were all done.
The next morning the alarm went off at 6 am. Everyone jumped out of bed excitedly! The wedding was finally here! No more waiting!
I put on my plain gray dress. The waitresses had teal blue, the nieces and little sisters had pink, the married sisters and sister-in-laws had maroon. The two moms had a dark real and the men and boys all wore white shirts and black suits. (Each bride chooses their own combination of colors in plain or barely visible prints. The bride always wears gray.)
(I don't know who this lady is, but I thought this would be a great example. This is basically what my mom's wedding dress looked like except that it was a shade lighter gray and knit fabric which was the thing at that time along with shorter dresses. I wore a few of my mom's dresses but they were too short and old-fashioned for me. Honestly they really felt restrictive compared to what I was used to as a young teen. Also her covering strings would be tied in a neat little bow. And... she did not have a speaker...😉)
At 6:30 Mark came. He unhitched his horse and put it in the barn. The he backed the buggy under the forbay. He came into the house and dressed himself for the wedding.
At 7:00 we had a quick breakfast of cereal. Next we quickly cleared the table and washed the dishes.
At 8:15 the cooks and waitresses arrived. There were 7 married couples for cook and then I had 11 of my single girlfriends and a few girl cousins as waitresses. (The waitresses wear white full aprons when waiting on the tables.)
All forenoon the cooks were busy peeling potatoes, browning butter, cooking peas and noodles, etc. The waitresses were cutting cheese, mixing pudding, and putting food in bowls and counting the plates, cups and silverware.
At 8:30 the ushers, gift receivers and first guests started arriving. The ushers and gift receivers were 4 dating couples who were our best friends. The usher's job was to open the door for guests and take coats and gifts from the guests. (Bridal showers are considered worldly and therefore not accepted so guests bring gifts on the wedding day. )
The gift receivers' job was to open gifts and write down who gave them and what was in the gift. As family and friends arrived they went upstairs to the bridal room to shake hands and say good morning to the bridal party. The bridal party consisted of two of my single sisters on my side and on Mark's side were his 2 single sisters.
The bridal room was the bride's bedroom and along one wall were 6 chairs for the bridal party. The gifts were all piled neatly on the bed. Cards were taped on the mirror. The address labels and wedding samples were on the same dresser. (The wedding samples were a design the bride came up with and then used the wedding dress colors in the design which you can see below. The address labels were for the guests so that they'd have the address for the newly wed couple.)
At 9:00 the cookies/wine servers headed to the kitchen for their trays of cookies and wine. They were 2 dating couples and also some of our friends. Stacked neatly on the cookie tray were rows of molasses, m&m, oatmeal raisin and sugar cookies. On the wine tray were little shot glasses filled with catawba(a kind of grape), ground cherry, Concord and rhubarb wine. For each couple the boy carried the wine tray and the girl carried the cookie tray. First they served the bridal party and then the rest of the guests. After everyone was served they retraced their steps to collect the empty shot glasses.
At 9:15 brother-in-law James came to get the papers with all the names of the guests. Then he stood in the upstairs hallway and started calling the names one by one. As the people's names were called they filed downstairs and sat in the order they were called. The men cooks made sure everyone was seated in their proper order.
After everyone was seated the bishop, minister, deacon and the 2 sets of parents came into the bridal room. They all shook hands and said good morning. The first question the bishop asked was directed to the parents. "Can you consent to let this couple Mark Horst and Melody Horst, marry each other?"
They all answered, "Yes."
The next question was directed to us. "Are you free from all other men/woman relationships?"
We both answered, " Yes." If either of the questions had received a no, there would have had to be an explanation and depending on the explanation we wouldn't have been able to get married.
After the questions they all went downstairs and took their assigned seats. The minister called out the song number and one of the Uncles started the song. When they started the second verse, Mark and I got up and went downstairs to our seats. We sang 3 more verses of the song.(The singing was in German. )
The minister stood up to preach first. Some of the Scripture texts he had were:
-Hebrews 13:1-4 Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.
Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD.
(The only English version allowed is the KJV and the Martin Luther German translation is also allowed. The service was also in German/Pennsylvania Dutch) He also made comments on them.
Next was a short silent prayer where everyone kneeled, folding up their chairs, as there was barely room to kneel down without bumping into the person behind and in front of you. Then it was the bishop's turn. He also had Scripture texts:
And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?
Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
-1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
When he felt the time was right, he said:
(After the bishop said," The Lord hath heard, give each other the right hand," he would then take the bride's hand and put the groom's hand on top and his on top and then bless them, signifying the bonding of 2 into one.)
After the vows were said, we returned to our seats, now as husband and wife. The bishop asked the minister and deacon for testimony/witness after which everyone knelt while the bishop prayed aloud. After everyone was seated again the minister announced the song number. Uncle Ralph started the song. When they began the second verse, Mark and I went upstairs and stood in the hallway. When they were done singing, all guests beginning with family, filed upstairs to shake hands and congratulate us.(Mennonites are very emotionally reserved and usually give no hugs in public. I think I could say emotionally detached in many cases.)
The men then went outside and the women went to look at the gifts and get wedding samples to pin on their capes and address labels. We all stood around talking and waiting till they called us for lunch. (Often where the people were seated for the service will be cleaned out and tables set up.) Meanwhile the men cook were busy setting up tables and chairs while the women cook were making sure all the food was ready and the waitresses were busy setting tables. (There were no table decorations of any kind.) When all tables were set, the women cook filled bowls with steaming food and the waitresses put them on shelves set up at assigned places in order to make it easier to serve each table. When all was ready, James called the guests one by one, again starting with family.
When all the tables were filled, the bishop said, "All tables are full, let's thank the Lord" and there was a silent prayer where everyone bowed their heads till he said "Amen." First came the main course and the dessert. Last but not least came coffee, candy and toothpicks. When all plates were empty, the bishop said," We are all full, let's thank the Lord" and there was another silent prayer. After he said "Amen" everyone was free to leave the tables.
After all the guests had left the tables, the dishwashers(2 married couples) started washing dishes while the cooks and waitresses swiftly reset the tables and refilled the bowls with food for the second setting. Here is the menu:
At the second setting were the last guests, cooks and hostlers. The waitresses are after everyone else was served and the tables were cleared. The dishwashers washed the last dishes.
While the men cook put away all the tables and setting up chairs for the afternoon singing the women cook were putting away the leftover food. The waitresses counted all the dishes to make sure everything got back on the wedding trailer. The wedding trailer had all the tables and chairs plus cookers, silverware, plates, bowls along with large coffee pots, washcloths and tea towels. The songbooks were also included, basically everything needed for a wedding except the guests and the food. I'm guessing there were enough supplies for up to 225 people or so.
By the time everything was cleaned up from lunch it was about 2:00. At 2:30 Mark and I went downstairs and sat in the front row. Soon more and more people joined us until we had enough people to start singing. First we sang German wedding songs. One song was the bride groom's song. If he thought he could start it he did, if not, another man would start it for him. It was a German song sung to the tune of "What A Friend We Have In Jesus ," a very popular song.
Around 3:00 we started singing English songs from the Church and Sunday School Hymnal. There were also a few song sheets inside the cover.
Around 3:15 the dating couples started going on walks. It was a lovely day for it, sunny and warm. The first guests came to wish us well and leave for home.
Now while all this was happening inside, outside were the hostlers, all single boys, who took care of the horses and buggies as the guests arrived. They were given pieces of paper with numbers on; one for the guest and one for the buggy. That way they knew which belonged to who. Usually in the pasture or hay field there would be parked several flatbed wagons to which the horses were tied next to each other. The buggies were parked along the lane.
(These are Amish buggies but this is similar to how it would look at a Mennonite wedding. Sometimes things like this happen...👇)
When the guests were ready to leave they gave their paper to a hostler and they brought them the right horse and buggy. Before the hostlers let them leave they tried to see how much tip they could get. They usually get $5-$10 per couple. Some gave more, some gave less. The waitresses went after the ones who came with a driver.(Owning cars was not allowed.) Some guests even got away without giving anything. When their jobs were done they usually played volleyball.
By 3:45 all guests left except dating couples and single friends. Mark and I went up to the bridal room to look at all the gifts. It was peaceful, nobody to bother us. It was beautiful outside, sunny, aboabout 45° and most of the snow had melted. I couldn't believe I was now a married woman.
At 4:45 the supper guests arrived. The couples came back from their walks. The waitresses were getting the tables set for supper while the cooks made sure the food was being prepared. The supper cooks were 2 of my married sisters and mom was there to answer any questions.
At 5:30 Mark and I were still upstairs talking to a few supper guests when we heard the waitresses laughing. We looked at each other and grinned. " Here it comes," I thought.
Suddenly the waitresses yelled," MR AND MRS MARK HORST!"
A guest unaccustomed to this was like, " Wow!"
Mark told him, "That's their fun."
The waitresses then went outside and yelled, "SUPPER!" Mark and I went downstairs and sat at the head of the table. The rest of the guests took seats wherever there was room. Compared to the 200+ guests for lunch the 45 guests for supper didn't seem like a lot. When everyone was seated dad said, " We are all here, let's bow our heads for silent prayer. " (Often ""English" neighbors, friends and coworkers were invited for supper quicker than being invited for the service and lunch as they wouldn't be able to understand most of what was being said.) When everyone was done eating we sat there and talked. The supper menu was:
The hostlers made the first move to leave. As they went out the door they sprayed us with confetti. Everyone laughed as they couldn't hit very well and got some of the guests too.
For supper we used mostly paperware so the waitresses didn't have to do so many dishes. Only bowls and kettles and a few other dishes. Then their job was pretty much done. The rest of the evening we sat around talking.
At 7:30 the couples started home. After all guests were gone, the hostlers came in to tease Mark to see how much tip they could get out of him. I'm not sure how much he gave them but not more than $75 I think. They also begged some out of dad.
Usually they throw the bridegroom over the fence but Mark was too smart for them. They couldn't get him outside no matter what they told him. The waitresses usually stand the bride on her head but I saw through their tricks. I told them, " Nope, I'm not going with. I know what you want. " They didn't give up easily though.
At 8:30 Mark asked me if I'm ready to leave. I replied, "Yes, I'm tired and my leg doesn't want to stop hurting (due to an accident a few years before).
Mark told the hostlers to get his horse ready and we went upstairs to get our coats. It felt weird to put a shawl on for the first time. (Married women need to wear shawls) When we came downstairs my friends exclaimed, "Melody, what happened to you??"
(The shawl would have been similar to this, fastened with a big maybe 3" safety pin specifically used for closing a shawl.)
I said, " Uh...nothing. "
"You all of a sudden changed," they replied.
We said goodbye to the rest of the family and headed outside. It was a clear, cold night. Snow was falling gently again. Once the horse was hitched up we left for our new home and thus married life began. (Honeymoons were seen as a worldly thing and not allowed. )
All the people who served at the wedding got a small gift from the bride, namely the cooks, waitresses and hostlers, usually in the range of $10-$15.
Perhaps you are wondering what happened with the tip that the hostlers collected? At the end of the day all the money that was gathered was divided evenly among the waitresses and hostlers. I personally remember getting around $17 if not more and there was usually about a dozen each of waitresses and hostlers if not more depending on the need and size of the wedding.
I hope you enjoyed this article, learning about a Mennonite wedding. If you have questions please leave them in the comments and I will try to get answers for you. My sister did a good job at writing about her wedding day and I had the pleasure of editing and adding more details. Feel free to share with your friends and hopefully you learned something new today!😉