Thursday, October 30, 2014

Amish Wedding Preparations

Anna Miller and the women of the Amish community have been busy for days preparing for the wedding of the Miller's youngest daughter, Mary.

Mrs. Miller invited us to visit the day before the wedding--and take photos of the arrangements.
[Remembering my experience with Delila Yoder who wanted photos of her quilts, I have offered to print some of the photos.]

Several pieces of furniture have been displaced onto the porch and long wooden tables arranged to accommodate family and guests for the wedding dinner.
Mary has been collecting blue glassware, some of which was given to her as gifts.

This is the bride and groom's corner.
The wedding cake will be served from the cake stand; The glass bowl with the basket handle will be filled with fruit.
The attendants/witnesses will be seated to either side of the new couple.

A view from the center of the living room, showing the arrangement of tables and benches.
All is simplicity.

A long view of the side table.

This table has been set up in the sun room which opens off the living room.
When I asked Anna Miller if the dishes all belonged to her, she laughed. 
"Oh, no--the other women have loaned them.  We've put tags on them to make sure they are returned to the right people."
I noted hand-written tags--but suspect these might refer to designated seating.
I am very diffident about asking questions which might seem too inquisitive.

Anna's sewing machine has been moved to one side, the top closed.
When we were there last week a daughter-in-law was stitching on a blue dress.
I was interested to see that while the machine is treadle-operated, the 'head' is not one of the vintage machines.
It appears to be a more modern machine adapted to treadle mode.
This is something I will inquire about if opportunity presents.

Last week the young men of the family set up a temporary enclosure for the wrap-around porch, using pressed board panels on the lower half and a heavy gauge plastic on the top.
The desk which usually sits in the living room has found a spot on the porch as well.

It was not until I uploaded the photos that I noticed the foil-wrapped tins at intervals along the
 porch tables.
Many of the men smoke--thin dark cigarettes not of a familiar brand.
I suspect these men will be eating on the porch.
[I believe that in most Amish gatherings the men are served first. When they have left the table, it is reset and the women and children sit down to eat.]

On top of the desk are these twin lamps fueled by white gas burned in a mantle.
The New Testament is an edition which contains both English and German; it is flanked by  books with German titles.

Around to the kitchen entrance of the porch.
The pies above are coconut custard.

The pies with 'dotted' filling are vanilla with chocolate chips.  Anna Miller explained that when served 'there will be more on top'--whipped topping!

A trio of apple pies fresh from the oven had attracted a tiny wasp--perched at the edge of the 
center pie.
I found a web photo of a portable kerosene heater.  Nearly a dozen of these were lined up at the edge of the porch, flanked by teakettles and coffee pots.
Amish gatherings are fueled by endless refills of coffee!

Anna Miller suggested I go down to the basement level--as immaculate as the rest of her house--the table settings here are less festive, but all is tidy with serving bowls and large spoons ready to 'dish out' the meal.

Loaves of 'store-bought' bread, extra cartons of eggs, are lined up in the basement area designated for canned goods and large kettles and coolers.

When we arrived at the farm, the noon meal had been served.
The roomy kitchen was full of aproned women bustling about to clear the tables. 
Young girls held toddlers to keep them from under foot.
Infants were parked in strollers and baby carriers.
An older woman, portly in her full-skirted blue dress, still sat, a coffee mug cradled between two hands. 
A large roasting pan held the remains of a noodle casserole; another huge pan had served up a berry cobbler. 
Plates and mugs were already piled near the washroom sink, a teakettle of hot water at the ready as the dishes were briskly washed and rinsed.
For such a large gathering of people it seemed quiet--the small children didn't dash about knocking into things. 
Anna Miller exudes a quality I must describe as 'serene.'
When I asked if I had arrived too early to take photos, she reassured me.
'The men are still in the living room--but I will tell them to go out!'
[In this modern world where many people share 'selfies' the Amish disapprove of 'graven images'--which means they will not pose for photos and wouldn't hear of being even on the periphery of a picture.]
The men obediently trooped down the stairs to the basement and out the lower level door where they congregated to continue smoking and talking.
As I moved around the rooms I was trailed by a retinue of small children.
They were fascinated by my little red camera.
When I spoke to them, they didn't reply, even scrambling back up the staircase when they had followed me down to the basement.
These were pre-school aged children--possibly better acquainted with German than with English.

I would have loved to record the flurry of activity in the kitchen--the women so efficiently dealing with the dishes and the remains of the meal; many of the children were attractive--the young girls wear a slender dress with no waist seam, with a matching simple pinafore. The young boys are dressed as the older men--'square' pants with buttoned flies, held up with suspenders. 

Thinking about it later, I realized that one would not usually want to take photos of a group of people going about everyday tasks.
It is the differences in dress and lifestyle that pique the curiosity of 'Englishers'--we are welcomed thus far and no farther into their old-fashioned world. 

Jim has already moved one of his tractors, some tools and lumber to one of the barns at the lower property.
He realized he needed to rearrange these to allow for the horses and buggies of neighborhood visitors to be 'parked.'

I was standing at the corner of the carriage shed when three of the older girls walked down the drive.
I used the zoom feature of my camera to stealthily take this photo--making sure that I waited until the girls' faces could not be recognized.

The young men were making a clatter in the big house.
We found they were setting up 'church benches' in preparation for the wedding ceremony.
This is the kitchen of the big house.

The 'church benches' are made with folding legs so that they can be easily stored or moved. 

[Old Order Amish consider that 'the church' is a gathering of like-minded believers--not a building designated for worship. Church services are held on alternate Sundays--an all day affair hosted in the homes of a communities' families in turn.]

In the living room sunlight streamed through the windows and created a glare on the polished floor and gloss-painted walls.
I tried several camera settings but my photos were not good.
I had waited until the young men finished their work and trudged back up the lane.
I wonder about the chairs facing each other three by three.
The couple will be married by the local bishop.
Perhaps the bride and groom face each other with their attendants seated on either side [?]

The polished wood range was gently warm; a rocking chair stands invitingly near.
This house is presently occupied by one of the Miller sons with his wife and three young children.
They will be moving soon to a house they have purchased in our old neighborhood of Gradyville.

I went outside, walking through the back porch entry, emerging into the bright sunshine.
I felt as though I had trespassed--although the houses and land are now deeded to us.
I hope that Anna Miller's serenity will see her through the move from this place where she has raised her family, kept her house immaculate, served meals to gatherings of relatives and neighbors.

As I walked around the dooryard, noting a rosebush near the east wall, a spill of spearmint and comfrey at the south end of the back porch, Mary, the bride, crossed the lawn, bound on some errand.
I wished her the joy of her wedding day, told her I hoped Thursday would be bright and fair.
Today has been fine--a nip in the air that warns of frosty nights to come.
I've thought of the celebration taking place, of the great gathering of families, many inter-related. 
We have wondered if the mountains of food have all been eaten.
We imagine every bedroom filled, blankets and quilts spread on the floors for the children.
I've wondered if the bride and her husband [a local lad who attended the Amish school with her] will be given much privacy--Mary stated that 'we can go on a wedding trip if we want to'--but she didn't reveal their plans--and again, I didn't want to seem too curious.
I think the Millers will need a few days of recuperation before they begin to pack up the household for the move to the little yellow house I so recently called home.


  1. What wonderful pictures, thank you for sharing. I collect the blue dishes from the first two pictures, I had no idea there were more pieces that match! I am excited now to add to my dishes. :) Looks like a wonderful community celebration!

    1. April; I will ask Anna Miller for their glassware source--there were other pieces in the home--kerosene lantern bases in particular--in other colors--I noticed rose pink and a yellow/green.

  2. Thanks for the glimpse into such an interesting way of life. As someone who gets by without the 'benefits' of a car or TV I have much respect for anyone who does not blindly follow the crowd.

    1. John; I could happily live without a TV--I do like having a vehicle! For the record: my view of a 'simple life' is not as primitive as the Amish culture--but they are equipped to do this well.

  3. What an interesting post. I love the table settings and thought it interesting that they turn plates, glasses and cups upside down. It does make sense though, to keep it all clean and dust free.

    Their clean, simple and orderly ways are inspiring.

    You are blessed to be friends with the Amish.

    You are blessed to be moving into this peace filled home and property.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

    1. Rainey; This Amish family group has restored my faith in their cleanliness--we've known some whose housekeeping was rather slovenly.
      I am looking forward to this new home.

  4. A very different way of life. Did you end up having problems with your other Amish neighbors?

    1. Janet; No problems with our Amish neighbors in our previous area. We did find we needed to let them know we wouldn't provide 'taxi service' on demand! The one family we knew best could be a bit presumptuous in their requests!

  5. I think that is such a wonderful set-up for a wedding, and I love the fact that everything is sourced from family and friends, and done together as a community, even down to lending the dishes!

    I was amazed when I walked into the Antiques centre this week (where we have our Unit) and found some of the amber lustre cups and saucers in there!

    What a lovely atmosphere that house must have, filled with so much love and serenity. I wish you joy there.

    1. Jennie; We were at Peddler's mall today and I made a point of looking for the colored pressed glass--quite a few pieces displayed in the various booths. I think some was vintage, other pieces likely of recent make.
      'Home weddings' were very much the thing when my grandparents were married--I've found the newspaper accounts of many of Mother's cousins celebrations from the 30's and 40's--likewise simply done.

  6. How fascinating to get such a privileged insight into Amish life - I hope the young couple will be very happy and that the MIllers also will be happy in their new home. You, too, of course:)

    1. Rowan; We do feel blessed by the graciousness of the Miller family. They are planning a 2 story addition to our little yellow house--and expansion of the barns for their leather industry workshops.

  7. Thank you for a fascinating post, loved it, another way of life so different to what many of us know. I trust the serenity of the house will always stay with you and your family and the innumerable cats you have;)

    1. Thelma; I hope the cats will be influenced by an atmosphere of serenity--they are restless with the confinement of our current situation.

  8. this was so interesting sharon, so different to any lifestyle over here. Thankyou for this glimpse into their simple, content lives

    leanne x

    1. Leanne; I look at the simplicity of their needs and wonder why I am dragging so much 'stuff' every time we move!

  9. Oh, Sharon! What a wonderful opportunity for you to see this all firsthand! I loved the pics of the home and the preparations for the wedding. How wonderful that you will be living in this home and on this land!

    1. Dianne; We are excited about this move--all the way to the other end of the county! The place had a sense of 'home' the first time we saw it.

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