Despite the striking cultural differences between the Mennonites and the general population, wedding ceremonies often appear strikingly similar. Mennonites are members of an Anabaptist Christian denomination with significant populations in roughly a dozen countries worldwide. Various Mennonite churches claim more than 300,000 members in the United States and roughly 1.5 million worldwide. The Mennonites share much history with the Amish, but are more accepting of modern amenities. According to a New York Times article, the first Mennonite wedding ceremony on American soil took place on March 28, 1875.
Though there are various Mennonite groups throughout the world, all hold marriage in extremely high esteem and place the event on a level with religious ceremonies such as baptism. Many Mennonite denominations currently conduct some form of a church wedding, but more conservative or old-fashioned Mennonite populations still hold the ceremony in a home – typically, that of the bride’s family.
The Wedding Party
Like much of the Mennonite lifestyle, wedding ceremonies are typically very simple affairs. The bride will wear a white or plain dress with a white covering. It is not unusual for the to be homemade. More conservative ceremonies will include only a bride and groom, though bridesmaids and groomsmen are present in other Mennonite ceremonies. In these more liberal ceremonies, women wear basic gowns and the men wear tuxedoes. The bride can carry simple flowers, in addition to her Bible, and the couple may exchange written vows during the wedding. The bride and groom seldom share a kiss at the end of the ceremony.
As a religious ceremony, foremost, the marriage is typically performed by a church elder or pastor. More modern Mennonite weddings may include some traditional elements, such as the giving away of the bride by her father or a sermon from the officiant.
As a deeply religious ceremony, the wedding is typically performed in front of the full congregation and will include numerous songs and hymns.
In some ways, the reception that follows a Mennonite wedding seems very typical. There is often a dinner and cake served, as well as a heavy focus on music. However, dancing and alcohol are typically forbidden at Mennonite receptions.
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First published in 2005, Kyle Whitney has covered news and sports in the Midwest, Washington, D.C., and Beijing. His articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines in Michigan and China. Whitney is currently a local government reporter at a daily paper.
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