Amish Dating Customs
Amish dating customs provide young Amish adults with a means of finding a lifelong partner while following the rules of the church.
In the outside world teenagers mix with the opposite sex on a daily basis during high school. Many go on to college or tech school where they can dip into a large pool of likely dating candidates.
Amish children also mix socially in school but there are a few major differences.
- Amish schooling ends with the completion of the 8th grade so this source of daily socializing between the young boys and girls ends after the age 14 or 15.
- Most Amish schools have on thirty to thirty-five students. This means that they are probably in school with a bunch of siblings and cousins. So the pickings are rather slim.
- Amish kids can’t just jump in the car and head to the mall, sporting events or high school dances to find potential dating material.
So how do these kids find dates? Amish dating customs get the job done.
The Amish, like we outsiders, are not a monolithic society. Differences between individual districts can be varied and complex.
Assuming that all Amish practice the same dating customs would be like assuming that all “English” love NASCAR, classical music, and aerobic workouts.
Acknowledging that there are many variations, let’s take a look at some Amish dating customs
Amish courtship traditionally begins at age 16 for the boys and age 14-15 for the girls.
To find someone to date you have to go where the action is. The Amish socialize at functions like visits, frolics, and church. Since everyone goes to Church every other week, it is makes sense for the older kids to stay late to mix and match.
So on Sunday evening at the same house where church service was held earlier in the day, after the adults have left, Amish kids meet for Sunday night singing.
The Sunday night singing is not meant for devotion. The songs of worship are faster and more energetic than the slowly chanted songs of the morning church service.
The boys and girls sit at a long table facing each other. There is plenty of time between songs to talk and socialize. The singing lasts until around ten o’clock.
The group will then hang around for an hour or two after singing with the unattached boys and girls sizing each other up as likely partners.
If a couple hits it off, the Amish dating process with the boy asking the girl if he can drive her home. At her house they will go in and visit. At that late hour, the household will be sleeping so they have plenty of privacy. They may sit up long into the night getting to know each other. The boy makes the long buggy trip home in the wee hours of the morning.
If both are willing, the couple starts going steady.
Amish meet for church every other weekend. On the weekend when there is no church, the couple usually dates on Saturday night. That way they can see each other every week.
Either party can quit the relationship at any time. Just as in the outside world, it might take someone several tries to find a lifelong partner.
The more conservative couples practice traditional Amish dating customs. They date in their buggies and drink hot chocolate or sodas. They focus on group and outdoor activities sometimes with their parents.
Couples from more progressive churches that have drifted more toward the modern world might go into town for the evening. Maybe they will get a bite to eat or just hang out together and enjoy each others company.
The most daring couples might change into English clothes, get into a car and head for a party where they can sample worldly temptations. This group is a very small minority.
Some Amish dating relationships start out with a different twist.
In the Amish districts that sanction bed courtship, the boy asks the girl if he can take her home. If she consents, they drive to her home. They immediately go upstairs and get into her bed fully clothed, where they are expected to talk all night without touching.
Bed courtship is practiced only by the ultra-conservative churches. The parents rely on the church teachings to prevent hanky-panky.
This custom is also known as bundling which the dictionary defines as sleeping in the same bed with somebody while both are fully dressed.
Bundling has biblical roots. It is not an Amish invention. The custom was practiced in Europe for centuries before immigrants introduced it to the American colonies.
In the past, the practical reason for bed courting was comfort. When homes were heated by fireplaces and had hard wooden furniture, the bed was the warmest, most comfortable place to socialize. As fireplaces and hard wooden chairs were replaced by central heating and comfortable sitting rooms, bundling faded (almost entirely) from the scene.
Clinging to Tradition
It is interesting to note that the vast majority of Amish society condemns the practice of bed courtship. It seems strange that only the strictest Amish congregations still sanction it.
In ultra-conservative groups like the Swartzentruber Amish or the Nebraska Amish, homes are still heated by wood stoves and furnished with plain furniture with no upholstering. So in these households, the old reasons for bed courtship remain.
It is an old custom and these ultra-conservative churches stubbornly cling to old traditions. They believe that any change weakens their church and threatens their eternal souls. No wonder they encourage the old Amish dating customs.
And the Beat Goes On
The Amish population just keeps on growing at a robust rate. Much of this growth can be attributed to the ability of the church to promote marriages within the faith.
Since their beginning, the Amish have developed customs aimed at protecting and prolonging the church. They have managed to keep their identity and thrive in an ever-changing world.
Amish dating customs play a major role in the continuing survival and growth of the Amish society.
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