The Amish Dowry and Gift Giving (part 2)
Upon hearing the announcement of a wedding ceremony, the Amish women of the community will begin making special Amish quilts for the newlyweds. The bride's mother will usually make a very special Amish quilt for the bride to take to her new home. This special quilt is often called a 'Sunday Best' quilt and will only be used or displayed in the bride's new home on special occasions. This is because the bride's family will put such care and detail into this special Amish quilt that it is seen as more of an expression of the love the family has for the bride rather than something that is to be used every day. In addition to this very special quilt, the mother of the bride might also make a comforter as well as additional Amish quilts, depending on her particular quilting abilities. Another Amish family tradition consists of the bride's grandmother piecing together a quilt, but not finishing it, so the bride can complete it herself. This symbolizes the fact that the bride is now the head of her own household and the passing down of family traditions for her to now pass on to her daughters and granddaughters.
Young Amish girls also prepare for their lives with their future husbands and children by saving items in a hope chest. Many Amish fathers will make their daughters cedar hope chests for them to store away items in preparation for their wedding day. This may include treasured family linens, other handmade Amish quilts, or other gifts that have been given over the years, such as at Christmastime, and saved in the hope chest for the day she will become a wife.
Once the wedding day arrives, guests will bring a few small gifts to the newlywed couple on the day of the wedding, but most of the gift giving takes place over the next couple of weeks or months. Most weddings take place in the late fall, after the harvest period, and newlywed couples will live with the bride's family until the following spring where they will find or build a house of their own. During this time, the newly married Amish couple will visit family members homes in order to become better acquainted with each other. They might stay for a few days or weeks, depending on the closeness of the family member, and it's at this time that more wedding gifts will be given to the couple as they move from house to house over the next few weeks. They will be presented with the usual gifts of necessity, as well as more handmade Amish quilts or other goods.
It is these traditions that keep the Amish as unified today as they have been for generations. From the tradition of the dowry, to the making of special Amish quilts, to the unity that is felt by the whole community as new couples commit their lives together, these traditions are the glue that keep the Amish strong.
The Amish Dowry and Gift Giving (part 1)