Broken Daughters

Picking up the shattered glass of fundamentalism

Fundamentalist weddings 2 – Planning a wedding in 6 weeks?


Now, as I was thinking about the actual weddings in the movement, I couldn’t find much of a difference to normal weddings. Obviously, there are differences, but there aren’t any strict rules the couple has to stick to.

If you were at a fundamentalist reception, you might not even realize it’s not a normal wedding, except you won’t see anybody dancing, and there might not be constant music. But there too is a lot of talking, eating, walking around and such. There are usually fun activities to do, too, like photo booths and different games to play. Let me try point out some of the most common differences.

Generally I found that big fancy weddings are considered somewhat selfish. Spending a great deal of money on that one day is considered foolish, as most would have to expect a baby really soon after the wedding and the money should be invested into the marriage, not just the wedding. It’s all about being frugal and smart on money, which doesn’t mean that everything is dull and boring. There are plenty of people, women usually, with amazing skills for decorations, flowers, cooking and sewing. I don’t think you can tell that the foods and decorations haven’t been done by a “professional”.

I also want to remind everybody that this scenario doesn’t only describe a very short engagement. Longer engagement periods don’t change the fact that the wedding should be frugal and a lot of work will be done by family and friends, not by hired caterers or decorators.

Before the day of engagement: Typically, the suitor of the girl will have to have some money saved up in order to get the blessing to propose to the girl. This can go as far as the bride’s dad wanting to see actual bank account numbers and all savings. Additionally, it is normal that the suitor already has some sort of living arrangement prepared, be it a house or a rental apartment. This sometimes may happen in the first week of engagement, but many times I have also seen that the groom already had it prepared prior to proposing. Obviously, it wouldn’t be fully furnitured, as most of that would be the bride’s job and many things will be given as a wedding gift.

As most girls don’t receive any sort of pricey education like college, the family of the bride will have some amount of money saved up for her wedding day. All of this money will go into the preparations. So, even before proposing, the financial factors of a wedding will be more or less cleared.

Another important factor in fundamentalist weddings is that the community helps the couple with all preparations. Sometimes, money will be gifted prior to the wedding by wealthier families. Most of the time, the community will offer all sorts of services: Sewing, catering, decorations and so on.

A room for the reception will be no problem either: Most of the time, the wedding will be outside in somebody’s garden. Other times, they will find a church which is bookable on short notice. They don’t care that much about the denomination of the church as they don’t consider themselves a member of either denomination. For the reception, they will have a range of places to choose from: A big room at their own house, their garden, family friend’s houses, or even a “community center” in areas with many QF/P families. Those community centers can be anything from old houses to barns to bigger garages which have been built into community houses and private churches.

After the proposal: The bride and her bridesmaids and her maid of honor will go hunting for dresses. Sometimes, a seamstress from the movement may sew the dresses all together. Others will look for used dresses in the community. Though some do buy on ebay, that’s not typical. They are a bit afraid that a used dress from outside the movement may mean bad luck. Used dresses from inside the movement are no problem. Some others have old wedding dresses from their own family. These will be altered and reuse if need be. I have seen a girl get married in a dress that her own grandmother wore – the dress had been altered four times at this point! She again kept it for her own daughters. Few ones will buy a new dress. Especially if the kids come from a big QF family, this is an exception. A new dress is a lot of work, too: You can’t usually use the dress as it is, as most new dresses are too “immodest”. They usually need to be altered, anyway. If the groom is generous, or the dad saved up a lot, the girl might nevertheless have a new dress. The same applies for the groom’s outfit, as well as the one for the best man.

Also, they will start looking for a place for their honeymoon. Sometimes, that is just one night at a fancier hotel in the area. Richer ones who can afford to actually travel will find and book a place. Again, it’s totally dependent on the money they have, but big fancy journeys to a far away place are a huge exception. An expensive honeymoon is not seen as desirable, especially since most people believe the money should rather be saved for the future babies.

The families will be trying to find a place for the wedding and the reception. Different places will be visited and evaluated. Typically, cheapest wins. Anything that doesn’t look great will be decorated, so it doesn’t matter that much anyway. Decorations like flowers may be ordered, but it’s more likely that the family/friends/community will make them themselves. They use their own flowers or maybe even ordered ones. That way, it’s not only cheaper, but also faster, as more people are working on them.

Lists will start going around, calculating how much food will be needed and who will prepare it. A professional caterer is something I have never seen. The families and members of the communities will provide all foods and drinks. I have seen weddings where a “traditional american BBQ” was the theme of the foods served. There were steaks, burgers, ribs, salads, everything. And a lot of cakes, cupcakes and candies, too. All of it was prepared by the families and some family friends (men) where responsible for the meat.

Decorations are sometimes borrowed from other families, or they will be self-made. Same goes for the flower arrangements. Many fundamentalist families don’t see a point in spending 100s or even 1000s of dollars for flowers. As most of the movement families I knew lived out on the country and had big pieces of land, there was always someone with a huge flower garden which were used for the decorations.

Jobs will be given out: Who is responsible for the food station? Who’s working as a waitress? Who helps decoration, who helps cleaning?

Also, “entertainment lists” are written. Who will give a speech? Who’s the band (usually community members)? Does anybody want to read stories, poems, bible verses? Do kids want to prepare a little play? Things like that. The individual entertainers will start working on their things.

There will be meetings for bible study together, evenings where stories about the courtship of the bride and groom are told, how God brought them together, how certain people felt when they saw God work in the couple and so on. Also, there might be meetings of the couple with older married couples to exchange experiences.

The last few days before the wedding is when “the talk” happens. Typically, it will be within the last 2 days of engagement. Though they most likely have somewhat of a biological knowledge about their own bodies, they will hear for the first time in detail how the other sex’s body works. Women’s groups and men’s groups get together with each the bride and/or the groom to tell them some last advises. This has been done during courtship already, but this time it’s really about marriage and normal life that the couple soon will face.

The wedding:

In the morning, the women are usually busy getting all the food cooked and ready. Last touches and decorations will be added to the cake. The bride and the bridesmaids will be helping with this until noon, or they will be doing the last decorations in the church and the reception hall.

The men do the “hard” stuff. Putting up chairs, transporting people around, transporting the food to where it’s supposed to be (if need be) and so on.

By late morning/early noon, the bride and her bridesmaids will be busy doing everyone’s hair and make up if they are allowed to wear it. Dresses are put on and everybody is getting ready.

Wedding pictures may be taken at this point already. Most fundamentalists don’t believe that seeing each other in wedding dresses before the wedding means bad luck.

All weddings I have been to started rather late during the day. 3 PM was the earliest as far as I remember. There’s a simple reason for that: The bride and groom are supposed to “sleep in” and have a relaxed day. Also, the celebrations are kept rather short as to not wear out the couple. The actual wedding would be late noon or even early evening and the celebrations would last until 10 PM on average, 12 if the couple is “wild”. Simple reason: This is the day the couple will have sex for the first time and neither of the two should be tired or worn out. It ends that early to have time for… well, sex. It doesn’t really matter if the couple wants it that way, they’d usually be pushed into this pattern.

The wedding vows usually include: “I will submit to you, obey you and serve you like the Church does for Christ” for the bride, and “I will provide for you, protect you and love you like Christ does for his church” for the groom.

Generally I found that fundamentalist weddings can be rather long. Sometimes, the couple doesn’t want to be the center of the party and wedding will have more of a church service feel to it than that of a wedding. Others keep it short and sweet, without long sermons and vows and music. That would be done later during reception then.

The reception is rather unspectacular and normal. Dancing is an exception as it’s too immodest and sensual for most groups. There will be a lot of speeches and such. There might be some group dancing done by the kids.

The reception won’t be so much about the newlyweds as it will be more about religion, God’s plan, prayer and bible readings.  Depending on the taste of the family, the reception could be that everyone sits on their chairs and listens quietly to hours of studies, or it might be like an actual, fun reception where people sit together and talk, discuss and have fun. It’s not like all fundamentalist weddings are boring.

As said before, the night will end early in order to give the newlyweds time to actually fulfill their marriage that night. The families might stay longer than the couple to celebrate into the night, but since most families have small children, they don’t last much longer than the couple.


19 thoughts on “Fundamentalist weddings 2 – Planning a wedding in 6 weeks?

  1. Great job. You describe the “ideal” scenario very accurately. Mine was very close in many ways (cake flowers food and decor were all contributed by the community etc) we had our wedding at 10:30 and ended our reception by 4:30 pm, for the very reason you listed. We did have an apartment lined up for us to live in, but between the 2 of us had less than $1000 dollars, so our honeymoon was staying at a family member’s condo for a few days. We were given pretty much everything we needed to start out, except we bought our bed and couch ourselves.

  2. There are a lot of similarities to the weddings I have been to but a lot of differences as well. Brides and their families who sew, bake, etc, will do everything they can themselves right down to having a family member take the pictures. I was actually the photographer for a wedding. Also our receptions are all visiting and no dancing but also no music or speeches. They are typically short. Very rarely is a dress reused and no one is expected to have sex or a baby at any particular time. Vows are very much what you see and hear on TV. Cost can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on what the couple want.

    Personally, I consider all weddings to be a complete waste of money but that may be because I don’t like being on display. We eloped and everyone who was there has their name on the license. We didn’t invite anyone.

    • “Cost can be anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand depending on what the couple want. ”
      It’s like that for the fundamentalists too, but keep in mind that very many of them come from very big families with very little money. Spending a couple thousand is just not an option.
      Really? No music at all? At all weddings I’ve been to, there was at least one person who could play the hard, violin or piano and played some praise songs, and sometimes there was a singer too. Obviously it’s not background-dance music but music was always there.

      • Music in the wedding ceremony only. Nothing at the reception and only general announcements such as “please come and get food from the kitchen” or “this person will be coming around with a video camera and microphone and the couple would like you to record any memories or advice you have for them so they can remember your presence on this special day.” I’ve never been to one where there was background music of any kind or even a “toast” much less speeches. Usually the reception is simple cake and punch and the couple change and there’s an exit of some sort. Very few weddings here take more than 2 hours from start of ceremony to end of reception.

        • Oh wow. I’ve been to a wedding where the ceremony alone took two hours. It started out well but turned into a rant about female and male roles and the evilness of the world and how they try to destroy the family. Quite painful and not something appropriate for a wedding if you ask me… Depends on the pastor you chose I guess.
          Yeah receptions can be very short but as I said, I can only talk about what I’ve witness. It’s true though that the reception might end at 6 or 7 pm already.

  3. I have been what would be considered an evangelical Christian my entire life and have never heard of or seen what you are describing. What kind of Christians are these people and where do you find them?

    • Well it depends where you live and what church you go to. You’ll typically find more of them in rural areas, especially the bible belt. But there are many in cities as well. I can’t tell you what church you’d find them in because they aren’t bound to a denomination. First choice are usually baptist communities because they are the closest to what they believe, but they’ll go to any denomination church they like. You can’t really tell them by looks either. Usually, the girls will wear dresses and skirts only, but sometimes it’s not that strict. They usually have more than average children, but many have only 1 or 2 or even none at all and are still QF and in the movement. But just because a family has 7 kids doesn’t mean they’re part of it.
      The only way you could find out if they belong to the movement is by talking to them about their beliefs. But they might not even do that because they would consider you too worldly to be talked to about those things. They don’t always admit openly that they are a Patriarchical family.
      Most of it happens at home. Outside they usually look like the perfect happy family with not many worries to set a good example of a godly family.

  4. I actually think this sounds like a very lovely wedding, except for the vows to obey, etc.

    • To be honest, I totally agree. What do you need expensive flowers for when the kids have so much fun making decorations for you? I mean it’s all fine. If I were to plan my own wedding tomorrow and I could do most of it myself and within my family and group of friends, I’d do it that way.

  5. Hmmm I had never thought about that saving for babies idea. I was long out before I ever considered getting married. I guess by that time, birth control for a few years just seemed like the smart way to go. I never thought about intentionally saving – cutting back on a wedding and honeymoon for the sake of future children!

    • Well, the saving for babies is mainly because most fundamentalist movements don’t practice birthcontrol. Sometimes, very rarely, Natural family planning is practiced, but that’s not the norm. You just accept every baby the Lord gives you.

  6. I find it a little funny that my husband and I, who are atheists, had an almost identical wedding (without the religion, of course). We spent under $1000 for the whole thing, and $500 of that was just for the license, $300 to take the bus to get there. We had it in the flower garden of my family’s farmhouse, my mother-in-law made my dress, and food was potlucked.

    I have a question about legality – are these marriages registered with the state? How is that done, especially if they are homechurchers? For us, we had to actually pay for a “ceremony” at city hall (complete with speech and everything, which we really didn’t want – but there was no option for people who just wanted to get the stuff signed so that they could go to the real ceremony/party).

    • Oh I think weddings can be beautiful without spending a fortune. I’d do the same, there’s just no point in spending that much money on one sigle day.

      “I have a question about legality – are these marriages registered with the state?”
      Typically yes, of course. It’s equally important for most groups within the movement to have their marriage legally registered. Some groups, however, do not, I have only heard about this though and never met anyone who didn’t have it registered. Some very very crazy groups allegedly allow minors to be married when they’re not legally able to get married, but I can’t speak for them since I really only was told by some people this exists. I’m sure if you did some research you’d find a better answer.

  7. I have a question: as it all seems quite male-dominated, do only men do the speeches and make the toasts at the reception? Presumably the only alcoholic beverages allowed would be wine as no others are mentioned in scripture so I’m guessing there’s no open bar. I could be wrong as I know nothing about these groups (they sound a bit like Brethren). Just curious.

    • Alcohol is a difficult topic, you wouldn’t find hard beverages such a vodka, some drink wine, others don’t, it’s more of a personal conviction thing. There are also speeches from women (sisters, friends, mothers) but they are tricky. Usually women would do the romantic-love type of thing while men would resort to a more religious-scripture based teaching thing, but of course they might also just give personal speeches. A woman quoting much scripture and performing exegesis as a speech wouldn’t be accepted.

      • Perhaps this should be obvious but are you saying that women in ministry roles are generally not accepted or just at weddings?

        Another question: you made it appear as if couples would be expected to have sex on their wedding night. Surely that wouldn’t apply in cases where they hadn’t gotten to know each other for very long? I appreciate it may be difficult to answer for every case as there seems to be a lot of variation to the practices of QF/P.

  8. Reminds me of a joke:
    Q: Why is there no sex allowed at Baptist weddings?
    A: It might lead to dancing!


  9. Short engagements are ridiculous. What bride wants the stress of planning her wedding so quickly?? She needs time. Let`s get back to the way engagements and wedding plannings were not so long ago. The old ways were the best. Dress, church, reception., yes!

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