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.
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.