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Hutterite Families


The Hutterites invented a matching procedure during which once or twice a year the marriageable youth were assembled, and the preacher gave each male a choice of three females from which to select a wife. The man had to wait for the next time if he did not want to marry any of the three. This changed to personal choice in 1830 following the uproar caused when a young girl refused to marry an older man (Peter 1971). However, one must marry a Hutterite, and interfaith marriages never occur in the Hutterite church (Hofer 1998). Most colonies are like a large extended family where everyone is either a relative or feels like one, so one usually goes outside the colony to find a spouse. Because Hutterites cannot marry until after baptism and because visiting across colonies is relatively infrequent (for weddings, funerals, and the like), courtships of three or four years are not uncommon (Kephart 1976).

After it is informally known that a couple wishes to marry, and any objections with the families or the colony are worked out, the formal procedure begins the Sunday before the actual wedding. First, the boy asks the preacher's help, which is granted. Next, the elders consider his request and lecture him on proper behavior, and he is encouraged to confess his sins. The next day father and son travel to the girl's colony to get her parent's permission. The day after they are put together in the girl's church. Following this are two days of celebration in the girl's colony and the rest of the week in the boy's. They are married on Sunday and lectured on submissive role of the wife and the kind protective role of the husband. They do not have a honeymoon, but rather immediately return to the normal routine. Marriages are durable due to the strong community relations, and divorce is unknown (Kephart 1976).

Weddings should not take place right before Christmas or Easter, and rarely occur during the planting or harvest seasons. Half of all Schmiedeleut marriages occur in November or December (Hostetler 1974). The bride typically wears a blue brocade wedding dress, along with her usual kerchief head covering instead of a veil. The groom wears a black suit (made for him by his fiancée) with a white shirt and black tie. Wedding cakes seem to be getting fancier, and pictures are now usually taken. It is a happy time, with much to eat and drink (Hofer 1998).

Men are under pressure to marry because they cannot grow beards until they are married, and a beardless male is visibly set apart and not allowed to move into the upper authority levels. The marriage bond is relatively weak in that the couple is generally together only at night. In some colonies their bedroom is next to the husband's parents during the first year. Overt affection is discouraged, but romantic love is filtering in from Canadian society. Wives have a sense of loyalty and devotion to their husbands, but the men are more concerned with other males, as they are the ones who vote on advances in the occupational hierarchy (Peter 1971). Since about 1980 an increase in love and affection in marriage has been noted, with a resulting focus of family over work structure (Ingoldsby 2001).

In 1950 the median age at marriage was 22.0 years for women and 23.5 years for men. Only 1.9 percent of the men and 5.4 percent of the women over the age of thirty had never been married, and only one divorce and four desertions had been reported since 1875 (Hostetler 1974).

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaMarriage: Cultural AspectsHutterite Families - Kinship Structure, The House Child, Kindergarten, School, Adolescence, Marriage, Fertility, Later Life