LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) - Images of outdoorsy couples exchanging vows under soaring tents and in rustic barns fill bridal magazines.
In recent years - and in their own way - the Amish have become part of that trend, too.
An enterprising practice has sprung up, one that helps keep alive the Amish tradition of weddings held at the bride’s home, stays true to Amish strictures, and adds a business venture to the community.
It’s the “wedding house” rental.
Hosting a small, intimate home wedding for family and friends usually can be accommodated by pushing some furniture against the wall to clear some space.
But when your home wedding is going to involve 300 or more family members and friends? That’s a little more unwieldy.
Lancaster County now is in the midst of traditional Amish wedding season, the time of year when fieldwork is largely done and there’s time to plan, hold and travel for weddings, which are daylong affairs.
For years, Amish communities have had bench wagons to transport communal benches from one home that’s hosting church services to the next.
And for years, local Amish-centered businesses have rented stoves and ovens - so family and friends can cook meals for hundreds at a time - and propane lights to illuminate large gatherings.
Similarly, Amish parents now can rent “wedding houses”: temporary structures, built in sections, that can be quickly set up and connected like prefab housing, then taken down and moved to the next wedding site.
They fill a need created by a relatively recent trend:
These days, an Amish family might not live on a farm. Or the property is smaller and doesn’t have structures that easily accommodate not only guests but parking for their buggies and shelter for horses.
A rented wedding house comes with a small crew of men to help set it up; the family recruits about eight more men to make a full work crew.
In a matter of hours, the wedding house is ready.
Sometimes, the temporary structure is not rented but built by the bride’s parents. That was the case at a recent wedding in the Strasburg-area Amish community.
The bride’s father, a carpenter, disassembled a greenhouse at work and saved supplies, including 2-by-6s and plyboard. An uncle salvaged a floor from a building site, while doors and windows were saved from other construction projects. Massive sheets of translucent plastic, like that used to cover greenhouses, were stretched over a framework and secured.
Over a weekend, all the pieces came together as a wedding house. Measuring about 34 by 52 feet, it would be large enough to hold the wedding and a dinner in shifts for about 300 guests.
To link the wedding house to the main house, a second temporary structure enclosed the back porch. It provided work space as well as a staging area for food preparation. Rented stoves and ovens were hooked up, and arrangements were made for who would help prepare what dish.
An extra sink was plumbed in for washing; a plywood floor salvaged from other projects was screwed together and covered with outdoor carpeting. A heater was installed in one corner, and plyboard was put up like wainscoting around the perimeter for reinforcement and protection. Boards were laid across metal rafters so men would have a place to store their hats while eating.
Three wagons’ worth of benches were reserved; the footwide seating could be flipped after the ceremony and reconfigured into tables and seating.
The family, after attending and helping at other weddings and large church gatherings, knew what needed to be done, the bride’s mother said. Follow the plan, she said, be resourceful in finding the items you need, “and presto” - the wedding will come together.
“You work with the space you have,” said the bride’s father, who did not wish to be named. A rented wedding house comes in one size, he added, but this family designed a temporary structure that their property could readily accommodate.
A few days after the wedding, work was well underway to dismantle the Strasburg wedding house. High winds had triggered a few roof leaks, but that was nothing to worry about: The wedding was over, and the building had served its purpose.
The bench wagons had come and gone, loaded down with their freight and bound for the next wedding site. Carpeting had been rolled up, and the bride’s father was busy unscrewing floorboards from their supports.
The next step, when the weather cleared, would be to remove the plastic that enclosed the space and store it for more uses: out in the garden perhaps, said the bride’s mother, or simply cut into small sections to cover things on the farm.
Come spring, the backyard flower beds, now dormant under the wedding house, will be in the sun and blooming again.
Information from: LNP, https://lancasteronline.com
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