While you knew you were ready to leave your Amish community, was it difficult to jump into the “English” ways and traditions? (Church wedding, white wedding dress, etc.) You seem so at ease in these photos, which only says you must have been very comfortable with your decision to leave your community for a new life. But how easy was it to move into this new world?
This is a very good question and thought it merited a post-length answer because it is not a straightforward one. I have to say, I was probably most at ease on my wedding day of any other day in the first ten years of my life out of the Amish. You were perceptive in picking that up. Usually I would cringe in front of the camera, but that day I was oblivious of it. What I felt was an outpouring of love — not just between David and me, but also from and for our guests — these people were my new community. They had graciously brought a dish to share for our meal, long before it was “acceptable” to have potluck weddings. As far as I know, there was only one person who made a remark that she had never been asked to bring food to a wedding before. Two women from the church were happy to coordinate the food at the wedding. The singer was happy to sing as a gift. David’s brother-in-law was happy to be the photographer. And the pastor was gracious in performing the ceremony as the pastor of the church. So, it was a shoestring wedding, and as much a community affair as an Amish wedding.
Life wasn’t always like this. I was often unsure of societal “graces.” I still cringe when I think about those incidents. In fact, there were several surrounding our wedding that I’ll share.
I had no money to buy a wedding dress. I bought a white cotton-blend dress that I was planning on wearing. (In fact, I ended up dyeing it blue and Mary Francis, the maid of honor, wore that dress). Mary Francis had a friend who offered I could wear her wedding dress. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. But it had some stains on it, so I had it dry cleaned (they had to really work on getting the spots out) and then I had the perfect gown. At the end of the day, I hung it on a hanger and asked Mary Francis to return it to her friend. She mentioned something about having it cleaned first, and I said, “Oh, but I didn’t get it dirty. In fact, it’s cleaner than it was when I got it.” Mary Francis, bless her heart, said she would have it cleaned as my gift to me. It makes me blush today that I didn’t offer that. But I honestly didn’t know any better. I was still thinking “in Amish.”
Another thing that happened around our wedding: David had two young friends and neighbors who he asked to be ushers at our wedding. I knew they were in military school, and I asked David to request that they wear civilian clothes, because I was uncomfortable with them wearing a military uniform to our wedding. He did request that, so when I walked into the church and I saw them walking down the hall in their uniforms, I was very upset. I think my face must have shown just how upset I was. Luckily, my friend, Carol McQuillen was there. She said, “Saloma, this is your day, and you cannot allow something like this to upset it. You must let this go if you are to live this day to its fullest.” Carol was absolutely right. I had conveyed my wishes, but I was not in control of what my guests wore to the wedding, regardless if it stood for something that was so completely against my pacifist upbringing.
A third thing I will share about our wedding. I worked for many hours in advance of the wedding to make oatmeal rolls and freeze them, buy hams and slice them, I called people to ask them to bring a dish to the wedding and coordinated it so that we wouldn’t end up with only fruit salad or potato salad, and then finally the day before, I got the tables set up in the community room at the church. We also spiffed up the sanctuary. All that, and I never once thought about flowers. Thank goodness, one of the people coordinating the food, Barbara Dunnington, brought in that beautiful little bouquet of lilies-of-the-valley for the bridal table and larger one for the sanctuary. I was still thinking in Amish, and they don’t do flowers for weddings.
Yes, I was very ready to leave the Amish by the time I left the second time. And yes, learning the ways of a whole new culture was challenging at times. The incidents I just described around my wedding are good examples of some of the cultural differences I faced when I left the second and final time.