Waiting to Wear Blue: For Hutterites, Love and Marriage Rely on Providence
Aksamit, Nichole. "Waiting to Wear Blue: For Hutterites, Love and Marriage Rely on Providence." Forum, 16 November 1999, sec. A1 & A7.
Spring Prairie colony, Minn.
The modest women of Spring Prairie Colony
share a quiet moment in the early morning sun on a trailer behind
a tractor headed for a cucumber field northwest of Hawley, Minnesota.
Asked if she and her cousin are single, 24-year-old Thelma Wipf
jokes: "Yes, we are unclaimed jewels of the prairie."
Nineteen-year-old Delia Wipf shrugs her shoulders and adds simply,
"If God wants us to marry, it will happen."
The two young Hutterites say finding a husband is somewhat difficult
since they are blood relatives to most of the men at this communal
Christian colony, a few miles northwest of Hawley.
In fact, although 125 people live at Spring Prairie, there are
only three family surnames: Waldner, Wipf and Kleinsasser.
"Most of the men here are our cousins or first cousins once
removed," Delia explains. "So we have to wait until a
visitor comes from another colony and hope to catch his eye."
The two say most Hutterites marry in their mid-20's, since most
do not request baptism until they are 20 or older.
Hutterites typically meet their mates during family or work-related
visits to or from another colony - usually, but not necessarily,
within their branch (Schmiedeleut, Lehrerleut, or Dariusleut).
In wedding photographs of Delia's cousins, brides wear bright blue
handmade dresses and grooms wear newly sewn black suits. Some smile
for the camera. Most do not.
"We're not supposed to take pictures," Delia says. "But
Delia explains the Hutterite marriage tradition.
Hutterites marry for life, and do not allow divorce. There is a
separation if one member of a couple leaves the colony, she says,
because a believing spouse should not be dragged down into a world
of sin by an unbeliever. But the brotherhood does not grant divorce
or seek alimony if a spouse leaves, and the spouse of an apostate
member may never remarry.
Women are always married at their husband's colony, where they
go to live after the wedding.
Marriages are no longer arranged, but couples must obtain the blessing
of their families before they can get engaged.
The week before the wedding, it is announced during church services
at both colonies that the couple intend to wed. The couple pledge
their intent, and the engagement is called a "chivalry."
The week before the wedding, the bride is relieved of her normal
duties so that she can concentrate on packing and preparing her
On the Friday before the wedding, the groom and members of his
colony come to get her and any of her family who will attend the
They have church and supper together and then go Saturday to the
Weddings are always on Sundays, part of the morning church service.
There are no attendants, no best man or maid of honor, no special
music beyond the usual unaccompanied church songs, and the church
is unadorned. But brides often carry flowers, and Hutterite wedding
cakes made by the colony baker are as elaborate and towering as
any found in the outside world.
The wedding ceremony involves a sermon about marital commitment
and the couple exchange vows binding themselves together until death
parts them. The husband agrees not to drag his wife into sin or
make trouble with the colony if he should fall from his faith. The
wife agrees to obey her husband in all things.
They do not give rings, since jewelry is forbidden, and Hutterite
brides always take their husband's last name.
A reception follows in the dining hall. In the evening, there is
supper and a "hulba" or party "where the young people
stay up late talking and singing" unsupervised. Although musical
instruments are forbidden, some bring out harmonicas or keyboards
and sing English songs during these parties.
A hulba is one of the few opportunities for male-female socialization.
Delia says the only other opportunity for such a gather is when
there is a funeral. "But there is so much joy at a wedding,"
In strict accord with Hutterite simplicity, newlyweds do not have
a honeymoon - except for "the one until you die," as Thelma
Although she and Delia are aware that marriage isn't all roses,
it's clear they look forward to a day to wear blue.
Says Delia: "My mother always says there are so many roses
and so beautiful that you don't notice the thorns."
The young women at Spring Prairie Colony wait patiently for
a day to wear blue. In love, as in life itself, they reason,
God will provide.
Reprinted with permission of The Forum