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.

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.
Spring Prairie colony, Minn.

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 some do."

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 clothing.

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 wedding.

They have church and supper together and then go Saturday to the groom's colony.

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," she says.

In strict accord with Hutterite simplicity, newlyweds do not have a honeymoon - except for "the one until you die," as Thelma notes.

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

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