Do Mennonites have arranged marriages (Courtship and Marriage in Mennonite communities)?

As a committed Christian and a married person, I enjoy exploring the marriage rules of different communities. I was intrigued by the unique rules of marriage and courtship of the Mennonites and decided to conduct more research on them. I often heard they have arranged marriages, but I was never sure. Since I was already in the US, I decided to visit an area where they lived to learn more about how they conduct their marriages. During my stay there, one of my daughters expressed her interest in a guy from the Mennonite community and wondered whether they could be together since she heard they only had arranged marriages. Having lived among the Mennonites, I had all the answers regarding their marriage and courtship rules at my fingertips. So, do Mennonites have arranged marriages?

No. Though the Mennonites seek approval from family before marrying, their marriages are not arranged. If, for instance, a young boy is interested in a girl, they first have to seek permission from the girl’s father to date. Once both sets of families approve, the boy starts dating the girl with the intention of marriage. The Mennonites do not have arranged marriages since they are not forced to marry specific people.

In this article, I invite you to join me as we delve into courtship and marriage in Mennonite communities. Keep reading to find out their rules for marriage and dating, how long they court before marriage, and much more!

What are Mennonite rules for marriage?

The Mennonites are a conservative Christian group that believes marriage is a one-time commitment between a single woman and a man, therefore, do not encourage polygamy or divorce. They also believe that when two people decide to get married, they have to leave their homes and start a family together as a separate entity until death separates them.

People who choose to divorce in the Mennonite community are often punished. However, this rule does not apply in a case of prolonged abuse. Another marriage rule is that a Mennonite person can only marry a Mennonite. Some Mennonites do not even allow marriage among members of other Mennonite groups.

What are the Mennonite courtship rules?

Do Mennonites have arranged marriages?
What are the Mennonite courtship rules? Image source: Freepik

When two people from this community intend to marry, they must follow certain rules. For instance, they are not allowed to have sex outside of marriage. Mennonites believe that sexual intimacy is sacred and should only be practiced within marriage, as described in Exodus 20:14. If a couple breaks this courtship rule, they are publicly shamed.

Additionally, romantic couples are not allowed to share living quarters until the day they get married. If, for instance, the courting couple has to travel together, they must sleep in separate hotel rooms. The Mennonites also set a rule that a courting couple should go to church. They believe the church is the center of family life, and attending church as a couple strengthens them.

Before marriage, there must be consent from the parents. Historically, Mennonite marriages were arranged by priests, Kings, parents, or matchmakers. After that, people who were dating started courting. The young woman could only see the suitor at home under the supervision of a chaperone.

Some Mennonite groups also had the custom of an elder or preacher making all marriage proposals on behalf of a young man. Though this practice does not happen much today, the elders and preachers are still involved in different courtship practices between couples. Additionally, some Mennonite communities do not use outward symbols of engagement like jewelry .

Can an outsider perform a courtship with a Mennonite person?

Most conservative Mennonite groups do not allow courtship between their members and outsiders. They expect two people who want to court to be church members. That is why most people that start courting within Mennonite communities often meet in church or social functions like retreats or camps.

In some Mennonite communities, people who disregard the rule of courting and marrying fellow church members are subject to church censure. The Mennonites that forbid intermarriage with outsiders often quote Deuteronomy 7:3, which says that the union between a pagan and a believer is a sin. They believe this is a sin since it misleads the believer and compels them to leave God and worship idols. This belief comes from the Old Testament Law, which forbade the Israelites from marrying the Jews.

What are the dating rules in your Mennonite community?

Courtship and Marriage in Mennonite communities?
Dating rules in the Mennonite community. Image source: Freepik

Unlike what happens in modern society, Mennonites date to marry. Therefore, to them, dating is never a casual thing. Before a guy officially begins dating, they must converse with the girl’s father to ask permission to date her. Both parents and a minister must agree for two people to date to determine if the relationship will be lasting.

Most Mennonite communities do not allow physical contact between people who are dating. Though the two can hold hands or hug each other, they cannot make out, kiss, or have sex. The Mennonites also expect people who are dating to meet in public areas. Meeting in areas such as the bedroom goes against their rules. Mennonites set such dating rules to foster respect among young girls and boys.

At what age do Mennonite girls get married?

Mennonites encourage their children to marry young. Their girls are often married by the time they are 21 years. Conservative families ensure their girls are married in their teens at around 18 or 19. Mennonite girls are allowed to start dating at around 16 years.

Since the Mennonites marry for the birth and nurturing of kids, some scholars suggest that marrying young promotes this since a girl is more fertile in her twenties. When Mennonite girls are married, they are expected to be submissive to their husbands. Before marriage, they are expected to be obedient to their fathers until they get a husband.

How long is the Mennonite courtship period before marriage?

Though this differs from one Mennonite group to another, most Mennonites do not prolong the courtship period. The couple may be allowed to court for a few months and then get married. According to their customs, Mennonite couples announce their engagement a few months before the wedding.

Research shows that some Mennonite groups allow courtship for only two months. However, this does not apply to Mennonite communities that do not encourage dating or courting. In such Mennonite communities, If a guy wants to marry, they have to get approval from the church minister. The minister then carries the proposal and visits the lady’s home. The lady then rejects or accepts the proposal. If the lady accepts the proposal, the marriage engagement is announced the following Sunday in church, and they marry soon after that.

Can I date a Mennonite lady if I join the church?

Do Mennonites have arranged marriages?
Can I date a Mennonite lady if I join the church? Image source: Pinterest

It depends on your intentions and the exact Mennonite community the girl is from. If, for instance, you only want to join the church just to date the Mennonite lady, they may not agree to date you. This is because Mennonite girls have strong beliefs about their potential spouses being genuinely committed to the faith.

Though the Mennonite church may welcome you, the lady may not agree to date you if you are also not serious about being in a relationship that leads to marriage. Therefore, understand your intentions before joining the church.

Additionally, if the lady is a plain Mennonite, you may not be allowed to date her even if you join the church. This is because plain Mennonites have strict rules. You can only be allowed to date her if your entire family converts and gets actively involved in community and church activities for a couple of years.

Do Mennonite courtship rules apply to both males and females?

Yes. The courtship rules apply to both females and males because courtship involves both genders. For instance, both ladies and gentlemen in courtship cannot get intimate until marriage. This rule does not apply only to one gender but to both.

Additionally, not sharing a room for Mennonite couples apply to both females and males. The rule about a courting couple attending church also applies to both genders since this practice is believed to benefit both. Additionally, the rule of not giving and receiving gifts while courting also applies to both males and females.

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