Amish Weddings is the third and final novel in the Neighbors of Lancaster County series. What was the inspiration for the series and what have you enjoyed most about writing these stories?
As the wife of a soldier who served for thirty years in Army Reserve medical units, including a tour in Afghanistan, I pondered what it would be like for a military family to move next door to an Amish family. In the first book in the Neighbors of Lancaster County series, Amish Promises, that’s just what happens—the Becks, an Army family, move down the lane from the Lehmans, an Amish family. In Amish Sweethearts, the oldest son in the Englisch family falls in love with the oldest daughter in the Amish family, raising the stakes even higher. And in Amish Weddings, tensions build even more as the two families continue living side-by-side.
What I’ve enjoyed the most about writing these stories is “watching the kids grow up” and become young adults. Each one is so different with individual gifts and flaws. They’ve made me laugh and cry, just like real children and young adults! But I’ve also really enjoyed how the relationships between the adults in the series stabilized too, how in the end, the love between the families was greater than the differences.
Obviously, with a title like Amish Weddings, there must be at least two weddings in the book. Tell us a little bit about what an Amish wedding is like.
Yes, in fact there are three weddings in the book—but I won’t describe those in fear of giving away too much! However, in general, an Amish bride wears a new dress, often made from blue or purple fabric. The wedding is typically held at the bride’s parents’ home (although another venue can be chosen) and friends, family, and members of the church district are invited. Weddings with 300 or 400 or more guests are common. Attendants are called newehockers, (Pennsylvania Dutch for sidesitters). Generally, no one carries flowers during the wedding, although some may be displayed on the cake table. The groom and his attendants (also called newehockers) wear black suits.
Traditionally, weddings were held in November after harvest but now they’re held throughout the year, and Tuesdays and Thursdays are the most common days. The wedding ceremony is part of a church service that includes singing and a long sermon—so a quick fifteen-minute ceremony isn’t an option.
Roasted chicken, dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, creamed celery, applesauce, fruit salad, and pies are a typical menu for the wedding dinner, and the celebration lasts all day—from morning until late at night. Friends and family help with each step of the day, including with the set up, cooking, serving, and clean up.
In your opinion, what is the biggest difference between Amish weddings and a more mainstream Christian wedding?
To be honest, I’ve never been to an Amish wedding although I really hope to go to one some day! But I’ve asked lots of questions and I’ve read about them a lot! I have been to plenty of other weddings though, plus I edited a bridal magazine for eight years so I’m happy to give my humble opinion, lol. First, Amish weddings and mainstream Christian weddings have a lot in common—two people coming together before God, family, and friends to commit their lives to each other. The couple, God, and those attending the weddings are absolutely the most important components in both settings.
However, in a typical mainstream wedding, there is more focus on the gown, the bridesmaids’ dresses, the decorations, and the design of the cake, etc. than in an Amish wedding. Just like in other areas of life, the Amish keep things simple for a reason—so that the emphasis will be on God, one’s inner life, and others, not on appearances. (That said, I think it’s absolutely possible to choose a gown, dresses, decorations, and a cake and throw a beautiful party and still have the focus be on what’s most important—two lives joining together. It may take a conscious effort however not to make what’s visible more important than what isn’t.)
The theme of the Neighbors of Lancaster County series is “love your neighbor as yourself,” which I think reinforces the idea of putting more emphasis on other people and on our inner lives rather than appearances. Guarding ourselves against overvaluing how things “look” is a constant, daily decision.
How does it feel to write the last page of the last novel in a series?
It feels like moving away from neighbors I really love. These characters have become very “real” to me. I find myself thinking about them and their lives way past when the last story ended, all the way into the characters’ old age, lol. And that’s a good thing—their stories live on, at least in my very own active imagination.
Thank you so much for hosting me and my stories today!
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Leslie Gould is the #1 bestselling and Christy Award winning author of twenty-one novels. She enjoys traveling, church history, and hiking in the Cascade Mountains. Leslie and her husband, Peter, live in Portland, Oregon and are the revolving-door parents of four children and three cats.
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