Deliberate Agrarian
Snippet #16

Home-Based Marriages
& Home-Based Funerals

Dateline: 29 April 2014

We've all heard of home birth (instead of hospital birth), and home schooling (instead of government schooling), but what about home weddings and home funerals? Although I have heard of home funerals (or wakes) once being the norm in rural America, it never occurred to me that simple, inexpensive home weddings (instead of expensive, complicated church weddings) were also once the norm. The following quote comes from the book, Transformation of Rural Life—Southern Illinois, 1890—1990

"Despite its apparent physical autonomy and privacy, the farmstead was the location for many public events. The dead were laid out in the home, washed and dressed by the women of the neighborhood, and neighbors brought food to supply the bereaved family and those who came to sit with them. Marriages were [also] enacted in the home. As Edith Rendleman recalled of her wedding day in 1917, "You never heard of a church wedding in those day. They were mostly justice of the peace ceremonies. It was years and years before church weddings were for common people."

Simple (meaning small and inexpensive) home weddings make a lot of sense to me. What I don't understand from the above excerpt is why they had a justice of the peace perform the wedding instead of a minister.  The author of the book makes it clear that churches were an important part of the rural communities. So that's something of a mystery.


You Can Call Me Jane said...

I have both my maternal and paternal grandparents' wedding certificates framed and hanging in our dining room. Back then they filled out beautifully illustrated certificates filled out with calligraphy writing. They are truly a treasure. Both sets of grandparents were married in homes and that is recorded on the certificates.

Anonymous said...

We have several ancestors who int the 1800's and early 1900's were married in the home. All were church goers and were marrried by the minister.

Sharon said...

I think without exception every home wedding I've heard tell of was performed with a local or circuit preacher. Those performed by a JP were done so in his office or his home. I don't believe I've ever heard the "old folks" talk about their home wedding without the family's preacher having the honor.

Sharon said...

As for the funerals, I can remember in the early 60s, just like the Ray Stephens' song, "Sittin' Up With The Dead", my parents took their turns to sit up with the dead in a home. In fact, even when my mother worked at a funeral home in the 90s, someone always stayed at the funeral home over night when there was a body preparing for a funeral.

Anonymous said...

I have a beautiful photo of my parents wedding that took place in my grandmothers living room - it comforts me to look at it as both my parents are now deceased. Also, I would like to point out I also have photos from the past of the casket in the family living room of various family members. Thanks for this article - those who I have showed the pictures to - were aghast at the casket in the living room, LOL. But it seems more respectful to me now to do this than to do the "funeral home" masquerade. Is this still legal? To have a funeral in your own home?

Herrick Kimball said...

Interesting article link:

Home Funerals Grow As Americans Skip The Mortician For Do-It-Yourself After-Death Care

The Midland Agrarian said...

Hi Herrick,
I don't know enough about Southern Illinois to offer a definitive answer to your question, but there was once was a line of thought among some Calvinists that marriage by the civil magistrate was acceptable as he was an agent of God as much as the minister. This ties into some nuances between reformed theology versus earlier Catholic theology. If marriage is not a Sacrament (defining a sacrament as generally necessary to salvation--like Baptism or the Lord's Supper),but instead part of the current social order (Though ordained by God like civil Governments) that line of thought is consistent.

Might be in part an answer why church going people saw no problem with a marriage by the JP in that place and time.

Jennifer said...

My husband and I married in 2000 (ages 20 and 17). Because he was stationed (Air Force) in Idaho leading up to our marriage and our families were in Texas, we married by the JP in Boise, ID. Then, 2 months later, when my husband had time off, we flew to Texas and technically were married a second time in my parents' front yard (my childhood home). This way I had a wedding dress, reception, and our family and friends could celebrate with us. It was simple and pleasant and just right for us. Our 14th anniversary is in July. :)

Rozy Lass said...

We were married, by our minister, in my parent's backyard gazebo with family and friends in attendance. We had a simple reception with all homemade decorations, and food. It was the best day of my life (up to that point) and I have such good memories, plus no debt to deal with. As we've raised our children we've told them what a wonderful day it was and how we saved money by doing things at home in a simple way. We have only one daughter and she says she wants a similar wedding. The boys will have to deal with what their bride wants, but we encourage thrift and simplicity. We'll celebrate 26 years in June. My parents were married in a similar way, as were both grandparents and all of them made it to 60+ years before one spouse died. I believe it is more important to plan for a lifelong marriage than for a daylong wedding.

Kevin Park said...

3 of my 5 daughters were married in my yard. A forth would have been but we had to move and sell our home. I guess the yard is close enough.

Lynn said...

Lots of the rural homeschooling families in ND continue to have weddings at home. They are usually very simple, and sometimes the reception food is provided by the people attending as "pot luck". It's a nice way to keep families from spending a fortune on a wedding. Jim is intrigued with the idea of having a home funeral/burial and creating a family cemetery on our land. A body in ND must be buried within 24 hours if not embalmed, so it's tough if family from out of the area wants to attend the funeral.

Anonymous said...

I'll go further than reminiscing about past weddings. Since the definition of marriage has now been taken over by the federal government and given meanings never associated with matrimony in the history of the world, it won't be long before principled people will begin reverting to this historic rite of private marital ceremony. From the earliest research I have looked into (not too extensive) it seems that the government sought to get into the act in order to prevent mixed race marriages in post Civil War Kansas. They next sought to ensure healthy breeding stock because of immigration concerns by requiring blood tests before licensing. Now, they have stripped marriage of its diving intent as the building block of society and the pro-creative union of a man and woman. It seems to me that the next logical step for free men and women would be to do without their 'help' and establish their union via vows before God and those closest to the heart. Omit the government 'blessing' and act with freedom. Legal considerations are easily taken care of by common property laws and the like. Social Security costs might be higher for husband and wife but, by the same token, they will also pay back at higher rates since the government would consider such an arrangement as singles co-habitating. In similar ways, sooner of later, faithful churches that honor God will have to cut their ties to the government through eliminating the 501 (c)3 status in their charters if they wish to be free to teach the truth of God's word. This might sound radical or excessive at this time, but people used to think the same of boycotting products (remember the Nestle boycotts in the 1960's?) and homeschool families that left public education at high legal costs. All government 'help' comes at a price - why buy into it?

Herrick Kimball said...

Well, this post has brought some very good comments, and a lot to think about.

That sounds like a possibility. It's better than my theory, which was that the local minister was also the justice of the peace.

Rozy Lass,
Your last sentence is a quote worth committing to memory, and repeating often.

I have an idea….. You (or someone) should write a book on the subject of home marriages. If this has not been done already, such a book that could well serve to launch a countercultural movement away from modern "industrialized" weddings. A lot more people would take this whole idea seriously if the concept were thoughtfully presented in book format.

I sincerely hope that someone reading this will get a vision for this idea and do it.

Herrick Kimball said...

Interesting. I don't find your comments radical or excessive. I think you are thinking right. I've often wondered why we need the government issuing wedding licenses. Does anyone else have any comments or insights on this subject?

Anonymous said...

I was married on 12/12/12 at 12:12 pm in our front yard by my mother. There were 5 people in attendance, and we all went out to dinner after. My wedding cake was a tres leches cake our elderly neighbor made for us as our wedding gift.

Everett said...

Hi Herrick, I concur with all the above comments. Especially Rosy's last sentence.

My wife and I were married in my grandmothers living room by the First Warden of our town. Total cost was the $25 dollar gratuity to him and a $5 license.

25 years later we renewed our vows in a restaurant ballroom with all four children attending. This time by a Baptist Minister.

It has now been 51 years of a wonderful life together. Hopefully we'll have a few more.
God Bless America!!