Kinship The Mennonites practice bilateral descent and use kin terms typical of bilateral kindreds.
Marriage. Historically, Mennonites were forbidden to marry non-Mennonites and, in some cases, members of other Mennonite groups. Presently, only the more conservative ones proscribe marriage outside the group. Marriage is strictly monogamous, and historically families negotiated the conditions of marriage (again, arrangements varied from group to group). Currently, only among the more conservative Mennonites are such arrangements made. The Umbitter (matchmaker) was usually a role played by the church pastor or elders among the Dutch, Prussian, and Russian Mennonites. Among the Old Colony and Holdeman Mennonites a form of matchmaking continues. Yet, even among the more liberal denominations, informal marriage arrangements and a Concern for selection of partners from within the church continue through church-sponsored events like camps, retreats, and institutions of higher education. Among all these groups the marriage ceremony is taken as seriously as baptism and is a ritual centered in the congregation and performed by church elders or pastors. The Swiss Mennonites, unlike those descended from the Netherlandish wing, have historically conducted the marriage ritual in the home. Although most currently conduct church weddings, they tend to be simpler than typical Protestant ceremonies. Presently, residence is neolocal, and only the more strict of the denominations strongly discourage and sometimes sanction divorce. In former times, it was common for the bride and her family to assemble a dowry. Historically, there have often been cousin marriages.
Domestic Unit. Until recently, small extended families were common and are still typical among some groups. Among contemporary Mennonites the nuclear family tends to predominate. New households are typically created in each generation, usually but not necessarily at marriage, and are ordinarily dissolved at the death of the last spouse.
Inheritance. Inheritance practices vary from group to group and through time. In the past, both rules of primogeniture and partibility are found. Today, however, property devolves bilaterally. In rural areas, it is often the case that property passes to persons who have taken care of the owners in their later years.
Socialization. Generally, children were and continue to be raised according to strict codes of conduct. Among some, dress codes are strictly enforced for all age groups. Still in the twentieth century, many insist on providing their own educational institutions, and some withdraw their children from school beginning in the eighth grade. Among most groups, however, parents encourage their offspring to remain in school and continue with postsecondary education. Throughout North America, there are numerous four-year colleges affiliated with the various denominations.