The Early Moravian Marriage Lot System

In the early 1700s, within the Moravian community, the choosing of a wife or husband was done by casting Lots – a draw of chance to leave the decision up to God, who was held as infallible. In this way, the Moravians allowed their devotion to Christ and their Faith to guide these major life decisions.

Men and women were not indiscriminately coupled without their knowledge or consent. When a man wished to marry, he proposed a woman’s name to the authorities of the Church, or if he had no name to propose he allowed the church to suggest a woman. Temperament, disposition, as well as attributes and abilities were taken into consideration for making an appropriate match that would help to fulfill the missionary career.

Once a name was chosen for the Lot, Scripture verses from the Bible were written on pieces of paper to signify a positive, negative, or “not at this time” response and then chosen blindly from a Lot Box. If sanctioned by the Lot, the woman was made the offer of marriage to which she could accept or reject. If rejected by the Lot or the woman, a new name was submitted to the Lot. If no woman within the community was a fit (or accepted), other Moravian churches were contacted, and the search broadened.

270 years ago, on July 15, 1749, “The Great Wedding” saw 28 couples united in matrimony at the same time by 7 Pastors within the Saal of the Gemeinhaus! Though the Lot system is no longer practiced today, it is still amazing to think about while considering a gift for our loved ones this Valentine’s Day.