Conducting a Quaker Wedding

A Quaker wedding is a meeting for worship in which a marriage takes place. As the meeting for worship begins, some designated person may rise to explain, for the benefit of those new to Quaker worship, the absence of clergy, the role of the gathered, and the solemnity of the occasion. Printed information also has been found useful. Consider this script and this sample program.

Following a period of silence, as long or as short as the couple is led to observe, the two rise and, each in turn taking the other by the hand, make their promises to each other, in the words from their marriage certificate, in tones clear enough to be heard throughout the meeting. When they are seated again, the marriage certificate is brought to them for their signatures. The certificate is then read to the meeting by a person asked in advance to do so. The meeting then continues and offers an opportunity to those present to share in the ceremony through prayer, meditation, and other spoken messages. Planned music or readings may be included. The person chosen to close the meeting may, if desired, first allow the wedding party to withdraw. At the close of the meeting, all those who have been present areasked to sign the certificate as witnesses.

Friends are urged to consider carefully the intrusion into the spirit of worship that recording of any kind can present. Photographing, visible audio taping, and videotaping during the ceremony are often discouraged (but recreation for photos may be conducted later).

Following the wedding

Both sections of the marriage license obtained from the county or municipality are signed by the couple and by members of the oversight committee as witnesses. The proper section of the license thus signed is then returned within the legal time limit to the office from which it has been obtained.

The marriage certificate is handed to the Meeting’s recorder to be entered in the records of the monthly meeting. When this has been done, the recorder sends the certificate to the newly married couple.

At the next business meeting the oversight committee reports to the monthly meeting that the wedding has taken place in accordance with Friends’ practice, and that the requirements of the law have been properly observed.

Ongoing care and nurture of Friends married under a Meeting’s care continues as long as the couple is in the community of the Meeting. If the couple relocates, the Meeting may maintain an informal relationship with them and stay open to requests for support or help, but the actual nurture is best carried out by the Meeting to which the couple transfers.

Marriage not under the care of the Meeting

Marriage of members apart from the Meeting community

Members who marry outside the Meeting should promptly inform the Meeting of their marriage. It is then the task of the Meeting to assign overseers to visit the newly married couple—or, if they live far away, to write to them—and to express the Meeting’s continuing interest and care. Non-member marriage partners should be made welcome and invited to attend meetings for worship and business if they live within reach of the monthly meeting.

Meetings may offer a place of worship and other assistance at the request of Friends from a distance who wish to be married there but under the care of their home meeting. Communication between Meetings assures the proper clearness process and help in the oversight of the wedding.

Marriage of non-members

There are occasions when non-members request marriage with the help of a Meeting, using the Friends marriage ceremony. Since Friends do hold marriage to be under divine guidance, the couple should be fully aware and agreeable to the context of marriage for Friends. Meetings are encouraged to consider in advance what services they can offer, and to look into the legal aspects of marriage of non-members, so that when such requests are made, they can be considered realistically and in a timely fashion.

Review of responsibilities required for the good order of a Quaker marriage ceremony

A review of the duties and responsibilities of those concerned: To promote clarity and understanding, the duties and responsibilities of the persons to be married, of the clerk, and of the committees of the monthly meeting are separately outlined here. These should be reviewed in conjunction with the previous text.

Responsibilities of the persons to be married:

1. To present to the monthly meeting under whose care they wish to be married the following written communications, usually directed to the clerk’s attention:

  • a letter signed by both parties stating their intention of marriage and their desire that the monthly meeting have oversight of the wedding. Whenever possible or appropriate it should be accompanied by letters from parents or guardians assuring the Meeting of their interest in, and approval of, the plans under consideration. (opinion- letters from parents seem an outdated notion for adults)
  • Upon approval for marriage, the request for permission to be married in a regular or, the usual practice, a specially appointed meeting for worship. The request should include the date of marriage and the time of day desired.
  • Suggested names of Friends whom the couple would like to have serve as an oversight committee for the wedding.

2.To meet with a clearness committee to explore the leading to marry.

3.To mail out invitations only after approval has been granted by the monthly meeting or Meetings involved.

4.To meet with the marriage committee named to oversee the wedding, at a time and place suggested by the committee, to discuss plans for the wedding, including the choice of persons to read the marriage certificate and to open and close the meeting for worship.

5.To have the certificate prepared in ample time and using words that reflect the contemplated proceedings.

6.To arrange for the appropriate license for use where there is no clergy.

7.To inform themselves, with help from the committee overseeing the wedding, of all the applicable legal requirements of the state in which the marriage is to take place and of the forms to be used.

8.To be sure that the license is given to the committee overseeing the wedding before the wedding and that the marriage certificate is ready.

9.To commit to memory the promises to be made vocally, which should be to the following effect:

10.In the presence of God and these our friends I __[Name]___ take thee _[Name]___to be my husband/wife/partner, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife/partner so long as we both shall live.

11.To sign the marriage certificate after the promises have been made.

12.To sign both sections of the marriage license after the wedding and before their departure, one section being kept by them and the other returned by a member of the committee overseeing the wedding to the office from which the license was obtained.

13. Make all arrangements for rehearsal, wedding, accommodations for guests, food, wedding details.

Responsibilities of the clerk of the Meeting:

1.To present the letter of intention to marry—and other letters received supporting the request—to the appropriate Meeting body (care & Counsel) at the earliest opportunity.

2.To see that the request is considered and, if accepted, that a committee for clearness is appointed.

3.To arrange for presentation of the committee’s report on clearness to a subsequent session of the monthly meeting.

4.When the report has been accepted and the marriage allowed by the monthly meeting:

a. to request the Meeting to name an oversight/marriage committee for the wedding and to appoint a meeting for worship to be held at the time and place requested for the wedding, if at all possible; and

b. to inform the parties that they are free to proceed with their plans.

5.To present the report of the oversight committee at the session of monthly meeting following the marriage.

Responsibilities of the committee seeking clearness:

1.To make inquiry and conscientiously satisfy itself that there is nothing to interfere with the accomplishment of the marriage, and in interviews with the couple to explore their leading to marry.

2.To report its findings and recommendations to the next session of the monthly meeting, including any specific plans the couple has as to date and time of day.

3.To make available books and pamphlets on marriage; to have on hand information concerning resources within the yearly meeting, such as the Library and the Committee on Family Relations, as well as organizations within the community which may be helpful and appropriate.

4.To review with the couple the promises they propose to exchange at the marriage and make sure that the words of the certificate are consistent with them.

5.To be informed concerning the applicable legal requirements for obtaining a marriage license.

6.To make sure that the welfare and rights of any children by a former marriage have been properly considered and legally secured.


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