“For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests’ or magistrates’
George Fox, 1669
“At the beginning of the 21st century marriage has become a contract between individuals and is no
Roger and Susan Sawtell, 2006
Marriage has a special status in Quaker practice. From the very beginning – for longer even than membership– Friends have regarded marriage as a state so momentous that it requires an explicit, solemn enactment in a meeting for worship. Friends understand marriage to be equally available to same-sex and opposite-sex couples.
Friends recognize marriage to be something quite distinct from simple cohabitation, no matter how loving. It is first and foremost a spiritual union, not merely an emotional or physical or legal one, although each of these
Thomas Ellwood, recalling his own marriage in 1669, wrote of the value of the meeting for worship: ‘We sensibly felt the Lord with us and joining us, the sense whereof remained with us all our lifetime, and was of good service and
The basis of a Friends’ marriage remains the same as in the early days of the Society. The simple Quaker wedding where the couple, together with their friends, gather in worship is for Friends the most natural setting for the two concerned to make a commitment to each other in the presence of God. With their declaration they take each other freely and equally
As a number of those attending the wedding may be unfamiliar with worship based on silence, it is particularly important that there should be a good attendance of Friends who come concerned for the spiritual depth of the occasion. A meeting for worship for the solemnization of a marriage is held in the same form and spirit as a Friends’ meeting for worship at other times. It is an occasion when those joining in marriage may gain inspiration and help from the meeting, which may continue to be a source of strength to them during their married life. It is also an opportunity for all those who attend the meeting for worship to ask God’s blessing on the marriage and to support the couple in their prayers.
Early Friends realized the importance of recording marriages which had taken place in a meeting for worship and increasingly recognized their responsibility for reporting such marriages to the authorities. They fervently maintained, however, that marriage was a solemn contract made in the presence of God in the meeting for worship. From the very early days of the Society stress was laid on the need for serious consideration prior to marriage, the clearness of each person from all other engagements, the publicity given to the intention of marriage and the value of the meeting for worship, in which the declarations were made by the couple in the presence of a number of members of the Society.