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Come with us back to October of 1806 and the wedding of John R. Thomas and Elizabeth Downing, the first couple to be married in the newly built Uwchlan Monthly Meeting House. And though you’ve been to other weddings, this one will probably be any other you’ve attended.

A marriage under the care of any Friends Meeting must be approved by that Meeting. When they decided to wed, Thomas and his fiancé wrote a letter to the Uwchlan Meeting stating their intention to wed. The Clerk of the Meeting read their letter during a Monthly Meeting for Business, then appointed a Committee of Clearness, made up of two men and two women. This Committee met with the bride and groom to make sure that there would be nothing to interfere with the permanence and happiness of their marriage. The Committee approved the marriage of Thomas and Downing and the day was set.

On the day of the ceremony, guests file into the Meeting House and settle in an atmosphere of quiet and reverence, then the wedding overseers of the wedding enter and take their seats on the facing benches. The couple’s families follow. Finally, the bride and groom walk in together and proceed to the front of the Meeting House and seat themselves on the facing benches. Walking in together is a sign of their freedom to give themselves to one another.

You notice that no minister is present. Friends believe that each person has his or her own relationship with God and has no need of an intermediary. In a Quaker wedding, everyone in attendance witnesses the marriage.

The wedding begins with a period of silent worship. When they feel it’s appropriate, the couple rises, and taking each other by the hand, makes a simple statement of their intentions. Before taking their seats once again, the bride and groom each sign the Marriage certificate. Once they take their seats, one of the wedding overseers reads the certificate aloud.

After the reading, the Meeting for Worship continues, and it’s at this time that anyone present may share their feelings about the bride and groom and the occasion through prayer, meditation, and spoken messages.

The Meeting for Worship ends with two of the wedding overseers shaking hands. It’s at this time that the newlyweds depart through the front door. One of the overseers then invites each guest to come forward to sign the Marriage Certificate as a witness to the ceremony.

Though this is a re-enactment of an early Quaker wedding, couples today, over 200 years later, celebrate their marriage in the same simple, joyous way.


NOTE: The costumes worn by the re-enactors have been lovingly made by hand by members of our Meeting from authentic 19th-century Quaker patterns. Bring your camera as you’ll have plenty of time to photograph the bride and groom and their guests before and after the ceremony.

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