its beginning, the Religious Society of Friends has stressed the
conviction that marriage is a binding relationship entered into in the
presence of God and of witnessing Friends. Before a couple can be
married under the care of our Meeting, a couple must first write a
letter to the Clerk of the Meeting expressing their wishes. The Clerk
reads the request at Monthly Meeting for Business and forwards it to the
Marriage and Membership Committee. The Marriage and Membership Committee
selects several of its members to meet in clearness with the couple and
report their recommendation at the next Monthly Meeting for Business.
Upon receiving the Meeting's approval for marriage, several people are
selected to give loving oversight to the wedding and to ensure that the
Quaker marriage license has been legally recorded after the ceremony.
The wedding, itself, takes place in a called or special Meeting for
Worship. The bridal couple enter the meeting and sit on the facing
benches in the front of the room. In giving themselves to each other,
they eliminate the custom of the bride being given away by her father.
No third person pronounces them man and wife because Friends believe
that God alone can create such a union and give it significance. Neither
a bridal party nor an exchange of rings is necessary to Friends'
procedure, although both have become customary today.
After a period of silence, the couple rise and face each other.
Taking each other by the hand, they say their vows, first the groom and
then the bride, using the following or similar words:
In the presence of God and these our friends, I take thee ... to
be my wife (husband),
promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and
faithful husband (wife)
so long as we both shall live.
As soon as the couple sits down again, one of the wedding overseers
brings them the marriage certificate for them to sign, the bride signing
her married name for the first time. The overseer then reads the
certificate to all, asking that each person in attendance sign the
document as a witness at the close of meeting. The Meeting returns to
silent worship but welcomes anyone wishing to speak.
The oversseer may provide an opportunity for the bridal party to
leave at this point. One of the wedding overseers asks those in
attendance to sign the certificate as witnesses to the marriage. It’s
the responsibility of our Marriage and Membership Committee to make a
copy of the certificate for our meeting records and to complete the
legal requirements for the marriage.
Many Quaker marriage certificates, handed down from generation to
generation, have proved to be valuable historical records. Today, as
well, the certificate becomes a cherished possession in the couple’s
new home, recalling the reverent attitude of worship with which the
marriage began and the company of loving friends who took part in it.
The wedding is over when the overseers shake hands.