Marriage Through the Meeting
The Quaker wedding, when two persons join together with their family and friends in worship, is a natural expression of what we believe. In the presence of God they take each other freely and equally as lifelong partners, asking for divine blessing on their union and dedicating their own new life together to God's service. Both the form of the ceremony and the process to prepare for it remain the same as in the early days of the Society. The form, in keeping with Friends' religious ideals, includes the following important features: the avoidance of undue haste, the seeking of early approval of parents or guardians to preserve family unity, emphasis on equality of the partners, the responsibility of the monthly meeting, the thoughtful attention to religious, moral, and physical qualifications, the statement of the contracting parties of the vows, and the signing of the certificate by all present. Moderation and simplicity in all proceedings also reflect Quaker ideals.
The following marriage procedure allows opportunity both for Friends to nurture the spiritual basis of the marriage and for the couple to deepen their ties to each other and to their monthly meeting. Those wishing to unite in marriage under the care of the monthly meeting should proceed as follows:
The parties should write a brief announcement of their intentions to the monthly meeting or meetings of which they are members. The letter should be signed by them both and submitted well in advance of the contemplated date. A sample of such a letter is to be found in Appendix 3. The proposal may be accompanied by written approval of parents or guardians of either party.
The meeting of which the man is a member should appoint two men Friends to make inquiry as to the qualifications for marriage, such as clearness from other engagements, to make sure as far as possible that there is nothing to interfere with the permanence and happiness of the marriage, and to offer guidance and counsel. The meeting of which the woman is a member should appoint two women Friends for like purpose. Whenever practical the separate clearness committees should meet jointly with the couple and act cooperatively with each other. Help should be given to be sure all legal requirements are known. Reports may be made to the next regular sessions of the respective monthly meetings or to special sessions. The parties should be present, if possible, at the monthly meetings when reports on clearness are presented. If the reports are found satisfactory, they should be forwarded to the monthly meeting in which the marriage is to be accomplished. With that meeting's approval, the parties are at liberty to proceed with the marriage.
Where distance is a problem, a meeting may request another meeting to appoint a clearness committee on its behalf and to send its report back to the requesting meeting. If one party is not a member of Friends, a committee of two men and two women Friends should be appointed by the monthly meeting of which the other party is a member. The men will meet with the man, the women with the woman, and the whole committee with the couple. The report will then be made to the meeting as specified in the previous paragraph.
A monthly meeting may in like manner allow a marriage to be performed within the meeting when both parties are non-members. In such case the meeting should take special care to ascertain that its undertaking would comply with legal requirements. It should also determine what commitments to Quaker ideals and to the meeting community led the couple to request care by the meeting of their marriage. It is recommended that in each case the acceptance of the responsibility of the meeting be approved by Ministry and Counsel or the marriage committee before being referred to the monthly meeting for consideration. In all cases the clearness process is a serious one, that should allow couples occasion to explore possible problems as well as the strengths in their relationship. If hesitations arise, delay is better than too hasty marriage.
After the couple has been liberated to proceed with arrangements for their marriage, the meeting should appoint at least two men and two women Friends as a committee to attend and oversee the marriage. The parties may propose a time and place for the meeting at which the marriage is to be accomplished and may suggest the names of the Friends who, if approved, are to serve as the committee of oversight.
The duties of the committee of oversight are to advise with the parties as to the proper procedure for the accomplishment of their marriage, to see that a marriage license has been obtained, to assure that any revision of the vows retains their religious character, to attend the marriage and to see that it is properly conducted, to attend the reception and to see that it is appropriate to the religious character of the occasion, to see that all other requirements of the law are fulfilled, to make sure that the marriage certificate has been delivered to the recorder for recording, and to make a report to the monthly meeting.
When the couple for adequate reasons has chosen to be married in a meeting to which neither belongs, the usual procedure for securing the approval of the home meetings is carried out. The clerk of the woman's meeting, or if she is not a Friend, of the man's meeting, initiates correspondence with the clerk of the meeting where the marriage is to take place, asking for its cooperation. A committee of oversight should be appointed by the initiating meeting and should include, when possible, members resident in the state where the marriage is to take place.
The marriage should take place in a regular meeting for worship or in a special meeting arranged by the monthly meeting at a time convenient to the contracting parties. At a suitable time in the meeting the parties should stand and, taking each other by the right hand, should declare to this effect, the man first:
"In the presence of God and before these friends, I take thee, ___., to be my wife, promising, with Divine assistance, to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband as long as we both shall live."
The woman in like manner:
"In the presence of God and before these friends, I take thee, ___., to be my husband, promising, with Divine assistance, to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife as long as we both shall live."
Following the marriage, a certificate should be signed by the man and the woman. It should then be audibly read by a designated person. At the conclusion of the meeting it should be signed by everyone present.