Quaker weddings are the traditional ceremony of marriage within the Religious Society of Friends.
Quaker marriage in historyEdit
As soon as Friends began to grow in the early 1650s, the question of how to conduct the wedding became prominent. Early Quakers rejected such practices as using priests of the established church, posting banns, and even registering the marriage with the state. Some time after Parliament legalized civil marriages in 1653, George Fox issued an epistle or advisory letter to his followers regarding Quaker marriage. He advised meetings to examine prospective spouses as to their intentions to marry and to determine that there were no familial or other obstacles. After the local meeting had approved the couple's intention, an announcement would be made and posted in the market on market day, after which a wedding could occur. Outsiders sometimes criticized Quaker couples for living in adultery because they married each other without priests or ministers. However, Fox and Margaret Fell married using a modification of this procedure in 1669. Two years later, when Fox was in Barbados, he sent out another epistle in which advocated assigning to women's meetings the initial responsibility of passing on a couple's desire to be wed. This became quite controversial among those who did not want to see women's roles expanded. However, it was consistent with the Quaker tradition of encouraging women to speak out in meeting and take leadership roles.
Interestingly enough, the Quaker marriage also figures prominently in the history of divorce. The first divorce that took place in America occurred when a woman left her Protestant husband to run off and remarry herself to a Quaker man, something which would have been impossible in any other tradition in America at the time.
Quaker marriage todayEdit
Today when a couple decides to get married they declare their intentions to marry to the meeting (either in writing or in person). The meeting then appoints a clearness committee to talk with the couple and make sure that they have properly prepared themselves for marriage. If the committee is clear that this couple is ready, they recommend that the monthly meeting should take this wedding “under their care” and appoint a committee to make sure the couple makes all the needed arrangements for the wedding ceremony. These duties vary but may include helping schedule the date, finding premarital counseling, making the Quaker marriage certificate, making sure the couple knows how to acquire and file any legal documents. Some couples choose to marry within the meeting without registering their marriage with the government, a tradition dating back to Quakerism's earliest days. Same-sex couples can also be married with or without government documents in some meetings. See Quaker views of homosexuality. If a couple later needs to prove that they are married, the Quaker wedding certificate signed by witnesses at the ceremony is sufficient in many states.
The wedding ceremonyEdit
A traditional wedding ceremony in a Friends meeting is similar to any other Meeting for Worship, and therefore often very different from the experience expected by non-Friends. The attendees gather for silent worship, often with the couple sitting in front of the meeting (this depends on the layout of that particular meeting house).
Out of the silence the couple will exchange what the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting describes as "promises"  with each other. The promises are short, simple, and egalitarian, and can vary between different regions and meetings. Traditionally Quakers do not swear or make vows, because they intend to tell the truth at all times, not only when swearing. Since traditionally Friends have no clergy, there is no one person to “marry” them. Instead they declare themselves married before God and those gathered. Usually, there are no bridesmaids or other special roles in the wedding other than that of bride and groom.
They then sign the Quaker wedding certificate which, for the purposes of the meeting, means they are now married. All those present are invited to share messages with the gathered meeting as they feel led (as in any other Meeting for Worship, see main article on the Society of Friends). At the close of worship all of those present at the meeting are asked to sign the wedding certificate as witnesses. Often the certificate is hung prominently in the home of the couple as a reminder of the promises they made, and of the people they shared that moment of their lives with.
A governmental marriage license is not usually part of the ceremony, and can be signed at a separate time if desired. In many areas, the license must be signed by an "officiant," but in the state of Pennsylvania, Quaker marriage licenses are available which require only the signatures of the bride and groom and witnesses. These licenses are available to any couple who wishes to be married without an officiant, regardless of religion.
- Quaker marriage procedure in Britain Yearly Meeting
- Quaker marriage procedure in Canadian Yearly Meeting
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