This leaflet is suitable for distribution at a wedding or in invitations.
From 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 this public commitment is made on the day of the wedding, the proposed marriage must have received the approval of the monthly meeting, given after careful consideration by an appointed committee.
The wedding itself is a meeting for worship, held after the manner of Friends, within which the marriage takes place. The bridal couple enter the meeting and take their places at 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.
In an atmosphere of quiet and reverence during the period of worship, the couple rise. Taking each other by the hand, they make their promises, 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.”
When the couple is seated again, the marriage certificate is brought for them to sign. Then someone who has previously been selected to do so reads the certificate aloud. This is done with dignity and care in order to contribute to the atmosphere of worship. The meeting then continues in silent waiting upon God while those assembled share in the worship through prayer and meditation or through spoken messages.
The person chosen to close the meeting may, if desired, provide an opportunity for the bridal party to withdraw. Those present are asked to sign the certificate as witnesses to the marriage. A copy of the certificate is made for the records of the monthly meeting in whose care the marriage has taken place, and the legal requirements are completed by a committee appointed by that Meeting.
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 new home, recalling the reverent attitude of worship with which the marriage began and the company of loving friends who took part in it.