A Quaker Wedding Ceremony – Part I

I don’t think this blog can go any further without any discussion of the least-photographed but without question the most important part of our wedding day – the ceremony.

Quaker wedding ceremonies are held in the style of a normal Meeting for Worship – that is, in silence and ‘unprogrammed’ (apart, of course, from the vows). Because there are no clergy in Quakerism*, it is the couple themselves who stand up when they feel that the time is right and make their vows to each other. Presiding over the ceremony is the Recording Clerk, a nominated Friend from the area, whose duty it is to see that all the legal necessities are carried out.

This is actually for reasons greater than the practical issue of having no regular leader. There is a lovely quote from George Fox on marriage that J and I had discussed in considerable length:

For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests’ or magistrates’; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.

 This is open to all sorts of interpretations, but I think that we had really come to the conclusion that essentially we already felt married. That we had already been brought together by what-some-people-call-God**, and that the ceremony was all about the ‘witnessing’ aspect – our families and friends and worshipping community witnessing the commitment that we were making to each other.

As a result, everyone present at a Quaker marriage signs the certificate after the Meeting has ended. They are signing that they witnessed the couple making that commitment, and they are signing that they will continue to uphold and support the couple in their marriage or whatever else life throws at them.

(A reminder that J and I both wrote ‘rough guides to Quakerism’ here and here.)

*Or, alternatively, no laity. Discuss.

**Sorry if this is getting a bit theologically heavy. My personal feelings about the word “God” are a subject for another day.

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