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All About Quaker Wedding Traditions & Marriage ‘Under the Care of the Meeting’

Published Wednesday, Nov. 16th, 2022

Wondering what to expect at a Quaker wedding ceremony? 



In this article:


  • 5 Common Questions About Quaker Marriages

  • 4 Quaker Wedding Traditions 

  • 3 Customs of Marriage Under the Care of the Meeting




Want to include Quaker wedding traditions in your own ceremony, or learn more about how to conduct a self-uniting Quaker-inspired elopement? 


Traditional Quaker weddings are simple and heartfelt religious ceremonies in which couple’s pledge their commitment to each other in front of God and their closest friends and family members. Unlike other types of weddings, these unique rituals are inexpensive, intimate, don’t require a wedding officiant or ordained minister, and have long periods of silent meditation and prayer.


Small self-uniting weddings have always been a popular alternative to larger gatherings. As interest increases, many people have started calling all self-uniting ceremonies ‘Quaker weddings,’ even when they’re not performed in the Quaker religious tradition.



For example, Kourtney Kardashian revealed on a recent episode of The Kardashians that she’d considered having a ‘Quaker wedding’ with husband Travis – with just the bride and groom present. This makes it worth mentioning that not all self-uniting ceremonies are Quaker weddings, but all traditional Quaker weddings are self-uniting! 


Below, we answer common questions about Quaker marriages, describe popular Quaker wedding traditions, and explain customs of ‘marriage under the care of the meeting.’



Chairs arranged in a circle, semi circle, for an outdoor wedding ceremony

Guests usually sit in a circle or semi-circle during a Quaker wedding. 

The couple will sit with them to pray and meditate, before standing to exchange vows.



5 Common Questions About Quaker Marriages


1. Who are the Quakers?


Quakers are members of a Christian denomination formally known as the Religious Society of Friends. Members of the church are called Friends and belong to individual congregations called Meetings, and attend meetings of worship, meetings of business, and other activities together. 



2. What do Quakers believe about marriage? 


Quakers believe that only God can unite a couple in marriage, and that marriage is a faithful, joyful, and sacred covenant made between the couple, the church, and God. That’s why Quaker marriages are a community celebration from start to finish. Couples are offered help and support from their Meeting every step of the way, from the day they propose marriage until they sign the marriage certificate. 


Quakers can marry within the church – or ‘under the care of the meeting’ – or they can marry outside of the church in a civil ceremony. 


3. Can Quakers marry non-Quakers? 


Yes, Quakers can marry non-Quakers (sometimes called non-members), although this wasn’t always true. In cases of marriage not under the care of the meeting (outside the church), the non-member partner is welcomed by the congregation and invited to attend meetings for worship and business and other meeting activities following the wedding. (via the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends)


4. Do Quakers recognize same-sex marriage?


Quaker views on same-sex marriage varies by congregation: Some Meetings are open and welcoming to LGBTQ+ families, while others are not. In one show of support back in 2009, a group called the Twin Cities Friends Meeting in Minnesota chose not to sign state-issued marriage licenses for opposite-sex couples until marriage was legalized for all couples. 



5. What happens during a Quaker wedding? 


Quaker weddings are simple meetings of worship during which a couple exchanges marriage vows and signs a marriage contract in the presence of their closest friends and relatives. They are less structured or formal than many other types of religious weddings.


At the start of the meeting, a chosen Friend shares a few words about the purpose of the gathering. Next, members sit quietly in prayer and meditation until the couple feels it's the right time to speak their vows. 


After the couple exchanges vows, another Friend reads the marriage certificate aloud and the couple signs their names. More silent prayer follows, and then everyone in attendance signs their name on the marriage certificate, and the meeting ends. 


For the marriage to be legally recognized, a state-issued marriage license must also be signed.


Quaker wedding traditions are described in more detail below, so keep reading!



Small white Quaker church outside, blue sky and trees behind

Weddings often take place at a Friends Meeting House

Photo by Mandell Smock




4 Quaker Wedding Traditions 


1. No wedding officiant needed


This is probably the best-known tradition in Quaker weddings: There’s no wedding officiant at a Quaker marriage ceremony. Instead, Quaker marriages are ‘self-solemnizing,’ meaning that the couple marries themselves. But keep in mind – self-uniting ceremonies are only legal in a few states. 


Related: Ask AMM: "Can I Perform My Own Marriage Ceremony?"


Quaker weddings are performed without an officiant because Friends believe that only God can unite a couple in marriage, and there are no ordained ministers in the Quaker church.


2. “Silent ceremony” 


Sometimes called a ‘silent ceremony,’ Quaker weddings are simple meetings of worship in which a marriage takes place. During these simple ceremonies, members pray together in silence until the couple feels ‘led’ to exchange their vows. This period of silence can be short, or very long, depending on the couple. 


3. Traditional Quaker wedding vows


After the period of silence, the couple stands to face each other and speak their vows, which are also written on the marriage certificate. The couple might repeat traditional vows (included below), or write their own vows.


Traditional vows: 

“In the presence of God and before these our families and friends, I take thee (bride or groom’s name) 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."  (via Newtown Friends Meeting)


4. Quaker marriage certificate


After the couple exchanges their vows, everyone at the ceremony signs the marriage certificate in support of the union. Although the certificate isn’t legally binding on its own (couples must file a state-issued marriage license), it’s a central part of the ceremony and deeply meaningful.


Most Quaker marriage certificates use traditional language. Couples can change the wording on their certificate if they want to, even adding their own personal promises and vows, but all changes are made carefully and thoughtfully with the help of the Oversight Committee before the ceremony takes place. 


The certificate usually begins: “Whereas (Name) of (Address), son of (Name), and (Name), daughter of (Names of parents, using mother’s maiden name), having declared their intentions of marriage with each other to (Name of Meeting) monthly meeting of the Religious Society of Friends held at (Location), their proposed marriage was allowed by that Meeting…”




Below: An example of a modern Quaker marriage certificate, designed by artist Ann Kathrin Moon (@atotheke) for a couple married at Brighton Friends Meeting House. 



A post shared by Ann Kathrin Moon 🌙 (@atotheke)




3 Customs of Marriage Under the Care of the Meeting : Before the Ceremony


1. Approval from the Meeting 


When a Quaker couple decides to get married, they start the process by asking for approval from their Meeting (congregation). This happens weeks or even months before the proposed wedding date. 


The couple writes a letter to the Clerk of the Meeting, who reads their request at the group’s next business meeting, and a committee is formed to discuss the couple’s potential marriage – called a ‘Committee of Clearness.’ (via Newtown Friends Meeting)


2. Committee of Clearness 


During the next step of the approval process, the Committee of Clearness speaks with the couple to ask thoughtful questions about the couple’s relationship, family commitments, values, and more – to gain ‘clearness’ about what their marriage might be like. 


Through careful listening, consideration, and quiet worship, the committee determines if the couple is likely to be happy and successful, and what potential hurdles they might face. (via Newtown Friends Meeting)


If the couple belongs to two different Meetings, two clearness committees are formed. If a Quaker marries a non-Quaker, the clearness committee will meet with friends and relatives of the non-Quaker to learn more about them before making a decision. 


Once the Committee of Clearness approves of the marriage, a new committee is formed to help the couple plan the details of the celebration. This group is called an Oversight Committee.


3. Oversight Committee


The Oversight Committee is usually made up of two men and two women, often chosen by the couple. These Friends help the couple prepare for the wedding day and ensure that the marriage certificate and marriage license are handled carefully until they’re signed following the ceremony. In this way, the oversight committee members are similar to a couple’s wedding planner, bridesmaids, or groomsmen! (via Newtown Friends Meeting)



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Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

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