Marrying Under the Care of the Meeting:
A Guide for Couples
Many people are attracted to the Friends (or Quaker) wedding service for a number of different reasons, even though they may not themselves be Quaker. Over the last 350 years, Friends have evolved a number of unique traditions to celebrate marriage, which are simple, dignified and allow everyone present to take part.
Quaker weddings are held "under the care of the Meeting". This means that our community takes responsibility and offers care for the couple before, during and after their wedding. Our goal is for them and their families to feel that sense of support throughout the process. Weddings under the care of West Richmond Friends Meeting should be considered religious ceremonies in a Christian community, and in the presence of God.
A Quaker wedding can be either programmed or unprogrammed.
The process of holding a Quaker wedding takes time. Typically, we need to start a minimum of 6-8 weeks before the anticipated wedding date -- 3 or 4 months is better! Here's how the process works:
Step 1: Applying
The first, essential step is that the couple must write a letter, addressed to the Meeting, saying that they would like to be married under the care of the Meeting. The letter must be signed by both of the couple. If either is under the age of 18, written consent of parents or guardians must accompany the letter. If neither is a regular attender of West Richmond Friends Meeting, the letter should include some information about the couple and why they would like a Quaker wedding. West Richmond Friends Meeting accepts letters from any two people who may be legally married, regardless of gender.
Step 2: Clearness
When our Monthly Meeting receives the letter, we will appoint a clearness committee for the couple. The clearness committee is a group of three or four Friends, sometimes including the pastoral minister, which meets with the couple to seek clarity regarding this important decision in their lives. The members then provide guidance if the way seems clear to proceed with the marriage. This is sometimes accomplished in a single meeting, but often the committee finds it helpful to have more than one meeting.
Step 3: Approval
The clearness committee reports back to the Monthly Meeting for Business, which is the official decision-making body of the Meeting. The couple is encouraged to attend this meeting. After the Monthly Meeting approves, the couple is free to finalize their plans and send out invitations.
Step 4: The Wedding
Once the marriage is approved, the Meeting will appoint an oversight committee who will be present at the wedding ceremony, and report back afterwards to the Monthly Meeting. Usually, weddings held under the care of the Meeting are open for anyone from the Meeting who wishes to attend, in addition to guests invited by the couple. However, couples may limit attendance at the reception to family and invited guests.
If having your wedding under the care of West Richmond Meeting feels like a good choice for you, please read the important points below.
We hope that this will help to answer the questions most frequently asked by couples. If you have questions at any time, please feel free to contact the pastoral minister, the clerk of the Counsel and Care Committee, or the clerk of West Richmond Friends Meeting.
A programmed or an unprogrammed wedding:
what's the difference?
In a programmed wedding, although the pastoral minister or a recorded minister is present, the minister doesn't marry the couple; they marry each other by exchanging vows in the immediate presence of God.
After making their vows, the couple signs the marriage certificate. The couple may also include a variety of readings, music, or other actions which symbolize or illustrate the new life they are entering. This kind of wedding can also include a quiet time for sharing as well.
The pastoral minister can provide some examples of organizing a programmed wedding if that would be helpful, as well as appropriate readings from the Bible, other readings and songs.
In a traditional unprogrammed wedding, the couple enter the worship room together, come to the front of the room, and sit down on the facing bench, with or without one or two friends beside them.
After a short period of quiet, the couple will stand and exchange their wedding promises and sign the marriage certificate, which will then be read aloud.
During the quiet worship which follows, those present may offer blessings, prayers or reflections on the occasion.
What are the promises?
The traditional promises in a Quaker wedding ceremony are simple.
"In the presence of the Lord [or God], and these our families and friends, I, A., take you, B., to be my wife/husband [or partner in marriage]. I promise, with Divine assistance, to be a loving and faithful husband/wife [or to be loving and faithful] to you as long as we both shall live."
The couple may choose other appropriate vows or modify the traditional vows to reflect their special qualities, or write original vows of their own. Family members or friends may be asked to take part. Rings can be exchanged if the couple desires.
You are welcome to use West Richmond Friends meetinghouse for the wedding. There is no charge for the use of the meetinghouse if either party is a member or attender of the meeting. If neither is a member or attender, there is a modest charge for the use of different parts of the building. Click here for more information.
When planning a specific date for your wedding, you should check with the pastoral minister as soon as possible to make sure that the meetinghouse is available. Click here to see the meeting calendar.
It is not required that either of the couple change their last name to the other's.
A distinctive feature of Quaker weddings is the marriage certificate, a document which states that the couple has been married under the care of this meeting, and which records the promises they have made to each other. Immediately after exchanging their promises, the couple sign the marriage certificate and it is read aloud. At the close of the ceremony, everyone who is present signs it as a witness of their presence and prayerful support. The marriage certificate is often a cherished keepsake, since all of the guests at the wedding are asked to sign it. You may choose to have a calligrapher prepare this document. A standard marriage certificate form is also available. Consult with the pastoral minister about the format and wording of the certificate. Click here to read the text of a sample marriage certificate.
You will need to obtain a valid Indiana marriage license, available from any county clerk's office in Indiana. Both of you must be present in person to apply. You must both be 18 years old (17 years old if your parent is present to give permission.). Indiana no longer requires any blood tests for a marriage license. The cost of the license is currently $18 for Indiana residents, and $60 for out-of-state residents. Your marriage license is good for up to 60 days.
If you would like to hold your wedding at another location, that can usually be arranged. If the wedding is to be held outdoors, you should plan an alternate location in case of rain! If the wedding is to be held out of town, and the pastor is involved, it is appropriate to offer to reimburse the pastor's travel expenses.
The pastoral minister can recommend a musical accompanist, or you may choose to arrange for music on your own. The accompanist should be given a suitable honorarium for their time.
In keeping with the Quaker tradition of simplicity, couples are strongly encouraged not to spend large amounts of money on clothing or decorations. If your reception is held at the meetinghouse, no alcohol may be served.