A Comprehensive Guide to Quaker Wedding Vows
Quakers, known formally as the Religious Society of Friends, believe "there is that of God in everyone." Accordingly, a Quaker wedding ceremony is self-uniting—a silent meeting for worship during which no officiant is present. As described in the Quaker marriage procedure, the couple alone, in the presence of God, family members and the "worshiping community," announces their commitment "to love one another in faithful partnership with the expectation that the relationship will mature and be mutually enriching." Because these types of ceremonies are unique, your Quaker wedding program can provide a great opportunity to explain the components of your wedding to unfamiliar guests.
Before couples can say "I do" in Quaker fashion, there are steps that are traditionally followed. According to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, couples' first prewedding responsibility is to present a letter stating their intention of marriage to the monthly meeting, or congregation, they'd like to oversee their wedding. Once approved, couples meet with a clearness committee to explore the relationship and decide if there is clarity to move forward, as well as an oversight committee to discuss wedding plans. The oversight committee is also responsible for satisfying all legal requirements and handling the marriage certificate—ensuring the marriage license is obtained, signed by the couple and two witnesses during the wedding, and returned and recorded appropriately.
Now that we've laid the foundation for a Quaker wedding, let's dive into the topic of interest: wedding vows.
What to Include in Your Quaker Wedding Vows
For Quakers, weddings are about simplicity—no wedding party or ring exchange is necessary—and Quaker wedding vows follow suit. During the silent worship at a Quaker meeting house, you and your partner will stand in front of the room, hold hands and make your vows, or promises, to one another. These vows can follow the traditional Quaker template, or you can write your own.
Traditional Quaker Wedding Vow Template
Quaker wedding vows typically follow this template or similar words:
"In the presence of God and these our friends, I [name] take thee [name] to be my husband/wife/partner, promising with divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife/partner so long as we both shall live."
Personalizing Quaker Wedding Vows
While you can personalize Quaker wedding vows, your Quaker marriage certificate provides more opportunities for personalization because it is lengthier. Like your vows, it is also an important ceremony component. The certificate is read aloud during Quaker ceremonies, after the exchange of vows, by someone preselected by the couple. According to Newtown Friends Meeting, "This is done with dignity and care in order to contribute to the atmosphere of worship."
Traditional Quaker wedding certificate wording can be found below. Modifications may include pronoun usage and terminology used for one another.
Whereas [name] of [town and state], son/daughter of [names of parents: use mother's maiden name], and [name] of [town and state], daughter/son of [names of parents: use mother's maiden name], having declared their intentions of marriage with each other to ________ Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends held at ________, their proposed marriage was allowed by that meeting.
Now, this is to certify to whom it may concern, that for the accomplishment of their intention, this ________ day of the ________ month, in the year of our Lord ________, they, [name] and [name], appeared in a meeting for worship of the Religious Society of Friends, held at ________, and [first name], taking [first name] by the hand, did on this solemn occasion declare that he took her, [name], to be his wife, promising with divine assistance to be unto her a loving and faithful husband so long as they both shall live; and then in the same assembly [name] did in like manner declare that she took him, [name], to be her husband, promising with divine assistance to be unto him a loving and faithful wife so long as they both shall live. And moreover, they, [name and name], did as further confirmation thereof, then and there, to this certificate set their hands.
[spaces for signatures of the couple, with names they will use after the wedding]
And we, having been present at the marriage, have as witnesses hereunto set our hands.
With these templates as the framework, couples can work on building out their ceremony outline. Once you've settled on your vows, many couples also choose to creatively memorialize their promises with wedding vow art so they can remember their vows for years to come.