A Quaker marriage is very different from most other wedding ceremonies. It is extremely simple and free from ceremonial. In Scotland, one of the parties must be either a member or a regular attender at a Quaker Meeting.
Quakers retain their belief in the sanctity and life-long nature of marriage, but recognise that sometimes it may be right to make a new start. The re-marriage of a divorced person may be allowed at the discretion of the Monthly Meeting.
The first steps in arranging a wedding should be taken at least six weeks in advance of the proposed date and preferably up to three months in advance. The procedure is as follows:
(a) Application should be made to the Registering Officer of the Monthly Meeting within the bounds of which it is wished that the marriage should take place. The Registering Officer will issue an application form which has to be signed by both parties and witnessed. The proposed date, but not necessarily the time, should be stated.
(b) For each non-member applicant, support in writing must be given by two adult members on a form supplied by the Registering Officer. In this case, and when, for example, one of the applicants has been divorced, the Registering Officer may arrange for the couple to talk with some other members of the Meeting.
(c) At this stage the Registering Officer may assent to the application, but very rarely, and particularly if inclined to refusal, may refer the application to the Monthly Meeting (business Meeting). Sometimes it may be necessary to suggest an alternative date and/or place for the wedding meeting in order that an adequate number of Friends may attend. The Meeting will normally be held in a place of regular Quaker worship, although in Scots law it may take place in any premises to which the public has access.
(d) The couple must then make application to marry in accordance with civil law, to the Registrar of Marriages in the district where the marriage is to take place. The Registering Officer will advise them on the information they have to give to the Registrar. The Registrar requires not less than three weeks' (but not more than three months') notice. Should there be no impediment the Registrar will issue to the couple a Schedule, not more than a week before the ceremony. This Schedule must be given to the Registering Officer before the ceremony.
(e) Notice of the intended marriage will be given by the Registering Officer to be read out at the regular Meeting(s) for Worship to which the parties belong or attend, or in the area where they live. Should there be any written objection, the Registering Officer will refer it to the Monthly Meeting.
(f) Public notice of the wedding Meeting will be given at the place at which it is to be held, either at the close of the previous Meeting for Worship in the case of a Meeting House, or by posting a written notice on the door a week beforehand.
The "service", like any Quaker Meeting, is held in silent communion of the spirit; there is no pageantry and rarely any music, except possibly as an introduction. There is no set ritual and no sermon, but there is an opportunity for anyone who feels moved by the spirit to give a spoken message or prayer.
There is normally no bridesmaid or a best man and no procession or recessional; a morning coat and bridal dress and veil are unusual. The wedding ring has no official place in the marriage, though the couple may exchange rings at some time in or after the Meeting.
The Meeting begins with a period of silence. When they feel it fit, the couple rise and hand-in-hand make their declarations, each in turn saying:
'Friends, I take this my friend ........ to be my wife/husband, promising through divine assistance to be unto her/him a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both on earth shall live'.
The order in which they speak is not prescribed.
Either immediately, or after an interval, during which anyone may contribute to the ministry, the Registering officer calls upon the couple to sign the Quaker Marriage Certificate which records their declarations, and the two witnesses also sign. The Registering Officer then reads the certificate aloud. After a further period of silence the Meeting is terminated by two Elders shaking hands and the rest of the congregation follow suit. Thereafter, everyone present signs the Quaker Marriage Certificate, not only recording their presence at the ceremony, but witnessing to their continuing concern for the success of the marriage. Although the Certificate, which is in the form of a scroll or a book, has no legal standing, it serves the couple as a continuing reminder of their friends' joy and loving concern.
To fulfill the legal requirements, the registering Officer now gets the couple and the two first witnesses to sign the Schedule which has to be returned to the Registrar within three days so that the wedding may be properly recorded and a Marriage Certificate issued. As well as the copy which the couple get, there has to be a copy for the Registering Officer's records, so that the Monthly Meeting shall be satisfied as to the completion.
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