For us the quality of the relationship is the crucial factor, and we celebrate with equal joy the marriages of same-sex and opposite-sex couples. A Quaker wedding takes place during a specially arranged meeting for worship. The couple take each other as partners in a lifelong commitment to faithfulness and love.
At the start of the meeting the Friend acting as “registering officer” normally gives a brief overview of a Quaker wedding. There is then a period of silence.
Early in the meeting the couple take each other by the hand and make their solemn declaration of marriage. Each in turn uses these words:
Friends, I take this my friend, [name], to be my spouse*, promising, through divine assistance (or with God’s help), to be unto him/her/ a loving and faithful spouse*, so long as we both on earth shall live.
* The word “spouse” may be replaced by wife; husband; or partner in marriage.
Wedding rings play no formal part in Quaker marriages, but many couples like to give each other rings after they have made their declarations.
After this exchange the Quaker marriage certificate is signed by the married couple and two or more witnesses. The local Registering Officer of the Society of Friends reads the certificate out loud, either immediately after the declarations have been made or towards the close of the meeting.
The meeting continues as it began, with a period of silence, during which anyone may speak in “'ministry”. This can be a time when the couple are given inspiration and help which continues to be a source of strength to them during their married life. It is also an opportunity for those who attend the meeting to ask God’s blessing on the marriage and commit themselves to supporting the couple in whatever way they can.
The meeting closes after the elders have shaken hands. As soon as the meeting has ended, everyone is invited to sign 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 has no legal standing, it serves the couple as a continuing reminder of their friends’ joy and loving concern.
While this is happening, the registering officer, the couple and the two first witnesses sign the marriage schedule, which has to be returned to the district registrar within three days so that the wedding may be recorded legally and a marriage certificate issued.