Steve and Lynn wanted to share this photograph following their Quaker wedding ceremony in Beccles this month. They are seen with their wedding certificate which was witnessed by all present at the joyful ceremony.
It was important to early Friends (Quakers) that their marriages should be recognised in law, and they instituted the witnessing of a certificate by all present. Historically it was argued that Quaker marriage was invalid under canon law, but Friends’ marriages were tested in English civil courts and found to be lawful. The Marriage Act of 1753 explicitly exempted Quakers and Jews from the statutory regulation of all other marriages in England and Wales. This legal validity with separate status and registration for marriages under the auspices of the Society of Friends has been reaffirmed by successive Marriage Acts in England and Wales. Past Scottish law allowed marriage without a priest or minister, so Quaker marriage has always been lawful there.
Friends speak of marriage ‘in the care of the meeting’. This is not merely a verbal reflection of the Quaker understanding of marriage as the Lord’s work: it denotes two distinct, concrete responsibilities.
First, the meetings (area and local) where the marriage is solemnised must care for the preparations for marriage. The life circumstances of present-day Friends do not always allow marriage to take place at a meeting where both or either of the couple are most active; family or other requirements may dictate that the marriage be celebrated under the care of a different meeting. It is important that the pastoral side of preparation for marriage should not be neglected in such instances.
Secondly, every meeting has a pastoral responsibility for the care of all marriages within it, whether of members or attenders, whether both spouses are active in the meeting or only one, whether they were married at that meeting or another, whether they were married according to the usage of Friends or in some other church or faith or by the civil authorities. In joining in marriage, a couple commit themselves not just to one another but to all around them, and every meeting must reciprocate that commitment. All within a meeting must prayerfully uphold its married people and their marriages.