Couples who marry under the care of Gunpowder Friends Meeting first gather with a clearness committee, and then are supported by an oversight committee as the wedding is planned and on the wedding day. Marriage under the care of the Meeting is something that the couple does for themselves and with one another, under their own authority but with the support, care and witness of the Meeting.
To a great extent there is very little “ceremony” involved in Quaker worship. Weddings are no exception – there is no officiant presiding over the wedding. Rather, the wedding is much like a Meeting for Worship and includes members of the meeting as well as the invited guests of the couple. After the couple takes their seat on the wedding bench and a welcoming message is read by the Clerk, there is silent meditation.
The first to stand and speak are the wedding couple; they either recite traditional Quaker wedding vows, or read the vows they have written themselves. The couple then signs a Marriage Certificate, perhaps similar to the one pictured here, and a designated person reads the inscription on the certificate, usually text chosen by the wedding couple for its personal meaning to them. Any other selected readings or music may then be shared. The gathering then returns to silence and out of that silence, Friends and those gathered to honor the union rise as they are moved to share what is in their hearts. After someone speaks, a space of silence is allowed before another speaks so that the message shared may be appreciated and contemplated by all who are present.
We end the wedding by shaking hands with those around us. Everyone in attendance is then asked to sign the wedding certificate as witnesses to the union. The certificate serves as a beautiful, enduring remembrance of the day for the newly wedded couple.
"As someone who was recently married Gunpowder Friends Meeting, I was unprepared for how moving and beautiful it would be. Many who spoke were moved to tears, as was I. My husband and I chose to be married under the care of Gunpowder because we wanted our marriage to be spiritually based. I had been attending Gunpowder for about four years and when he joined my life he knew how much my spiritual life meant to me. He began attending with me and quickly saw why Gunpowder Meeting was such a special place to me. This was not the first marriage for either of us and we are not by any means “young.” We approached the Meeting with our plans for marriage without any trepidation despite those things; we knew we were accepted, loved, and appreciated by our Friends there and had no doubt we would receive the unwavering support of our Friends both for our union and throughout our marriage."
~ Gunpowder Friend
"Sixteen years ago (as of this writing) I was married under the care of Gunpowder Friends Meeting. I warbled my vows—the only time I can remember crying for joy. Why? A Quaker marriage proceeds with the support of an entire community, first in helping to discern beforehand whether there might be unacknowledged impediments to marriage, then in embracing the couple in witness of the marriage."
"The ceremony itself is gently “clerked” as the betrothed marry one another in exchanged vows; ours included the traditional “… promise, with Divine assistance, to be unto [thee] a loving and faithful [husband/wife] as long as we both shall live.” The marriage per se, and the couples’ signing of the certificate, is a relatively brief affair that is typically followed by a lengthy silence, punctuated by spoken messages from those present in witness: in our case Gunpowder Friends, family, and many guests. The loving embrace in these messages is (and is felt) like no other: funny, joyfully tearful, spiritual, nostalgic, affirming, deeply authentic, and lasting. Many speak only by their presence, such as my elderly father who rose with effort and determination from a hospital bed 1,300 miles away to join in witness and support. His and my mother’s trembling signatures are the first of some four score on our signed wedding certificate, framed and displayed prominently in our home."
"Many including my parents continue their witness to our marriage from somewhere beyond this life; others who signed as children are now grown to a new kind of witness. Our simple wedding bands are inscribed with what we discerned as the only way a marriage can sustain itself in love: “with Divine assistance.”
~ Gunpowder Friend