Chapter 16 » 16.04

The meaning of marriage

Thomas Ellwood, recalling his own marriage in 1669, wrote of the value of the meeting for worship: ‘We sensibly felt the Lord with us and joining us, the sense whereof remained with us all our lifetime, and was of good service and very comfortable to us on all occasions.’

The basis of a Friends’ marriage remains the same as in the early days of the Society. The simple Quaker wedding where the couple, together with their friends, gather in worship is for Friends the most natural setting for the two concerned to make a commitment to each other in the presence of God. With their declaration they take each other freely and equally as lifelong partners, committing themselves to joining their lives together in loving companionship, asking God’s blessing on their union. Friends have always seen both members of a marriage as ‘equal comrades’ (23.38). With God’s help their love for each other can deepen and change in a lifetime of marriage together.

As a number of those attending the wedding may be unfamiliar with worship based on silence, it is particularly important that there should be a good attendance of Friends who come concerned for the spiritual depth of the occasion. A meeting for worship for the solemnisation of a marriage is held in the same form and spirit as a Friends’ meeting for worship at other times. It is an occasion when those joining in marriage may gain inspiration and help from the meeting, which may continue to be a source of strength to them during their married life. It is also an opportunity for all those who attend the meeting for worship to ask God’s blessing on the marriage and to support the couple in their prayers.

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