Chapter 16 » 16.06

The meaning of marriage

It was important to early Friends 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; since 1977 Friends in Scotland have been able to solemnise their marriages and report them to the district registrar for registration.

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