Chapter 16 » 16.12

The meaning of marriage

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, as laid out in 16.2616.32 & 16.3716.40 below. 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.

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