Friday, July 13, 2007

Introduction to a Quaker wedding

A couple in our meeting is getting married tomorrow morning. The woman attends our meeting with great regularity and takes an active part in it, though she has not applied for membership. The man also attends, with her, but more regularly worships at an ELCA Lutheran congregation near here. The wedding will be held in that that congregation's building, and it will includesome very Lutheran elements, including organ music, two hymns, an invocation and scripture reading by the pastor. I was asked to welcome the attenders and introduce the Quaker elements of the wedding.

Here is what I plan to say:

I've been asked to say a few words about a Quaker wedding because it is likely to be unfamiliar to many of you. Just as with all true worship, the aim of a Quaker meeting for worship is to experience the presence of God among the assembly of believers, to offer prayer, praise and thanksgiving, and to be taught.

Our Quaker forebears discovered and practiced a radically simple formof worship consisting of regularly meeting together in quiet contemplation without human direction or pre-arranged programming, confident that God is indeed present wherever two or three believers are and will teach them what they need to learn directly and inwardly, often without words at all. We continue to worship in the same way today.

Often, God’s spirit will move one or more of us to minister to the meeting; this ministry, at its best, comes from God, but through the Friend who is called to speak. Ministry may take the form of a vocal prayer, sharing of a personal experience or spiritual insight, a song, a reading of scripture or recital of poetry, or other form of expression. Our conviction and experience is that any worshiper may be called to minister. A message is usually brief. It is not expected to be polished or conventionally eloquent, but should be sincere and intended for the entire meeting.

Today’s wedding will take place in the midst of an otherwise ordinary meeting for worship after the manner of Friends, though with the special purpose of witnessing K and A make their marriage covenant with each other before God. After these opening words, a hymn, and an invocation by pastor B of this congregation, we will settle into a reverent silence. Each of us will then, in our own way, call the Living God to be among us, to witness the promises K and A will make, and to pray that they be given the strength necessary to keep them. When they feel the time is right, they will stand, take each other by the hand, and make their promises aloud in the presence of God and these their family and friends.

They will then sign the certificate of marriage, certifying in writing the promises they have just made. They will return to their seats, and the certificate will be read aloud to the meeting. You are invited to sign it as witnesses to these promises, after the meeting is over. This document is often displayed in a Quaker home as a daily reminder of this happy day and the promises that were made.

We will then continue in free, open worship. During this time, if any of you are moved to offer a message to K and A and the rest of the meeting, please stand if your are able (or raise your hand if you are not) and wait for a microphone to be brought to you so that you can be heard. Please try to leave adequate space after the message of a previous speaker before rising so that we have time to fully appreciate what was said.

When the time seems right, I will signal the transition to the final stage of the wedding by shaking the hand of a person next to me, and you are invited to do the same. We will then conclude with a hymn, after which K and A will leave the room with their families to form a receiving line over yonder. You are then invited to meet them and proceed for refreshments, signing the certificate before doing so.


Robin M. said...

This is lovely. I was called upon once to make a similar explanation for two members of our Meeting, whose families were not familiar with Quaker weddings. Rich Accetta-Evans, the Brooklyn Quaker, provided this service at Chris's and my wedding, for which I am still grateful.

Rich in Brooklyn said...

Thanks for sharing this. It's a very well-written and helpful way to present the Quaker way of marrying.

As Robin said, I had the honor of making a statement something like this at Chris and Robin's wedding ,a joyful occasion in its own right (and also, by the way, a very important event in the history of 15th Street Meeting - for reasons too involved to elaborate on here). Over the years I have done the same at a few other weddings. I love Quaker weddings anyway, and having the chance to interpret them for friends and relatives of the couple makes it even more of a blessing for me.
Sometimes - in order to give a sense to the non-theologically-inclined of what it means to be moved to give a message I have quoted the early Friend who said something like "Mind the promptings of love and truth in your heart, for they are the leadings of God." (not quoted exactly here, but you get the idea). My hope is that this gives permission for non-Quakers to give messages if they truly feel inspired, whether or not they buy into a full-blown Quaker theology.
- - Rich Accetta-Evans
(Brooklyn Quaker

Paul L said...

Thanks, Rich. I'd love to hear some time how Robin's & Chris's wedding was so historic.

The wedding for which this was written went very well. It took place in a Lutheran church, the tradition of the groom. (Both partners are Finnish and have deep Finnish-Lutheran cultural roots, but the bride has been an active participant in our meeting for several years.) Trying to incorporate elements of both traditions was a challenge, especially since our meeting (ministry & counsel) has recently decided to pay more attention to such things and insist on maintaining the integrity of the Quaker worship.

I'm not sure everyone was happy with the balance, but I was satisfied: the wedding started with organ preludes and entry march (which Liz Opp, who sat with me, said "This doesn't really scream11 'Quaker wedding', does it?"); an invocation prayer & reading of I Cor. 13 by the pastor (in his vestments); then the Quaker part; followed by a hymn and recessional march. (My only complaint was that the organist played too loudly to hear the singing. . . .)

I am always worried that non-Quakers will not feel welcome or able to minister, but I can't think of a wedding (or memorial meeting) where the non-Quakers didn't "get it." Yesterday, about half of the speakers were Finns, the other half Quakers, and all of it appropriate. I frankly don't think many people really listen all that closely to the theology part; what they hear is the opportunity to speak, and they run with it.

Chris M. said...

Rich, I'm with Paul. Tell us more, please? I mean, I was there, but we didn't stay much longer, so we kind of missed how it all played out later...

-- Chris M.

Michael Bischoff said...

Hi Paul,

I'm doing the introduction to the meeting for worship at my sister's wedding this month, and I did a search to find other introductions to Quaker weddings. Yours was the first one to pop up. I found it quite useful. Thanks for posting this.


lucy said...

Nice introduction of about "Quaker wedding"...Its very loveable to read all your post...Its a very informative too....Thanks for this loveable post.....

Dallas Valet

HappyAnna said...

Hello, Paul,

Just wanted to add my 'thanks' to those already here - like the poster above, I did a quick web search of 'Quaker wedding introduction' and yours was the first. I anticipate it being very helpful to me in composing my words for my friends Rachel and Sally, who marry in about a week and a half.
Thank you, Friend!
Anna in Birmingham, UK (formerly of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and a big fan of Sacred Harp too)

Richard C. Lambert said...

It is not expected to be polished or conventionally eloquent, but should be sincere and intended for the entire wedding songs

Somerset Spa Girl said...

This is so interesting, I hadn't realised that there were certain practices for Quaker weddings! It seems quite stripped back which probably has a lot of benefits!