What’s it like to be at the center of a Quaker wedding? We talked with 5 couples about their experience.
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Barry Scott: If you would imagine the most comfortable you’ve ever been in your life, the most comfortable time you’ve ever had in your experience as a human being… that is the space of being that couple at the center. I felt loved, affirmed, held, challenged… and at the same time I was feeling that from a bunch of folks, I was also sharing that with the person that I was most caring about in the world. So it was like, “Oh please don’t have this stop! I don’t want this to stop. This could just go on.”
Our Quaker Wedding
Hannah Mayer: My name is Hannah Mayer, I live in West Philly, and I got married on May 26th, 2018 in a Quaker wedding.
Eric Peterson: My name is Eric Peterson, I live in West Philly, and I got married on May 26th, 2018. We had a Quaker wedding.
Ruth Morisson: We got married on September 21st a few years ago, 2013, here in Richmond, Virginia at the Richmond Friends Meeting and I think there were probably just over a hundred people.
James Hickman: Little over a hundred people in attendance.
Michael Crumley-Effinger: We were married on July 2nd, 1977. Our wedding day was at Stephanie’s dad’s church. She’s a preacher’s kid.
Barry Scott: We got married in the worship room at the Race Street Meetinghouse at Central Philadelphia Monthly Meeting on May 26th, 2001.
Wendy Wadsworth: In the Fall of 1991 we decided we wanted to commit to each other at Richmond Friends Meeting, our home and we wrote a letter to our families stating that our oversight committee and we decided to commit to each other together on July 4th, 1992 at our spiritual home, the Richmond Friends Meeting.
Frances Stewart: I think she said it all.
The Quaker Approach to Weddings
Frances Stewart: The simplicity of it really spoke to me. You don’t have to have a big reception, you don’t have to decorate a huge hall. Those kinds of things I appreciated. But the heart of what we Quakers do in a marriage, in a memorial service, is we speak inspired by God out of the silence.
Hannah Mayer: I think there are a lot of different things that can set a Quaker wedding apart. The thing that is most exciting to me is that there’s nobody in charge. A Quaker couple is married by themselves and the whole community gathered there together. There’s nobody saying, “I declare you spouses.”
James Hickman: As we invited our friends and family to the ceremony, Ruth sent links to information so that they would understand a little bit of what was going on. I talked to some folks as they were reading it and they were really struggling to understand how this was going to be a ceremony without someone leading the ceremony. I think 90%, I would guess, of our attendees had no idea, had never experienced anything like it.
Inviting Friends and Family into a Sacred Space
Vanessa Julye: When we sent out invitations, for people who were not Quakers we got a little brochure that talks about Quaker weddings so that they could have some idea of what was going to happen in addition to the explanation that happens from the person who has “care of meeting” during the wedding.
Frances Stewart: We each wrote our parents and families a letter trying to explain what we wanted to do, where we wanted to do it, how the Quakers fit it and sent it around Thanksgiving time, expecting that we were going to have our wedding all the way around in July, July 4th… so we thought we would give them lots of time to get used to the idea.
Mixing Unique Elements
Eric Peterson: We had kind of an unorthodox ceremony, I think. We selected people from our families to ask us questions. We didn’t know what these questions would be. We did that in order to get people bought in to the feeling of what our marriage was like for us.
Barry Scott: Vanessa’s uncle was able to be here and have his family here and one of the things that they brought to it was African drumming at the beginning of the service or during people entering the worship space, and so we were outside of the worship space before the meeting in worship and preparation and we could hear the sound of drums.
Vanessa Julye: For me, it was a part of my African-American heritage, being able to have the drums call because that’s part of what drums are used for is communication, so it was like having the drums calling the community together to be here to help us celebrate our marriage.
Stephanie Crumley-Effinger: One of the things we did was we greeted people at the door, which people were a little startled by. “Don’t you know it’s bad luck for the bride and groom to see each other?” Nah, we don’t believe that. And so there’s was a sense of welcoming people in and of the gathering of community.
Being the Center of Focus
Frances Stewart: I felt kind of awe-struck. It felt monumental, very important to have… it was a large turnout. A lot of our friends from the gay community came, many people from the meeting came.
Wendy Wadsworth: I was super nervous. I was so nervous. I mean, I just—the details, was it going to work? My parents sitting over there, I was like, “holy cow.” I could hardly breathe. I was just very, very nervous.
Hannah Mayer: I think this probably happens across religious traditions, but walking into that room of gathered people, that was when I first caught my breath. And settling into that worship, you know all of these people are thinking of you together as a couple and praying for you and hoping their biggest hopes for you.
Frances Stewart: What I’ve noticed in meeting and is true for me is I shuffle my feet and out of the corner of my eye over here I caught my father shuffling his feet, and he had been the one in the family who was hardest to get on board, and he stood and he said, “Well, as the self-appointed head of the Stewart clan, I want to say God bless.” and that just meant everything to me.
Hannah Mayer: I think it changes something. I think that meeting for worship changed something in our relationship.
Eric Peterson: Absolutely. I would say our wedding changed my life. That moment where everyone is paying attention to you and giving you their full love, I think it made me more confident in myself. All these people are in my corner.
Ruth Morrison: You know, the weeks after people ask you, “So how was it? How was the ceremony?” and this and that. And your line was that you should really do this more often. Don’t wait until you die to get your whole community together to talk about you.
James Hickman: That’s the only time I’ve really seen anything quite like this is at a funeral, and it’s always a shame that you wait until after they’re gone and everyone wants to talk about what that person meant to their lives, but to have these people stand up and speak on that type of level, I got a lot of energy from that, and a lot of strength to the relationship.
- Have you been to a Quaker wedding? What was your experience like?
- Some of the Friends in the video shared ways that they customized their Quaker wedding ceremony. If you were to have a Quaker wedding, what cultural or religious elements might you add to it to make it feel more personal?
The views expressed in this video are of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views of Friends Journal or its collaborators.