We joyfully embrace the full spectrum of the light within, made visible through the participation of people of all beliefs, cultures, backgrounds, abilities, ethnicities and races, sexual orientations, and gender identities.
A central emphasis in the life of the Society of Friends is the quality of human relationships-with the underlying assumption that through love people can live fruitfully together in harmony and joy. In our Meetings we are constantly seeking to broaden and deepen our human relationships, with all their creative potential. Since marriage, based on mutual love, is the central adult relationship for so many Friends, we have in marriage a powerful opportunity to demonstrate what we stand for and seek to proclaim to the wider world.
Marriage is regarded by Friends as a religious commitment undertaken with Divine assistance. When two persons make their vows to each other in the presence of God and their friends, they take one another as life-long partners, promising to be loving and faithful to each other. Implicit in this promise is the faith that as disagreements and difficulties arise, they can, with God's help, be resolved.
We regard an ideal union as a relationship in which each partner affirms the self-worth of the other and provides unstinting support and encouragement for intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth. We also realize that marriages can go through periods of stress and difficulty, some more than others. Couples should feel free to turn to the Meeting for assistance and counsel. The Meeting, in its turn, should help find loving and feasible solutions, and should help provide couples with ongoing opportunities to examine and enrich their marriages and thus help avoid or reduce potential conflicts. Some unions may reach a point where loving affirmation and growth are no longer possible in the context of that relationship. In such cases, the most loving solution may be separation. In these situations, a couple who wed under the care of the Meeting is requested to inform the Meeting if their union is dissolved.
While the Meeting is committed to finding ways of being supportive of all couples who live together in love, this document has the specific focus of providing guidelines to a couple seeking to be united under the Meeting's care and to the members of the committees appointed to determine marriage clearness and wedding oversight.
Marriage under the care of the Meeting implies that the Meeting will provide ongoing nurture for the marriage and for both partners. For this reason, it is expected that at least one partner be a member or familial member of the Religious Society of Friends and anticipate an active, ongoing relationship with the Chapel Hill Meeting and/or the Religious Society of Friends.
Couples who are both attenders, rather than members, or who do not expect a long-term connection to this Meeting are encouraged to consider a marriage "after the manner of Friends." Couples choosing this process may call upon the Meeting membership for guidance in their intended wedding and marriage if they so desire. Requests can similarly be addressed to the Clerk. If the couple wishes their marriage "after the manner of Friends" to constitute a marriage under North Carolina law, a minister or other official chosen by the couple must sign the marriage license and certificate.
Because the union of two persons affects their family members and trusted friends in important ways, a couple should inform them of their intentions as early as possible. The procedures outlined below provide for a period of thoughtful consideration and planning which normally takes three or four months.
A. MARRIAGE PROCEDURES
To be united under the care of the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, it is necessary to secure its approval at a meeting for worship with attention to business. This should be requested at least three months before the preferred wedding date. The request should be in writing, signed by both persons, stating their intention. It should note their present and likely future relationship with this meeting and the Religious Society of Friends. The letter should indicate that the couple has considered the questions given in Section B (Queries and Advices for Marriage Under the Care of the Meeting) and others arising from them, and are asking for the Meeting's oversight of the wedding and its continuing loving concern for their union. The letter of request should be addressed to the Meeting in care of the Clerk. The Clerk should promptly forward the request letter to the Care and Counsel Committee.
Care and Counsel will appoint four Friends, at least two of whom are from Care and Counsel, to inquire concerning the clearness of the couple for marriage. This clearness committee should consider with the couple issues raised in Section B and report to Care and Counsel, which may recommend to the subsequent Monthly Meeting for Business that the Meeting oversee the wedding.
If the monthly meeting approves, a wedding oversight committee is appointed to arrange the meeting for worship during which the couple will marry. This wedding oversight committee sees that the wedding is carried out in a dignified and spiritual way in keeping with the manner of Friends and fulfills all legal requirements. It is composed of four or more people, at least two of who are members of the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting. At least one Care and Counsel member from the marriage clearness committee will also be a member of the wedding committee. The other members of the wedding committee are customarily selected by the couple as suitable to this duty. The wedding ceremony takes place during the appointed meeting for worship.
Those appointed to both the marriage clearness committee and the wedding oversight committee should also accept a personal responsibility for representing the Meeting's continuing concern for the union and should, as far as possible, remain in touch with the couple following the wedding.
B. QUERIES AND ADVICES FOR UNION UNDER THE CARE OF THE MONTHLY MEETING
The covenant of marriage is solemn in its obligation and fundamental in its social significance. Therefore the couple considering marriage under the care of a Friends Meeting should discuss honestly and frankly with each other the duties and responsibilities assumed in marriage and in establishing a home. Questions such as the following may be helpful and are not meant to be exhaustive or applicable to all couples.
Does either of us have entanglements-legal or emotional-that would make it impossible to enter freely into this relationship?
Have we considered the traditional roles of husband and wife, our attitudes toward them and toward modern variations? Are we aware that one can impose role expectations on another without being aware of it? Is there clearness for retaining or changing our names and the names of children?
Do we know each other's habits, likes, and dislikes? Are we ready to make adjustments in our personal living to meet areas of possible conflict with kindness and understanding?
Are we willing to listen to each other and to seek openness of communication?
Are our attitudes and expectations concerning sex compatible?
Do we want children? What is our attitude toward family planning? If either of us has children from previous marriages, have we considered issues involved in blending our families?
If one or both of has been married before, have we considered the effects of that on our current relationship?
Do we understand and have sympathy for, if not harmony with, one another's religious convictions?
How do we feel about each other's economic and cultural background? Have we discussed continuing friendships and their significance for our fidelity in marriage?
Do we share each other's attitudes on earning, spending, and saving money? How will the finances be handled? Do we have a financial plan for the next several years? If either has current debts, how will these be resolved?
Do we share interests that we can enjoy together? Do we respect each other's individual interests? - - Do we like each other's friends?
Have we given due consideration to the feelings of our friends and families with regard to our intended marriage?
If our marriage falls outside the legal definition, have we discussed our arrangements for property, insurance policies, and other legal matters?
Have we considered together how we will work to reconcile inevitable differences? Are we willing to make a strong commitment to permanence in our union?
Do we seek the guidance of God in our lives and our plans to establish a home?
Do we know each other well enough to have considered all of the above questions frankly and openly? If not, should we wait-6 months, a year-before proceeding with marriage?
When the couple has seriously considered the above questions and others arising from them, they may agree to ask the Monthly Meeting to oversee their wedding. The following additional questions should be considered in planning that step:
Why are we asking the approval and oversight of the Meeting? Are we aware that oversight of our marriage by the Meeting involves a continuing concern for our life together and the values established in our home? Do we want this level of loving concern from the Meeting?
How significant to us are the promises we make in the presence of God and of family and friends during the meeting for worship?
C. DUTIES OF THE MARRIAGE CLEARNESS COMMITTEE
These Friends should meet privately with the couple in a spirit of loving concern, engaging in unhurried exploration of the readiness and clarity of the couple's intent to marry one another. The clearness committee can use the queries in Section B, as well as any other questions the couple or committee members may have. The committee will need to meet apart from the couple and may also want to meet with each member of the couple individually to gain clarity before making any decision whether to recommend that the couple be united under the care of the Meeting.
If the clearness committee does not recommend marriage under the care of the Meeting, it may explore other alternatives with the couple, such as a period of delay before reconsideration, or marriage "in the manner of Friends" but not under the care of the Meeting.
If the clearness committee does recommend marriage under the care of the Meeting, it will discuss the procedures of a Quaker wedding, including the nature of the meeting for worship during which the wedding will take place, the customary wording of the promises, the wedding certificate and how to procure it, and the process of obtaining a marriage license.
The clearness committee will also explain the functions of the wedding oversight committee with whom the couple will discuss the arrangements for the wedding itself and any reception following. - The couple may suggest names for the wedding oversight committee. There should be no fewer than four persons on this committee, of whom at least two are members of the Chapel Hill Friends Meeting, and one from Care and Counsel from the marriage clearness committee.
The clearness committee will ask the couple for a written statement about their desires for a wedding and reception. This process will help the couple and the committee determine the best selection of a marriage committee for them. They will include in this statement the wording they would like to use for their vows.
The clearness committee will then prepare a written report, including the proposed wedding date. At the earliest opportunity, this report will be presented to the Care and Counsel Committee for its consideration. If Care and Counsel approves the committee's recommendation, the report will be presented to the Monthly Meeting for Business for careful consideration and action. The couple will be informed of the date of this meeting.
If the Monthly Meeting approves the proposed marriage, the member of the clearness committee who presented the report will then read the couple's statement about their desires for the wedding and reception. This can serve as an introduction to the selection of the wedding oversight committee who will assist the couple in carrying out their wishes. Volunteers for the wedding oversight committee must consider their own limitations and the time available to assist the couple. They should understand that the function of the wedding oversight committee is to help and support, to coordinate and make arrangements with the couple for their marriage.
In the years following the wedding, members of the marriage clearness committee (along with those of the wedding oversight committee) should continue to represent the Meeting's concern for the union. Among other things, they should encourage the couple to call upon this or some other clearness committee for counsel should they want it, whether the counseling desired be problem-oriented or simply nurturing.
D. DUTIES OF THE WEDDING OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE
As soon as appointed, this committee should make clear to the couple its availability before, during, and after the wedding to help them, and its responsibility to express the Meeting's continuing care for the union. They should meet with the couple to discuss the following:
Who should open and close the meeting.
Whether there will be many non-Friends at the wedding and, if so, what initial explanation of the meeting for worship would be appropriate and who should make it. This may include a brief description of a Friends' wedding to be inserted in the invitation.
Who should read the certificate. (The person need not be a member of the Meeting or of this committee.)
The number of attendants and special seating arrangements, if desired, for families and friends of the couple.
The committee should also determine whether the couple has complied with the advice of the Friends who earlier discussed with them their clearness for marriage. This includes:
Reviewing the legal requirements, if applicable, making sure that the marriage license has been secured, that needed signatures can be obtained on the license, and that all legal requirements will be met.
Confirming the wording of the vows which the couple will repeat and the wording of the certificate, and making sure that the wedding certificate is being prepared.
Verifying the availability of the meeting house (if the wedding is to be there) for the time and date of the wedding.
The committee will explain to the couple the Quaker regard for reverence, dignity, and simplicity; request that photographs not be taken during the meeting for worship; and express the Meeting's hope that simplicity will also be observed at any reception held. They will remind the couple that any meeting for marriage is open to all who wish to come and worship. They will also:
Ensure that weights for the certificate, pens with permanent ink, and a convenient portable table are available and someone is appointed to assist those present to sign the certificate after the wedding.
Check the suitability of proposed decorations, music, or any arrangements desired by the couple which affects the basically unprogrammed nature of a Friends' meeting for worship.
Verify that the person selected to read the certificate has had an opportunity to see and read it in advance.
The wedding oversight committee can share information that Care and Counsel have collected regarding appropriate caterers and equipment rental companies for use in planning the reception after the wedding. Information about different venues appropriate for receptions (Carolina Friends School, hotels, etc.) will also be available. The committee will verify with the couple that they carry the financial responsibility for all expenses incurred for the reception.
After the ceremony, the wedding oversight committee will, where appropriate:
Obtain the following signatures needed for the North Carolina marriage license: the groom, the bride, the clerk ("officiate"), and two witnesses; and on the back, four Meeting members (often also members of the Care and Counsel Committee).
Deliver or mail both copies of the license to the register of deeds within 10 days after the marriage ceremony.
Deliver a copy of the license to the Meeting's recorder.
Report to the Monthly Meeting concerning the accomplishment of the marriage in good order, reverence, and moderation; and that the legal requirements have been satisfied. If any name changes have effected, these are reported for entering in the minutes of the Monthly Meeting and into the Meeting records.
E. THE WEDDING CERTIFICATE
Marriage certificates are available in the Meeting files. If the couple prefers to make other arrangements for obtaining their certificate, they are free to do so. Certificates should be approved by the wedding committee to be sure that they include the marriage date, the name of the Meeting, the names of the couple being united, their vows and signatures, and the signatures of all those present.
F. THE CUSTOMARY VOWS
The customary wording of the vows is:
"In the presence of God and these our friends, I ___________ take thee __________ to be my husband/wife/partner, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife/husband/partner as long as we both shall live."
Some couples may wish to propose alternative wording. Any proposed substantive changes should be approved by the marriage clearness committee.
G. THE CUSTOMARY SEQUENCE OF EVENTS AT A QUAKER WEDDING IN THE CHAPEL HILL MEETING
If music is desired, it may be played or sung during the period when Friends are gathering.
After a few moments of settling, the appointed person should rise and briefly explain, for the benefit of non Friends present, the purpose of the meeting, its nature as a Quaker meeting for worship, and the events which will follow.
The meeting then settles into silence during which those moved to speak may do so. After an appropriate interval, the couple should rise, face each other, and join hands. In sequence, each recites the vows to the other.
If there are rings, the couple exchange these after the vows.
The couple signs the certificate, and it is read aloud.
The meeting settles again into worship, during which those moved to speak may do so, until the meeting is closed by the person designated.
All wedding guests are then invited to sign the certificate, reserving spaces, if desired, for family and Care and Counsel members.
Minor variations in this procedure are fairly common, but should be discussed in advance with the wedding oversight committee.
H. SATISFYING THE LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A MARRIAGE IN NORTH CAROLINA
Couples whose marriage under the care of the Meeting conforms to the legal definition of marriage in North Carolina should be certain that they have complied with the following requirements to assure a valid marriage under North Carolina law. Before you apply for a license:
Obtain a health certificate from a physician or local health department.
Remember that the health certificate is good for only 30 days; the license must be obtained before the certificate expires.
f you are under 18, obtain the consent of your parent, guardian, or custodian.
Obtain a certified copy of your birth certificate or birth registration card, in case it is required.
Present the health certificate, consent, (if required), and the appropriate fee to the register of deeds in the county where you plan to be married, and apply for a license.
Present the duplicate Application, License and Certificate of Marriage form to the wedding oversight committee.
Plan for the marriage to be performed in the county in which the license was issued and within 60 days after it was issued.
In addition, the wedding oversight committee should assure itself that the appropriate legal requirements have been complied with regarding the marriage license as laid out in Section D above.
I. DUTIES OF THE MONTHLY MEETING
A caring relationship is established between the Meeting and the couple when that couple marries under the care of the Meeting. The relationship is strengthened when as many members and attenders as possible fulfill their responsibility to attend the wedding. In addition, the Meeting should actively seek to nurture all couples by providing ongoing opportunities to examine and enrich their union and thus help prevent or reduce potential breakdowns of relationships. It is expected that the Care and Counsel Committee will make contact with the couple at least twice in the first year of marriage, suggesting that a meeting be arranged between the couple and at least two members of the original marriage clearness and wedding oversight committees.