Quaker Heritage Press > Online Texts > The Old Discipline > Marriages


It is advised, that all young or unmarried people in membership with us, previously to their making any procedure in order to marriage, do seriously and humbly wait upon the Lord for his counsel and direction in this important concern; and when favoured with satisfactory clearness therein, they should early acquaint their parents or guardians with their intentions, and wait for their consent; thus preservation from the dangerous bias of forward, brittle, and uncertain affections, would be experienced to the real benefit of the parties, and the comfort of their friends. And it is earnestly recommended to Friends, that they tenderly and carefully watch over the youth, and extend seasonable caution and admonition, as occasions may require.

Agreed that all single persons, being about to marry at a distance from home, do take care to procure certificates from the monthly meeting they belong to, of their right of membership, and clearness from any other person in respect to marriage, and also that they obtain the mind of their parents or guardians therein; and that none be permitted to join themselves in marriage until such certificates, and the consent of their parents or guardians thereto, be also signified in person, or by writing, where it is practicable, or may be reasonably obtained.

And no monthly meeting ought to permit any marriages to be proposed in the said meeting, sooner than a year after the death of husband or wife.

It is the sense of this meeting, that if any member do join in marriage with such as are not in membership with us, or in any other way than with the consent and approbation of the monthly meeting, they should be dealt with agreeably to our discipline, and, if not brought to a sense of their error, disowned.

On serious consideration concerning marriages, this meeting being tender in that respect, advises, that no misdemeanor be treasured up, against a person until the time of presenting marriage, and then started, thought perhaps long before done, and known to those who so object to it at that time, which is a wrong thing, and should be checked and discouraged in all meetings.

It is recommended to monthly meetings, that according to the ancient decent practice amongst Friends, they take care that such men and women Friends who make suit or proposals or marriage one to the other, do not dwell in the same house, from the time that they begin to be so concerned, until the marriage is accomplished.

Advised, that marriages be not accomplished in or immediately after any of our monthly meetings, or other meetings of business, or on first days. And it is desired that, on these occasions, Friends in affluent circumstances, particularly, may be careful to set a becoming and encouraging example of moderation; and that all may avoid unnecessarily expensive entertainments and large companies, and especially guard against inviting such as guests, who are unlikely to conform to the order of our religious society.

Let such of our members be admonished, who keep company, in order for marriage, with persons not of our society; or with any bound servants or apprentices, without the leave of their masters or mistresses; or who are either present themselves, or consent to their children being present at marriages of those not in membership, which are accomplished by the assistance of a priest. And where any are present at the marriage of a member, accomplished either by the official interference of a priest, or in any other way out of our comely order, they are to be dealt with, and where they cannot be brought to a sense of their error, let them be testified against.

It is the judgment of this meeting, that where parents or guardians have approved the visits or addresses of a man (a member of our religious society) to any of their children or those under their care, that they do not retract the same, without giving such reasons as shall be satisfactory to the monthly meeting whereto they belong.

For the accomplishment of marriage, it is directed that the following order be observed: If both the parties belong to the same monthly meeting, the men's and women's monthly meetings should be informed of their intentions; and the man at a proper time be accompanied into the women's meeting, by a suitable Friend nominated thereto: there the parties are first to declare, that "With Divine permission, and Friends' approbation, they intend marriage with each other" -- whereupon, two women Friends should be appointed by minute to make the usual inquiry respecting the woman; and then proceeding to the men's meeting, they should repeat (or make) the same declaration there, and two men Friends be in like manner appointed to inquire concerning the man. If the parties have parents or guardians present, their consent should be expressed; or, if the man is a member of another monthly meeting, the consent of his parents, if he have any, should be produced in writing, either then or at the next meeting, with a certificate from his monthly meeting of his clearness from other like engagements. If the woman be a widow having children, two or more friends should be appointed in the meeting of which she is a member, to see that the rights of her children are legally secured. At the next meeting, if the committees report that careful enquiry has been made, and no obstruction to the further proceeding of the parties appears, the meeting is to leave them at liberty to accomplish their marriage according to our rules, and appoint two Friends of each sex, to attend and see that good order is observed.

It is further advised, that the said marriage be accomplished decently, gravely, and weightily; and that the parties themselves, their parents and others concerned, do take care at the houses or places where they go after the meeting is over, that no reproach arise, or occasion of offence be given, by any intemperate or immoderate feasting or drinking, or by any unseemly, wanton, or rude discourses or actions; but that all behave with such sobriety as becomes a people fearing God; and that the company retire to their homes in seasonable time. And if any thing to the contrary is observed, the overseers, or other concerned Friends present, ought as speedily as they conveniently can, to take such aside who make any breach upon good order, and in brotherly love admonish them to a better behaviour; and the said overseers are to make report to the next monthly meeting, whether this advice concerning decency and order be observed, and take care that the marriage certificate be recorded.

The form of which certificate shall be as follows:

Whereas, A.B. of ____, in the county of ____, in ___, son of C.B. of ____ and H. his wife; and D.E. daughter of F.E. of ___ and M. his wife, having declared their intentions of marriage with each other, before a monthly meeting of the religious society of Friends, held at ____, according to the good order used among them [where the parties are under the care of parents or guardians add] and having consent of parents or guardians concerned (as the case is) their said proposal of marriage was allowed of by the said meeting. Now these are to certify whom it may concern, that for the full accomplishment of their said intentions, this ____ day of the ___ month, in the year of our Lord ___, they, the said A.B. and D.E. appeared in a public meeting of the said people, held at ____ aforesaid; and the said A.B. taking the said D.E. by the hand, did, on this solemn occasion, openly declare, that he took her, the said D.E., to be his wife, promising, with Divine assistance to be unto her a loving and faithful husband until death should separate them; and then, in the same assembly, the said D.E. did in like manner declare, that she took him, the said A.B. to be her husband, promising, with divine assistance to be unto him a loving and faithful wife, until death should separate them. And moreover, they, the said A.B. and D.E. (she according to the custom of marriage, assuming the name of her husband) did as a further confirmation thereof, then and there to these presents set their hands.
And we whose names are also hereunto subscribed, being present at the solemnization of the said marriage and subscription, have, as witnesses thereto, set our hands the day and year above written.

A. B.
D. B.

That the marriage of persons too near akin may, as much as in us lies, be prevented, this meeting concludes, that no marriage between first-cousins, nor between a man and his deceased wife's half-sister, shall be permitted among us; and that, where any person or persons so circumstanced shall intermarry, their so doing shall be considered as a relinquishment of their connection with the society, and they be accordingly disowned by the monthly meetings of which they are members. And it is further concluded, that, if any such persons shall afterwards apply to the monthly meeting which disowned him or her for reinstatement, the said meeting is not to accede to the proposed, until the case shall be represented to the quarterly meeting, and its consent obtained, after being well assured that the parties are brought to a due sense of their transgression, manifested by uprightness of life and conversation.

It is advised that parents exercise a religious care in watching over their children, and endeavour to guard them against improper or unequal connections in marriage; that they be not anxious to obtain for them large portions and settlements, but that they be joined with persons of religious inclinations, suitable dispositions and diligence in their business, which are necessary to a comfortable life in a marriage state.

The increase of the breaches of our testimony, in going from amongst us in the weighty engagement of marriage, being often for want of due care in parents, and those who have the important charge of educating the youth under their trust, early to admonish and instruct them in the principles of truth, and impress their minds with the duty of religiously observing them, as much as possible restraining them from such company as is likely to entangle their affections in an improper manner; we therefore tenderly advise Friends in all quarters to an increasing care over the youth, that the consistency of our principles in all respects with the nature of true religion, may be impressed on their tender minds, by upright examples, as well as by precepts; and that where there is apparent danger of the affections of any being improperly entangled, and the care of parents or guardians, or those who have their oversight, appears not sufficient to prevent their taking imprudent steps in the accomplishment of marriage, care be taken timely to apply for the help of their friends.

Monthly meetings are authorised to give forth testimonies of denial against such parents or guardians who consent to, connive at, or encourage the marriages of their children and those under their care (members of our religious society) contrary to the good order established amongst us; if after Christian and brotherly labour with them, they cannot be brought to a due sense of their error, and a satisfactory acknowledgement of the same.

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