To get married among the Quakers, you must write a letter of intent to the clerk of the meetinghouse. If the marriage, actually referred to as a meeting, is approved by the “clearness committee”, the Friends appoint an oversight committee to help with arrangements; it plays much the same role as a wedding party, or even a wedding planner. Both “unprogrammed” and “programmed” weddings exist among Quakers according to the branch, though the former is the better-known style.
At an unprogrammed wedding, there is no officiant, music, or service. The couple and the oversight committee sit on benches facing one another before the guest. All worship silently until the bride and groom stand, hold hands, and exchange their vows. They can write their own vows, but many like the directness and simplicity of the traditional Quaker vows: “In the presence of God and these our friends I take thee (name of spouse), to be my husband/wife, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful husband/wife so long as we both shall live.”
The couple sits down and signs the Quaker marriage certificate, which is then read aloud, after which guests may stand up individually and say a few words to express support for the union. At the end of the meeting, guests turn to one another and shake hands. Everyone in attendance signs the Quaker marriage certificate, making it a most meaningful keepsake for the couple.