Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Marriage @ LHFM

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Marriage at Langley Hill Friends Meeting | Care & Clearness Committee


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Marriage @ LHFM


 Frequently Asked Questions

About Marriage at Langley Hill Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends


How do Quakers celebrate marriage?

You’re thinking of getting married! We at Langley Hill Friends Meeting would like to help you in any way we can. We welcome your inquiries whether you are simply looking for a place to hold your wedding, are interested in exploring whether elements of the traditional Quaker marriage celebration would be meaningful for you, or want to have our Meeting’s support and encouragement over the entire span of your marriage.


Below are answers to questions we frequently receive.

How do Quakers celebrate marriage?


Since the beginnings of Quakerism in the 17th century, Friends have believed that ordinary men and women can hear the voice of God directly when they seek earnestly to do so, without the need of a specially trained and ordained priesthood. In keeping with that belief, they developed a very simple wedding ceremony based on the example and explanation provided by George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. Fox wrote in 1669, “For the right joining in marriage is the work of the Lord only, and not the priests’ or magistrates’; for it is God’s ordinance and not man’s; and therefore Friends cannot consent that they should join them together: for we marry none; it is the Lord’s work, and we are but witnesses.”

In a Quaker wedding, the couple arises out of the silence and simply exchanges vows during a special Meeting for Worship. Following the vows, attenders often break the silence offering prayers, recollections, well-wishes and advices making each ceremony personal and unique to that couple and their community. All those present are called upon to witness this commitment and to lend their support to it in the future.


To Friends, marriage means that two people who love each other wish to enter into a mutual and enduring commitment. The religious dimension of marriage includes an understanding that the couple will humbly seek God’s help to make their marriage an opportunity to practice love and that God is with them and will sustain them. The Meeting, for its part, undertakes to support them in their commitment.


For more information about Quaker Meetings for Worship for Marriage, click here (or go to Appendix 1)


Can we get married in your meeting house without having a Quaker wedding?


Yes, our meeting house is available both for marriages under the Meeting’s care (described more fully below) and for public functions such as weddings that are not directly Quaker in nature.


For information about the facilities available at our meetinghouse, click here (or go to Appendix 2)


What does it mean to be married under the care of Langley Hill Meeting?


Marriage under the care of Langley Hill involves a commitment on the Meeting’s part to support and nurture the couple and their marriage for the rest of the couple’s life together. Because this is a very substantial commitment, the Meeting will usually only undertake the care of a marriage when one or both parties are members of Langley Hill Friends Meeting. For clarification about rare exceptions to this practice, click here (or go to Appendix 3)


The love for one another to which God calls us is always a journey, a work in progress. Marriage involves a mutual commitment to share life, following a path of love together, requiring growth, integrity, and mutual respect. We earnestly advise the couple contemplating this important step and the community that will support them to seek Divine guidance in reaching the decision to marry.

Generally speaking, at least one member of the couple must be a member of the Religious Society of Friends for the Meeting to agree to take the marriage under its care. Exceptions may be granted. Couples are encouraged to discuss this with Care and Clearness. (See Appendix 3.)

When a couple requests marriage under the Meeting’s care, the Meeting appoints three or four people to meet with them to explore their expectations of the Meeting and what Quakers call their clearness in entering into marriage. The entire Meeting then formally accepts responsibility to care for the marriage and appoints a second group of Friends to assist in carrying out the wedding itself. These Friends will continue to be available to support and nurture the couple throughout their married life. After the ceremony, a representative of the Meeting will sign the couple’s Marriage License.



The process of requesting the Meeting’s care for a marriage, meeting with the initial clearness committee, and having the Meeting agree to take the marriage under its care takes time, generally from four to six months, although it can take longer in some cases.


For more information about the clearness process, the Meeting’s decision to care for a marriage, and the role of the marriage oversight committee, click here (or go to Appendix 4)


Does a marriage under the care of the Meeting have to take place at the meeting house?


No. A Quaker Meeting for Worship can be held at almost any location, and the Meeting is happy to work with couples to hold the celebration of their marriage in a place that is appropriate for them.


Is a wedding without a minister legal in Virginia?


Yes, however, Virginia's marriage license requires the Marriage Celebrant, Clergy or Justice of the Peace to certify the marriage by signing the bottom of the marriage license. That form has the pre-printed statement, "I certify that I joined the above named persons in marriage on the date and at the place specified". Our marriage celebrants alter that wording in order to be able to truthfully certify the facts of the marriage. Sometimes a clerk will reject the license.

Fortunately, Virginia law only requires that the signer certify the facts of the marriage. Another law allows a marriage to be recognized by the state as long as a marriage license was issued to the couple, a ceremony took place and they thought they were married. Neither problems with the execution of the marriage license form nor even the licensing of the person performing the marriage is cause for the marriage to be nullified.

Unfortunately, if a clerk rejects the altered form, the additional step of judicial certification is required. Langley Hill couples have received judicial certification in both Fairfax and Arlington County and can provide a statement citing the judicial case when they remit the altered license to clerks in those counties.

Langley Hill is working with legislators to have the form's language modified. Until that is done, the Marriage Celebrant and Care and Clearness Committee will help a couple certify a marriage under the Meeting's care. The court certification of the marriage recognizes the date of the ceremony, not the date of the judicial action.

Another option that some couples choose is to be married in the legal sense at another time and location and to also have a special Meeting for Worship to celebrate the spiritual commitment of marriage.


Will you marry same sex couples?


Yes. We extend to all couples, whether of one sex or two, the same support and care in every aspect of the life of our Meeting. This commitment to equality existed long before the Supreme Court decision extending the right of marriage to all couples.


Can we have a wedding like the ones you describe here without its being under the Care of the Meeting?


Yes, the Meeting would be happy to work with you to incorporate aspects of a traditional Quaker wedding into a ceremony that is right for you. Among other options, the Meeting might hold a special Meeting for Worship in loving support of your marriage though it is not under the Meeting’s care. This option is sometimes chosen by couples who are not members of the Religious Society of Friends or who don’t feel they want the Meeting’s continuing, long-term support for their marriage.

Couples who wish to be married in this manner will need assistance from someone authorized by Fairfax County to sign the marriage license in order for the marriage to be legally recognized. We advise you to discuss your plans with the Justice of Peace to ensure that individual understands your plans and is willing to assist you.

For more information about this and other ways the Meeting might assist you, click here (or see Appendix 5)



Appendix 1: Quaker Meetings for Worship to Celebrate a Marriage


A Quaker wedding is a meeting for worship held at a specially appointed time. As such, it is open to the Meeting community and guests and is under the care of the Meeting. To accomplish that care, a small group of Friends, known as the marriage committee, is appointed by the Meeting  to provide oversight. These Friends will work with the couple to prepare for the occasion.


Usually meetings for marriage are held at the meetinghouse, but they can be held elsewhere.


The marriage committee will take extra care to help the couple with arrangements and coordination with the Meeting community when the wedding worship is held elsewhere. 

The customary form of the meeting is described below, although this, too, can be changed at the discretion of the couple and their marriage committee.

If music is desired, it is often performed during the period when worshipers are gathering. At the appointed time, the marriage committee and the wedding party enter and take their seats. After a few moments of settling, an appointed person rises and briefly explains, for the benefit of anyone present who has not attended a Quaker wedding before, the purpose of the meeting, its nature as a Quaker meeting for worship, and the events that will follow. This information is sometimes also printed in a program or handout given to worshipers as they arrive.


After a significant period of silent worship, the couple stands and, each taking the other by the hand, say their vows to one another. The customary wording for these promises is:


“In the presence of God and these our Friends, I __________________, take thee _______________ to be my husband/wife/partner/spouse, promising with Divine assistance to be unto thee a loving and faithful wife/husband/partner/spouse as long as we both shall live.”


Couples examine this wording during their discussions with their marriage committee, and together they may add to it or change it if desired.


If there are rings, the couple exchanges these after their vows. They then resume their seats and a certificate is placed before them for their signatures. The certificate describes the process that the couple and the Meeting have undertaken to assure that the marriage is well-grounded and the events taking place on the day of the wedding, including the exact wording of the promises the couple have just made to one another. Later, everyone present, including young children, will sign this certificate to indicate that they were witnesses to the wedding and participants in this meeting for worship.


Once the newly married couple signs the certificate, a family member, marriage committee member or special friend reads it aloud so that everyone present hears what it says. The meeting then settles again into worship, during which those moved to speak may do so. The meeting continues until members of the marriage committee indicate its conclusion by shaking hands and inviting others to do so, also. The wedding party then withdraws, after which all wedding guests sign the certificate under the supervision of a designated person. Opportunities to greet and celebrate with the newly married couple usually follow.


For examples of marriage certificates and their wording, click here. [Please link to the online collection Paul found. There will not be a written version of this, though maybe we should print the URL here? ]



Appendix 2: Information about our meetinghouse


Our meeting room (sanctuary) seats 135 people. We have a gathering room/library on the same floor as the meeting room, a kitchen downstairs, and other rooms that can be available for a reception or other needs. Our own parking is very limited (only 15 spaces), but it is often possible to make separate arrangements with the Country Day School next door to park on their property. To check available dates, learn our rental fees, and arrange for a tour of the building, please contact Sheila Bach at

Appendix 3: Exceptions to our usual practice


Although doing so is unusual, the Meeting does sometimes agree to undertake the care of a marriage between two people, neither of whom are members of the Society of Friends. The Meeting’s current “Minute on Marriage under its Care” says that when such a request arises, the marriage clearness committee “has an obvious responsibility to inquire as to the reason why the Meeting’s sponsorship is being sought for the marriage. It may be that one of the couple has been attached to the Meeting as an individual or as a member of a Meeting family, but has never formally requested membership. Acquaintance with a major Quaker testimony or activity may have led one or both parties to feel drawn to the Society of Friends. The Meeting has not set any exact conditions which must be met in determining when its sponsorship is appropriate. Ordinarily we do not feel that a purely historical or ancestral connection with Friends is a satisfactory reason. But a genuine feeling of unity with what our Meeting, or the Society of Friends in general, stands for may certainly arise in any of a number of ways.”


Appendix 4: Additional Information for those considering Marriage Under the Care of Langley Hill Friends Meeting


Marriage under the care of the Meeting establishes a long-term relationship of care and nurture on the part of the Meeting for the couple and the family they become when they marry. Usually the Meeting is only willing to undertake this responsibility when at least one member of the couple is a member of the Meeting. Exceptions may be given. (See Appendix 3.)

Making the Request


A wedding under the care of Langley Hill is both an occasion for the couple to enter into marriage and the Meeting’s act of witness and loving support of this covenant. There are two important implications that flow from this. First, the Meeting needs to be involved in a timely way in the discernment process that leads to taking the marriage under its care. Second, the Meeting needs to accept the responsibility to support the marriage in years to come. The Meeting’s process of deciding to undertake the care of a marriage generally takes four to six months and can take longer.


The formal process of requesting marriage under the care of Langley Hill begins when both parties address a letter to the Clerk of the Meeting making their request. The letter need take no special form except to state that the couple wants to be married under the Meeting’s care. Information such as the hoped-for time of the wedding is useful, but not required. The Clerk will inform the Meeting of the request on the next suitable occasion, usually at the next monthly meeting for business. The couple’s letter will be referred to the Committee on Care & Clearness to consider the request and make a recommendation to the full Meeting. The ultimate decision to undertake the care of a marriage is made by the entire body of the Meeting gathered in a business session, which is normally held once a month.


Couples who want to be married in the meetinghouse are advised also to contact the Building Use Committee as early as possible to make a tentative reservation to use the meetinghouse on the date they have in mind.


Meeting with a Marriage Clearness Committee


Our present practice is for the Care & Clearness Committee to name a subcommittee of two or more members of their committee or other seasoned Friends to meet one or more times with the couple together and possibly separately. These meetings are held in a spirit of loving concern and address issues such as those found in the queries below. These discussions may take several months, and there should not be any feeling of undue time pressure as the group seeks to discern the couple’s sense of clearness.


The following queries come from the guidance offered to Meetings by the regional Quaker body, Baltimore Yearly Meeting:


Spiritual Grounding

• Have you sought Divine guidance in your decision to marry?

• Are you secure in the knowledge that God guides your lives and your plans to establish a home?

• How do you expect your faith to inform your decision making as a couple?

• Do you consider promises made “in the presence of God and these our friends” binding?

• Are you willing to listen together for spiritual guidance when you face a problem without a clear answer?

• How will you make marriage a sacred and lifelong relationship?

• How will you uphold and strengthen the relationship with the passage of time?

• Do you understand and have respect for each other’s religious convictions, whether or not you are in harmony with them?


Being Partners

• Are you aware that one can impose a role expectation on another unintentionally?

• Do you share interests which you can enjoy together? Do you respect each other’s individual interests?

• How will you support each other through times of trial, unexpected life changes, or unfulfilled hopes and dreams?

• How will you balance the needs of your marriage with your friendships and responsibilities outside the home (for example, work, volunteer activities, and education)?

• Are you willing to postpone personal fulfillment if your partner is not ready for what that might entail?

• To become better acquainted with your partner, would it be better to wait longer before marriage?

• Do you have the willingness to listen to each other and to seek openness of communication?


Handling Conflict

• Have you considered together how you will work to reconcile inevitable differences?

• Are you willing to make a strong commitment to permanence in your marriage?

• Are you ready to make adjustments in your personal living to meet, with kindness and understanding, areas of possible conflict?

• Does either of you have emotional or other commitments to a third person which would interfere with this marriage?

• What is so important to you that problems in this area would lead you to consider ending the marriage?



• Have you discussed whether you want to have children? How large a family do you envision?

• What are your expectations about how you will raise, discipline, and educate your children?

• Are you in unity with Friends’ testimonies on simplicity and concerns for the environment and world populations?

• Have you considered together adoption or foster care?

• If either of you has children, have you considered the impact of this marriage on them?



• Do you share each other’s attitudes on earning, spending, saving, and the handling of finances?

• How are family responsibilities to be shared?


Relationship to the Meeting

• What do you anticipate your relationship with the Meeting to be in your life as a couple?

• Will you welcome the continuing concern of the Meeting?

• How could the Meeting support your marriage in the years to come?

• In times of difficulty will you consider asking your Marriage Committee or a clearness committee for assistance?



• What are the views of your families regarding the marriage?

• How do you intend to keep close relations with family members who may live far away, especially in cases of illness or old age?


Additional queries are likely to be added in the case of older, widowed, or divorced Friends.


It occasionally happens that either the couple or members of the clearness committee feel reservations about whether the marriage should take place. In such cases, the committee and the couple need to address the concerns and issues. This situation may require additional time for the clearness process, or taking a break with agreement to come back after some interval. The clearness process sometimes causes one member of a couple to feel uneasy, and in such cases time must be allowed for clearness to emerge.


Next steps once the Clearness Committee’s work is complete


When the marriage clearness committee has completed its work, it reports to the Care & Clearness Committee, which then brings to the meeting for business its recommendation that the marriage take place under the Meeting’s care. This recommendation includes the proposed date and the names of those who will serve on the marriage committee. The Meeting does not usually act on the committee’s recommendation immediately. Rather, the matter lies over for consideration at the next meeting for business so that Friends may use the intervening time to assure themselves of the appropriateness of the action they are considering.


The Marriage Committee


The couple is encouraged to suggest people to serve on the special committee that will oversee their marriage. The Meeting, through the Care & Clearness Committee, will likely also suggest members for this committee to assure that the committee has the resources it needs to assist the couple before, during, and after their wedding. This committee carries the long-term responsibility of expressing the Meeting’s continuing care for the marriage.


The marriage committee works with the couple to plan the details of the wedding itself. Together they make sure that all of the legal requirements are met, such as obtaining a license; arrange for the certificate to be prepared; and decide who will perform such duties as opening and closing the meeting, explaining the meeting for worship to non-Friends who may be present, reading the certificate, directing parking, and other specific duties that may be needed. They also make certain that one of the Meeting’s Marriage Celebrants (people whom Fairfax County has certified to sign the legal forms) is available to attend the ceremony. After the meeting for worship for marriage, the Marriage Celebrant signs the license and mails it to the issuing county. The marriage committee sees that the certificate is recorded in the Meeting’s records and is transmitted to the couple. It also reports to the meeting for business that the marriage has been accomplished in good order.


Members of the marriage committee are available, either as individuals or as a gathered committee, to help the newly married couple whenever the couple wishes to call on them. The committee or its individual members may also from time to time inquire into the state of the marriage if it seems appropriate to do so. These inquiries should be made in the spirit of loving support and friendship. Their purpose is to help the couple adjust to being married and to help them sustain the commitment they have made to each other. In this regard, the entire Meeting stands ready, at any time, to offer its support and counsel to the couple as they work to affirm their marriage.


Appendix 5: Additional Information for those interested in modeling their wedding in the manner of Friends but not having their marriage be under the Meeting’s care


A couple may request a special Meeting for Worship in loving support of a marriage that will not be under the Meeting’s ongoing care. This special meeting for worship will be under the care of an appointed committee, similar to the marriage committee described in Appendix 4.


Couples who ask for this sort of special meeting for worship might be married in the legal sense at some other time and place (for example, at the Registrar’s office). Alternatively, they might arrange for a person with authority from Fairfax County to perform marriages to be present at the Meeting for Worship and sign the marriage license. The Meeting’s role in such marriages is only to work with the couple to plan and carry out the special Meeting for Worship.


If the couple requests it, the Meeting may also arrange for a clearness committee to meet with the couple to help them explore their clearness for marriage, as described in Appendix 4. In such cases, the committee’s function is simply to provide a loving and spiritually-grounded occasion for the couple to consider issues that may help them determine whether they are clear to marry.


A request for a special Meeting for Worship in loving support of a marriage should be made to either the Clerk of the Meeting or the Clerk of the Ministry & Worship Committee. In either case, the request will be referred to the Ministry & Worship Committee, which will work with the couple to understand what assistance the couple would like and whether the Meeting is able to offer it. A request for a clearness committee can be made either to the Clerk of the Meeting or to the Clerk of the Care & Clearness Committee.