QUAKER-ROOTS-L ArchivesArchiver > QUAKER-ROOTS > 2000-01 > 0949372528
From: "Dan Treadway" <>
Subject: Re: [Q-R] ITM Question
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000 20:35:28 -0600
Quakers have no clergy, so necessarily their weddings are quite
different from other Christian weddings. Because of this, in the early
days of Quakerism, there was some question whether a Quaker wedding
ceremony was a legal wedding.
It was also the case that in the early days of European settlement in
America, it was possible for a man to leave a wife and family behind,
migrate to America, present himself there as single, and marry again.
And so the Quakers formed the custom of checking whether both the bride
and groom were in fact single, and had not promised themselves to anyone
else, and had the permission of their parents. In the case of a second
marriage, there was also inquiry as to whether the welfare of soon-to-be
step-children was insured. It is a way of doing "speak now or forever
hold your peace" before the actual ceremony.
I am not under the impression that the clearness committee made any
estimate of whether the couple were fit for each other, only whether
they were clear of any obstacles to a legal marriage. (In more recent
times, clearness committees have sometimes attempted to ask questions
designed to help the couple think realistically about the step they have
proposed; I don't know how far back in time this function of clearness
Larry and Licia Kuenning have transcribed the text of an old Quaker book
of discipline on the web at
http://www.voicenet.com/~kuenning/qhp/olddisc/index.html . The section
on marriages is well worth reading for anyone who wishes to understand
how it was for their Quaker ancestors.
The following two paragraphs from that document may serve to give a
sense of its tone:
"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."
Between these two paragraphs, the 1819 Ohio _Discipline_ adds:
"But, as there is tenderness due to children and wards,
as well as to parents and Guardians, it is not to be understood
that marriages are to be prohibited on the improper objections on
the part of the latter, but that Monthly Meetings exercise righteous
judgement in such cases."
postal: P. O. Box 72, Gilbert IA 50105
From: Patricia Oates <>
Date: Monday, January 31, 2000 7:04 PM
Subject: [Q-R] ITM Question
>Could someone on the list please explain why when a couple wanted to
>did the elders of the MM look at this so hard. I know we need some of
>today, but we would like to think our ancestors may have had more
>sense than some of us use today about marriage.
>Still they went through all the meeting to see if they all agreed it
>good match or for what reason did they go to the MM to ask permission
>marry. Usually this is just left up to the parents of couples.
>Pat Oates in TX.
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