Janelle's Quaker wedding

53.jpgThe offbeat bride: Janelle, writer

My offbeat groom: Matt, professor

Location & date of wedding: Forest and backyard behind my parents' house in Battle Ground, WA; July 21, 2001

What made our wedding offbeat: We had a Quaker ceremony. Everyone sat facing one another in a circle, holding silence until moved to speak. In the Quaker tradition, there are no ministers as they believe all are equal before god. This means that everyone at your wedding is considered an officiant — anyone can talk during the ceremony, everyone signs the wedding certificate. [If you're interested in some background, you can read about Quaker weddings over here. -Ed.]
ceremony.jpgMy best friend from childhood wrote the music for the processional and recessional, which was played by a professional string quartet (set up on the creek-bank).

After the wedding, we all walked up to the deck behind my parents' home for food, liquor and dancing. My husband was in sandals, I was barefoot, and the food was delicious. We danced to music we'd burned onto CDs, and had ice cream cake as our wedding cake.

We had no posed photographs at our wedding — that has always been my least favorite part of any wedding. Instead, we hired an amazing photographer who specializes in candid shots /photojournalism. Our pictures were FANTASTIC. Everything looked genuine and unstaged and exactly as I remembered it. (He even caught the dog stealing a sample of the cake.)

Our biggest challenge: My family (the bride's, that is) is very conservative and very Christian. My husband is a Buddhist, and his family is not terribly religious. Finding a way to include everyone without offending anyone was tricky. The Quaker ceremony was perfect — my parents could say whatever they wanted to make it "real" for them, and so could everyone else. A good portion of the ceremony (like most Quaker services) was in silence, which provided the feel of meditation as well.

cat.jpgMy favorite moment: During the early part of the ceremony, when most people were still feeling uncomfortable with the silence and not sure how to relax, my parents' cat jumped up on someone's lap and started walking from lap to lap to lap. Everyone tried not to laugh — until I cracked up. Then everyone got giggling. The cat ended up walking across about fifteen people before hopping down and moving off to other pursuits. We were all giggling for a few minutes, and it broke all the tension that had been there and set exactly the right mood for the rest of the ceremony and reception.

I picked three and only three things to have perfect. Everything else I either delegated or refused to allow myself to get stressed/worked up/involved with.

My offbeat advice: The best advice I got was to pick three and only three things to want to have perfect. I chose photography, my dress, the music. Everything else I either delegated or refused to allow myself to get stressed/worked up/involved with.

The best advice I can give is to just have fun. We had such a blast at our wedding, and that's all either of us wanted.

Enough talk — show me the wedding porn: Take in the beauty of this quiet backyard wedding.

Tell me all about your offbeat wedding!

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  1. My Quaker wedding is this Saturday…but it's a little different, since it is being held in a Meetinghouse under the care of a Meeting, and both my partner and I are Quakers. But it felt very seridipedous to see a Quaker wedding here today!

    1 agrees
  2. I had the privilege of attending my first Quaker wedding last August in NC. It was one of the more beautiful and family-oriented ceremonies I'd ever been to. The lack of music contributed in a weird way to the beauty of the opening procession, and I loved the "speak when you are moved to do so" mantra. And at the end, everyone in attendance got to sign the marriage certificate. I loved it!!

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  3. i'm so excited to read about this wedding (& see the pictures). i'm considering a quaker style wedding as neither of us are religious, but i like the spiritual aspect & how encompassing it is to various beliefs.
    (also, i will have someone sing "annie's song" at my wedding, too…great minds!!)

  4. I am on the oversight committee for a Quaker couple who are getting married next month. I am preparing a little sign to put with fabric for Friends to write on for a wedding quilt remembrance. I found your site quite by accident but am thrilled to have done so. Reading your account helps me center. Maybe now I can really be with them in spirit in the weeks that lead up to their wedding.

    The couple who is marrying, by the way, are in their sixties.

  5. has anyone had luck finding lovely, simple quaker wedding certificates? I keep finding things full of fruit and celtic knotting–perfect if it's your thing, but it's not ours.

    many thanks–and congratulations on a gorgeous, gorgeous wedding.

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  6. Your wedding sounds as if it was the personal ceremony which reflected your unique situation Lovely.

    .Was your wedding under the care of a Quaker meeting in WA? Our family is considering a WA wedding but neither is Quaker. They want to have the service be Quaker -like, write their own vows, marry themseves, etc.
    Can couples in WA be married with a Quaker license?
    (I am from "back East")

  7. Hi. I have been attending Quaker meetings since I was five years old. When I became 15 I realized I wanted to become a member. I would like to have a Quaker wedding. I was curious in what type of dresses did you use. Is it acceptable to wear something traditional? I would love a nice flowy dress…but I am worried if that is shocking…

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  8. My FH and I are also considering adding in the Quaker style because we have lots of people coming from lots of backgrounds and want to include them all. I also love the idea of being able to speak when called, but only speaking when called. How many people did you have at your wedding?

    1 agrees
  9. I live in Pennsylvania so a Quaker wedding is something to think about. Both our families are Christian but we are not so I like this idea a bunch. That way we don't have to worry about getting a Catholic priest (I'd have to convert and I'm not stepping foot inside a church!) OR a baptist preacher. I was thinking non-denominational, gay-friendly officiant but I would really rather leave God out of it.

    And I believe the cat was stating his approval of the ceremony ­čÖé You are truly blessed!

    1 agrees

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