|Horsham Friends Meeting – Horsham, Pennsylvania|
- “Parental consent”: The first step is to obtain consent to marry from both sets of parents. Without parental consent, the Meeting will rarely marry a couple. If the parents are in “agreement” with the marriage, the next step is taken.
- “Intention to marry”: The couple then writes a letter to their Friends Meeting (or Meetings, if they don’t belong to the same Meeting), declaring their intention to marry.
- Business meeting: The clerk of the Meeting(s) reads the letter at the next business meeting (Friends hold “meeting for worship with a concern for business” one First Day [Sunday] of each month), and a “clearness committee” (usually two men and two women) is “appointed.”
- Clearness committee: The committee visits with the couple individually and jointly to ascertain that nothing would interfere with the happiness and permanence of the marriage. (If two Meetings are involved, the overall process can take longer since both Meetings must “investigate” their attendee’s spouse-to-be.) If the committee fears that marriage would not work for one reason or another, it would deny the couple the ability to be married under the care of Meeting. The couple’s options are then to not marry, to work with the Meeting’s elders/overseers/clearness committee until it is agreed that the couple may to marry, or to marry “out of unity” or “contrary to discipline” (meaning be married in a non-Quaker church or by a justice of the peace, etc.—during this time period, the couple would then be disowned by the Meeting*).
- Business meeting: Assuming the clearness committee (or committees) agreed that the couple should be married, that would be reported to the Meeting at the next meeting for business, which would be the following month. The clerk of Meeting would grant the couple permission to marry, and the committee’s next responsibility would be to “see that the marriage is accomplished.”
Bio: Christy Distler lives just outside Horsham, Pennsylvania, which was settled by her ancestors in the early 1700s. She is currently working on a fact-and-fiction novel involving her Quaker family in 1750s Horsham.