Types of Weddings
Quaker weddings are warm, personal, and intimate. No clergy preside at Quaker weddings because Quakers believe that the divine spirit is present in all of us, and that we all are ministers, in a sense.
Guests enter the meeting house and sit wherever they feel comfortable. When all are seated, one person will stand and explain what to expect during the service. There will then be a period of silence, perhaps lasting several minutes. When they are ready, the bride and groom stand and exchange their vows. They then sit down, and another period of silence ensues.
During this period of silence, those present may rise and give their blessings to the couple. When the blessings are finished, the same person who spoke at the beginning of the meeting will “break” the meeting by rising and shaking the hand of someone nearby.
After the wedding, those present are invited to sign the marriage certificate. You need not be a Quaker to sign the certificate.
The reception following the wedding will be considerably less elaborate than the usual wedding reception. Probably, it will also be more personal and homey.
A groom who is a member of the armed forces may opt to be married in uniform. When the groom is in full dress uniform, it automatically makes the wedding formal; thus the bride wears a long dress.
Usually, the groom's attendants are largely in uniform, although some of the ushers may wear civilian dress. Men in uniform do not wear boutonnieres. They do wear military decorations.
At the end of the ceremony, the ushers form the traditional arch of steel under which the bride and groom walk as they leave the ceremony. The saber or sword, as it is called in the navy, is only worn by commissioned officers on active duty.
If the venue permits, the arch may be formed immediately after the bride and groom turn to face the assembled guests inside the building. In this case the head usher calls, “center face,” and the ushers form two lines facing each other on the steps beneath the altar. The next command is “draw swords” or “arch sabers,” and the ushers raise their swords, cutting edge facing up. The bride and groom pass under the arch.
The ushers then join the bridesmaids and leave with them. However, the ushers may walk down the aisle with the bridesmaids and then leave through a side entrance to reassemble outside the building to form another arch. Others members in the wedding party wait just inside the building until the second arch is formed. Civilian ushers can choose to stand beside the military men forming the arch or not.
Same-Sex Weddings and Commitment Ceremonies
Gay couples who celebrate their commitment to each other often send formal invitations and invest as much energy into their ceremony as straight couples. They deserve to be honored as any other couple.
Often the couple dress alike for the ceremony—men might wear matching dark suits and women dress the same color family and perhaps, styles, carrying bouquets.
Guests who do not believe in the sanctity of these unions should not attend and participate—to the degree to which they're comfortable—out of friendship. After all, a commitment is a commitment. Your friendship with the couple should be more important in this case than any disapproval you might harbor. Each of us has curried others' disapproval at one time or another; and we should be big enough to overlook disagreement to honor someone's lifetime commitment to love and respect.
Gift cards and letters of congratulations should wish for a long, happy, and abundant life with each other, and not use the terminology "as husband and wife."
Formal invitations to a commitment ceremony would list the two hosts in alphabetical order, on two separate lines.
More on: Planning a Wedding
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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