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Quaker Marriage Certificates

by Mackenzie

History

old fashioned marriage certificate, with only plain black text and no illustrationIn the early days of Quakerism, only marriage in the Church of England was legal, and cohabitating was not. Consequently, Quakers needed a way to prove they were not unlawfully cohabitating to avoid arrest, and so the tradition became that every person present at the wedding would sign as a witness to the union. Back then, marriage certificates were unadorned black text—a typical legal document.

Today, Quaker weddings are legally recognized, and we get state-issued marriage licenses like everyone else. The tradition remains. Quakers no longer have a prohibition on art (or music…or dancing…), and many Quakers choose to have ornate and artistic marriage certificates hanging in their homes.

The Artist

photo of meHi, I'm Mackenzie. I'm a "convinced Friend" (convert to Quakerism) in Baltimore Yearly Meeting. When one of my first Quaker friends mentioned she was looking for a calligrapher for her marriage certificate, I told her I had been doing calligraphy since elementary school. Making her certificate turned out to be a great idea—at her wedding, I met her brother, my husband! Since that wedding in 2010, I have offered my services online and to local f/Friends and family.

I started practicing calligraphy sometime in the late 90s.