"If any of you know cause as to why these two should not be wed..." in real life

In the stereotypical wedding, the officiant addresses the audience and asks that if any person knows any cause as to why the couple should not be wed, they should “speak now, or forever hold their peace.”

  1. Is this as common as pop culture says it is?
  2. When is it socially appropriate to actually speak up and give a reason to stop the wedding? The message I have gotten from living in society is that this phrase is primarily a rhetorical question and/or for formality’s sake, and if someone were to actually raise their hand and say, “Yeah, the groom has a criminal record. I’m afraid he’s going to become abusive.”, then that person has committed a major social faux pas and is second-guessing the entire process, since hopefully the couple will have already discussed this with each other and perhaps with a marriage counselor. Or possibly, is this really only for raising impediments to the marriage? E.g. someone standing up and saying, “Stop the wedding! I was a nurse who took care of the bride when she was a baby, and I actually swapped her for another baby. She’s actually the groom’s sister!”

My understanding is that it’s pretty much been made up out of whole cloth to provide writers with a dramatic and neat method to derail a Bad Marriage. (I’m basing this on the fact that my mother says it wasn’t part of her wedding and I don’t remember it at any of the admittedly few weddings that I’ve been to.)

Not my experience. I’ve heard it at Church of England and registry office marriages alike. It’s definitely in the Book of Common Prayer (which is COE). Don’t know about other denominations.

http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/marriage.pdf - page 424.

It is pretty much rhetorical, and yes, in real life people would probably just not say anything. The only reason I can think of is that one of them is already married, or yeah, if they’re siblings.

I’ve heard it said at every straight wedding I’ve ever gone to, though (perhaps not curiously) not at the gay or lesbian ones.

My oldest brother claims that he once stood up and protested at a female friend’s wedding because he judged her non-Xtian husband unworthy of her. I do not know if this was true; I did not witness it myself. But I can believe he’d seize on such an opportunity to be an ass.

I don’t believe it was said at any of the dozen or so weddings I remember attending. Most of those have been Jewish or Catholic. Most have also been within the last ten years.

Yo the best of my knowledge it’s a legal requirement that it be asked in some jurisdictions. This dates from before requirements for marriage licenses, and served to ensure that opportunity to raise valid legal objections to the proposed marriage have opportunity to be raised.

That said, you’re no doubt right that the majority of actual objections take place in dramatic performances, and it would be the greatest social faux pas to speak up unless you know of a legal impediment that would invalidate the marriage just being joined into ()an extraordinarily rare event).

My understanding is that it used to be a formal part of a christian wedding, but is usually skipped nowadays.

…which is a shame. A few seconds of nervous silence would probably be the highlight of the wedding for me. It would be great to stand up…only to adjust my trousers and sit down again :smiley:

This isn’t an answer, but a piggybacking idea:

I’ve come to think of that phrase almost representing the opposite: The “forever hold your peace” part being a binding command on all in attendance to respect the contract that the couple is entering into and let go of animosity or desires that might lead them (members of the audience) to try to break the marriage up later. The idea being that the marriage is a social unit, part of the larger social group represented by the families and friends in attendance and just as the couple has a responsibility to each other, the loved ones in attendance have a duty to support them in their relationship, or at least not actively sabotage it. Sort of “if you sat here and witnessed this marriage, you have to respect it as long as it holds”.

Of course that depends on the audience all looking at the officiant as a person of authority, and on notions of marriage as a social contract that not everyone holds.

Did I make this up out of whole cloth?

This. It’s a social construct that all in attendance be in agreement. If you aren’t, and you sit on your hands and keep your yap shut, then you can’t bitch about it later. By your silence (and your attendance) you agree to support the union.

Everyone who has seen a particular episode of *Everybody Loves Raymond *knows that it’s not always taken rhetorically.

I’ve heard it at all the Church of England weddings I’ve been to in the last few years. Possibly a variant of it in Catholic ceremonies. I can even quote it verbatim (from the top of my head so I may have something wrong):

If anyone knows of any just cause or impediment why these two people may not be joined together in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Anecdotal I know, but when my step-son got married in October, they didn’t say it. I know because my husband was just waiting for his chance…

I usually know the Bride and Groom in weddings I attend. If I knew something disreputable about either of them I would have spoken to the other one before they had got this far along.
Thats why I don’t get invited to many weddings!

Can you give any specifics? I’ve never heard of a state mandating wording for a wedding. I don’t even see how it could be legal.

From a prior thread here (although I can’t remember which thread), I think it’s related to publishing the banns of marriage, which are meant “to enable anyone to raise any canonical or civil legal impediment to the marriage, so as to prevent marriages that are invalid. Impediments vary between legal jurisdictions, but would normally include a pre-existing marriage that has been neither dissolved nor annulled, a vow of celibacy, lack of consent, or the couple’s being related within the prohibited degrees of kinship.”

I’d think that the biggest reason that one would object is if one were aware that either the bride or the groom was already married.

Here, when you apply for the licence (no less than one month and one day before the ceremony), you sign off on a statement that says you know of no legal impediments to the marriage, and that takes the place of the callout in the vows.

The Episcopal Church, the American offshoot of the Church of England, has the same question - but it is asked not only of the congregation, but of the happy couple themselves. I’ve heard this done many times. From the Book of Common Prayer, Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage, p. 424:

Into this holy union [names of the bride and groom] now come to be joined. If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace.

Then the Celebrant [bishop or priest] says to the persons to be married

I require and charge you both, here in the presence of God, that if either of you know any reason why you may not be united in marriage lawfully, and in accordance with God’s Word, you do now confess it.

I always got the impression that it started out as an opportunity for some offended parent or busybody to stand up and demand that the marriage be stopped because “she’s a wanton slut!” or “he’s a filthy Protestant/Catholic” or some such objection, and over time it evolved into what you say.

And, it is important for community cohesion that improper marriages not take place, as having a couple unit come together and then break apart is destabilizing (compared to the couple never marrying in the first place) so, again assuming that we’re considering the social contract aspect here rather than true love etc, it’s pretty important for objections that are known beforehand to be voiced beforehand, rather than waiting till there are kids in the picture and such to say “Oh wait, actually he’s got another wife two towns over - I just couldn’t find the right time to tell you before you jumped the broom! Sorry about that…”

So the question in the ceremony is like a last chance - is what you know a dealbreaker? If so speak up, if not forget about it and do your best to help your loved one’s marriage work, for the sake of your community. It’s like a pre-emptive admonishment to meddling in-laws.

I sure wished that someone would have stood up at my first wedding and warned, begged and pleaded with me to not do it. In fact they should have brought up a full length mirror to the alter. I would have looked at it and seen my bride had no reflection and saved myself a hell of a ride. But no one had the stones to do so. Hmmmppphhhhh :smiley: