Stop That Wedding!

I had a dream about my friend’s upcoming wedding last night and it lead me to wonder about the little tradition of saying,

“If anyone has just cause why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

When did this begin? Who decided to throw this wet blanket, disclaimer type line into a beautiful, joyous ceremony? Do they do this around the world? In other religions and cultures?

Aside from being a great vehicle for dramatic movie moments, it seems useless as no one would dare actually stand up and yell “I Love You Jarbaby! Don’t Do It!”


I don’t know the answer to any of the questions in the OP, but I do remember one thing: when I was in college preparing for the ministry, we were taught to delete that line from the ceremony unless the couple specifically asked for it.

[funny story]My professor told our class about one guy who was performing a wedding in his first year of ministry. He had forgotten the professor’s advice not to include that line, and he asked it anyway. “Does anybody have any reason why these two should not be married?” Someone in the audience raised their hand :eek:! Thinking on his feet, the young minister asked, “OK. Does anyone else have any reason why these two should not be married?” hee hee hee :stuck_out_tongue: [/funny story]

My Reverend Mother (That’s my mom, the Reverend, not a Sister Superior) explains it this way:

In the days of yore, when not every village could suuport their own priest, there were travelling and circuit priests.
The circuit priests could be counted on to have a fair knowledge of their various flocks, but the travelling priests would be frequently unaware of who was related to whom. While the circuit priest could be (mostly) relied upon to stop incestous marriages, if the villiage elders had determined that a couple should be married (various reasons: ‘Family Way’; keeping land in the villiage; preventing land from being split too many ways; the couple was a particularly good match; etc.), they would wait for a travelling priest to conduct the wedding. The ‘Speak Now…’ bit was the priest giving everyone one last chance to ‘come clean’ before doing the irrevocable.

I’ve only heard it said at one wedding I’ve been to, a very traditional – straight from the Book of Common Prayer – Episcopal wedding at a beautiful 18th Century church in semi-rural Pennslvania.

As I recall, it was not phrased quite as coldly as: “If anyone has a reason . . . speak now or forever hold your peace.” Rather, it seemed to me to be in the interest of getting community/congregation buy-in to the wedding – that everyone there will accept the couple as properly married after the ceremony.

By the way, that ceremony was a clear demonstration of the power, beauty and magesty of the traditional Anglican forms. It’s not my religious tradition, but it sure is pretty.

Indeed, not that long ago (back when I was a kid) Roman Catholic couples wishing to be married had to post “bans” (intentions of marriage) for, IIRC, something like three weeks before the ceremony. This gave the opportunity for members of the community (i.e., the parish) to notify the priest of any impediments to marriage the couple may have, and to give the priest time to investigate them. The line in the ceremony was sort of a last call.

“The groom is a jerk” is not a valid objection. “The groom has a wife in the next town” is.

I always thought it was just something they said in movies, so that they could actually have someone interrupt the wedding. When I was an altar boy, I went to plenty of weddings, and don’t remember ever hearing that phrase (probably because none of the couples wanted it).

It’s supposed to give people a last chance to disclose whether one of the parties is already married or if the bride and groom are too closely related. (“Luke and Leia, you can’t marry–you’re brother and sister!” or something like that.) If you have ever read Jane Eyre, you will know that it was at about that point in the ceremony when it was disclosed that Mr. Rochester was already hiding a crazy wife in the attic! It is not a chance for you to say that you think that the bride and groom are incompatible. You are only supposed to bring up legal impediments.

I have never heard the line in an actual wedding. I guess that if some deep, dark secret comes up later, you can always get the marriage annuled.

No such question is asked in a wedding here in Turkey.

Since the legal preparation is done before the wedding ceremony - unbelievably, something that should take a few hours lasts a week due to the incredible speed in official correspondence , and you have to pay for every fax sent, but when you are sitting at the wedding table the only person that can say no is the bride or the groom!

I believe that a legal Catholic marriage still requires the couple to publish “banns” of marriage (it has two Ns in it). Usually these appear in the church bulletin about 3-6 weeks before the wedding. If you see that two people are getting married and you know something about them that would make the marriage invalid (like one of them already being married), you’re supposed to rat them out to the pastor.

I believe the Catholic Church doesn’t use the phrase “rat out” however.

I think you can get dispensation for this requirement. When my father remarried after my mother’s death, they got to skip a lot of the prenuptial stuff, like counseling. But they were both in their 60s at the time and the pastor felt that they probably knew what they were doing. And the pastor had seen the funerals of the deceased spouses also.

It’s a little known fact, but in the event that someone actually does stand up and object to the ceremony, it is the best man’s responsibility to beat him to death with a stick.

At least, that’s what my best man would have done. Not the we asked.

Of the dozens of weddings I’ve attended (including Protestant, Jewish, secular, and scads of Catholic services), I can only recall TWO where the “speak now or forever hold your peace” line was even used (not surprisingly, it was the SAME clergyman in both instances).

It’s an archaic piece of ritual that’s mainly kept alive by movies and TV sitcoms. (Sort of like… well, nuns haven’t worn floor length skirts or huge veils in nearly 35 years, but TV and movie nuns never wear anything else).

thanks for all the input! It was certainly used in my wedding, but perhaps that’s because my pastor knew that me and mr. jarbaby are a tad DRAMATICAL as my sister would say. I’m surprised one of our friends didn’t stand up and say something outrageous, although considering the raving Martha-Stewartesque-Bitch I became in the planning of my wedding and reception, I think everyone was too busy fearing for their lives.


Any Lutheran over 25 remembers The Old Red Hymnals[sup]TM[/sup], as oppsed to The New Green Hymnals[sup]TM[/sup].

TORH[sup]TM[/sup] have the ‘speak now…’ and ‘honor and obey’ lines; TNGH [sup]TM[/sup] don’t. Most of the Lutheran weddings I’ve been to use TORH[sup]TM[/sup] liturgy but omit the ‘obey’ bit.

Well, if nothing else if it wasn’t there The Graduate would not have been so (bitter) sweet.

Besides it gives guys like me hope.

I have been to dozens of weddings, and I honestly don’t recall ever NOT hearing it.
I’ve always found it an interesting time to suddenly clear ones throat…:eek:
That way, you won’t drown out any of the verbal exchange as it’s immortalized on video… yeah, that’s it.

The line is still in the modern Book of Common Prayer. I’ve heard it at dozens of weddings. In the modern version, it runs as follows:

The 1928 prayerbook goes further. The Minister then says to the persons who are to be married:

That’s just great, isn’t it? References to the Dreadful Day of Judgment in the marriage ceremony?

Those Pissypalians. :wink: