There are few things more horrifying to imagine happening at your wedding than somebody standing up to object. But the idea of choosing to speak now rather than forever holding your peace is something that only happens in movies… right?
Speaking to Reader’s Digest, wedding officiant Pamela Henry explained the classic phrase “speak now, or forever hold your peace” is actually a “Christian marriage ceremony tradition that was first introduced during medieval times.” Originally, objections were a final opportunity for townspeople, who may not have had the opportunity to do so otherwise, to present any legal reasons why a particular couple should not be wed. In the pre-digital age, word didn’t spread as fast, so this last-ditch moment was considered sacred. Couples wouldn’t be wed if, for example, one party was already married to somebody else, was not of legal age, or was being forced into it.
As Henry says, though, these objections aren’t nearly as commonplace as you might think, given how often they pop up as a dramatic device in movies (and they definitely don’t allow an objection from someone who’s simply in love with the bride or groom to stop the wedding). If, in dire circumstances, someone does object during the ceremony, standard practice today is to pause the proceedings and speak privately to the person about what exactly their issue is.
Legally, though, there’s really nothing the wedding officiant can do if someone objects. As Robinson confirmed, once the couple in question has a valid marriage license, the legal union is already in place prior to the ceremony.
In fact, according to Robinson, the only real modern objection to a marriage would have to come from a county clerk or other government entity (essentially whoever is issuing the license in the first place). Most ceremonies don’t even use the phrasing anymore, as it’s so outdated.
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