If you’re watching a romantic comedy that includes a love triangle and a wedding, you can probably expect an objection after (or before) the officiant delivers some variation of the fateful “Speak now or forever hold your peace” line. It’s been spoofed in everything from Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) to Shrek (2001), and it usually steers the plot toward a much happier ending.
In real life, eleventh-hour objections are thankfully far less common—though not unheard of. When former civil rights lobbyist Mike Robinson was the best man in his friend’s wedding, the mother of the bride actually rose and voiced her opposition to her daughter’s union. “It was a shocker for everyone that was in attendance,” he told Reader’s Digest, “including the pastor, who actually stopped the ceremony, while both sets of parents, the bride and groom, and the wedding party stood there asking me, ‘Can she legally do this?’”
It’s not illegal to speak up, of course, but personal issues with your child’s partner of choice don’t invalidate the union. As Brides explains, the Catholic Church started soliciting objections during wedding ceremonies in the 12th century as a way to unearth any reasons why it would be unlawful for a couple to marry—if the groom had another wife in a far-off town, for example, or if the bride and groom were actually half-siblings. Without bureaucratic processes and databases to keep track of everyone’s details, the community helped ensure that each marriage was permissible.
These days, any potential problems come to light when the couple is securing a marriage license, which is usually completed before the wedding ceremony. If you’re technically still married to your previous spouse, the county clerk will let you know. Since “Speak now or forever hold your peace” is essentially obsolete, it’s often omitted from modern weddings.
But if someone did object at a wedding, it’s pretty much up to the officiant to decide how to deal with it. Wedding officiant Pamela Henry told Reader’s Digest that it’s customary to halt proceedings, pull the person aside, and discuss the reason without an audience. Unless it’s a legal matter, the ceremony would likely continue as planned. Ceremony expert Father Jason Lody, on the other hand, would prefer to make light of the situation and downplay it as much as possible. “I would make sure the couple was OK and try not to draw any more attention to what just took place,” he told Brides. “I would assume there would be some intervention or support from others in attendance to remove the cause for disruption.”
So if you’re anticipating any outbursts at your own wedding, you should discuss tactics with your officiant beforehand—and maybe rethink your guest list, too.
[h/t Reader’s Digest]