Can Your Officiant Just Skip Over That Whole "Speak Now or Forever Hold Their Peace" Thing?

We asked our experts whether this oft ill-fated line needs to be included at all

Updated 11/11/17

Photo by Edward Winter / Readyluck

If your wedding is actually a rom-com, you can probably guess when the pivotal moment will take place: As soon as the officiant turns to the gathered guests and says that, if anyone objects to the marriage, they should speak now or forever hold their peace. That’s the moment that the main character either musters up the courage to tell their lifelong BFF that they love them, or holds their tongue. But does that ever happen in real life? Does your officiant have to invite someone to prevent your marriage, or can you skip it and move on with marrying the person you love? We asked our experts whether this oft ill-fated line needs to be included at all.

While this line pops up way more in movies that it does at the average wedding, it wasn’t invented by screenwriters—it’s actually in the marriage liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, a book of sacraments used most often by the Anglican or Episcopal Church. This is also where other common wedding phrases, like “in sickness and in health” and “as long as you both shall live” can be found. And it’s no surprise that these lines are so recognized today, since references to and influences from the Book of Common Prayer can be found in everything from the works of Shakespeare to T.S.

Eliot. So if you and your partner are members of an Anglican or Episcopal church, there’s actually a good chance your marriage ceremony will include your officiant turning to the congregation and saying, “If any of you can show just cause why they may not lawfully be married, speak now; or else for ever hold your peace.” But do you have to?

Your ability to edit and inform the ceremony script will all depend on your congregation, how conservative it is, and how flexible your officiant is. Talk to your priest early on about how much input you and your partner can have in what phrasing is used during the ceremony. If you aren’t comfortable with the options offered, you may be able to find another officiant or seek out another church altogether before those invitations go out.

If you are able to edit or adjust the script for your ceremony, don’t skip this section altogether. Instead, replace it with a new ritual that’s supportive and inclusive instead of inviting naysayers to pipe up. The Declaration of Consent does formally include a line asking your guests to support the two of you in marriage, so you could emphasize that by asking your guests to help you through any trying, difficult, or emotionally challenging times you might face. Try something like, “Into this holy union (partner 1) and (partner 2) now come to be joined.

Nearly every relationship is tested at one point or another. Will all you gathered here surround the couple with love and support, offering guidance, comfort, and counsel? And will you join them to celebrate the many joys that life brings? If so, say ‘We Will.’”

Not having a religious ceremony? This line is one you can absolutely skip, no questions asked. In fact, this line is so uncommon these days that your guests might be surprised if you do include it. You can, of course, include a secular spin on the above sentiment of asking your guests to support you after you make your vows to one another. Here’s a good place to start: “Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage? Will you bring out the best in them, share their happiest moments, and offer comfort and counsel in times of hardship?

If so, answer “We Will.’” Including your loved ones in your vows builds a community of support around your marriage, and is a touching way to include all of the people you care about in such a special moment.

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