Wait, What Is the Origin of “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?”

And does your officiant have to say it?
Outdoor wedding ceremony
Photo: Richelle Hunter Photography
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
by
Chapelle Johnson
chapelle johnson the knot associate editor
Chapelle Johnson
Associate Editor
  • Chapelle writes articles for The Knot Worldwide. She covers all things wedding-related and has a personal interest in covering celebrity engagements and fashion.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Chapelle was an editorial intern for Subvrt Magazine.
  • Chapelle has a degree in English writing from Loyola University New Orleans.
Updated Aug 17, 2023

If there's a love triangle in a romantic comedy that leads to a wedding ceremony, we know you can hear the "speak now or forever hold your peace" line before it even happens. It's dramatic, thoroughly embarrassing, and makes for a great movie—but is it outdated or traditional? Does anyone actually stand up and confess their love for the bride or groom to make a last-ditch effort to gain their heart? From the origins of this wedding day phrase to its use today, here's everything you need to know about this infamous proposition.

In this article:

"Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace" Meaning

Heather Jones, wedding expert and catering sales manager for McCalls Catering & Events, explains that the phrase is a question posed to the audience. It's asking if anyone is opposed to the couple's marriage. "In tradition, this would be the time to speak your mind if you disagreed with the relationship, but 'holding your peace' would mean that you're choosing to accept the couple's future together," Jones explains.

And if you're wondering, "Is it forever hold your peace or piece?" the phrase is a shortened version of a longer sentence. "Should anyone present know of any reason that this couple should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace."

Origin of "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace"

Though television shows and movies would have us believe it's this all-powerful proclamation of love from a former flame, Kristin Wilson, founder of Our DJ Rocks and wedding industry expert, says the origins of this statement are less dramatic.

In Medieval times communication between areas was slow and complicated, and record-keeping was anything but organized. This led the Christian church to establish the phrase to give time for any legal issues in the marriage to come to light. These include hiccups like the bride or groom being already married or related. "News of the wedding was posted publicly for a few weeks to give word time to travel to outlying areas," Wilson explains. "Saying 'speak now or forever hold your peace' during the wedding day gave people one last chance to say their thoughts before the new marriage was legally binding."

So, where can you find the "speak now or forever hold your peace" wedding script? Kristen Gosselin, wedding planning expert and founder and creative director of KG Events & Design, says along with the wording of the vows (including the classic "until death do us part"), these scripts are in the marriage liturgy section of the Christian The Book of Common Prayer. These were created out of a need to legitimize marital unions hundreds of years ago, but today, modern couples take and leave what they want out of the traditions.

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Why Do People Say, "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?"

Humans are creatures of habit, and we thrive on tradition. Historically, weddings have taken place in religious institutions, and most couples follow rules set forth by previous generations, which is why some people include the famous phrase in their ceremony. Wilson says until recently, most couples chose to honor their parents and grandparents by holding their wedding ceremony at a church. With input from a best friend, an uncle, an expert and even the internet, now many duos have decided to do what's best for them instead. This makes the phrase less prominent. Also, when the congregation is encouraged to "speak now or forever hold their peace" it's not taken literally, according to Kevin Dennis, wedding pro and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services.

"Now, when planning their own wedding, more modern couples choose to step away from tradition and do something different that reflects who they are, like asking their guests to verbally give their blessing or having their ceremony at a venue rather than a church," Wilson adds.

Does Your Officiant Have to Say "Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?"

What if you don't want to give guests the wedding objection option during your ceremony? Do you have to include this wording? Wilson says most of the time it's optional. To be sure, have a candid conversation with your religious leader or officiant. The only time it might be required is if your officiant or church is Episcopal, then they may require the traditional wording.

There are ways to work the same concept into your wedding vows without leaving the door open for a dramatic interlude. We'll talk more about what those are below.

"Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace" Alternatives

If including the "hold your peace forever" line isn't for you, there are other options where you can incorporate your loved ones into your ceremony. Keep reading to learn more about these intimate alternatives.

Community Vow

Jones suggests doing a "Declaration of Consent" or "Community Vow" instead of the wedding objection. This encourages your guests to stand in celebration of your new marriage rather than wave a hand in protest. This practice involves the officiant asking the guests to vow to support the couple, and they respond, "We do."

Ring Warming Ceremony

"Many couples today are opting for a positive spin on this dated phrase and will ask their guests to offer their love and support for their new marriage," Wilson says. "Some couples choose to pass their wedding rings to their loved ones so that each guest has a moment to hold the rings and wish the couple well."

Can You Still Get Married If Someone Objects?

What happens if someone does respond to the "if anyone objects to this marriage speak now" line? Of course, you can still say, "I do." The only real circumstance where it would be illegal to get married is if your spouse-to-be is already married to someone else. Or, in some states, if they are a close relative. Even so, Dennis says it's important to note that if you're part of a strict or conservative religious community, any objection may impact the approval of your peers. "Be prepared to deal with the result of an objection and understand your options for editing the ceremony script," Dennis adds.

And on that note, a smart way to work through any potential threats to the success of your wedding day is to have premarital couples counseling. This provides the open opportunity to put any issues on the table, work through them as a team and begin your marriage on a happy and healthy note.

Does Anyone Actually Object?

Instead of going the dramatic "Shrek" wedding objection route, express your concerns about the couple's union before the big day. We highly suggest you make a pros and cons list of whether the discussion needs to happen before talking to the couple so you know it's the right step to take.

We can't give you advice on exactly when to initiate this conversation and what to say. But no matter if you're a worried friend or someone secretly in love with the bride, having tough talks about the marriage should happen privately between you and the couple. You want there to be room for everyone's feelings to be heard without the officiant and everyone they know and love in attendance.

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