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Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

Is this dramatic line a required part of a wedding?

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In movie wedding ceremonies, there's often a dramatic moment where the minister says "If any of you has reasons why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace." It's an opportunity for the ex-lover to rush forward, proclaiming his love, or for some new shocking information to be revealed about the couple. But what's good for the movies isn't necessarily good for your wedding.

This wording of "speak now or forever hold your peace" is based in the marriage liturgy of the Christians' Book of Common Prayer, so if you're getting married in a church, it may be a required element. But if you can, rather than asking this question in the negative, I suggest asking your guests to support your marriage and love for one another.

Community vows of support can take a number of different forms during the wedding ceremony. You can ask your guests to say simply that they believe the two of you should be married and that they encourage this union.

But you can also take it a step further. Even the healthiest marriages go through conflict, and your friends and family can either add fuel to the fire, or help you see through the problem, reminding you of your love and commitment.

It's not just you who will benefit from these promises. Having secure and committed family units of many different kinds (not just marriages) helps strengthen and stabilize a community. And odds are, most of your friends and loved ones will support you in this way even if you don't ask them to. But the ritual of acknowledging the need for that support, and receiving those assurances, can be a very important part of a wedding ceremony.

Community Wedding Vows
Here are some possibilities of community vows to use in place of "Speak now or forever hold your peace":

  • Do you who are assembled here support this union and affirm that these two should be married today? (guests respond, "We Do")
     
  • Will you who are present here today, surround this couple in love, offering them the joys of your friendship? Will you support this couple in their relationship? At times of conflict will you offer them the strength of your wisest counsel and the comfort of your thoughtful concern? At times of joy, will you celebrate with them, nourishing their love for one another? (guests respond, "We Will")
     
  • The bonds this couple has made today are sacred and holy, and should not be broken. But nearly every relationship is tested at one point or another, by conflict, temptation, strife, and change. Will you, their loved ones, family, and friends, agree to help them keep those bonds holy, reminding them of their love for one another, and helping them cross through those stressful periods? (guests respond, "We Will")
     
  • The rings that these two will give each other will be a reminder of their love, and the vows they will make here today. They have asked me to pass them around the room so that each of you, who is an important and loved member of their lives, can bless the rings and give your support for their marriage. (rings are passed from guest to guest)

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