The words are famous, a part of our collective consciousness: “If any of you can show just cause why they may not be married under the laws of both God and man, speak now, or else forever hold your peace.”
Ah, the marriage objection. This dramatic gem is the crux of countless romantic comedies, a moment so hackneyed we’ve all witnessed it a thousand times. Or have we?
It’s actually rare these days for weddings to offer space for open dissent. That moment we see in our collective minds is usually from a movie or television show, not from an actual wedding we’ve attended. So when Constantino and I decided to include this language in our ceremony, it was an unusual choice that caused our pastor to raise an eyebrow.
“You feel comfortable doing this?” he asked. In all of the weddings over which he had presided, our pastor had never spoken that language in a ceremony.
He was on board with our choice, but he wanted us to be ready for the possibility that someone actually would object. How would we handle that? Who would address the objection? What would we say? Did we have tasers ready? (My concern, not his.) We talked it through, and created a plan for such an eventuality even though we don’t actually expect that scenario to unfold (and if it does, well, GREAT WEDDING STORY).
So why even bother including it? What’s the point? After all, a wedding day should be a moment of unadulterated celebration, not a time for discourse or debate. It only opens to door to conflict.
For anyone who has been in a relationship that has faced resistance from the outside world—whether it’s from friends, family, church, or culture—you’re familiar with the yearning for peace and closure. There’s a desire to lay down weapons and put to rest all of the debate and opposition your relationship has caused. Whether it’s a same-sex pairing, or a relationship of distinct classes, or races, or religions, or even couples embarking on second marriages, outside pressure can break a couple. A marriage, then, is a victory, a triumph between two people who have overcome not only external opposition, but the obstacles of self to mutually submit to each other in a covenant between both themselves and God. It’s counterproductive to fight a battle after a peace treaty has been signed. It’s divisive to oppose a marriage after the wedding has taken place.
So for Constantino and me, inclusion of this language is symbolic. It’s a declaration that the battle is over, the war is won, and now is the time for celebration. Among our inner circles, the final opportunity to speak out against our marriage is in essence a call for reconciliation. That doesn’t mean we’ve got smooth sailing from this point on; we still have plenty of acquaintances who disagree with the conclusions we’ve so prayerfully reached. But for those who love us most, this language is a request—a promise, really—that from our wedding day forward, these people agree to be our allies, not our enemies. They commit to being for us, not against.
Anyone who thinks marriage is only the business of the two people involved is in for a shock. I’ve witnessed enough marital arguments involving outside people to know this isn’t true. Marriage is a unit that functions within a larger community, and it can thrive or wilt based on the quality and nature of support it receives. So next week, when we ask sixty of our friends and family to “hold their peace,” what we’re really asking is for them to help us hold our peace, to help us hold together our union with the love and support only community can provide.