How often do people object at weddings?
March 28, 2005 7:25 PM   Subscribe

So how often do people object before the fatal I-do's are spoken at weddings? Either shouting something like "Ellllaaaaine!" or the more understated going up and conferring with the clergyperson and celebrants.

So probably there aren't hard stats, but have you witnessed this happen or done this yourself? While drunken pranks do count, I'm more interested in serious objections and such. Also, how'd it get resolved?
posted by Mercaptan to Society & Culture (20 answers total)
Are you looking to break-up a wedding? Details, details!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:49 PM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

At my father's second wedding, the minister explained that the point of the speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace line was, in fact, to prevent incestuous marriage. The objection the ceremony has in mind, in other words, would go something like this: "He can't marry her! She's his sister!" Less dramatic reasons are insufficient grounds, apparently.
posted by mcwetboy at 7:56 PM on March 28, 2005

Response by poster: No, I'm not planning anything like that. I'm just curious about how this formality plays out in real life. I might be old fashioned, but it does strike me as a sort of last-ditch sort of thing. Even the incest-prevention aspect is a little strange. Does that mean if someone doesn't object, then you could marry your sister "in the eyes of God" and what-not?
posted by Mercaptan at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2005

Never seen it happen. I asked the justice about this when we got married and he explained that this question isn't actually a requirement in British Columbia so we left it out to be on the safe side.
posted by Mitheral at 8:17 PM on March 28, 2005

Pish tosh. "She's a man!" "He's got another wife in Boston, and a third in Brisbane!" Not to mention the once-popular "She is unchaste!", "She has a fraudulent dowry!" and "She's a witch!"

True: A couple of good friends were having a wedding by the lakeshore, and at an extremely well-timed quiet moment, a waterskier cracked the whip as close as he dared, yelling, "Don't do it!" They have one of the best marriages I have ever known. And a great story.

Mercaptan: in the event of a marriage that should have been objected to -- such as incest -- the formal response would be an annulment or divorce. That link lists a few other reasons: youth, inebriation, incompetence, fraud or force, and impotence or infertility.
posted by dhartung at 8:21 PM on March 28, 2005 [1 favorite]

i've never heard of anyone actually doing this ...
posted by pyramid termite at 9:12 PM on March 28, 2005

My best friend forwent that part of the ceremony, since he knew the three groomsmen (his brother was his best man) would all object to his lazy, money-grubbing wife. Or maybe she left it out. Really.
posted by notsnot at 9:13 PM on March 28, 2005

Well, if a famous fictional account isn't too much outside of the scope of this question, it it happens to poor Jane Eyre, in quite dramatic fashion [major SPOILERS below]:
"Our place was taken at the communion rails. Hearing a cautious step behind me, I glanced over my shoulder: one of the strangers--a
gentleman, evidently--was advancing up the chancel. The service began. The explanation of the intent of matrimony was gone through; and then the clergyman came a step further forward, and, bending slightly towards Mr. Rochester, went on.

"I require and charge you both (as ye will answer at the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed), that if either of you know any impediment why ye may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony, ye do now confess it; for be ye well assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise than God's Word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful."

He paused, as the custom is. When is the pause after that sentence ever broken by reply? Not, perhaps, once in a hundred years. And the clergyman, who had not lifted his eyes from his book, and had held his breath but for a moment, was proceeding: his hand was already stretched towards Mr. Rochester, as his lips unclosed to ask, "Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?"--when a distinct and near voice said -

"The marriage cannot go on: I declare the existence of an impediment."

The clergyman looked up at the speaker and stood mute; the clerk did the same; Mr. Rochester moved slightly, as if an earthquake had rolled under his feet: taking a firmer footing, and not turning his head or eyes, he said, "Proceed."

Profound silence fell when he had uttered that word, with deep but low intonation. Presently Mr. Wood said -

"I cannot proceed without some investigation into what has been asserted, and evidence of its truth or falsehood."

"The ceremony is quite broken off," subjoined the voice behind us. "I am in a condition to prove my allegation: an insuperable impediment to this marriage exists."

Mr. Rochester heard, but heeded not: he stood stubborn and rigid, making no movement but to possess himself of my hand. What a hot and strong grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! How his eye shone, still watchful, and yet wild beneath!

Mr. Wood seemed at a loss. "What is the nature of the impediment?" he asked. "Perhaps it may be got over--explained away?"

"Hardly," was the answer. "I have called it insuperable, and I speak advisedly."

The speaker came forward and leaned on the rails. He continued, uttering each word distinctly, calmly, steadily, but not loudly -

"It simply consists in the existence of a previous marriage. Mr. Rochester has a wife now living."
posted by Asparagirl at 10:39 PM on March 28, 2005

Best answer: Only happens in movies, AFAIK. I've performed 677 weddings as of last weekend, and although I keep waiting for it, it has yet to happen. The closest I've come is when the bride's very angry ex-husband called an hour before the ceremony and said he was on his way over to stop the ceremony "by whatever violent means necessary," but the finer hotels keep teams of ninjas on retainer for just such occasions, and he never got near the chapel.

I think it's much more likely that either the bride or groom would have a vision of future misery and say "no" to the vows. That hasn't happened, either, but on a couple occasions a bride has made the room hold its breath in silence for a very looong measure and a half, and in both cases I was prepared to pull her aside and ask if she really wanted to marry the guy, but they both did say "Hai, chikaimasu" ("I vow" or "I swear") and no drama followed (at least for the rest of the ceremony). If either party does ever say "no" I am prepared to confirm the intent and end the ceremony right there, perhaps with a soft shoe exit, and if someone in the pews objects (hopefully Hugh Grant bursting through the doors at the last moment), I will let them speak (if respectfully) and then reconfirm the couple's intent and go ahead with the ceremony. The legal registration of the marriage at city hall is the important step that a third party would want to prevent.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:42 PM on March 28, 2005 [3 favorites]

Is the request for objections even part of most ceremonies anymore? I don't think I've been to any weddings where the celebrant asked for objections; it certainly wasn't included in my wedding. It seems very old-fashioned.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:19 PM on March 28, 2005

I objected once, but I was very drunk and got the bride's name wrong. For some reason it didn't count. At the time I felt quite wronged and would have stormed out in a huff if I hadn't fallen over in a swoon instead.
posted by shmegegge at 12:27 AM on March 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

When I was best man for my brother in the UK, the vicar explicitly warned us against protesting. Apparently, even the most sprurious/ jesting protest must be investigated, and the service thus cancelled and rescheduled.
posted by Pericles at 4:15 AM on March 29, 2005

hotel ninjas. awesome.
posted by Hankins at 4:44 AM on March 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My uncle objected at his daughter's (first) wedding. When they asked if anyone objected, he said, "Yeah, I do. He never says anything." The groom was an especially quiet person, and my uncle was an especially uninhibited sort. The minister took the bride, groom, and my uncle aside for a bit of counseling and then resumed the ceremony. The marriage did not last long, but she later remarried, to a guy who, so far as I can recall, never shut up.
posted by anapestic at 5:15 AM on March 29, 2005 [2 favorites]

It seems like it's mostly a formality to me. Honestly, if you think someone you know is making a mistake of this nature, talk to them early on. Otherwise, grin and bear it.

A former co-worker of mine said that her best friend pulled her aside the night before her wedding and said, "I can't tell you why, but don't do it!"

Not constructive. She proceeded with her wedding, and later got a divorce.
posted by orange swan at 5:27 AM on March 29, 2005

The original point of the question was to ask whether there are legally sufficient reasons the couple can't be married. In some places, it survives as a pure formality about which people make jokes. In others, officiants take quite seriously their responsibility not to proceed if someone raises an objection.

In neither version does the officiant care if someone has a reason why the couple shouldn't get married -- only if someone has a reason why the couple can't get married.
posted by grimmelm at 6:30 AM on March 29, 2005

talk to them early on orangeswan has it right.

I didn't know ahead of time or I certainly would have. My friend asked me to be her bridesmaid and I flew in from Interstate on her wedding day. I was helping her get ready when she told me she was in love with a mutual friend of ours. When I asked why the hell she was getting married, she said "the wedding arrangements had been made and he didn't ask me not to".

Some months later the mutual friend told me he felt the same way about her but didn't say anything because "the wedding arrangements had been made and she didn't say she didn't want to". He married someone else later on and both couples are still married. I've never told either of them what the other one said but I have wondered if they ever think "what if?" .
posted by Tarrama at 7:01 AM on March 29, 2005 [2 favorites]

Is the request for objections even part of most ceremonies anymore?

I've been to maybe a dozen weddings over the past seven years--in a variety of traditions (Catholic, non-specific Protestant, UU, secular) and in none of those did the officiant ask for objections.

Yet, there are several reports here of it happening. I wonder if it's a regional thing? FWIW, all the ones I've been to have been in the midwest: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Kentucky. For those of you that have heard the question asked, where was it?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:07 AM on March 29, 2005

Best answer: I'm not sure if any states in the US still have requirements for what the officiant says. Many states, the couple doesn't have say or do anything if they didn't want to. They could just give the officiant the marriage licence, the officiant signs it, sends it in and you're married (other states require both the couple and the officiant to send in a form). I wouldn't be surpised if the objection line is required for Justices of the Peace (or the like) to say at court houses in some states and/or localities. You'd probably have to do some pretty deep digging to find out for each state.

But, another data point: my mother has officiantated at something like 300 or 400 weddings and it's never happened to her (although I don't know how many times she asks, she leaves it up to the couple). And, in a related subject, she says that she's never had a member of the couple not show up or walk away from the altar like in TV and movies.
posted by skynxnex at 7:55 AM on March 29, 2005

The last wedding I went to (Episcopalian) had it.

I've always heard the joke about the tall gaunt intense-looking guy who commands the ceremony stop, for there is just cause. He stomps down the aisle, where he confronts the terrified couple in silence for a full minute...then barks "Sorry, wrong church" and stalks out.
posted by Vidiot at 8:47 AM on March 29, 2005 [1 favorite]

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