The History Behind “Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace”

If you have ever attended a Christain wedding or a wedding, officiated by a priest or minister, you’d have heard these words as the couple exchanges their vows:

Speak now or forever hold your peace

But have you ever wondered what it means or where it came from? Well, in this article, we’ll look at the iconic phrase that has become part of the ritual that is marriage ceremonies, what it means and its origin.

What Are the Origins of ‘Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace?

Well, the etymology of the phrase might not be as dramatic as the rare occasion where the minister’s words are met with feedback. The phrase dates back to medieval times.

Back in medieval times, people sadly did not have the luxury of social media so “speak now, or forever hold your peace,” was incorporated into the wedding ceremony as one last safeguard against bigamy — the practice of marrying more than one person in secret.

Back in the day, before couples could get married, the ceremony was preceded by a series of public announcements called wedding banns with the intention of preventing bigamy.

At the ceremony, people had one last chance to stop the wedding on grounds of bigamy when the officiating minister uttered the words: “speak now or forever hold your peace.”

For three weeks leading up to a wedding, the marriage would be announced so that people could come to claim their lying spouse or anyone with information about an existing marriage would have time to come forward.

With the spread of Christianity all around the world, it has become customary for ministers to utter these words as part of the rites of ceremony, although, the dramatic connotation of it has made some couples scrap it from their special day.

But on the rare occasion that the announcement is met with feedback, it makes for relatively interesting drama.

What does Speak now or forever hold your peace mean?

Speak now or forever hold your peace is an instruction to immediately share information that may not be known by others on why a couple should not get married, or else keep this information to yourself for eternity.

Can You Still Get Married If Someone Objects?

In the event, that a scorned ex crashes your wedding out of malice or something even more dramatic, can the wedding ceremony still go on?

Well yes. While it might be an embarrassing moment, couples can still go ahead with their wedding unless it is a case of bigamy, which is illegal in some states.


While talking about the history of the phrase speak now or forever hold your peace would make for an interesting conversation at a pre-wedding dinner, if you enjoyed this piece, share and subscribe to receive more posts like this.

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