The Marriage Act (Scotland) 1977 removed the legal requirement for a minister to ask the congregation at a wedding service if there were any objections to a couple getting hitched. Since then,everything is “channelled” through the Registrar, who issues a “Marriage Schedule” which is the proof that, after intention to marry has been publicly displayed and no objections have been lodged, the couple is free to marry.
(re-reading the above, I sound like a Civil Servant!)
The Schedule must be in “in the hands” of the minister, before he or she legally can proceed. That’s why it’s redundant now to ask if there are any objections to the wedding. It is – effectively – our “green light” to conduct the ceremony without hindrance.
But before the 1997 legislation, we had to ask “If anyone can show good reason why this marriage would not be lawful, let him (sic) speak now, or forever hold his peace….. pause ….Since no one speaks against it, let us pray for John and Mary, before they commit themselves to each other in marriage”
On many an occasion, during the “pause” after the question, some “wag” (usually a pal of the groom) would theatrically cough loudly.
Once, I remember from these good old days, a baby cried ….. the bridegroom said to me, in a stage whisper, “does that count?!”
One of literature’s greatest examples of someone not forever holding their peace can be found in Jane Eyre, when the heroine and Mr Rochester’s wedding ceremony is scuppered by Mr Mason turning up and mentioning that Mr Rochester already has a wife up in the attic, and their marriage is still legally binding even though she’s a sandwich short of a picnic and no longer good-looking.
Luckily, it’s never happened to me in 41 years of ordained ministry….. but never say never….