What's the dealio wit the part of the wedding vows when the priest sez, "Does anyone feel that these two should not be joined in holy matrimony?" What happens when your brother's friend raises his hand? Does it go to a vote? Are the church bouncers to remove nay-men? What's wit dat?
-- C-gar, Shelter Island
Da dealio, C-lio, is to stop you before you marry your cousin. Back, back, way back before record-keeping was the threat to personal privacy that it is today, there was always the chance that you'd fall for a relative that you didn't know was related or for somebody who didn't bother to shed the old spouse before trying out a new model or for some other unacceptable person. In medieval times, this could be grounds for declaring the marriage void and the children illegitimate, generally mucking up everyone's life from there on out. Publishing or announcing the intention to marry (banns) gave everybody months to ponder the match and bring up objections before the ceremony. Your last chance to stop it was at the wedding itself. That "or forever hold your peace" stuff. It became a formal part of the service in the 1500s in The Book of Common Prayer, the official rites of the Church of England. It's not officially part of most Protestant services and, considering the wise-guy times we live in, most ministers I checked with avoid it. I could find only two reports of weddings interrupted by spoil-sports. The first was an uninvited ex-girlfriend who claimed she still loved the groom. The minister took her and some chaperones into his office and suggested that she get a grip on reality and go home. The second was some random bozo off the street, leaning in the doorway and sipping a beer. The minister marched down the aisle, pushed him out the door, shut it, and finished the ceremony. Remain calm and use your wits, I guess, is the proper response.