The exact wording varies a bit between the various editions of the prayer books used by different Christian churches, going back to the original Anglican Book of Common Prayer. We may have left beautiful words like "condignly" and "betwixt" behind and we have made language more inclusive – back in 1662 only men were urged to speak up!, but the crux of this early part of the wedding service is the same; the Minister has to ask if anyone knows a reason why the marriage about to be conducted should not take place.
More than one nervous bride, or groom, or even both!, have over the years had anxious moments worrying that an old boyfriend or girlfriend would try to derail the proceedings, and many a socially upwardly mobile prospective parent in law has held their breath for those few seconds, fervently praying that no one will stop the show that she (usually it is the mother) has worked so hard to pull off, but largely it is just a ritual-within-a-ritual.
It does happen, of course, that someone does speak. Probably more in fiction: The priceless scene in Four Weddings and a Funeral where Charles, the lead character (so brilliantly played by Hugh Grant before he became a caricature of himself), almost gets married only to be derailed by a poignant question by his deaf brother, always makes me chuckle over the mayhem that follows.
Or rather did make me chuckle. Not so much now, as you will understand if you read my tale.
As I said: It does happen – even in real life. I should know. You see, it happened to me. And rare as the event may be overall, I am willing to bet that the instance I am telling you about is unique. Because the person who did speak up was me. I don't think many other grooms in history have done that.
To get an understanding of the wedding that didn't happen, I will have to fill you in on some of the background story. I was (am, but I disregard that now) the middle child of an upper middle-class family. My older brother – Brian Delaney Fairchild the Third, spoiled brat and the apple of my mother's eye, was supposed to get a little sister at the tender age of two after which the perfect family was to be considered complete.
To everyone's chagrin – even my brother's since he had been thoroughly brainwashed into believing that he was getting a little sister and that was a good thing – I turned out to be another boy and thus totally superfluous to requirements. My parents were completely unprepared for me being a boy, had given no thought to boys' names at all and, in order to curry favor with an old curmudgeon of an uncle, burdened me with the names George Theodore Fairchild. It was quickly shortened to "GT", and that's what I've answered to all my life.
With almost indecent haste – and possible only, I suspect, because my mother didn't breastfeed me, the gross family error introduced by my unfortunate birth was corrected with the arrival of the much desired girl when I was barely 11 months old. Patricia Elaine Fairchild unsurprisingly became the apple of my father's eye – and turned into an insufferable prissy princess from the word go.
I know that middle-children have a reputation for walking around with a chip on their shoulder and that all second-of-a-kind children hate hand-me-downs and claim that's the only clothes they've got. But honestly, and I can back that up with photographic evidence, I don't think I ever got new clothes of any kind until I outgrew my brother at 13 (he stalled at 5'9" – I ended up 6'6"). And long before that, the stuff I took over was grotesque because Brian is short and fat whereas I am tall and lanky.
Oh, and before the chorus of "Hold it boy – your parents had three kids to clothe on a limited budget and you are being ungrateful to them" starts sounding, I must disappoint you. Their budget was not limited; Dad ran a small manufacturing plant that did very well, and money wasn't tight – especially not when it came to what they bestowed on my siblings. So I had a lot of very expensive, hardly used but exceptionally ill-fitting clothes to choose from. I used belts and suspenders a lot, or the trousers bought to span Brian's fat ass would have fallen down.
That I was a target for bullying goes without saying. It started in Kindy and never stopped. While I grew tall quicker than most, I never put on much muscle in school and I was easy to pick on. Brian ought to have been a target too: He was fat, short and stupid, but he was also a cunning and devious bastard and he successfully directed, and frequently orchestrated, any grief labelled "Fairchild" towards me.
Ironically, I was the only fair Fairchild child. In fact, my hair is so fair it is bordering on white. ("Flaxen" is the term, I believe.) Both Brian and Patricia on the other hand have dark dishwater colored hair. Or had, I should say since Brian is now completely bald and Patricia became a bottle blonde at 11. They take after our mother in coloring (original coloring; she's a bottle blond too) and, I should add, stature since Mom is short and flat. Both she and Patricia corrected the latter with implants – interestingly at the same time, i.e. when The Princess was 16 and my mother 42 (but woe upon anyone who'd mentioned her age). Since strictly cosmetic boob jobs for the under-aged are frowned upon, the expensive surgery took place in Mexico. How Mom explained away her sudden porn-star chest to her friends I don't know; I don't even know if she bothered; plastic surgery was so prevalent in their circle that no one thought much about it. For The Princess it could have been different, but it took place at the beginning of a summer holiday and when she returned to school after the summer she made up some story about going on the pill and getting a sudden growth spurt. I don't know if anyone believed her, but anyone who questioned the story would get beaten up by Brian's goons.
Apart from the now long-gone hair color, Brian takes after Dad: Short, bald, fat, stupid, and cunning. (God only knows who I take after, but I have never had a chance to verify if Dad actually fathered me.) With the generous allowance from both our parents (a fact Brian successfully kept from both of them, and I was smart enough not to out him; I really had no death wish), and having been given an expensive car on his 16th birthday (including a limit-less fuel card), he was always flush with cash and could buy "friends" and services. I had no allowance, and needless to say I didn't get a car at 16; in fact I got nothing. My means of transport was a bicycle I had paid for myself from doing odd jobs in our neighbors' gardens.
The Princess got a hot pink chick mobile on her 16th. And another one 5 weeks later when she totaled the first. My parents were just "so relieved their little girl escaped a nasty injury in an accident caused by some manic" that she got an even more powerful model the second time around. The "maniac" that "caused" the accident was, if truth be told, a harmless elderly man that The Princess, urged on by her friends, thought it was OK to overtake past double lines in a blind corner near the crest of a hill because he – horror upon horrors – stuck to the speed limit. (The Princess rarely did, even after the crash. She collected speeding and parking tickets at an amazing rate, but somehow just exactly managed to avoid having her license suspended – and Dad paid all the tickets, of course.) How do I know the truth about the accident? I saw it. By chance I was first on the scene. And was told in no uncertain terms that I would back up my sister's story. Or else.
I excelled in school. I make no apologies. I am fucking bright from a purely intellectual point of view (once more seriously questioning my parentage). I just as readily agree that I was not very smart in a street-wise sense – something we'll discuss later.
But as I said, I'm bright. I started school according to age, i.e. two years after Brian, but very quickly I was only one class behind him – and would have skipped another class except my parents "obviously" wouldn't let me "for Brian's sake". I didn't care. I was way beyond both mine and his curriculum, and in fact I took so many college-level classes during my junior and senior years in high school that I was able to graduate with a master's degree at 21 before most of my peers even had their associate's.
But I am getting ahead of myself (and a bit full of myself; I apologize). Since I was useless and Brian was a demi-god, my parents invented all kinds of explanations for Brian's C- average compared to my A+. The usual one – convoluted and bizarre as it may sound – was that since Brian was older, the stuff he was doing was much harder and thus a C- in his year was at least on par with an A+ in mine. I kid you not: That is the kind of bullshit they were spouting. Only once did I call the moronic logic into question by pointing out that what I was doing now to A+ level was what Brian did last year and back then he also got C-. The smack I received from Mom had my ear ringing for hours and I never mentioned it again.
Yes, from Mom. Dad left the corporal punishment – exclusively used on me, of course, to Mom after his signet ring had once ripped my face open causing unpleasant questions at the Doctor's office. I was ordered to say that "I had fallen" – and did so, but the explanation was so implausible that the Doctor knew it for a lie. I later learned that he warned my parents that a repeat would force him to report them.
.... There is more of this story ...