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Open Thread: Wedding Poems


Open Thread: Wedding Poems | A Practical Wedding

A week ago, I had the great honor of reading “i carry your heart” by Cummings during my best friend’s wedding ceremony. By the time I got to the last line, I was hoping that my mascara was as waterproof as my makeup artist promised it was. I couldn’t even look at her, because I knew we would both burst into tears.

That particular poem has been a favorite of hers since she was ten years old. She always imagined that was what real love was; the secret no one knows keeping the stars apart. She’s read the same poem countless times, and has always loved it. It’s grown with her from childhood, to college—where we met while studying poetry—to the beginning of her marriage. I know it will continue to have rich meaning for her as she and her new husband build their life together.

Poetry is about connection. A poem has weight. It can evoke intense feelings with few words, and the more emotion it arouses in you, the more you love it. This is why poetry is so appropriate for weddings, and why there’s such a long relationship between the two, dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks and their epithalamiums.

So, as APW’s resident poetry nerd, I’m currently putting together some wedding poetry roundups, but in the meantime, I want to know: what poems are special to you? What are you considering including in your ceremony? What poems speak to you about love, relationships, and life? Share some inspiration in the comments!

Love,

Emily T.

Photo by APW Sponsor Kara Schultz

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  • k

    Maybe not wedding material, but definitely rehearsal dinner material, and it certainly speaks to me about what’s best in a marriage.

    The Return of Odysseus

    by George Bilgere

    When Odysseus finally does get home
    he is understandably upset about the suitors,
    who have been mooching off his wife for twenty years,
    drinking his wine, eating his mutton, etc.

    In a similar situation today he would seek legal counsel.
    But those were different times. With the help
    of his son Telemachus he slaughters roughly
    one hundred and ten suitors
    and quite a number of young ladies,
    although in view of their behavior
    I use the term loosely. Rivers of blood
    course across the palace floor.

    I too have come home in a bad mood.
    Yesterday, for instance, after the department meeting,
    when I ended up losing my choice parking spot
    behind the library to the new provost.

    I slammed the door. I threw down my book bag
    in this particular way I have perfected over the years
    that lets my wife understand
    the contempt I have for my enemies,
    which is prodigious. And then with great skill
    she built a gin and tonic
    that would have pleased the very gods,
    and with epic patience she listened
    as I told her of my wrath, and of what I intended to do
    to so-and-so, and also to what’s-his-name.

    And then there was another gin and tonic
    and presently my wrath abated and was forgotten,
    and peace came to reign once more
    in the great halls and courtyards of my house.

    • Megan-E

      This is amazing. Poetry, you guys. Love it.

    • Cass

      Oh, I loved this. A lot.

    • Meghan

      Love it!

    • Stalking Sarah

      So great!

  • Kristen

    It’s not a poem, but I prefer song lyrics to poetry anyways. And while cheesy we had this reading at our wedding and it honestly said everything I wanted to say. Now everyone else can post their classy real poetry and know that nothing is cheesier than using a song from a Twilight movie soundtrack. *le sigh*

    “Turning Page”

    I’ve waited a hundred years
    But I’d wait a million more for you
    Nothing prepared me for
    What the privilege of being yours would do

    If I had only felt the warmth within your touch
    If I had only seen how you smile when you blush
    Or how you curl your lip when you concentrate enough
    Well I would have known
    What I was living for all along
    What I’ve been living for

    Your love is my turning page
    Where only the sweetest words remain
    Every kiss is a cursive line
    Every touch is a redefining phrase

    I surrender who I’ve been for who you are
    For nothing makes me stronger than your fragile heart
    If I had only felt how it feels to be yours
    Well I would have known
    What I’ve been living for all along
    What I’ve been living for

    Though we’re tethered, to the story we must tell
    When I saw you, well I knew we’d tell it well
    With the whisper, we will tame the vicious scenes
    Like a feather, bringing kingdoms to their knees

    • Aly

      I think this is beautiful, actually. Thank you for sharing.

    • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison

      On the “using songs from the Twilight soundtrack” theme, I was horribly embarrassed that I wanted to walk down the aisle to “A Thousand Years” by Christina Perri. I ended up using an instrumental version by The Piano Guys and having the song played later at the reception, but I was really hoping no one knew that it was off of the Twilight soundtrack, haha.

      Also, I LOVE THIS SONG and it was played as part of our prelude music to our ceremony. :)

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn M

        I REALLY wanted to have this as our first dance song. But once Brad found out it was from Twilight, he refused :( I pointed out that none of our guests saw the Twilight movie, but it was the principle of the thing. It is a gorgeous song and I love the lyrics.

      • Laura Lee

        I love this song! We’re having it played by a strings trio (my super talented cousins) as the wedding party walks in. I doubt many people will even recognize the song, let alone know it’s from Twilight.

      • http://acceptorchange.blogspot.com YetAnotherMegan

        If it helps for any of you, I love this song and didn’t know it was on the Twilight soundtrack until just now. I first heard her music when “Jar of Hearts” was used on So You Think You Can Dance a couple years ago and have kept my ear out for her since.

      • http://lgcmachine.wordpress.com/ elle

        Great minds think alike! My father and I are walking to The Piano Guys version as well. Although we’re three months away and I can’t even listen to it because I get so teary-eyed. So. Yeah that will be interesting.

      • Kasey

        Alison,

        It is a beautiful song. I heard this song before watching the movie and I also will be using this in my wedding. We have friends that will be playing this song acoustically and as the doors to the ceremony close, they will reopen and I will walk down the aisle during the climax of the last minute of the song. Dramatic I know, but I cringe at the thought of loud traditional organs music or an oprah-esque style singer.

        Kasey

    • Jo

      I’m right there with you on the “cheesy” song train. Here’s mine (and it’s so special to me I’ve been debating whether to share it):

      Kermit & Miss Piggy’s wedding ceremony, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”:

      He’ll make me happy
      Each time I see him
      He’ll be the reason
      My heart can sing
      He’ll stand beside me
      And I’ll have everything

      She’ll make me happy
      Each time I hold her
      And I will follow
      Where my heart may lead
      And she’ll be all I’ll ever need

      Days go passing into years
      Years go passing day by day

      She’ll make him happy
      Now and forever
      Until forever
      Their love will grow

      She only knows
      He’ll make her happy
      That’s all she needs to know

      They’ll be so happy
      Now and forever
      Until forever
      Their love will grow

      I only know
      He’ll make me happy
      That’s all I need…to…know…

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        My friend used this as her processional! It was perfect for them.

      • Teresa

        Somebody’s Getting Married was playing in my head on repeat the entire week before our wedding!!

    • Stephanie

      Opps, i hit report!!!! They really should move that button :-)

      Love this song!! Am going to play it during cocktail hour. I also love the song they danced to during the prom and later the wedding.

  • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

    I can’t wait to read all these poems! One of my faves:

    It’s all I have to bring today
    Emily Dickinson

    It’s all I have to bring today –
    This, and my heart beside –
    This, and my heart, and all the fields –
    And all the meadows wide –
    Be sure you count – should I forget
    Some one the sum could tell –
    This, and my heart, and all the Bees
    Which in the Clover dwell.

    And the one I read at my cousin’s wedding, a more lighthearted number:

    How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog
    by Taylor Mali

    First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
    especially in a city like New York.
    So think long and hard before deciding on love.
    On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
    when you’re walking down the street late at night
    and you have a leash on love
    ain’t no one going to mess with you.
    Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
    Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

    On cold winter nights, love is warm.
    It lies between you and lives and breathes
    and makes funny noises.
    Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
    It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

    Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
    But come home and love is always happy to see you.
    It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
    but you can never be mad at love for long.

    Is love good all the time? No! No!
    Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

    Love makes messes.
    Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
    Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
    Somethimes you just want to get love fixed.
    Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
    and swat love on the nose,
    not so much to cause pain,
    just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

    Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
    Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
    and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
    at once, or wind itself around and around you
    until you’re all wound up and you cannot move.

    But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
    People who have nothing in common but love
    stop and talk to each other on the street.

    Throw things away and love will bring them back,
    again, and again, and again.
    But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
    And in return, love loves you and never stops.

    • Alexandra

      Oh good, you posted How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog. Because that’s the one I was going to post. It makes me happy whenever I read it.

    • Megan-E

      Yes, good! I mentioned this below and forgot to paste the text. When I read it two weeks ago, in the wedding of a friend with whom I bonded over our shelter dogs (the dogs bonded too!), it got laughs, which I didn’t expect, and people were very moved in the end. I must’ve had dozens of comments at the reception about it.

    • http://newcomfortfood.wordpress.com JenMcC

      One of our friends read How Falling in Love Is Like Owning a Dog at our wedding, and it was so great. It got laughs too, but also I tear up a little just typing the title. That’s how good it is.

      • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

        I know! You chuckle along with the truth of it, then at the end, you’re just left with the clarity of the feeling and no words to say for it. . .

    • Lin

      YES! And Taylor Mali also sells autographed letterpress broadsides of the poem.
      http://www.taylormali.com/store/
      My friend had one framed for us as a wedding gift & it’s so sweet to read everyday hanging on the wall. Such a sweet gift.

    • Cate

      So…this is my first time posting on APW. Although I’d like to add, I read EVERYTHING in the archives, which took me a solid 6 months.

      But anyway…I love, love, LOVE Emily Dickinson! I haven’t seen that one before, but I have a poem of hers picked out for my someday wedding:

      He touched me, so I love to know
      That such a day, permitted so,
      I groped upon his breast.
      It was a boundless place to me,
      And silenced, as the awful sea
      Puts minor streams to rest.

      And now, I’m different from before,
      As if I breathed superior air,
      Or brushed a royal gown;
      My feet, too, that had wandered so,
      My gypsy face transfigured now
      To tenderer renown.

      • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

        Thanks for sharing! (and there are plenty of folks around here who cruised the archives all the way through, too- glad you’ve caught up!)

  • Teresa

    We had our friends read e.e. cummings as well! I just love it. We also had a piece of Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” read to close our ceremony:

    Camerado, I give you my hand!
    I give you my love, more precious than money,
    I give you myself before preaching or law:
    Will you give me yourself?
    Will you come travel with me?
    Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

    And we used this poem as our vows:

    I Promise by Dorothy R. Colgan

    I promise to give you the best of myself and to ask of you no more than you can give.
    I promise to respect you as your own person and to realize that your interests,
    desires and needs are no less important than my own.
    I promise to share with you my time and my attention and to bring joy,
    strength and imagination to our relationship.
    I promise to keep myself open to you, to let you see through the window of my world into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.
    I promise to grow along with you, to be willing to face changes in order to keep our relationship alive and exciting.
    I promise to love you in good times and in bad, with all I have to give and all I feel inside in the only way I know how.
    Completely and forever.

    • Brenda

      I’m putting that Whitman in our programs, because I think it’s too short for a reading, but it’s exactly how I feel about marriage.

      • Jess

        We used Whitman as our ring exchange, actually. It was so perfect.

        Also, I have a print now hanging in our house with that last section, and it makes me smile every time I see it.

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      I did a bit of a hack job on Song of the Open Road to use more of it, though the part you pulled was my favorite. My husband is in the military, so the rest works kind of specifically for our lifestyle.

      Allons! we must not stop here,
      However sweet these laid-up stores,
      however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here,
      However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters,
      we must not anchor here,
      However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us
      we are permitted to receive it but a little while.

      Allons! the inducements shall be greater,
      We will sail pathless and wild seas,
      and the Yankee clipper speeds by under full sail.

      Camerado, I give you my hand!
      I give you my love, more precious than money,
      I give you myself before preaching or law:
      Will you give me yourself?
      Will you come travel with me?
      Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

    • Alexis

      Oh man, I did a reading of bits and pieces of Song of the Open Road at my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding many years ago. I got through the first line “I do not offer you the old smooth prizes” and choked up and then proceeded to full out weep through the rest of the reading. I was 15 and mortified, but everyone was so touched, especially my brother. Needless to say, this poem has always had a special place in my heart and I just think you can’t go wrong using it!

    • http://www.karinajean.com karinajean

      I read “song of the open road” at my sisters wedding. It was really powerful! I received it the day before the wedding and was totally comfortable with it – and then when I got to the end:
      “Will you give me yourself?
      Will you come travel with me?
      Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?”
      it was REALLY HARD to finish with out crying.

  • Manya

    A couple more…

    I love you,
    Not only for what you are
    But for what I am
    When I am with you.

    I love you,
    Not only for what
    You have made of yourself
    But for what
    You are making of me.

    I love you
    For the part of me
    That you bring out;
    I love you for putting your hand into my heaped-up heart
    And passing over
    All the foolish, weak things
    That you can’t help
    Dimly seeing there,
    And for drawing out
    Into the light
    All the beautiful belongings
    That no one else had looked
    Quite far enough to find.

    I love you because you
    Are helping me to make
    Of the lumber of my life
    Not a tavern
    But a temple
    Out of works
    Of my every day
    Not a reproach
    But a song.
    -Roy Croft

    So much happiness

    It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.
    With sadness there is something to rub against,
    A wound to tend with lotion and cloth.
    When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,
    Something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.

    But happiness floats.
    It doesn’t need you to hold it down.
    It doesn’t need anything.
    Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,
    And disappears when it wants to.
    You are happy either way.
    Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree house
    And now live over a quarry of noise and dust
    Cannot make you unhappy.
    Everything has a life of its own,
    It too could wake up filled with possibilities
    Of coffee cake and ripe peaches,
    And love even the floor which needs to be swept,
    The soiled linens and scratched records…

    Since there is no place large enough
    To contain so much happiness,
    You shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of you
    Into everything you touch. You are not responsible.
    You take no credit, as the night sky takes no credit
    For the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,
    And in that way, be known.
    -Naiomi Shihab Nye

    • Megan

      Thanks, Manya. That second poem, in particular, struck me. Beautiful.

    • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison

      We used the Roy Croft poem, but ours had the additional stanza at the end:

      I love you
      Because you have done
      More than any creed
      Could have done
      To make me good.
      And more than any fate
      Could have done
      To make me happy.

      You have done it
      Without a touch,
      Without a word,
      Without a sign.

      You have done it
      By being yourself.
      Perhaps that is what
      Being a friend means,
      After all.

      I have heard it both ways and love them both.

      • Beca

        I used the complete Roy Croft poem as part of my vows. Nailed it!

        • http://www.safarimama.blog.com Manya

          I didn’t even know there was more to it! Dang!

  • kathleenicanrah

    this is…NOT a wedding poem, but is rather a divorce poem. I read it and send it to friends who are going through breaks and breaking.

    It Was Like This: You Were Happy
    – Jane Hirshfield

    It was like this:
    you were happy, then you were sad,
    then happy again, then not.

    It went on.
    You were innocent or you were guilty.
    Actions were taken, or not.

    At times you spoke, at other times you were silent.
    Mostly, it seems you were silent — what could you say?

    Now it is almost over.

    Like a lover, your life bends down and kisses your life.

    It does this not in forgiveness –
    between you, there is nothing to forgive –
    but with the simple nod of a baker at the moment
    he sees the bread is finished with transformation.

    Eating, too, is now a thing only for others.

    It doesn’t matter what they will make of you
    or your days: they will be wrong,
    they will miss the wrong woman, miss the wrong man,
    all the stories they tell will be tales of their own invention.

    Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,
    you slept, you awakened.
    Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons.

    • Emily

      Oh, man. This is so good.

    • meg

      I love that you shared a divorce poem.

    • http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com Kristin

      LOVE this poem. Two of my other favorite comfort poems are “Love After Love” by Derek Walcott and “Failing and Flying” by Jack Gilbert. They’re both beautiful.

      http://www.onbeing.org/program/opening-our-lives/feature/love-after-love/508
      http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16872

      • Kathryn F.

        LOVE Love After Love. I found it in Time Travelers Wife and I’ve loved it ever since!

    • meaganep

      We used Jane Hirshfield’s A Blessing for Wedding as our final reading. I found it while doing research for a poetry discussion group I run at my library, and it took my breath away.

      Today when persimmons ripen
      Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
      Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
      Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
      Today when windows keep their promise to open
      Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
      Today when someone you love has died
      or someone you never met has died
      Today when someone you love has been born
      or someone you will not meet has been born
      Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
      Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
      Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
      Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
      Today, let this light bless you
      With these friends let it bless you
      With snow-scent and lavender bless you
      Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
      Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
      Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
      Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
      Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

      • Denzi

        Wow.

  • Katherine

    We used a poem that I have loved for years — found it in an anthology of modern poets.

    The person who read it for us did a fantastic job of bringing it to life.

    The Archipelago of Kisses, by Jeffrey McDaniel

    We live in a modern society. Husbands and wives don’t
    grow on trees, like in the old days. So where
    does one find love? When you’re sixteen it’s easy,
    like being unleashed with a credit card
    in a department store of kisses. There’s the first kiss.
    The sloppy kiss. The peck.
    The sympathy kiss. The backseat smooch. The we
    shouldn’t be doing this kiss. The but your lips
    taste so good kiss. The bury me in an avalanche of tingles kiss.
    The I wish you’d quit smoking kiss.
    The I accept your apology, but you make me really mad
    sometimes kiss. The I know
    your tongue like the back of my hand kiss. As you get
    older, kisses become scarce. You’ll be driving
    home and see a damaged kiss on the side of the road,
    with its purple thumb out. If you
    were younger, you’d pull over, slide open the mouth’s
    red door just to see how it fits. Oh where
    does one find love? If you rub two glances, you get a smile.
    Rub two smiles, you get a warm feeling.
    Rub two warm feelings and presto-you have a kiss.
    Now what? Don’t invite the kiss over
    and answer the door in your underwear. It’ll get suspicious
    and stare at your toes. Don’t water the kiss with whiskey.
    It’ll turn bright pink and explode into a thousand luscious splinters,
    but in the morning it’ll be ashamed and sneak out of
    your body without saying good-bye,
    and you’ll remember that kiss forever by all the little cuts it left
    on the inside of your mouth. You must
    nurture the kiss. Turn out the lights. Notice how it
    illuminates the room. Hold it to your chest
    and wonder if the sand inside hourglasses comes from a
    special beach. Place it on the tongue’s pillow,
    then look up the first recorded kiss in an encyclopedia: beneath
    a Babylonian olive tree in 1200 B.C.
    But one kiss levitates above all the others. The
    intersection of function and desire. The I do kiss.
    The I’ll love you through a brick wall kiss.
    Even when I’m dead, I’ll swim through the Earth,
    like a mermaid of the soil, just to be next to your bones.

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      I was smiling along with this delightful poem, until the last three lines made me tear up. Thanks for sharing it <3

    • Breck

      My favorite poem of all time!!

      “The Quiet World” by Jeffrey McDaniel is also amazing:

      In an effort to get people to look
      into each other’s eyes more,
      and also to appease the mutes,
      the government has decided
      to allot each person exactly one hundred
      and sixty-seven words, per day.

      When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
      without saying hello. In the restaurant
      I point at chicken noodle soup.
      I am adjusting well to the new way.

      Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
      proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
      I saved the rest for you.

      When she doesn’t respond,
      I know she’s used up all her words,
      so I slowly whisper I love you
      thirty-two and a third times.
      After that, we just sit on the line
      and listen to each other breathe.

      • Melise

        Of all of the beautiful poems on this page, this is the one that started the tears. Thank you.

        • Laurel

          Tears for me too.

      • Caroline

        Oh man, I can so relate to sitting on the phone listening to each other breath. If I get brain cancer when I’m older, it’s all my fault for the 3 years of nights we fell asleep on the cellphone, listening to each other breath.

        It’s a beautiful poem.

      • Beca

        As half of a former long-distance couple, this one hit home. HARD.

      • Cass

        This was exactly the Jeffrey McDaniel poem I was going to post too. I’m so happy many other people know of his amazingness.

    • Cass

      My BFF incorporated this poem into a wedding gift my husband.

    • charmcityvixen

      Met Jeffrey McDaniel in person — stuttered like the fan girl that I am. LOVE HIS WORKS!

  • Jennie

    Love this one:
    HAVING A COKE WITH YOU
    by Frank O’Hara

    is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
    or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
    partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
    partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
    partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
    partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
    it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
    as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
    in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
    between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

    and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
    you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

    I look
    at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
    except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
    which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
    and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
    just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
    at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
    and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
    when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
    or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
    as the horse

    it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
    which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

    • http://juliahalprinjackson.com Julia

      Yes! Frank O’Hara! Yes!

    • Laura

      Frank O’Hara is my favorite poet of all time! We used this one of of his in our ceremony:

      My Heart

      I’m not going to cry all the time
      nor shall I laugh all the time,
      I don’t prefer one “strain” to another.
      I’d have the immediacy of a bad movie,
      not just a sleeper, but also the big,
      overproduced first-run kind.
      I want to be at least as alive as the vulgar. And if some aficionado of my mess says “That’s not like Frank!,” all to the good! I don’t wear brown and grey suits all the time, do I? No. I wear workshirts to the opera,
      often. I want my feet to be bare,
      I want my face to be shaven, and my heart–you can’t plan on the heart, but
      the better part of it, my poetry, is open.

      Maybe not the wedding-est poem ever, but it said what we wanted it to say. :)

  • Remy

    We ended up not using it at the wedding, because it’s long and we had several readings, but I’ve been touched by how this poem speaks to us, in our two languages, about how we create out own community and about how marriage –and many kinds of freedom — should be available for all. It’s appropriate for Pride month.

    “Te Quiero”
    Mario Benedetti

    Tus manos son mi caricia
    mis acordes cotidianos
    te quiero porque tus manos
    trabajan por la justicia

    si te quiero es porque sos
    mi amor mi cómplice y todo
    y en la calle codo a codo
    somos mucho más que dos

    tus ojos son mi conjuro
    contra la mala jornada
    te quiero por tu mirada
    que mira y siembra futuro

    tu boca que es tuya y mía
    tu boca no se equivoca
    te quiero porque tu boca
    sabe gritar rebeldía

    si te quiero es porque sos
    mi amor mi cómplice y todo
    y en la calle codo a codo
    somos mucho más que dos

    y por tu rostro sincero
    y tu paso vagabundo
    y tu llanto por el mundo
    porque sos pueblo te quiero

    y porque amor no es aureola
    ni cándida moraleja
    y porque somos pareja
    que sabe que no está sola

    te quiero en mi paraíso
    es decir que en mi país
    la gente viva feliz
    aunque no tenga permiso

    si te quiero es porque sos
    mi amor mi cómplice y todo
    y en la calle codo a codo
    somos mucho más que dos.

    (English translation at http://larazachronicles.blogspot.com/2009/05/i-love-you-mario-benedetti-english.html)

    • Hintzy

      even though I don’t speak the language, it just made me really really happy to see a poem in a language other than english… this is one of the reasons why I love apw

      and it’s an awesome poem, nice choice :)

  • Carly

    I’ve got a few in mind that I’d really love to use but my partner “doesn’t get” poetry (or so he says)… I’m slightly worried about having something in our ceremony that my partner merely thinks is nice (or, realistically, thinks is kinda weird but loves me so will go along with it anyhow…).

    In any case, in the spirit of sharing – Habitation, by Margaret Atwood:

    Marriage is not
    a house or even a tent

    it is before that, and colder:

    The edge of the forest, the edge
    of the desert
    the unpainted stairs
    at the back where we squat
    outside, eating popcorn

    where painfully and with wonder
    at having survived even
    this far

    we are learning to make fire

    • Julie

      I have always loved this poem, but somehow lost it along the way. Thanks for reminding me of it.

    • meg

      Oh, but that’s what marriage is, right? Thinking things are a little weird, but loving someone so going along with it anyway. It would be so boring if we only did things we both agreed on and loved.

    • Darcy

      We used this poem at our wedding and it still gets me.

    • meaganep

      I read this at a friend’s wedding and halfway through just broke down in sobs. It is still one of the most beautiful expressions of love and commitment I’ve ever read.

      People came up to me all throughout the reception to talk about the poem. It really touched them; I hope you and your partner are able to discuss it more and you can use it!

    • Laura K

      This one gave me chills! So good.

    • Ros

      We used this as a poem in our wedding last summer!

      I love it so much.

  • Amanda L.

    My sister read part of ‘I carry your heart’ during her speech and I was a puddle. It meant the world to me (and I’m now tearing up just thinking about it!).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn M

      I adore I Carry Your Heart. My cousin had it at her wedding. I was thinking about putting it on my programs.

  • http://www.wriightremedy.com Addie

    “i carry you heart” is my favorite poem in the whole word and I had it read at my first wedding. So since that’s out for my next one, we’re going with my second favorite Cummings poem:

    love is more thicker than forget

    love is more thicker than forget
    more thinner than recall
    more seldom than a wave is wet
    more frequent than to fail

    it is most mad and moonly
    and less it shall unbe
    than all the sea which only
    is deeper than the sea

    love is less always than to win
    less never than alive
    less bigger than the least begin
    less littler than forgive

    it is most sane and sunly
    and more it cannot die
    than all the sky which only
    is higher than the sky

    “and more it cannot die” is the line that gets me every time. I like to use when I write practice wedding ceremonies.

  • Remy

    My wonderful bridesmaid-who-was-an-ex-girlfriend read this (we love Millay) during the ceremony. Good for poly folks or other nontraditional loves.

    “Not In A Silver Casket Cool With Pearls” (Sonnet XI)
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

    Not in a silver casket cool with pearls
    Or rich with red corundum or with blue,
    Locked, and the key withheld, as other girls
    Have given their loves, I give my love to you;
    Not in a lovers’-knot, not in a ring
    Worked in such fashion, and the legend plain—
    Semper fidelis, where a secret spring
    Kennels a drop of mischief for the brain:
    Love in the open hand, no thing but that,
    Ungemmed, unhidden, wishing not to hurt,
    As one should bring you cowslips in a hat
    Swung from the hand, or apples in her skirt,
    I bring you, calling out as children do:
    “Look what I have!—And these are all for you.”

    • Emily

      Millay is one of my favorites! All of her sonnets are lovely.

      • meg

        Millay IS my favorite!

        • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

          Mine too; I have an old battered hard-back of A Few Figs From Thistles that I read often.

  • Lauren

    This was too long to read during a wedding ceremony. We had our siblings read it anyway. Although my brother, the day before the wedding, told me in no uncertain terms that there was NO WAY that either of them were going to read the second stanza so we needed to cut it, haha. (I gave in)

    The Dance, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

    I have sent you my invitation,
    The note inscribed on the palm of my hand
    By the fire of living.
    Don’t jump up and shout,
    “Yes, this is what I want! Let’s do it!”
    Just stand up quietly and dance with me.

    Show me how you follow your deepest desires,
    Spiraling down into the ache within the ache.
    And I will show you how I reach inward and open outward
    To feel the kiss of the Mystery, sweet lips on my own, everyday.

    Don’t tell me you want to hold the whole world in your heart.
    Show me how you turn away from making another wrong
    Without abandoning yourself when you are hurt
    And afraid of being unloved.

    Tell me a story of who you are,
    And see who I am in the stories I am living.
    And together we will remember that each of us always has a choice.

    Don’t tell me how wonderful things will be . . . some day.
    Show me you can risk being completely at peace,
    Truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment,
    And again in the next,
    And the next,
    And the next. . .

    I have heard enough warrior stories of heroic daring.
    Tell me how you crumble when you hit the wall,
    The place you cannot go beyond
    By the strength of your own will.
    What carries you to the other side of that wall,
    To the fragile beauty of your own humanness?

    And after we have shown each other
    How we have set and kept
    The clear, healthy boundaries that help us
    Live side by side with each other,
    Let us risk remembering that we never stop silently loving
    Those we once loved out loud.

    Take me to the places on the earth that teach you how to dance,
    The places where you can risk letting the world break your heart.
    And I will take you to the places where the earth beneath my feet
    And the stars overhead make my heart whole again and again.

    Show me how you take care of business
    Without letting business determine who you are.
    When the children are fed but still the voices within and around us
    Shout that soul’s desires have too high a price,
    Let us remind each other that it is never about the money.

    Show me how you offer to your people and the world
    The stories and the songs you want
    The children’s children to remember,
    And I will show you how I struggle
    Not to change the world, but to love it.

    Sit beside me in long moments of shared solitude,
    Knowing both our absolute aloneness
    And our undeniable belonging.
    Dance with me in the silence and in the sound of small daily words,
    Holding neither against me at the end of the day.

    And when the sound of all the declarations
    Of our sincerest intentions has died away on the wind,
    Dance with me in the infinite pause before the next great inhale
    Of the breath that is breathing us all into being,
    Not filling the emptiness from the outside but from within.

    Don’t say, “Yes!”
    Just take my hand and dance with me.

    • Fermi

      I am seriously considering having this read at our wedding,

    • http://Www.marbleryephotography.com Melissa

      I love this one. I read it for the first time here years ago, and then wrote it out in a blank green card. It’s lived with me in every bedroom since, and is about to join me in Africa.

      It’s beautiful for a wedding reading, and even better as a reminder to be.. Alive. All of the time.

  • Nina B.

    Our officiant read Glaucoma by Rives at our ceremony. I love going back and reading (or watching) it from time to time.
    http://www.shopliftwindchimes.com/glaucoma.html
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDr4ANkd4uw

  • jessica

    We used 2 different poems in our ceremony, the first I stole from Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, but I loved it so much!

    The Life That I Have by Leo Marks

    The life that I have 

    Is all that I have 

    And the life that I have is yours. 



    The love that I have

    Of the life that I have 

    Is yours and yours and yours. 


    A sleep I shall have

    A rest I shall have 

    Yet death will be but a pause

    For the peace of my years 

    In the long green grass 

    Will be yours and yours and yours.

    The second was:
    Blessing for Wedding By Jane Hirshfield

    Today when persimmons ripen
    Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
    Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
    Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
    Today when windows keep their promise to open
    Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
    Today when someone you love has died
    or someone you never met has died
    Today when someone you love has been born
    or someone you will not meet has been born
    Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
    Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
    Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
    Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
    Today, let this light bless you
    With these friends let it bless you
    With snow-scent and lavender bless you
    Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
    Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
    Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
    Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
    Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      That first one gave me goose bumps.

    • Stalking Sarah

      I used the Chelsea Clinton one, too. I loved it!

  • Becs

    Sonnet XVII – Pablo Neruda

    I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

    I love you as the plant that never blooms
    but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
    thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
    risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way

    than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
    so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
    so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

    • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison

      We used this as one of our readings! Love it.

    • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara H.

      Yay! Another Pablo Neruda lover. I just posted the same poem at the same time as you. I’ll just add on the original Spanish to your post then:

      XVII
      Pablo Neruda

      No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
      o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
      te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
      secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

      Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
      dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
      y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
      el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

      Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
      te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
      así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
      sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
      tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
      tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

    • Rosie

      This poem is amazing, I will be saving this. Thank you for sharing.

    • Laurel

      This is my favorite poem of all time. I thought about using it as part of our ceremony, but I was afraid I would cry.

      • http://twitter.com/vereb KV

        I second favorite poem of all time!

    • Hintzy

      I love that poem so so much, I know it from Patch Adams (the Robin Williams movie) which is kinda odd, but it’s just so good.

    • Nora

      I gave my fiance a copy of Neruda’s love sonnets for our first Valentine’s Day. Although I doubt he ever read it (he’s not much for poetry), this poem is exactly what I was trying to say. It makes my heart ache inside, in a very good way.

  • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara H.

    We didn’t end up reading this at our ceremony. But it still remains one of my favorite love poems of all time:

    XVII
    Pablo Neruda

    No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
    o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
    te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
    secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

    Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
    dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
    y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
    el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

    Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
    te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
    así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,
    sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
    tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
    tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

    XVII
    (Translated by Stephen Tapscott)

    I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

    I love you as the plant that never blooms
    but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
    thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
    risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way
    than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
    so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
    so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

    • Christina

      I love this Neruda poem, but actually sent another to a pair of friends on their wedding day:

      Soneto LXXXI

      Ya eres mía. Reposa con tu sueño en mi sueño.
      Amor, dolor, trabajos, deben dormir ahora.
      Gira la noche sobre sus invisibles ruedas
      y junto a mí eres pura como el ámbar dormido.
      Ninguna más, amor, dormirá con mis sueños.
      Irás, iremos juntos por las aguas del tiempo.
      Ninguna viajará por la sombra conmigo,
      sólo tú, siempreviva, siempre sol, siempre luna.
      Ya tus manos abrieron los puños delicados
      y dejaron caer suaves signos sin rumbo,
      tus ojos se cerraron como dos alas grises,
      mientras yo sigo el agua que llevas y me lleva:
      la noche, el mundo, el viento devanan su destino,
      y ya no soy sin ti sino sólo tu sueño.

      The first line just gets me. “You are already mine.”

  • Lauren

    Also, more that we loved, that we used in our program instead:

    Understand, I’ll slip quietly
    Away from the noisy crowd
    When I see the pale
    Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
    I’ll pursue solitary pathways
    Through the pale twilit meadows,
    With only this one dream:
    You come, too.
    (Rainer Maria Rilke)

    and

    An Excerpt from “An Epithalamion” by Tony Kushner
    Encircled by this breathing world

    within this close sphere of warm summer night
    
ringed by this congress of friends here assembled

    we make declaration of our love and our union

    in public declaring what’s privately ours.

    From this crowd of hearts, shared heat and blood.
    


    I am yours, who I love, not a dream by life,
    not fantasy, immortality, eternity, but the
    present moment and all-too- mortal flesh;
    to what is hardest; love is hardest;
    hard and simple and what is best in life.


    Love care honor growth—fine simple things
    and I make a vow of them to you.


    I too vow these to you who I also love and also
    to the careful protecting and preserving of dreams.
    Circle within circle, concentrically guarded, in the pliable element of the innermost heart,
    a garden blossoms in a golden ring; 
the dream of dawn in paradise shines there.
    Love is imagination’s spur and food.


    I promise you a future, impossible things,
    Justice and freedom and life without loss, 
a practical pillow, a home, in fact, a sheltering and withstanding spirit and always a room for your dreaming.

    And then…

    Together, old and content,
    the day is warm and nearly over, the first breeze
    of evening plays in your hair.
    The sun sinks behind us, 
silhouetting the city.
    
An old hand is ringing down the curtain.

    We cross the bridge that goes east
    
into night.

    • Becs

      LOVE the first poem! Beautiful!

    • Carly

      I LOVE this Tony Kushner excerpt; it’s another one that I really want to use!

      • Jess

        Tony Kushner makes me ugly cry so hard. He is the most brilliant man to have walked this planet. If I can make it through “An Epithalamion”, those will be my vows. So beautiful.

        • Emily

          we’re using the Rilke in 1 week :)

  • Jessica

    I don’t know if this will fit in my ceremony (one day) but I absolutely love this poem and all of the nonsense wrapped up in it. Love’s often like that, full of nonsense. And if you haven’t seen it, check out the youtube video of this poem spoken by the little boy.

    Litany by Billy Collins

    You are the bread and the knife,
    the crystal goblet and the wine.
    You are the dew on the morning grass
    and the burning wheel of the sun.
    You are the white apron of the baker,
    and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

    However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
    the plums on the counter,
    or the house of cards.
    And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
    There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

    It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
    maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
    but you are not even close
    to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

    And a quick look in the mirror will show
    that you are neither the boots in the corner
    nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

    It might interest you to know,
    speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
    that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

    I also happen to be the shooting star,
    the evening paper blowing down an alley
    and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

    I am also the moon in the trees
    and the blind woman’s tea cup.
    But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
    You are still the bread and the knife.
    You will always be the bread and the knife,
    not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

    • http://www.wriightremedy.com Addie

      I used this exact peom in a wedding I performed in February. I used it in the context of wishing this poem as the worst fight the couple would ever have. It totally worked.

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      I love Billy Collins. The endings of his poems are always just right.

    • sarahmrose

      I adore this, I laughed out loud reading it. It really resonated with me, maybe because my husband and I are extremely different. Maybe because much of what is our romance is teasing and laughter.

      I also love Billy Collins. Not a wedding poem, but this is my favorite poem of his for those who want more: http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2001/07/The-Afterlife.aspx

      • LifeSheWrote

        LOVE this Afterlife poem. Filing that away for future (re)reading… just sums things up perfectly!

    • Beth

      We had a friend pick a poem to read at our wedding and he picked this one, which I loved. We had guests comment on it in the context of how important it is to know who your partner is as well as who they are not.

  • Laura C

    This song as a whole is not something I’d really have read, but the chorus is so perfect I need to have it worked in somewhere, somehow:

    “So send me to the grave with the age-old question
    How’d I get into this beautiful mess?
    And it was never my intention and never my style
    everything about you is worth my while”
    – Kasey Chambers, “Beautiful Mess”

    This poetry thread is both great and stressful, because we have readings we want about our shared values/politics, but no relationship-type reading yet, and I feel a ton of pressure around that.

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      Let the pressure go. All these poets are truly adept, but even they cannot encapsulate the essence of every relationship. A reading will come, or it won’t, or it will be imperfect, but that doesn’t have any bearing on the goodness and wholeness of your ceremony.

      You’d be lucky, indeed, to find (or write!) a poem that meant as much as looking into your partner’s eyes. :-)

  • Rosie

    We used the Hobbit version of the Road Goes Ever On by JRR Tolkien. It’s not particularly romantic, but I liked its description of continuing to explore and wander and yet find home.

    The Road Goes Ever On (JRR Tolkien)
    Roads go ever ever on
    Over rock and under tree
    By caves where never sun has shone
    By streams that never find the sea
    Over snow by winter sown
    And through the merry flowers of June
    Over grass and over stone
    And under mountains in the moon

    Roads go ever ever on
    Under cloud and under star
    Yet feet that wandering have gone
    Turn at last to home afar
    Eyes that fire and sword have seen
    And horror in the halls of stone
    Look at last on meadows green
    And trees and hills they long have known

    • Caitlin

      Yes, I was going to add this poem if no one had!

  • Megan-E

    Two weeks ago I read “How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog,” by Taylor Mali, in my friend’s wedding. I cried for weeks during my practice readings and only held it together, just like Emily, by trying not to look my sweet friend in the eye – we would’ve both been goners!

    • http://smazzle.blogspot.com casey

      OMG we loved this poem and my cousin read it for us at our wedding!

      “How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog,” by Taylor Mali
      First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
      especially in a city like [Boston].
      So think long and hard before deciding on love.
      On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
      when you’re walking down the street late at night
      and you have a leash on love
      ain’t no one going to mess with you.
      Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
      Who knows what love could do in its own defense?

      On cold winter nights, love is warm.
      It lies between you and lives and breathes
      and makes funny noises.
      Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
      It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.

      Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
      But come home and love is always happy to see you.
      It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
      but you can never be mad at love for long.

      Is love good all the time? No! No!
      Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.

      Love makes messes.
      Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
      Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
      Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
      Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
      and swat love on the nose,
      not so much to cause pain,
      just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!

      Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
      Because love loves exercise.
      It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
      It pulls you in several different directions at once,
      or winds around and around you
      until you’re all wound up and can’t move.

      But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
      People who have nothing in common but love
      stop and talk to each other on the street.

      Throw things away and love will bring them back,
      again, and again, and again.
      But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
      And in return, love loves you and never stops.

  • Laura

    I read so many poems trying to choose, finally settling on ones that felt “about us” and our views on love, the wedding, and marriage. Perhaps my favorite of the three we used (two readings, one written on chalkboard) was an excerpt of [the much longer]

    An Epithalamion. For Steven and Susan Gochenour-Rosen by Tony Kushner

    2. Encircled by this breathing world
    within this close sphere of warm summer night
    ringed by this congress of friends here assembled
    we make declaration of our love and our union
    in public declaring what’s privately ours.
    From this crowd of hearts, shared heat and blood.

    3. I am yours, who I love, not a dream but life, not fantasy,
    Immortality, eternity, but the present moment and all-too-
    Mortal flesh; to what is hardest; love is hardest; hard and
    simple and what is best in life.

    Love care honor growth – fine simple things and I make a vow of them to you.

  • http://everydayartifacts.net Shaelyn

    From Twenty-One Love Poems, by Adrienne Rich

    II.

    I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
    Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
    you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
    our friend the poet comes into my room
    where I’ve been writing for days,
    drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
    and I want to show her one poem
    which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
    and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
    to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
    I say, a poem I wanted to show someone…
    and I laugh and fall dreaming again
    of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
    to move openly together
    in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
    which carries the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.

  • Vaillante

    alright, this has made me come out of my occasional lurking.
    I can no longer see myself using this poem in any public setting, but perhaps one of y’all will take to it.
    I still love it. And the author did write it for his wife. :)

    Other Lives and Dimensions and Finally a Love Poem, by Bob Hicok

    My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
    of my palms tell me so.
    Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
    at the same time. I think

    praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
    staying up and waiting
    for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
    is exactly what’s happening,

    it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
    of mournful Whistlers,
    the audible sorrow and beta decay of “Old Battersea Bridge.”
    I like the idea of different

    theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
    a Bronx where people talk
    like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
    kind, perhaps in the nook

    of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed
    anyone. Here I have
    two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
    to rest my cheek against,

    your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
    My hands are webbed
    like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
    something in the womb

    but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds
    or a life I felt
    passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly
    she had to scream out.

    Here when I say “I never want to be without you,”
    somewhere else I am saying
    “I never want to be without you again.” And when I touch you
    in each of the places we meet

    in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
    and resurrected.
    When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
    in each place and forever.

  • http://simply--a.blogspot.com/ Alison

    Along with the Roy Croft poem and Pablo Neruda sonata that were already mentioned, we also used this in our programs and our guest book:

    Even
    After
    All this time
    The sun never says to the earth,

    “You owe me.”

    Look
    What happens
    With a love like that,
    It lights the
    Whole
    Sky.

    – Hafiz

    We also really wanted to use excerpts from “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg (http://ategato.tumblr.com/post/1178367035) and thought about using an excerpt from So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, by Douglas Adams:

    For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savanna stretching gray and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.

    He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.

    He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “yes.”

    But our ceremony only had spots for two readings (according to our stodgy Rabbi). I love reading everyone else’s favorite poems and ones they used in their ceremonies!

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      I collected probably 20 readings I liked before we started narrowing down, and we ended up with 4. I can’t imagine cutting further! I wanted to include I Like You, but it ended up being too long, and it’s hard to cut. Still, I love it.

    • sarahmrose

      DOUGLAS ADAMS YES. Despite the fact that he is often characterized as a humor writer, he has some of the most poignant passages I’ve read.

    • charmcityvixen

      Almost used this! Chose a different Hafiz poem.

  • Laura

    I am never going to get to use this because my fiance wants a really basic, ‘say the words and that’s it’ ceremony, but I really love Christina Rossetti’s ‘A Birthday':

    My heart is like a singing bird
    Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
    My heart is like an apple-tree
    Whose boughs are bent with thick-set fruit;
    My heart is like a rainbow shell
    That paddles in a halcyon sea;
    My heart is gladder than all these,
    Because my love is come to me.

    Raise me a daïs of silk and down;
    Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
    Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
    And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
    Work it in gold and silver grapes,
    In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
    Because the birthday of my life
    Is come, my love is come to me.

  • http://www.vivianchen.com Viv

    My favorite poem I’ve heard at a wedding (made me tear up!) was a sweet and silly little poem called “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg:

    I like you and I know why.
    I like you because you are a good person to like.
    I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
    And you remember it a long, long time.
    You say, “Remember when you told me something special?”
    And both of us remember

    When I think something is important
    you think it’s important too
    We have good ideas
    When I say something funny, you laugh
    I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too
    Hah-hah!

    I like you because you know where I’m ticklish
    And you don’t tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
    But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too

    You know how to be silly
    That’s why I like you
    Boy are you ever silly
    I never met anybody sillier than me till I met you
    I like you because you know when it’s time to stop being silly
    Maybe day after tomorrow
    Maybe never
    Too late, it’s a quarter past silly!

    Sometimes we don’t say a word
    We snurkle under fences
    We spy secret places
    If I am a goofus on the roofus hollering my head off
    You are one too
    If I pretend I am drowning, you pretend you are saving me
    If I am getting ready to pop a paper bag,
    then you are getting ready to jump
    HOORAY!

    That’s because you really like me
    You really like me, don’t you?
    And I really like you back
    And you like me back and I like you back
    And that’s the way we keep on going every day

    If you go away, then I go away too
    or if I stay home, you send me a postcard
    You don’t just say “Well see you around sometime, bye”
    I like you a lot because of that
    If I go away, I send you a postcard too
    And I like you because if we go away together
    And if we are in Grand Central Station
    And if I get lost
    Then you are the one that is yelling for me

    And I like you because when I am feeling sad
    You don’t always cheer me up right away
    Sometimes it is better to be sad
    You can’t stand the others being so googly and gaggly every single minute
    You want to think about things
    It takes time
    I like you because if I am mad at you
    Then you are mad at me too
    It’s awful when the other person isn’t
    They are so nice and hoo-hoo you could just about punch them in the nose

    I like you because if I think I am going to throw up
    then you are really sorry
    You don’t just pretend you are busy looking at the birdies and all that
    You say, maybe it was something you ate
    You say, the same thing happened to me one time
    And the same thing did

    If you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one
    If I find four, I give you two
    If we only find three, we keep on looking
    Sometimes we have good luck, and sometimes we don’t
    If I break my arm, and if you break your arm too
    Then it’s fun to have a broken arm
    I tell you about mine, you tell me about yours
    We are both sorry
    We write our names and draw pictures
    We show everybody and they wish they had a broken arm too

    I like you because I don’t know why but
    Everything that happens is nicer with you
    I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
    It must have been lonesome then
    I like you because because because
    I forget why I like you but I do

    So many reasons
    On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
    On the fifth of July, I like you too
    If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
    If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
    We could be a HOLIDAY
    We could be a CELEBRATION
    We could be a WHOLE PARADE

    See what I mean?
    Even if it was the 999th of July
    Even if it was August
    Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
    Even if it was no place particular in January
    I would go on choosing you
    And you would go on choosing me
    Over and over again

    That’s how it would happen every time
    I don’t know why
    I guess I don’t know why I really like you
    Why do I like you
    I guess I just like you
    I guess I just like you because I like you.

    • Jessica B

      This is definitely something I want present at my wedding. I think the whole thing on the back of the program, and a portion of it read out loud!

      • Caitrin

        We did this at our wedding and it was a huge hit! We each picked a friend and they took turns reading verses.

    • Laura Lee

      I LOVE this one and really wanted to use it in our ceremony, but we’ve decided it’s really just too long. I’d especially love if FH and I read it together instead of having someone else read it, but I would never be able to get through a reading that long without totally losing my cool and sobbing, haha. We’re both going to have a hard enough time just getting through our (purposefully short) vows.

    • Moe

      I don’t like poetry and for some reason I’m tearing up over this one!

      • http://www.vivianchen.com Viv Chen

        It just captures that feeling of sweet love so simply! I wish we had read this at our wedding… maybe someday, like vow renewals? Or I’ll have it printed and framed for our (future) children!

    • Emma

      I love love love this poem! Brilliant, thanks for sharing :)

    • Beth

      We used excerpts from this at our wedding and I think it went over pretty well! We had two friends split up the paragraphs, which was good because one of them started crying right away, which of course made me cry (although I would have anyway at that point). We cut it down to the following:

      I like you and I know why.
      I like you because you are a good person to like.
      I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
      And you remember it a long, long time.
      You say, “Remember when you told me something special?”
      And both of us remember

      When I think something is important
      you think it’s important too
      We have good ideas
      When I say something funny, you laugh
      I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too

      I like you because you know where I’m ticklish
      And you don’t tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
      But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too

      That’s because you really like me
      You really like me, don’t you?
      And I really like you back
      And you like me back and I like you back
      And that’s the way we keep on going every day

      If you go away, then I go away too
      or if I stay home, you send me a postcard
      You don’t just say “Well see you around sometime, bye”
      I like you a lot because of that
      If I go away, I send you a postcard too
      And I like you because if we go away together
      And if we are in Grand Central Station
      And if I get lost
      Then you are the one that is yelling for me

      If you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one
      If I find four, I give you two
      If we only find three, we keep on looking
      Sometimes we have good luck, and sometimes we don’t

      I like you because I don’t know why but
      Everything that happens is nicer with you
      I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
      It must have been lonesome then
      I like you because because because
      I forget why I like you but I do

      So many reasons
      On the 4th of July I like you because it’s the 4th of July
      On the fifth of July, I like you too
      If you and I had some drums and some horns and some horses
      If we had some hats and some flags and some fire engines
      We could be a HOLIDAY
      We could be a CELEBRATION
      We could be a WHOLE PARADE

      See what I mean?
      Even if it was the 999th of July
      Even if it was August
      Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
      Even if it was no place particular in January
      I would go on choosing you
      And you would go on choosing me
      Over and over again

      That’s how it would happen every time
      I don’t know why
      I guess I don’t know why I really like you
      Why do I like you
      I guess I just like you
      I guess I just like you because I like you.

  • http://sociallyconstructedkaytlin.blogspot.com Kaytlin Reedy-Rogier

    We read two poems at our wedding – both were pretty glib and cheesy but I loved them so much that I had the last line of one of them tattooed on my arm (with a picture of dinosaurs by it).
    They were:

    “A Lovely Love Story” by Edward Monkton

    The fierce Dinosaur was trapped inside his cage of ice. Although it was cold he was happy in there. It was, after all, his cage.
    Then along came the Lovely Other Dinosaur. The Lovely Other Dinosaur melted the Dinosaur’s cage with kind words and loving thoughts.
    “I like this Dinosaur,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “Although he is fierce he is also tender and he is funny. He is also quite clever, though I will not tell him this for now.”
    “I like this Lovely Other Dinosaur,” thought the Dinosaur. “She is beautiful and she is different and she smells so nice. She is also a free spirit which is a quality I much admire in a dinosaur.”
    “But he can be so distant and so peculiar at times,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “He is also overly fond of things. Are all Dinosaurs so overly fond of things?”
    “But her mind skips from here to there so quickly,” thought the Dinosaur. “She is also uncommonly keen on shopping. Are all Lovely Other Dinosaurs so uncommonly keen on shopping?”
    “I will forgive his peculiarity and his concern for things,” thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur. “For they are part of what makes him a richly charactered individual.”
    “I will forgive her skipping mind and her fondness for shopping,” thought the Dinosaur. “For she fills our life with beautiful thoughts and wonderful surprises. Besides, I am not unkeen on shopping either.”
    Now the Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur are old. Look at them. Together they stand on the hill telling each other stories and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs.
    And that, my friends, is how it is with love. Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together. For the sun is warm. And the world is a beautiful place.

    &

    “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warburg
    I like you and I know why
    I like you because you are a good person to like
    I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
    And you remember it a long, long time
    You say, Remember when you told me something special
    And both of us remember

    When I think something is important you think it’s important too
    We have good ideas
    When I say something funny, you laugh
    I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too
    Hah-hah!

    I like you because you know where I’m ticklish
    And you don’t tickle me there except just a little tiny bit sometimes
    But if you do, then I know where to tickle you too
    You know how to be silly – that’s why I like you
    If I am getting ready to pop a paper bag,
    then you are getting ready to jump
    HOORAY!

    I like you because when I am feeling sad
    You don’t always cheer me up right away
    Sometimes it is better to be sad
    You can’t stand the others being so googly and gaggly every single minute
    You want to think about things
    It takes time

    I like you because if I am mad at you
    Then you are mad at me too
    It’s awful when the other person isn’t
    They are so nice and oooh you could just about punch them on the nose

    I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
    It must have been lonesome then
    Even if it was the 999th of July
    Even if it was August
    Even if it was way down at the bottom of November
    I would go on choosing you
    And you would go on choosing me
    Over and over again
    And that’s how it would happen every time

    Both poems have such a warm fuzzy spot in my heart.

    • http://smazzle.blogspot.com casey

      I read Edward Monkton’s poem at my cousin’s wedding, slightly modified for things personal to the couple. So lovely – whimsical but also creates a picture in your head of love.

    • http://thisstarrytrain.wordpress.com Rachel

      We read both of these at our wedding, too!

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    It’s not going to help at all, but my favorite poem related to love and marriage is the one my husband wrote about our relationship and gave me the night we got married. I’m the only person who’s ever heard it.

    Sometimes the best poems are the personal ones, because it’s the feeling behind them and not the technique that matters.

  • Stacy

    We used this poem as our “cold open” before even the bridesmaids and flower girls walked down the aisle. The friend who read it actually memorized it, so she could tell it like a story.

    A Marriage
    By Michael Blumenthal

    You are holding up a ceiling
    with both arms. It is very heavy,
    but you must hold it up, or else
    it will fall down on you. Your arms
    are tired, terribly tired,
    and, as the day goes on, it feels
    as if either your arms or the ceiling
    will soon collapse.

    But then,
    unexpectedly,
    something wonderful happens:
    Someone,
    a man or a woman,
    walks into the room
    and holds their arms up
    to the ceiling beside you.

    So you finally get
    to take down your arms.
    You feel the relief of respite,
    the blood flowing back
    to your fingers and arms.
    And when your partner’s arms tire,
    you hold up your own
    to relieve him again.

    And it can go on like this
    for many years
    without the house falling.

    • One More Sara

      oh my gosh I love this! My almost-husband is from a non-English speaking country, so I’m wary of using most poetry bc they’ll use funky sentence structure or uncommon words and I think the meaning would be lost on foreign ears (and also alienate our non-American guests). It makes me so happy to see a poem that uses simple language and is still jam-packed with meaning! THANK YOU!!!

      • Stacy

        You’re welcome! I’m so happy someone else can use it, too! It makes me weepy every time.

    • Delynn

      Oh, this did me in. Beautiful.

  • Laurel

    We had two readings (and rejected a ton of otherwise awesome poems and readings to arrive at these):

    “Love is Friendship Caught Fire” by Laura Hendricks

    Love is friendship caught fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicles of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.

    and

    An Excerpt from “The Irrational Season” by Madeline L’Engle

    But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take…It is indeed a fearful gamble…Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

    To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation…It takes a lifetime to learn another person…When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      When I went to write the charge to the couple part of our ceremony, I found that I couldn’t do it. How do you write a charge to yourself? I used the selection from Madeleine L’Engle that you quoted here, with a few short lines from our officiant applying it to us. I could have tried to write something profound about marriage, but why when she’d already done it so well?

    • KT

      i used “Love is Friendship Caught Fire” in a silver anniversary present for my parents. it is beautiful. i thought about it for a while because of the number of ‘negatives’ in it but it is so beautifully balanced and the end is gorgeous.

    • Stalking Sarah

      We did the L’Engle piece too!

  • http://dungeons-and-flagons.com/ Heather L

    Kind of classic and not very original, but Shakespeare’s sonnet 118 is lovely:

    Let me not to the marriage of true minds
    Admit impediments. Love is not love
    Which alters when it alteration finds,
    Or bends with the remover to remove:
    O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
    That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
    It is the star to every wandering bark,
    Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
    Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
    Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
    Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
    But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
    If this be error and upon me proved,
    I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    • http://notjustbrides.blogspot.com Heather @ Beyond the Aisle

      This was our wedding reading! My parents were married for 30 years when my father passed away and that poem reminds me to work for that everlasting kind of love.

  • Stacy

    We also used this one, after we had said our vows and were declared husband and wife, but before we served communion to the congregation.

    “Lovers must not, like usurers, live for themselves alone. They must finally turn from their gaze at one another back toward the community. If they had only themselves to consider, lovers would not need to marry, but they must think of others and of other things. They say their vows to the community as much as to one another, and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is. These lovers, pledging themselves to one another “until death,” are giving themselves away, and they are joined by this as no law or contract could join them. Lovers, then, “die” into their union with one another as a soul “dies” into its union with God. And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing…”

    ― Wendell Berry, “Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community”

    • Laurel

      I love, love, love Wendell Berry. I read an excerpt from his “The Country of Marriage” at my sister’s wedding a few years ago.

      The Country of Marriage, Part III by Wendell Berry

      Sometimes our life reminds me
      of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
      and in that opening a house,
      an orchard and garden,
      comfortable shades, and flowers
      red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
      made in the light for the light to return to.
      The forest is mostly dark, its ways
      to be made anew day after day, the dark
      richer than the light and more blessed,
      provided we stay brave
      enough to keep on going in.

      • Stacy

        My husband loves Wendell Berry, too, and has read almost everything the man has written. I actually named my newest cat Wendell because of his super-fandom. :-) His writing is so lovely.

    • FC

      We used this (as the opening to the ceremony), and also had The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry read at our wedding. He’s a favorite, for sure!

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      It didn’t feel right for the wedding to me, but Wendell Berry’s The Wild Rose is one of my all time favorite poems.

      • LMN

        Yes! We are reading “The Wild Rose” in ours in just a few weeks. So happy to share these words with others:

        Sometimes hidden from me
        in daily custom and in trust,
        so that I live by you unaware
        as by the beating of my heart.

        Suddenly you flare in my sight,
        a wild rose blooming at the edge
        of thicket, grace and light
        where yesterday was only shade,

        and once again I am blessed, choosing
        again what I chose before.

  • Teresa

    At our recent wedding, my 4-year old son read the following poem/saying.
    He memorized the whole thing, and said it perfectly. Everyone clapped!

    It was a nice short, funny, touching little poem. We loved it!

    “We are all a little weird,
    and life’s a little weird, and
    when we find someone who’s
    weirdness is compatible with ours,
    we join up with them and fall
    in mutual weirdness,
    and call it LOVE.”
    Dr. Seuss

    • Brenda

      This is the most adorable thing ever. I’m sure he did a great job!

    • Stalking Sarah

      What a great thing for a kid to say!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn M

    My dad has a reading he wants to do, though I don’t have a copy of it at the moment. It’s something from Shankara, I believe.

    I have found a couple things I like:

    Love by Sri Chinmoy
    “Love is not a thing to understand.
    Love is not a thing to feel.
    Love is not a thing to give and receive.
    Love is a thing only to become
    And eternally be. ”

    The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
    Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, 1987
    A wife loves her husband not for his own sake, dear one, but because the Divine Beloved lives in him. A Husband loves his wife not for her own sake, dear one, but because the Divine Beloved lives in her. Children are loved not for their own sake, dear one, but because the Divine Beloved lives in them… All things are loved not for their own sake, but because the Divine Beloved lives in them.

  • kristy

    After being friends for 8 years before dating – my husband and I had 2 friends read this scene fromWhen Harry Met Sally during our ceremony. We loved it, it was so us and was a total crowd pleaser!

    Harry: I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and the thing is, I love you.
    Sally: What?
    Harry: I love you.
    Sally: How do you expect me to respond to this?
    Harry: How about, you love me too?
    Sally: How about, I’m leaving?
    Harry: Doesn’t what I said mean anything to you?
    Sally: I’m sorry, Harry. I know it’s New Year’s Eve. I know you’re feeling lonely, but you just can’t show up here, tell me you love me, and expect that to make everything all right. It doesn’t work this way.
    Harry: Well, how does it work?
    Sally: I don’t know, but not this way.
    Harry: How about this way? I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
    Sally: You see? That is just like you, Harry. You say things like that, and you make it impossible for me to hate you, and I hate you, Harry. I really hate you. I hate you.

    • Carly

      That. Is AMAZING. When Harry Met Sally is my favourite movie – and now one of my partner’s “more preferred” films… How fantastic to have that scene be apart of the ceremony! Must make actor friends, ASAP.

    • Stalking Sarah

      We had a friend read just Harry’s last paragraph and it was perfect. I love that line: “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” That’s how I felt about our wedding.

  • Caroline

    I didn’t think we’d do any poetry at our wedding (my partner wants a short ceremony), but I was reading a friend’s wedding program, and they had as a reading The First Marriage by Peter Meinke, which is just too beautiful:

    imagine the very first marriage a girl
    and boy trembling with some inchoate
    need for ceremony a desire for witness:
    inventing formality like a wheel or a hoe

    in a lost language in a clearing too far from here
    a prophet or a prophetess intoned to the lovers
    who knelt with their hearts cresting
    like the unnamed ocean thinking This is true

    thinking they will never be alone again
    though planets slip their tracks and fish
    desert the sea repeating those magic sounds
    meaning I do on this stone below
    this tree before these friends yes in body
    and word my darkdream my sunsong yes I do I do

    W. H. Auden is my favorite poet, but my favorite poem of his is a mourning poem. And while I do think that since the commitment of marriage has a certain amount of “Our intention this day is to be bound up in each other’s lives, until one day, one of us shall lay the other in the earth”, poems about the end of life/the cyclicity of life can be appropriate, I’m not sure a poem of mourning has a place at our ceremony. (It’s “Stop All the Clocks” or “Funeral Blues” btw. I read it in high school english, and it’s been my favorite ever since.) He also wrote “Oh Tell Me the Truth About Love” which many use as a wedding poem.

    • Kat

      I love “Stop All the Clocks” too. It’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw poetry, but obviously not a wedding poem.

  • http://lowehousecreative.com Elizabeth

    A few of my favorites:

    Marriage
    by Lawrence Raab

    Years later they find themselves talking
    about chances, moments when their lives
    might have swerved off
    for the smallest reason.
    What if
    I hadn’t phoned, he says, that morning?
    What if you’d been out,
    as you were when I tried three times
    the night before?
    Then she tells him a secret.
    She’d been there all evening, and she knew
    he was the one calling, which was why
    she hadn’t answered.
    Because she felt-
    because she was certain-her life would change
    if she picked up the phone, said hello,
    said, I was just thinking
    of you.
    I was afraid,
    she tells him. And in the morning
    I also knew it was you, but I just
    answered the phone
    the way anyone
    answers a phone when it starts to ring,
    not thinking you have a choice.
    ——————————————————–

    And did you get what
    you wanted from this life, even so?
    I did.
    And what did you want?
    To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the earth.

    — Raymond Carver
    ——————————————————–

    I have learned not to worry about love;
    but to honor its coming
    with all my heart.
    To examine the dark mysteries
    of the blood
    with headless heed and
    swirl,
    to know the rush of feelings
    swift and flowing
    as water.
    The source appears to be
    some inexhaustible
    spring
    within our twin and triple
    selves;
    the new face I turn up
    to you
    no one else on earth
    has ever seen.

    Alice Walker, from Revolutionary Petunias and Other Poems

    • Molly P

      That Carver one had me in tears! I love it when a short poem just nails it. Thanks.

    • Kathryn F.

      Lawrence Raab was my professor! He was AMAZING. I took his Shakespeare class and we really turned over every word and relished the language. It was wonderful and such a nice break from post-modernism BS.

  • Shannon

    We both have unfettered affection for John and Abigail Adams, so it made sense to excerpt something from their love letters:

    Excerpt from a Love Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams
    December 23, 1782

    My Dearest Friend,

    Should I draw you the picture of my heart, it would be what I hope you still would love;
    Though it contained nothing new; the early possession you obtained there; and the absolute power you have ever maintained over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied.

    I look back to the early days of our acquaintance and friendship, as to the days of love and innocence,
    and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our heads,
    with an affection heightened and improved by time — nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the image of the dear, untitled man to whom I gave my heart.

    • Cass

      We used this as a reading too! It seemed appropriate since we got married in a New England meeting house built in 1773. And then a few months after we got married, I bawled when Laura Linney read part of it at the end of the John Adams mini-series.

  • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

    Also, this one:

    In The Plaza We Walk
    By Nephtalí

    In the plaza
    we walk
    under the Mexican moon
    full of tangerine smells

    a cart pulls over
    full of the fruit
    full of the moon
    and the lonely star

    so we buy two
    but he says
    three for a peso
    but we buy two

    tangerines peeled
    we walk
    hand in hand
    spitting the seeds
    for future tangerines
    and more lovers to be

    in the plaza
    we walk
    under the Mexican moon

  • http://turningtoward.blogspot.com Kara H.

    As a Russian scholar, I’d be remiss to leave out this one by A. S. Pushkin:

    K***

    Я помню чудное мгновенье:
    Передо мной явилась ты,
    Как мимолетное виденье,
    Как гений чистой красоты.

    В томленьях грусти безнадежной,
    В тревогах шумной суеты,
    Звучал мне долго голос нежный
    И снились милые черты.

    Шли годы. Бурь порыв мятежный
    Рассеял прежние мечты,
    И я забыл твой голос нежный,
    Твои небесные черты.

    В глуши, во мраке заточенья
    Тянулись тихо дни мои
    Без божества, без вдохновенья,
    Без слез, без жизни, без любви.

    Душе настало пробужденье:
    И вот опять явилась ты,
    Как мимолетное виденье,
    Как гений чистой красоты.

    И сердце бьется в упоенье,
    И для него воскресли вновь
    И божество, и вдохновенье,
    И жизнь, и слезы, и любовь.

    A rough translation:

    To ***

    I remember that wondrous moment
    When before me you appeared
    Like a fleeting vision,
    Like a spirit beautiful and pure

    In the languorous melancholy of despair
    In the anxious noisy bustle
    For a while, your voice stayed with me
    Your dear features filled my dreams

    Years passed. The restless impulse of storms
    Scattered the dreams of the past
    And I forgot your tender voice
    Your heavenly features

    In the wilderness, in the gloom of captivity
    My silent days stretched out
    Without God, without inspiration
    Without tears, without life or love

    To my soul an awakening;
    Once again you appeared
    Like a fleeting vision,
    Like a spirit beautiful and pure

    My heart beat in ecstasy
    And in it is resurrected
    Both God and inspiration,
    Life, tears and love.

    • Brenda

      It’s completely inappropriate for weddings, but wanted to share my favourite Pushkin:

      Я вас любил: любовь еще, быть может
      В душе моей угасла не совсем;
      Но пусть она вас больше не тревожит;
      Я не хочу печалить вас ничем.
      Я вас любил безмолвно, безнадежно,
      То робостью, то ревностью томим;
      Я вас любил так искренно, так нежно,
      Как дай вам бог любимой быть другим.

      I loved you once: perhaps that love has yet
      To die down thoroughly within my soul;
      But let it not dismay you any longer;
      I have no wish to cause you any sorrow.
      I loved you wordlessly, without a hope,
      By shyness tortured, or by jealousy.
      I loved you with such tenderness and candor
      And pray God grants you to be loved that way again.

      • Liliya47

        Thank you so so much for posting this. I’m originally from Kiev and wanted to use something in Russian for my wedding. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything appropriate at the time. Really enjoyed seeing this now.

  • Mayweed

    We had e e cummings and I like you by Sandol Stoddard Warburg. I also have always loved Dover Beach, by Matthew Arnold, which he wrote on his honeymoon, especially the last verse, but wondered if it were too maudlin for a wedding! How about this, by R S Thomas:

    Nought I could give today
    Would half compare
    With the long-treasured riches that somewhere
    In the deep heart are stored–
    Cloud and the moon and mist and the whole hoard
    Of frail, blue-bubbling stars,
    And the cool blessing,
    Like moth or wind caressing,
    Of the fair, fresh rain-dipped flowers;
    And all the spells of the sea, and the new green
    Of moss and fern and bracken
    Before their youth is stricken;
    The thought of the trees at eventide, the hush
    In the dark corn at morning,
    And the wish
    In your own heart still but dawning–
    All of these,
    A soft weight on your hands,
    I would give now;
    And lastly myself made clean
    And white as the wave-washed sand,
    If I knew how.

  • Julia

    Blackbirds

    by Julie Cadwallader Staub

    I am 52 years old, and have spent
    truly the better part
    of my life out-of-doors
    but yesterday I heard a new sound above my head
    a rustling, ruffling quietness in the spring air

    and when I turned my face upward
    I saw a flock of blackbirds
    rounding a curve I didn’t know was there
    and the sound was simply all those wings
    just feathers against air, against gravity
    and such a beautiful winning
    the whole flock taking a long, wide turn
    as if of one body and one mind.

    How do they do that?

    Oh if we lived only in human society
    with its cruelty and fear
    its apathy and exhaustion
    what a puny existence that would be

    but instead we live and move and have our being
    here, in this curving and soaring world
    so that when, every now and then, mercy and tenderness triumph in our lives
    and when, even more rarely, we manage to unite and move together
    toward a common good,

    and can think to ourselves:

    ah yes, this is how it’s meant to be

  • Mia Culpa

    I was very sad I couldn’t fit in one of my favorite contemporary poems into my wedding:

    Scientific Romance
    by Tim Pratt

    If starship travel from our
    Earth to some far
    star and back again
    at velocities approaching the speed
    of light made you younger than me
    due to the relativistic effects
    of time dilation,
    I’d show up on your doorstep hoping
    you’d developed a thing for older men,
    and I’d ask you to show me everything you
    learned to pass the time
    out there in the endless void
    of night.

    If we were the sole survivors
    of a zombie apocalypse
    and you were bitten and transformed
    into a walking corpse
    I wouldn’t even pick up my
    assault shotgun,
    I’d just let you take a bite
    out of me, because I’d rather be
    undead forever
    with you
    than alive alone
    without you.

    If I had a time machine, I’d go back
    to the days of your youth
    to see how you became the someone
    I love so much today, and then
    I’d return to the moment we first met
    just so I could see my own face
    when I saw your face
    for the first time,
    and okay,
    I’d probably travel to the time
    when we were a young couple
    and try to get a three-way
    going. I never understood
    why more time travelers don’t do
    that sort of thing.

    If the alien invaders come
    and hover in stern judgment
    over our cities, trying to decide
    whether to invite us to the Galactic
    Federation of Confederated
    Galaxies or if instead
    a little genocide is called for,
    I think our love could be a powerful
    argument for the continued preservation
    of humanity in general, or at least,
    of you and me
    in particular.

    If we were captives together
    in an alien zoo, I’d try to make
    the best of it, cultivate a streak
    of xeno-exhibitionism,
    waggle my eyebrows, and make jokes
    about breeding in captivity.

    If I became lost in
    the multiverse, exploring
    infinite parallel dimensions, my
    only criterion for settling
    down somewhere would be
    whether or not I could find you:
    and once I did, I’d stay there even
    if it was a world ruled by giant spider-
    priests, or one where killer
    robots won the Civil War, or even
    a world where sandwiches
    were never invented, because
    you’d make it the best
    of all possible worlds anyway,
    and plus
    we could get rich
    off inventing sandwiches.

    If the Singularity comes
    and we upload our minds into a vast
    computer simulation of near-infinite
    complexity and perfect resolution,
    and become capable of experiencing any
    fantasy, exploring worlds bound only
    by our enhanced imaginations,
    I’d still spend at least 10^21 processing
    cycles a month just sitting
    on a virtual couch with you,
    watching virtual TV,
    eating virtual fajitas,
    holding virtual hands,
    and wishing
    for the real thing.

    • The Family Jules

      This is my first time reading that poem and I love it!

    • Kat

      Thank you so much for posting this. I love it :)

    • http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com Kristin

      I love this so much. It reminds me one of my favorite love poems, “Love” by Matthew Dickman – http://www.fishousepoems.org/archives/matthew_dickman/love.shtml.

  • Remy

    For readers/scholars/introverts:

    “Together”
    Ludwig Lewisohn

    You and I by this lamp with these
    Few books shut out the world. Our knees
    Touch almost in this little space.
    But I am glad. I see your face.
    The silences are long, but each
    Hears the other without speech.
    And in this simple scene there is
    The essence of all subtleties,
    The freedom from all fret and smart,
    The one sure sabbath of the heart.
    The world–we cannot conquer it,
    Nor change the minds of fools one whit,
    Here, here alone we do create,
    Beauty and peace inviolate;
    Here night by night and hour by hour
    We build a high impregnable tower
    Whence we may shine, now and again
    A light to light the feet of men
    When they see the rays thereof;
    And this is marriage; this is love.

    • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

      I love this. I’m working on a letter to send with my husband on his deployment and now I think I’ll put this in it. Thanks for sharing!

  • Sandy

    We had a short reading from Lost.

    Lost from “The Constant”
    “All this, see all this is all variables. It’s random; it’s chaotic. Every equation needs stability, something known. It’s called a “constant.” When you go to the future nothing there is familiar. So you need to find something there, something that you really, really care about, something that also exists back here.”

    Though my husband argued hard for this one.

    Lost from “The End”
    “This is the place that you all made together so that you could find one another. The most important part of your life was the time that you spent with these people. That’s why all of you are here. Nobody does it alone. You needed all of them and they needed you.”

    And two bible verses, one that I picked and one that he picked:

    Ruth 1:16-17
    But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

    Matthew 6:22-34
    “So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life — whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not. And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith! So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

    • Peekayla

      I used to love the story of Ruth growing up. I always read and reread the section you quoted. I absolutely love it, but never thought of having it as a reading until you mentioned it. Thank you =)

      • Karen

        This passage from Ruth is used a lot in weddings. Which I love. Because it’s between two women (a mother and daughter in law)!

  • Miranda

    This is an excerpt from a book, not a poem, but a friend of ours will be reading it at our wedding.

    Does God Have a Big Toe? by Rabbi Marc Gellman. P. 1-3

    Before there was anything, there was just God, a few angels, and a huge swirling glob of rocks and water with no place to go. The angels looked around and asked God, “Why don’t you clean up this mess?”

    So God collected rocks from the huge swirling glob and put them together in clumps and said, “Some of these clumps of rocks will be planets and some will be stars, and some of these rocks will be … just rocks. Then God collected water from the huge swirling glob and put it together in pools of water and said, “Some of these pools of water will be oceans, and some will become clouds, and some of this water will be … just water.

    The angels looked around and said, “Well, God, It’s neater now, but is it finished?” And God answered, “Nope!”

    On some of the rocks God placed growing things, and creeping things, and things that only God knows what they are, and when God had done all this, the angels looked around and asked God, “Is the world finished now?” And God answered, “Nope!”

    God made a man and a woman from some of the water and dust and said to them, “You know, I am tired now. Please finish up the world for me … really it’s almost done.” But the man and the woman said, “We can’t finish the world alone! You have the plans and we are too little.”

    “You are big enough,” God answered them. “But I agree to this. If you keep trying to finish the world, I will be your partner.”

    The man and woman asked, “What’s a partner?” and God answered, “A partner is someone you work with on a big thing that neither of you can do alone. If you have a partner, it means you can never give up, because your partner is depending on you. On the days you think I am not doing enough and on the days I think you are not doing enough, even on those days we are still partners and we must not stop trying to finish the world. That’s the deal.” And they all agreed to that deal.

    Then the angels asked God, “Is the world finished yet?” and God answered, “I don’t know. Go ask my partners.” (Does God Have a Big Toe? by Rabbi Marc Gellman. P. 1-3)

  • FC

    We had a reading heavy ceremony, including a fair bit of prose, but we used the following poems.

    Litany by Billy Collins:
    You are the bread and the knife,
    The crystal goblet and the wine…
    -Jacques Crickillon

    You are the bread and the knife,
    the crystal goblet and the wine.
    You are the dew on the morning grass
    and the burning wheel of the sun.
    You are the white apron of the baker,
    and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

    However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
    the plums on the counter,
    or the house of cards.
    And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
    There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

    It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
    maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
    but you are not even close
    to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

    And a quick look in the mirror will show
    that you are neither the boots in the corner
    nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

    It might interest you to know,
    speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
    that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

    I also happen to be the shooting star,
    the evening paper blowing down an alley
    and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

    I am also the moon in the trees
    and the blind woman’s tea cup.
    But don’t worry, I’m not the bread and the knife.
    You are still the bread and the knife.
    You will always be the bread and the knife,
    not to mention the crystal goblet and–somehow–the wine.

    Worlds without end by Marge Piercy

    Whenever you touch my mind unexpectedly
    as a furry tail, brushing my cheek;
    whenever you surprise me with a word
    that rises like a walking stick from a twig
    and lumbers off on six legs leaving
    me staring because I saw only bark;
    whenever you appear with daisies or roses,
    with oysters or corn or a secret book
    I imagined having, gifts dropped
    in my lap like fresh picked apples;
    whenever you turn small calamities
    into jokes sharp as onions in my nose;
    whenever you swing suddenly and drop
    words of praise over me like scented veils;
    whenever I taste your uniqueness
    like a splash of lemon juice on my tongue;
    I know I know I will never be done
    knowing you on and on; and always
    as I proceed there is more of you to know.

    The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

    When despair for the world grows in me
    and I wake in the night at the least sound
    in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
    I go and lie down where the wood drake
    rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
    I come into the peace of wild things
    who do not tax their lives with forethought
    of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
    And I feel above me the day-blind stars
    waiting with their light. For a time
    I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      Oh, I love that “Worlds without end” poem. How very beautiful!

  • Emily

    We had my husband’s sister read a selection from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass:

    Why, who makes much of a miracle?
    As to me I know of nothing else but miracles,
    Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
    Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
    Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge
    of the water,
    Or stand under trees in the woods,
    Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in the bed
    at night with anyone I love,
    Or sit at the table at dinner with the rest,
    Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
    Or watch honeybees busy around the hive
    of a summer forenoon,
    Or animals feeding in the fields,
    Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
    Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining
    so quiet and bright,
    Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon
    in spring;
    These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
    The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.
    To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
    Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.

  • Krystal

    My wonderful maid of honor read this at our ceremony right before we did our vows:

    “Union” by Robert Fulghum

    You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” — those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” — and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

    The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed — well, I meant it all, every word.”

    Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another — acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this is my husband, this is my wife.”

    • Krystal

      Oops, I just realized this was supposed to be a poetry thread. Sorry! This one is really just more of a reading…

      • Karen

        No need to apologize. This is a great reading!

      • jess

        I hope more people accidentally post readings! I’d really love to see an open thread of those!

        • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

          There are a few such open threads in the archives, I believe.

      • fermi

        no worries, I’m glad this was here, I want to add this to ours!

  • http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com Kristin

    Some of my favorites are:

    Habitation (Margaret Atwood) – already posted
    Found Letter (Joshua Weiner) – http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com/2012/09/poem-for-shelbys-wedding-v-found-letter.html
    A Blessing for Wedding (Jane Hirshfield) – already posted
    Marriage (Lawrence Raab) – already posted
    Cave Dwellers (A. Poulin Jr.) – http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com/2012/09/poem-for-shelbys-wedding-ii-cave.html
    Mother of the Groom (Seamus Heaney) – http://www.notintentonarriving.blogspot.com/2012/09/poem-for-shelbys-wedding-i-mother-of.html

    And it’s worth noting that Poets.org has a great list here, too: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5857

  • Anonymous

    A dear friend read this one at our wedding, and it’s still one of my favorites.

    SCAFFOLDING

    Masons, when they start upon a building,
    Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

    Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
    Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

    And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
    Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

    So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
    Old bridges breaking between you and me

    Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
    Confident that we have built our wall.

    –Seamus Heaney

    • KM

      I absolutely love this poem – my wife enjoys carpentry so her brother read this at our wedding. it was perfect.

  • Marnie

    This is a wonderful thread! Here’s one I heard in song (King’s Singers) a few weeks before my wedding, cried like a baby, and now I write it in wedding cards to friends.

    This Marriage
    Rumi

    May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
    May it be sweet milk,
    this marriage, like wine and halvah.
    May this marriage offer fruit and shade
    like the date palm.
    May this marriage be full of laughter,
    our every day a day in paradise.
    May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
    a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
    May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
    an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
    I am out of words to describe
    how spirit mingles in this marriage.

    • Peekayla

      I was just looking up some Rumi poems. I love Rumi and go to him when I am in a poetry reading mood. He has quite a few awesome love quotes and so far I found one good short one for a reading:

      Tender Words -Rumi

      Tender words we spoke
      to one another
      are sealed
      in the secret vaults of heaven.
      One day like rain,
      they will fall to earth
      and grow green
      all over the world.

    • Marybeth

      We had Eric Whitacre’s setting sung at our wedding! I sang it at university just months before we got married. I know it by heart and tear a bit thinking about it

  • Amanda

    Excerpt from “The Blaze of the Poui: An Epithalamion,” Mark McMorris

    Tell me in short, Love, what is a wedding?
    A wedding is at once a crowded place and a private room,
    packed with trusts and empty of all but the heart’s letters
    which one other heart may read and decipher

    let the compass points gather in one center
    as rambling desires gather, as the circle of abstraction, of invitation and guesswork, becomes the circle of pledge and deliberate speech
    the circle widens to enclose, and in it two are dancing and then it grows smaller
    and in it two are colliding like sparks and make one fire
    and so Love, at least, has done her part.

  • ANin

    Perhaps a bit racy for a wedding, but I’ve always imagined this as part of my theoretical ceremony…

    Because

    Oh, because you never tried
    To bow my will or break my pride,
    And nothing of the cave-man made
    You want to keep me half afraid,
    Nor ever with a conquering air
    You thought to draw me unaware —
    Take me, for I love you more
    Than I ever loved before.

    And since the body’s maidenhood
    Alone were neither rare nor good
    Unless with it I gave to you
    A spirit still untrammeled, too,
    Take my dreams and take my mind
    That were masterless as wind;
    And “Master!” I shall say to you
    Since you never asked me to.

    – Sara Teasdale

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      Sara Teasdale is such a good choice

    • k

      Lovely. Another favorite Sara Teasdale poem:

      I Am Not Yours

      I am not yours, not lost in you,
      Not lost, although I long to be
      Lost as a candle lit at noon,
      Lost as a snowflake in the sea.

      You love me, and I find you still
      A spirit beautiful and bright,
      Yet I am I, who long to be
      Lost as a light is lost in light.

      Oh plunge me deep in love — put out
      My senses, leave me deaf and blind,
      Swept by the tempest of your love,
      A taper in a rushing wind.

  • Allison

    We used this for our wedding a couple weeks ago and LOVED it!

    Coming Home
    by Mary Oliver
    When we’re driving, in the dark,
    on the long road
    to Provincetown, which lies empty
    for miles, when we’re weary,
    when the buildings
    and the scrub pines lose
    their familiar look,
    I imagine us rising
    from the speeding car,
    I imagine us seeing
    everything from another place — the top
    of one of the pale dunes
    or the deep and nameless
    fields of the sea —
    and what we see is the world
    that cannot cherish us
    but which we cherish,
    and what we see is our life
    moving like that,
    along the dark edges
    of everything — the headlights
    like lanterns
    sweeping the blackness —
    believing in a thousand
    fragile and unprovable things,
    looking out for sorrow,
    slowing down for happiness,
    making all the right turns
    right down to the thumping
    barriers to the sea,
    the swirling waves,
    the narrow streets, the houses,
    the past, the future,
    the doorway that belongs
    to you and me.

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      Love Mary Oliver. Here’s another of her poems. We didn’t use it for a reading, but it was in the running.

      You do not have to be good.
      You do not have to walk on your knees
      for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
      You only have to let the soft animal of your body
      love what it loves.
      Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
      Meanwhile the world goes on.
      Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
      are moving across the landscapes,
      over the prairies and the deep trees,
      the mountains and the rivers.
      Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
      are heading home again.
      Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
      the world offers itself to your imagination,
      calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting–
      over and over announcing your place
      in the family of things.

      • Jess

        This was posted on here a few years ago when I was going through a very rough time. It got me through. And even in better times, it’s still a comfort.

      • http://arealliveladyperson.blogspot.com Krissy

        She is my absolute favorite! Love it. Thanks!

    • http://teastrumpets.wordpress.com/ kyley

      I have been reading through Mary Oliver, looking for a poem for our ceremony, because I love her so. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Josie

    During our ceremony, we each read a stanza adapted from ‘Vow’ by Clare Shaw:

    So now I can tell you, quite simply
    you are the house I will live in:
    there is no good reason
    to move. Good earth,
    you are home, stone, sun,
    all my countries. Vital to me
    as the light. You are it
    and I am asking.
    Say yes.

    For now, we make our promises gently.
    This extraordinary day we have made.
    Listen – the birds in their ordinary heaven.
    Tonight the sky will blaze
    with stars.
    Say yes.

    Then, we chose 12 different love poems and had multiple copies printed of each so that we could put one next to each place setting.

    Many of them have already been mentioned: i carry your heart, I Like You, Why Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog, Neruda Sonnet XVII, Shakespeare, Archipelago of Kisses, Having a Coke with You.

    Ones I haven’t seen mentioned yet:

    In Paris With You – James Fenton

    Don’t talk to me of love. I’ve had an earful
    And I get tearful when I’ve downed a drink or two.
    I’m one of your talking wounded.
    I’m a hostage. I’m maroonded.
    But I’m in Paris with you.

    Yes I’m angry at the way I’ve been bamboozled
    And resentful at the mess I’ve been through.
    I admit I’m on the rebound
    And I don’t care where are we bound.
    I’m in Paris with you.

    Do you mind if we do not go to the Louvre
    If we say sod off to sodding Notre Dame,
    If we skip the Champs Elysées
    And remain here in this sleazy

    Old hotel room
    Doing this and that
    To what and whom
    Learning who you are,
    Learning what I am.

    Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris,
    The little bit of Paris in our view.
    There’s that crack across the ceiling
    And the hotel walls are peeling
    And I’m in Paris with you.

    Don’t talk to me of love. Let’s talk of Paris.
    I’m in Paris with the slightest thing you do.
    I’m in Paris with your eyes, your mouth,
    I’m in Paris with… all points south.
    Am I embarrassing you?
    I’m in Paris with you.

    Vow – Clare Shaw (the full poem)

    Say yes.
    That word on your lips
    is a kiss;
    is a promise already made.
    We made it.

    Love did not turn from hurt
    or hard work.
    When lights failed, it did not switch off.
    When love had no road,
    we willingly built it.

    We shouldered its stones
    and its dirt. So thank god
    there are days like this when it’s easy.
    When we open our mouths
    and the words flood in.

    Put the word of your hand
    in mine.
    We have learnt to hold to each other
    when nothing was given by right;
    how love will insist
    with its ache; with its first painful
    tug on the guts;

    its snake in the nest of the ribs;
    the bomb in the chest;
    in the Y of the thighs; the red, red
    red sun of it, rising.
    How love must, at all costs,

    be answered. We have answered
    and so have a million before us
    and each of their names is a vow.
    So now I can tell you, quite simply
    you are the house I will live in:

    there is no good reason
    to move. Good earth,
    you are home, stone, sun,
    all my countries. Vital to me
    as the light. You are it

    and I am asking.
    Say yes.

    Love opens a door
    then slams it. It does.
    It loses its touch and its looks.
    But love needs its fury.
    We have fought

    and when times make it necessary,
    we will again. When night draws in,
    we won’t forget
    how once the streets ran wet with light
    and love. Like blood. They will again.

    But for now,
    we make our promises gently.
    This extraordinary day we have made.
    Listen –
    the birds in their ordinary heaven.

    Tonight the sky will blaze
    with stars. Today, my love,
    rooms bloom with flowers.
    Say yes.
    The sky is ours.

    A vow – Wendy Cope

    I cannot promise never to be angry;
    I cannot promise always to be kind.
    You know what you are taking on, my darling –
    It’s only at the start that love is blind.

    And yet I’m still the one you want to be with
    And you’re the one for me – of that I’m sure.
    You are my closest friend, my favourite person,
    The lover and the home I’ve waited for.

    I cannot promise that I will deserve you
    From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
    I love you and I want to make you happy.
    I promise I will do my very best.

    I take – Imtiaz Dharker

    I take
    your body where love takes place
    I take
    your mouth where my life takes shape
    I take
    your breath which makes my space
    I take
    you as you are, for good
    I take
    you with open arms, to have
    I take
    you to have
    and to hold but not to hold
    too hard
    I take
    you for farther for closer
    for sooner for later
    till
    till
    death tries to get us
    and we laugh and we stall
    and we tell it to call us some other
    fine day because we are busy today
    taking our tea with buttered
    hope and
    I take
    thee
    I take
    thee

    The Confirmation – Edwin Muir

    Yes, yours, my love, is the right human face,
    I in my mind had waited for this long,
    Seeing the false and searching for the true,
    Then found you as a traveller finds a place
    Of welcome suddenly amid the wrong
    Valleys and rocks and twisting roads. But you,
    What shall I call you? A fountain in a waste,
    A well of water in a country dry,
    Or anything that’s honest and good, an eye
    That makes the whole world bright. Your open heart,
    Simple with giving, gives the primal deed,
    The first good world, the blossom, the blowing seed,
    The hearth, the steadfast land, the wandering sea.
    Not beautiful or rare in every part.
    But like yourself, as they were meant to be.

    • Lia

      Wendy Cope is my favourite! I was going to post that poem of hers – I’m trying to work out if I can use it in our ceremony somehow. It always makes me cry!

  • elena mc

    I’m really surprised this one hasn’t made the list yet! We had this read at our wedding, and I still read it and adore it. It was perfect:

    Union, by Robert Fulghram
    You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks – all those sentences that began with ”When we’re married”” and continued with “I will and you will and we will” – those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover and even teacher. For you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this is my husband, this is my wife.

  • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

    I keep reading poems and remembering other ones to include. This one, by a Puritan, no less, the first female American poet:

    To My Dear and Loving Husband

    If ever two were one, then surely we.
    If ever man were lov’d by wife, then thee;
    If ever wife was happy in a man,
    Compare with me ye women if you can.

    I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold,
    Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
    My love is such that Rivers cannot quench,
    Nor ought but love from thee, give recompence.

    Thy love is such I can no way repay,
    The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
    Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
    That when we live no more, we may live ever.

    • Emily

      Anne Bradstreet!

      • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

        Yes! Can’t believe I didn’t type her name, because I looked her up specifically. I remember reading this one in high school, and my normally sarcastic teacher said something nice about her husband.

        • Emily

          Some of her stuff is unexpectedly sassy. You know, for her being a Puritan and all.

          • http://www.snippetsof.blogspot.com Sarah E

            Right?! I think knowing her life gives so much more richness to the emotion in her poems.

  • ABV

    We are having this T.S Elliot at ours in a few weeks. The last sign sums up my feelings about the wedding in general!

    A DEDICATION TO MY WIFE
    To whom I owe the leaping delight
    That quickens my senses in our walkingtime
    And the rhythm that governs the repose of our sleepingtime,
    The breathing in unison

    Of lovers whose bodies smell of each other
    Who think the same thoughts without need of speech
    And babble the same speech without need of meaning.

    No peevish winter wind shall chill
    No sullen tropic sun shall wither
    The roses in the rose-garden which is ours and ours only

    But this dedication is for others to read:
    These are my private words addressed to you in public.

  • Molly P

    YESSSS! I am so excited this is happening!!! I’ve been searching for poems or passages about love for our ceremony without any luck (grrrrr….why did I always throw my notes away at the end of the semester??). I am doing mental cartwheels around my desk right now!!!!

    On a side note, would you all consider including passages from literature that are particularly poignant on love/marriage/life?

    XOXO

    Molly P

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      I have a few.

      From A Year with C.S. Lewis:
      “If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married,” then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense — love as distinct from “being in love” — is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

      From The Amber Spyglass (Phillip Pullman):
      “I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…”

      From The Velveteen Rabbit
      “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
      “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but Really loves you, then you become Real.”
      “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit. “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
      “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
      “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

      • Molly P

        tears. at my desk. Oy so beautiful! Thanks!

      • Stephanie

        That passage is why I want my FH to read the Dark Materials!!!! It always makes me tear up.

      • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

        I love that passage from the Velveteen Rabbit!

    • http://breadandcheeseplease.com Charise

      We used a couple book excerpts, in addition to i carry your heart by ee cummings, which was in honor of my grandpa who’d passed away earlier that year and which had me crying for the rest of the ceremony!

      From What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage (this was read right before the closing, as a sendoff to the reception)

      “We danced too wild, and we sang too long, and we hugged too hard, and we kissed too sweet, and howled just as loud as we wanted to howl, because by now we were all old enough to know that what looks like crazy on an ordinary day looks a lot like love if you catch it in the moonlight.”

      From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (slightly adapted, I think)

      “Love is a temporary madness,
      it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.

      And when it subsides you have to make a decision.

      You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
      that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.

      Because this is what love is.

      Love is not breathlessness,
      it is not excitement,
      it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
      …That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.

      Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
      and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

      Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
      and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from their branches,
      they find that they are one tree and not two.”

  • Maeve

    At our wedding, I read excerpts of Clare Shaw’s poem “Vow”

    Say yes.
    That word on your lips
    is a kiss;
    is a promise already made.
    We made it.

    Love did not turn from hurt
    or hard work.
    When lights failed, it did not switch off.
    When love had no road,
    we willingly built it.

    We shouldered its stones
    and its dirt. So thank god
    there are days like this when it’s easy.
    When we open our mouths
    and the words flood in.

    Put the word of your hand
    in mine.
    We have learnt to hold to each other
    when nothing was given by right;
    how love will insist
    with its ache; with its first painful
    tug on the guts;

    its snake in the nest of the ribs;
    the bomb in the chest;
    in the Y of the thighs; the red, red
    red sun of it, rising.
    How love must, at all costs,

    be answered. We have answered
    and so have a million before us
    and each of their names is a vow.
    So now I can tell you, quite simply
    you are the house I will live in:

    there is no good reason
    to move. Good earth,
    you are home, stone, sun,
    all my countries. Vital to me
    as the light. You are it

    and I am asking.
    Say yes.

    Love opens a door
    then slams it. It does.
    It loses its touch and its looks.
    But love needs its fury.
    We have fought

    and when times make it necessary,
    we will again. When night draws in,
    we won’t forget
    how once the streets ran wet with light
    and love. Like blood. They will again.

    But for now,
    we make our promises gently.
    This extraordinary day we have made.
    Listen –
    the birds in their ordinary heaven.

    Tonight the sky will blaze
    with stars. Today, my love,
    rooms bloom with flowers.
    Say yes.
    The sky is ours.

  • http://terpgal85.tumblr.com Erin

    This is a favorite of mine…

    Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

    Love is a temporary madness,
    it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.

    And when it subsides you have to make a decision.

    You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
    that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.

    Because this is what love is.

    Love is not breathlessness,
    it is not excitement,
    it is not the promulgation of eternal passion.

    That is just being “in love” which any fool can do.

    Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
    and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.

    Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground,
    and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches,
    they find that they are one tree and not two.

  • Valerie

    My husband recited this Edna St. Vincent Millay poem during a toast at our reception and it was lovely–

    Love Is Not All

    Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
    Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
    Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
    And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
    Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
    Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
    Yet many a man is making friends with death
    Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
    It well may be that in a difficult hour,
    Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
    Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
    I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
    Or trade the memory of this night for food.
    It well may be. I do not think I would.
    Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • KB

    I actually found these on APW, I’m pretty sure!

    Scaffolding
    by Seamus Heaney

    Masons, when they start upon a building,
    Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
    Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
    Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

    And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
    Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

    So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
    Old bridges breaking between you and me

    Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
    Confident that we have built our wall.

    IN THE ARC OF YOUR MALLET
    Rumi

    Don’t go anywhere without me.
    Let nothing happen in the sky apart from me,
    or on the ground, in this world or that world,
    without my being in its happening.
    Vision, see nothing I don’t see.
    Language, say nothing.
    The way the night knows itself with the moon,
    be that with me. Be the rose
    nearest to the thorn that I am.

    I want to feel myself in you when you taste food,
    in the arc of your mallet when you work,
    when you visit friends, when you go
    up on the roof by yourself at night.

    There’s nothing worse than to walk out along the street
    without you. I don’t know where I’m going.
    You’re the road and the knower of roads,
    more than maps, more than love.

  • http://lifeatpedalspeedblog.blogspot.com/ Meghan

    We had two poems in our ceremony – Beyond What by Alice Walker and A Love Poem by Garrison Keillor

    Beyond What
    by Alice Walker

    We reach for destinies beyond
    what we have come to know
    and in the romantic hush
    of promises
    perceive each
    the other’s life
    as known mystery.
    Shared. But inviolate.
    No melting. No squeezing
    into One.
    We swing our eyes around
    as well as side to side
    to see the world.

    To choose, renounce,
    this, or that —
    call it a council between equals
    call it love.

    A Love Poem
    by Garrison Keillor

    An autumn evening, and you, and paradise,
    So lovely and so full of grace,
    Above your head, the universe has hung its lights,
    And I reach out my hand to touch your face.

    I believe in impulse, in all that is green,
    Believe in the foolish vision that comes true,
    Believe that all that is essential is unseen,
    And for this lifetime I believe in you.

    All of the lovers and the love they made:
    Nothing that was between them was a mistake.
    All that is done for love’s sake,
    Is not wasted and will never fade.

    All who have loved will be forever young
    and walk in grandeur on an autumn night
    along the avenue.
    They live in every song that is sung
    and every painting of pure light
    and every Pas De Deux.

    O love that shines from every star,
    Love reflected in the silver moon;
    It is not here, but it’s not far.
    Not yet, but it will be here soon.

    • http://katemuehe.com/blog Kate

      We just stumbled upon the Garrison Keillor poem and as 2 Minnesotans getting married at the Minnesota History Center, I feel like it is a must!

  • Kerry

    For This (by Gabriel Gadfly)

    You ask why
    I love you.
    For this:
    You are
    a minute
    of quiet
    in a loud
    shouting
    world.

  • KM

    We chose these as favorites, and then friends chose something from the list that they connected with to read at our wedding. Also on this list, but already shared in earlier comments, was “Love” by Roy Croft, and “Scaffolding” by Seamus Heaney and “i carry your heart” by ee cummings.

    from “Gift from the Sea”
    by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

    When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

    The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.

    “The Invitation” by Oriah

    It doesn’t interest me
    what you do for a living.
    I want to know
    what you ache for
    and if you dare to dream
    of meeting your heart’s longing.

    It doesn’t interest me
    how old you are.
    I want to know
    if you will risk
    looking like a fool
    for love
    for your dream
    for the adventure of being alive.

    It doesn’t interest me
    what planets are
    squaring your moon…
    I want to know
    if you have touched
    the center of your own sorrow
    if you have been opened
    by life’s betrayals
    or have become shriveled and closed
    from fear of further pain.

    I want to know
    if you can sit with pain
    mine or your own
    without moving to hide it
    or fade it
    or fix it.

    I want to know
    if you can be with joy
    mine or your own
    if you can dance with wildness
    and let the ecstasy fill you
    to the tips of your fingers and toes
    without cautioning us
    to be careful
    to be realistic
    to remember the limitations
    of being human.

    It doesn’t interest me
    if the story you are telling me
    is true.
    I want to know if you can
    disappoint another
    to be true to yourself.
    If you can bear
    the accusation of betrayal
    and not betray your own soul.
    If you can be faithless
    and therefore trustworthy.

    I want to know if you can see Beauty
    even when it is not pretty
    every day.
    And if you can source your own life
    from its presence.

    I want to know
    if you can live with failure
    yours and mine
    and still stand at the edge of the lake
    and shout to the silver of the full moon,
    “Yes.”

    It doesn’t interest me
    to know where you live
    or how much money you have.
    I want to know if you can get up
    after the night of grief and despair
    weary and bruised to the bone
    and do what needs to be done
    to feed the children.

    It doesn’t interest me
    who you know
    or how you came to be here.
    I want to know if you will stand
    in the center of the fire
    with me
    and not shrink back.

    It doesn’t interest me
    where or what or with whom
    you have studied.
    I want to know
    what sustains you
    from the inside
    when all else falls away.

    I want to know
    if you can be alone
    with yourself
    and if you truly like
    the company you keep
    in the empty moments.

    • http://lowehousecreative.com Elizabeth

      This is one of my favorites (so applicable to life, and as such so applicable to weddings, no?) This section in particular:

      I want to know if you can get up
      after the night of grief and despair
      weary and bruised to the bone
      and do what needs to be done
      to feed the children.

      has become one of my touchstones for how I think about the world.

      • KM

        Elizabeth – the same passage is my favorite, and always gives me chills.

  • macincolorado

    We got married two weeks ago, and had two readings that fit us perfectly, especially because we were married in the forest and had lots of tree images around.

    From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres
    Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being “in love” which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

    And later in the ceremony, right before the ring vows:

    “Marriage Joins Two People In The Circle Of Its Love” by Edmund O’Neill
    Marriage is a commitment to life,
    the best that two people can find and bring out in each other.
    It offers opportunities for sharing and growth
    that no other relationship can equal.
    It is a physical and an emotional joining that is promised for a lifetime.
    Within the circle of its love,
    marriage encompasses all of life’s most important relationships.
    A wife and a husband are each other’s best friend,
    confidant, lover, teacher, listener, and critic.
    And there may come times when one partner is heartbroken or ailing,
    and the love of the other may resemble
    the tender caring of a parent or child.
    Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life.
    Happiness is fuller, memories are fresher,
    commitment is stronger, even anger is felt more strongly,
    and passes away more quickly.
    Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life
    is unable to avoid. It encourages and nurtures new life,
    new experiences, new ways of expressing
    a love that is deeper than life.
    When two people pledge their love and care for each other in marriage,
    they create a spirit unique unto themselves which binds them closer
    than any spoken or written words.
    Marriage is a promise, a potential made in the hearts of two people
    who love each other and takes a lifetime to fulfill.

  • Mira

    This wasn’t quite right for my husband and I to read out loud– the middle stanzas were too blunt for us, and I didn’t feel right cutting it apart. However, it’s pretty much exactly how I felt about getting married, and I read it on my cell phone while I was getting ready the morning of my wedding.

    Why marry at all?
    By Marge Piercy

    Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
    and flourished like a weed
    that discovers itself to bear rugged
    spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
    ironweed sturdy and bold,
    a perennial that endures winters to persist?

    Why register with the state?
    Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
    Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
    and rules, of laws and liabilities?
    Why license our bed at the foot
    like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?

    Why encumber our love with patriarchal
    word stones, with the old armor
    of husband and the corset stays
    and the chains of wife? Marriage
    meant buying a breeding womb
    and sole claim to enforced sexual service.

    Marriage has built boxes in which women
    have burst their hearts sooner
    than those walls; boxes of private
    slow murder and the fading of the bloom
    in the blood; boxes in which secret
    bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.

    But we cannot invent a language
    of new grunts. We start where we find
    ourselves, at this time and place.

    Which is always the crossing of roads
    that began beyond the earth’s curve
    but whose destination we can now alter.

    This is a public saying to all our friends
    that we want to stay together. We want
    to share our lives. We mean to pledge
    ourselves through times of broken stone
    and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
    we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

  • Class of 1980

    I will have to come back here tonight and read all of these. Here’s one I like.

    Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

    The young couple first married on August 5, 1744, when Joseph was eight and Sarah six, and first ended their marriage six days later when Joseph refused to believe, to Sarah’s frustration, that the stars were silver nails in the sky, pinning up the black nightscape.

    They remarried four days later, when Joseph left a note under the door of Sarah’s parents’ house: I have considered everything you told me, and I do believe that the stars are silver nails.

    They ended their marriage again a year later, when Joseph was nine and Sarah seven, over a quarrel about the nature of the bottom of the riverbed.

    A week later, they were remarried, including this time in their vows that they should love each other until death, regardless of the existence of the riverbed, the temperature of the riverbed’s bottom (should it exist), and the possible existence of starfish on the possibly existing riverbed.

    They ended their marriage one hundred and twenty times throughout their lives and each time remarried with a longer list of vows. They were sixty and fifty-eight at their last marriage, only three weeks before Sarah died of heart failure and Joseph drowned him self in the bath. Their marriage contract still hangs over the door of the house they on-and-off shared – nailed to the top post and brushing against the welcome mat:

    “It is with everlasting devotion that we, Joseph and Sarah L, reunite in the indestructible union of matrimony, promising love until death, with the understanding that the stars are silver nails in the sky, regardless of the existence of the bottom of the river, the temperature of this bottom (should it exist) and the possible existence of starfish on the possibly existing riverbed, overlooking what may or may not have been accidental grape juice spills, agreeing to forget that Joseph played sticks and balls with his friends when he promised he would help Sarah thread the needle for the quilt she was sewing, and that Sarah was supposed to give the quilt to Joseph, not his buddy, ignoring the simple fact that Joseph snores like a pig, and that Sarah is no great treat to sleep with either, letting slide certain tendencies of both parties to look too long at members of the opposite sex, not making a fuss over why Joseph is such a slob, leaving his clothes wherever he feels like taking them off, expecting Sarah to pick them up, clean them, and put them in their proper place as he should have, or why Sarah has to be such a pain about the smallest things, such as which way the toilet paper unrolls… putting aside the problems of being fat-headed and chronically unreasonable, trying to erase the memory of a long since expired rose bush that a certain someone was supposed to remember to water when his wife was visiting family, accepting the compromise of the way we have been, the way we are, and the way we will likely be. May we live together in unwavering love and good health. AMEN.”

  • Tea

    The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

    How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
    and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
    God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
    get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
    to which nation. French has no word for home,
    and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
    in northern India is dying out because their ancient
    tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
    vocabularies that might express some of what
    we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
    finally explain why the couples on their tombs
    are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
    of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
    they seemed to be business records. But what if they
    are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
    Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
    O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
    as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
    Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
    of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
    pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
    my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
    desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
    is not laguage but a map. What we feel most has
    no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

    Jack Gilbert

  • Sami Sidewinder

    Two, one will be used, one won’t. But I love them both still.

    Union from The Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum
    You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”- those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”- and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, ” You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed- well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another- acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife.

    Understand, I’ll slip quietly
    Away from the noisy crowd
    When I see the pale
    Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
    I’ll pursue solitary pathways
    Through the pale twilit meadows,
    With only this one dream:
    You come too.
    From “First Poems,” Rainer Maria Rilke

  • Mary

    After discovering this with his own lovely wife, my brother read this as part of his toast at our parents’ 40th Anniversary gathering. I loved having him read it at our wedding, as a connection to those two role model marriages and an appreciation of the every day.

    This Much I Do Remember
    By Billy Collins
    http://nexus.typepad.com/nexus/2003/12/this_much_i_do_.html

  • Aimee

    We had my sister read “Union” by Robert fulgum

    You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.
    The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

    Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

    For after today you shall say to the world –
    This is my husband. This is my wife.

    Nadja and Sean at 8:14 AM

  • Ryan

    I sent this poem to my fiancee on the day I proposed, hoping the romantic message would set the tone for the day. It worked.

    since feeling is first
    e.e. cummings

    since feeling is first
    who pays any attention
    to the syntax of things
    will never wholly kiss you;
    wholly to be a fool
    while Spring is in the world

    my blood approves,
    and kisses are a better fate
    than wisdom
    lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
    —the best gesture of my brain is less than
    your eyelids’ flutter which says

    we are for each other: then
    laugh, leaning back in my arms
    for life’s not a paragraph

    And death i think is no parenthesis

    • Emily

      One of my favorite by Cummings. Kisses are a better fate than wisdom has been my motto for YEARS.

    • http://www.teastrumpets.wordpress.com kyley

      Nine years ago, I read this poem to my now fiance, moments before he kissed me for the first time.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    I had picked the parts of Song of the Open Road that I commented above and The Master Speed after a lot of deliberation and not being able to include everything I wanted. Then my husband found The Ivy Crown somewhere, which really spoke to us as people getting married for the first time in our mid-thirties, so we added that too.

    The Master Speed, by Robert Frost

    No speed of wind or water rushing by
    But you have speed far greater. You can climb
    Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
    And back through history up the stream of time.
    And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
    Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
    But in the rush of everything to waste,
    That you may have the power of standing still-
    Off any still or moving thing you say.
    Two such as you with such a master speed
    Cannot be parted nor be swept away
    From one another once you are agreed
    That life is only life forevermore
    Together wing to wing and oar to oar

    The Ivy Crown, by William Carlos Williams

    The whole process is a lie,
    unless,
    crowned by excess,
    It break forcefully,
    one way or another,
    from its confinement—
    or find a deeper well.
    Antony and Cleopatra
    were right;
    they have shown
    the way. I love you
    or I do not live
    at all.

    Daffodil time
    is past. This is
    summer, summer!
    the heart says,
    and not even the full of it.
    No doubts
    are permitted—
    though they will come
    and may
    before our time
    overwhelm us.
    We are only mortal
    but being mortal
    can defy our fate.
    We may
    by an outside chance
    even win! We do not
    look to see
    jonquils and violets
    come again
    but there are,
    still,
    the roses!

    Romance has no part in it.
    The business of love is
    cruelty which,
    by our wills,
    we transform
    to live together.
    It has its seasons,
    for and against,
    whatever the heart
    fumbles in the dark
    to assert
    toward the end of May.
    Just as the nature of briars
    is to tear flesh,
    I have proceeded
    through them.
    Keep
    the briars out,
    they say.
    You cannot live
    and keep free of
    briars.

    Children pick flowers.
    Let them.
    Though having them
    in hand
    they have no further use for them
    but leave them crumpled
    at the curb’s edge.

    At our age the imagination
    across the sorry facts
    lifts us
    to make roses
    stand before thorns.
    Sure
    love is cruel
    and selfish
    and totally obtuse—
    at least, blinded by the light,
    young love is.
    But we are older,
    I to love
    and you to be loved,
    we have,
    no matter how,
    by our wills survived
    to keep
    the jeweled prize
    always
    at our finger tips.
    We will it so
    and so it is
    past all accident.

  • Nicole

    We used a Raymond Carver poem my husband loves. It’s more like a story than a love poem but so great:

    A Haircut

    So many impossible things have already
    happened in this life. He doesn’t think
    twice when she tells him to get ready:
    He’s about to get a haircut.
    He sits in the chair in the upstairs room,
    the room they sometimes joke and refer to
    as the library. There’s a window there
    that gives light. Snow’s coming
    down outside as newspapers go down
    around his feet. She drapes a big
    towel over his shoulders. Then
    gets out her scissors, comb, and brush.

    This is the first time they’ve been
    alone together in a while – with nobody
    going anywhere, or needing to do
    anything. Not counting the going
    to bed with each other. That intimacy.
    Or breakfasting together. Another
    intimacy. They both grow quiet
    and thoughtful as she cuts his hair,
    and combs it, and cuts some more.
    The snow keeps falling outside.
    Soon, light begins to pull away from
    the window. He stares down, lost and
    musing, trying to read
    something from the paper. She says,
    “Raise your head.” And he does.
    And then she says, “See what you think
    of it.” He goes to look
    in the mirror, and it’s fine.
    It’s just the way he likes it,
    and he tells her so.

    It’s later, when he turns on the
    porchlight, and shakes out the towel
    and sees the curls and swaths of
    white and dark hair fly out onto
    the snow and stay there,
    that he understands something: He’s
    grownup now, a real, grownup,
    middle-aged man. When he was a boy,
    going with his dad to the barbershop,
    or even later, a teenager, how
    could he have imagined his life
    would someday allow him the privilege of
    a beautiful woman to travel with,
    and sleep with, and take his breakfast with?
    Not only that – a woman who would
    quietly cut his hair in the afternoon
    in a dark city that lay under the snow
    3000 miles away from where he’d started.
    A woman who could look at him
    across the table and say,
    “It’s time to put you in the barber’s
    chair. It’s time somebody gave you
    a haircut.”

    • Rebekah

      One of the first things I ever did for my beloved, before he was even my boyfriend, was cut his hair on my porch.

  • http://lauraoppenheimer.com Laura

    We had two readings at our wedding. First, we edited down “I Like You.” Some other commenters noted that it’s a little long, but I felt OK editing it a bit since it’s an entire book (and not a formal poem). People loved the reading, and I think especially for a reading/poem that isn’t super formal, longer is OK, because people don’t tune out as much as they do with something they can’t follow.

    We also had (which I loved):

    Superbly Situated
    by Robert Hershon

    you politely ask me not to die and i promise not to
    right from the beginning—a relationship based on
    good sense and thoughtfulness in little things
    i would like to be loved for such simple attainments
    as breathing regularly and not falling down too often
    or because my eyes are brown or my father left-handed
    and to be on the safe side i wouldn’t mind if somehow
    i became entangled in your perception of admirable objects
    so you might say to yourself: i have recently noticed
    how superbly situated the empire state building is
    how it looms up suddenly behind cemeteries and rivers
    so far away you could touch it—therefore i love you
    part of me fears that some moron is already plotting
    to tear down the empire state building and replace it
    with a block of staten island mother/daughter houses
    just as part of me fears that if you love me for my cleanliness
    i will grow filthy if you admire my elegant clothes
    i’ll start wearing shirts with sailboats on them
    but i have decided to become a public beach an opera house
    a regularly scheduled flight—something that can’t help being
    in the right place at the right time—come take your seat
    we’ll raise the curtain fill the house start the engines
    fly off into the sunrise, the spire of the empire state
    the last sight on the horizon as the earth begins to curve

    • http://partialto.tumblr.com LIZ (SINCE 1982)

      I swear my heart stopped when we found “Superbly Situated” – we knew immediately it needed to be part of our wedding. Such a great choice!

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.ca/ Sheryl

      That second one just reached right into my heart and twinged a few strings.

  • http://www.ouatinreallife.blogspot.com Erin

    We had one of our friends read this one by James Kavanaugh called “To Love is Not to Possess”

    To love is not to possess,
    To own or imprison,
    Nor to lose one’s self in another.
    Love is to join and separate,
    To walk alone and together,
    To find a laughing freedom
    That lonely isolation does not permit.
    It is finally to be able
    To be who we really are
    No longer clinging in childish dependency
    Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
    It is to be perfectly one’s self
    And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
    To another–and to one’s inner self.
    Love only endures when it moves like waves,
    Receding and returning gently or passionately,
    Or moving lovingly like the tide
    In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
    Because finally, despite a child’s scars
    Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
    They are openly free to be
    Who they really are–and always secretly were,
    In the very core of their being
    Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

  • Jess

    I will be honest – the three poems we picked were the most important part of the wedding to me. I could have stood up there in a burlap sack in the pouring rain with zero people watching, as long as the partner I was with and poems were right. Also, these readings were extra special because of the readers we had – they were challenging reads, and we really lucked out in having friends and family more than up to the task.

    Opening Poem – I thank you god for this most amazing by ee Cummings

    i thank You God for most this amazing
    day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
    and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
    which is natural which is infinite which is yes

    (i who have died am alive again today,
    and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
    day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
    great happening illimitably earth)

    how should tasting touching hearing seeing
    breathing any–lifted from the no
    of all nothing–human merely being
    doubt unimaginable You?

    (now the ears of my ears awake and
    now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

    Second poem: Advice from a Friend by Tony Kushner – this was read by a close friend from high school who had been with us from the start. It’s a super challenging read, but he was so wonderful.

    1.
    Trust each other, completely, entirely, trust like an animal, trust even more than that, raze every barricade, every obstacle to trust. Be relentless, leave no stone unturned, trust each other. Know with absolute deathless certainty that your lover wishes nothing but that all is well with you. Do you know that? Do you know that your love is more trustworthy than even you yourself are? If not, work harder, know it, this is important, not even your mother can be trusted half as much. That’s one thing.

    2.
    Be understanding. Be more than that. Merge entirely your being with your lover’s life. Have the same dreams at night. And yet, keep a healthy distance always; no one likes feeling crowded.

    3.
    Your lover complains, or is sad. Listen attentively to each ululation, to each keening note of your lover’s lament. What matter if you’ve heard it all before, only last week, only last night even, and you’re bored? Listen as though your lover had sat down and delivered a spontaneous exegesis on Grief worthy of Montaigne of Browne or Emerson. Find different kinds of listening expressions, too, be inventive, and be careful that the look you imagine expressive of rapt attentiveness isn’t becoming a glazed fixed stare.

    4.
    Listen, trust, accommodate, placate, soothe. Be available, enthusiastic, supportive, generous, surprising, sexy, mysterious, challenging. Be a teacher, a pupil, a nurse, a good patient. A child a parent analysand and analyst both, be a true mirror and a flattering portrait both, be an adorable house pet, household god, father-confessor, mother-intercessor, your lover’s favorite relative, favorite movie stare, favorite food, share everything, hide nothing, (but remember mysterious and sexy, see ABOVE), see everything, overlook faults, speak frankly but encouragingly always and, if this proves difficult or

    5.
    impossible

    6.
    throw plates, smash furniture, shout abuse. Disturb the neighbors, poison the fishbowls, drown the plants, destroy each other’s diaries after reading them and scissor each other’s socks, celebrate with barbaric obstreperousness, with bonfires and war cries and cannibal stares the indestructible cast iron certainty of what we fuse in the name of that wild endeavor, that ecstatic bellicose enterprise,
    love.

    And finally, we had a close family friend (and English teacher!) read The Master Speed by Robert Frost:

    No speed of wind or water rushing by
    But you have speed far greater. You can climb
    Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
    And back through history up the stream of time.
    And you were given this swiftness, not for haste,
    Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
    But in the rush of everything to waste,
    That you may have the power of standing still –
    Off any still or moving thing you say.
    Two such as you with such a master speed
    Cannot be parted nor be swept away
    From one another once you are agreed
    That life is only life forevermore
    Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

    We worked really hard to pick these together. We had a completely secular ceremony, and I guess for that reason we really wanted to get the poetry right. I love that, even 2 years later, these pieces still resonate.

  • Kristin

    We’re having a winter wedding, so this one by Jane Hirshfield feels perfect:

    A Blessing for Wedding

    Today when persimmons ripen
    Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
    Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
    Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
    Today when windows keep their promise to open
    Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
    Today when someone you love has died
    or someone you never met has died
    Today when someone you love has been born
    or someone you will not meet has been born
    Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
    Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
    Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
    Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
    Today, let this light bless you
    With these friends let it bless you
    With snow-scent and lavender bless you
    Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
    Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
    Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
    Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
    Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

  • Kate

    My husband and I used this one. Some people prefer to just use the first section but they’re both nice, and relatively secular.

    Apache Wedding Blessing

    Now you will feel no rain,
    for each of you will be shelter for the other.
    Now you will feel no cold,
    for each of you will be warmth to the other.
    Now there will be no loneliness,
    for each of you will be companion to the other.
    Now you are two persons,
    but there is only one life before you.
    May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead
    and through all the years.
    May happiness be your companion,
    and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

    Treat yourselves and each other with respect,
    and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.
    Give the highest priority to the tenderness,
    gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves.
    When frustration, difficulty and fear
    assail your relationship – as they threaten all relationships
    at one time or another –
    remember to focus on what is right between you,
    not only the part which seems wrong.
    In this way, you can ride out the storms
    when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives
    – remembering that even if you lose sight of it
    for a moment, the sun is still there.
    And if each of you takes responsibility
    for the quality of your life together,
    it will be marked by abundance and delight.

    • Amanda V.

      We used a part of this reading as well. I was disappointed to learn that it’s not actually part of the Apache tradition, but the ideas it expresses are beautiful nonetheless.

  • Lauren

    My partner and I had been together for 9 years by the time we got married, so we thought Scaffoldings by Seamus Heaney was appropriate for us:

    SCAFFOLDING

    Masons, when they start upon a building,
    Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

    Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
    Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

    And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
    Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

    So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
    Old bridges breaking between you and me

    Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
    Confident that we have built our wall.

    Seamus Heaney

    • Lauren

      Whoops, didn’t see that this was already posted on page 2! We also had To Love is Not to Possess by Jack Kavanaugh–great poems!

  • Stephanie

    I have had this earmarked for my wedding day for a while now. Not sure yet whether or not it will be in the programs, read, or shortened yet. But oh, it moves me every time.

    If You Forget Me (Pablo Neruda)

    I want you to know
    one thing.

    You know how this is:
    if I look
    at the crystal moon, at the red branch
    of the slow autumn at my window,
    if I touch
    near the fire
    the impalpable ash
    or the wrinkled body of the log,
    everything carries me to you,
    as if everything that exists,
    aromas, light, metals,
    were little boats
    that sail
    toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

    Well, now,
    if little by little you stop loving me
    I shall stop loving you little by little.

    If suddenly
    you forget me
    do not look for me,
    for I shall already have forgotten you.

    If you think it long and mad,
    the wind of banners
    that passes through my life,
    and you decide
    to leave me at the shore
    of the heart where I have roots,
    remember
    that on that day,
    at that hour,
    I shall lift my arms
    and my roots will set off
    to seek another land.

    But
    if each day,
    each hour,
    you feel that you are destined for me
    with implacable sweetness,
    if each day a flower
    climbs up to your lips to seek me,
    ah my love, ah my own,
    in me all that fire is repeated,
    in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
    my love feeds on your love, beloved,
    and as long as you live it will be in your arms
    without leaving mine.

  • MG

    Loved reading all these wonderful poems! I am considering this for our ceremony:

    Bird-Understander
    by Craig Arnold

    Of many reasons I love you here is one

    the way you write me from the gate at the airport
    so I can tell you everything will be alright

    so you can tell me there is a bird
    trapped in the terminal all the people
    ignoring it because they do not know
    what do with it except to leave it alone
    until it scares itself to death

    it makes you terribly terribly sad

    You wish you could take the bird outside
    and set it free or (failing that)
    call a bird-understander
    to come help the bird

    All you can do is notice the bird
    and feel for the bird and write
    to tell me how language feels
    impossibly useless

    but you are wrong

    You are a bird-understander
    better than I could ever be
    who make so many noises
    and call them song

    These are your own words
    your way of noticing
    and saying plainly
    of not turning away
    from hurt

    you have offered them
    to me I am only
    giving them back

    if only I could show you
    how very useless
    they are not

  • http://www.teastrumpets.wordpress.com kyley

    passage by the Dalai Llama
    Take into account that great love
    and great achievements involve great risk.
    And that a loving atmosphere in your home
    is the foundation for your life.
    Be gentle with the earth, be gentle with one another.
    When disagreements come remember always
    to protect the spirit of your union.
    When you realize you’ve made a mistake,
    take immediate steps to correct it.
    Remember that the best relationship is one
    in which your love for each other
    exceeds your need for each other.
    So love yourselves, love one another,
    love all that is your life together and all else will follow.
    – Dalai Lama

    • LK

      This reminds me of a beautiful quote from Fr. Pedro Arrupe, a former Superior General of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits).

      Nothing is more practical than
      finding God, than
      falling in Love
      in a quite absolute, final way.
      What you are in love with,
      what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
      It will decide
      what will get you out of bed in the morning,
      what you do with your evenings,
      how you spend your weekends,
      what you read, whom you know,
      what breaks your heart,
      and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
      Fall in Love, stay in love,
      and it will decide everything.

  • dragonzflame

    We had Falling In Love Is Like Owning A Dog, because I’m a dog obedience instructor and it felt so incredibly right when I found it. Everyone commented on how perfect it was :-)

    We also had To Love Is Not To Possess, by James Kavanaugh. What I really wanted was On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran, but husband didn’t really like it because he thought it sounded too religious. So this was a great compromise – the sentiment is exactly the same, with nary a mention of God. Win!

    To love is not to possess,
    To own or imprison,
    Nor to lose one’s self in another.
    Love is to join and separate,
    To walk alone and together,
    To find a laughing freedom
    That lonely isolation does not permit.
    It is finally to be able
    To be who we really are
    No longer clinging in childish dependency
    Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
    It is to be perfectly one’s self
    And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
    To another–and to one’s inner self.
    Love only endures when it moves like waves,
    Receding and returning gently or passionately,
    Or moving lovingly like the tide
    In the moon’s own predictable harmony,
    Because finally, despite a child’s scars
    Or an adult’s deepest wounds,
    They are openly free to be
    Who they really are–and always secretly were,
    In the very core of their being
    Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

  • Han

    The Present By Michael Donaghy

    For the present there is just one moon,
    though every level pond gives back another.
    But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,
    perceived by astrophysicist and lover,
    is milliseconds old. And even that light’s
    seven minutes older than its source.
    And the stars we think we see on moonless nights
    are long extinguished. And, of course,
    this very moment, as you read this line,
    is literally gone before you know it.
    Forget the here-and-now. We have no time
    but this device of wantonness and wit.
    Make me this present then: your hand in mine,
    and we’ll live out our lives in it.

  • ottid

    Oh, you know what’s nice, realising that you have something that you NEED to share with everyone, because it appears they haven’t found it yet :) We had two readings at our wedding, the first was an excerpt from Plato’s Symposium, which helped us to show that we think that everyone should be able to marry (and thankfully in NZ this has now been passed in to law, taking affect in August).

    Extract from Plato’s Symposium

    Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.

    To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. There were three sexes then: one comprised of two men called the children of the Sun, one made of two women called the children of the Earth, and a third made of a man and a woman, called the children of the Moon. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.

    It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.

    Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. Those whose original nature lies with the children of the Sun are men who are drawn to other men, those from the children of the Earth are women who love other women, and those from the children of the Moon are men and women drawn to one another. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.

    The other reading we had was from D H Lawrence.

    Fidelity
    by D H Lawrence

    Man and woman are like the earth, that brings forth flowers
    in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.

    Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae,
    older than plasm altogether is the soul underneath.

    And when, throughout all the wild chaos of love
    slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten rocks
    of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
    a man’s heart and a woman’s,
    that is the crystal of peace, the slow hard jewel of trust,
    the sapphire of fidelity.

    The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.

    • Dash

      I wanted to use Plato (without mentioning that my exposure to it comes by way of Hedwig and the Angry Inch) but my fiance vetoed on the theory that even asking about it was too likely to upset the rabbi, perhaps irrevocably.

  • Sass

    This is one of my favourite APW posts ever. I think I just fell in love again 500 times reading all the poems in the comments. Our reading was quite boring comparatively, but it fits us, and reading it eight years later, it seems to capture what our marriage has grown into quite neatly.

    Love Is An Attitude
    by Walter Rinder

    Every day you live,
    Learn how to love,
    take time with each other;
    Restore each other’s soul,
    With loving words
    Receive love
    With as much understanding
    As you give it.
    Find that which is within yourself
    Then you can share it with each other.
    Do not fear this love,
    And do not fear this marriage,
    But keep open hearts and sincere minds.
    Be sincerely interested in each other’s happiness,
    Be too, constant and consistent in your love,
    And in your actions from this, as you know,
    comes security and strength.
    All that we love deeply becomes a part of us
    So even though you retain your individuality,
    today in a real sense you also become one,
    In a true unity.
    That this may be deep and rewarding,
    Today, the day of your marriage,
    Try to commit yourselves,
    Fully and freely and trustingly,
    To each other, without reservations.

  • Jessamy

    I recently attended my partner’s sister’s wedding, and two of her cousins read an edited version of “Oh, the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss:

    “Congratulations!
    Today is your day.
    You’re off to Great Places!
    You’re off and away!

    You have brains in your head.
    You have feet in your shoes.
    You can steer yourself
    any direction you choose.
    You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
    And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

    Out there things can happen
    and frequently do
    to people as brainy
    and footsy as you.

    And then things start to happen,
    don’t worry. Don’t stew.
    Just go right along.
    You’ll start happening too.

    OH!
    THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

    You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
    You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
    Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
    Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

    Except when you don’t.
    Because, sometimes, you won’t.

    I’m sorry to say so
    but, sadly, it’s true
    that Bang-ups
    and Hang-ups
    can happen to you.

    But on you will go
    though the weather be foul.
    On you will go
    though your enemies prowl.
    On you will go
    though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
    Onward up many
    a frightening creek,
    though your arms may get sore
    and your sneakers may leak.

    On and on you will hike,
    And I know you’ll hike far
    and face up to your problems
    whatever they are.

    You’ll get mixed up, of course,
    as you already know.
    You’ll get mixed up
    with many strange birds as you go.
    So be sure when you step.
    Step with care and great tact
    and remember that Life’s
    a Great Balancing Act.
    Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
    And never mix up your right foot with your left.”

  • Sarah

    We used this:

    “Us Two” – Winnie the Pooh extract

    from Now We Are Six
    by A.A. Milne (1882-1956)

    Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
    There’s always Pooh and Me.
    Whatever I do, he wants to do,
    “Where are you going today?” says Pooh…
    “Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
    “Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
    “Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

    “What’s twice eleven?” I said to Pooh,
    “Twice what?” said Pooh to Me.
    “I think it ought to be twenty two.”
    “Just what I think myself,” said Pooh.
    “It wasn’t an easy sum to do,
    But that’s what it is,” said Pooh, said he.
    “That’s what it is,” said Pooh.

    “Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh.
    “Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me.
    We crossed the river and found a few…
    “Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh.
    “As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
    That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he.
    “That’s what they are,” said Pooh.

    “Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh.
    “That’s right,” said Pooh to Me.
    “I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh,
    And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo!
    Silly old dragons!”… and off they flew.
    “I wasn’t afraid,” said Pooh, said he,
    “I’m never afraid with you.”

    So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
    There’s always Pooh and Me.
    “What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
    “If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said… “True,
    It isn’t much fun for One, but Two
    Can stick together,” says Pooh, says he.
    “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.

  • Kate

    I had Salford’s punk poet John Cooper Clark read at my wedding. It’s written more for performance so sounds fantastic!

    i wanna be yours

    let me be your vacuum cleaner
    breathing in your dust
    let me be your ford cortina
    i will never rust
    if you like your coffee hot
    let me be your coffee pot
    you call the shots
    i wanna be yours

    let me be your raincoat
    for those frequent rainy days
    let me be your dreamboat
    when you wanna sail away
    let me be your teddy bear
    take me with you anywhere
    i don’t care
    i wanna be yours

    let me be your electric meter
    i will not run out
    let me be the electric heater
    you get cold without
    let me be your setting lotion
    hold your hair with deep devotion
    deep as the deep atlantic ocean
    that’s how deep is my emotion
    deep deep deep deep de deep deep
    i don’t wanna be hers
    i wanna be yours

  • Lia

    My cousin used this at his wedding a few weeks ago, and I think it’s very charming:

    Vow

    I vow to honour the commitment made this day
    Which, unlike the flowers and the cake,
    Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey
    But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console,
    For once incomplete, we now are whole.

    I vow to bear in mind that if, at times
    Things seem to go from bad to worse,
    They also go from bad to better.
    The lost purse is handed in, the letter
    Contains wonderful news. Trains run on time,
    Hurricanes run out of breath, floods subside,
    And toast lands jam-side up.

    And with this ring, my final vow:
    To recall, whatever the future may bring,
    The love I feel for you now.

    – Roger McGough

  • Sophie

    Some short ones from Langston Hughes

    Love Song for Lucinda
    Langston Hughes

    Love
    Is a ripe plum
    Growing on a purple tree.
    Taste it once
    And the spell of its enchantment
    Will never let you be.

    Love
    Is a bright star
    Glowing in far Southern skies.
    Look too hard
    And its burning flame
    Will always hurt your eyes.

    Love
    Is a high mountain
    Stark in a windy sky.
    If you
    Would never lose your breath
    Do not climb too high.

    Quiet Girl
    Langston Hughes

    I would liken you
    To a night without stars
    Were it not for your eyes.
    I would liken you
    To a sleep without dreams
    Were it not for your songs.

    The Dream Keeper
    Langston Hughes

    Bring me all of your dreams,
    You dreamer,
    Bring me all your
    Heart melodies
    That I may wrap them
    In a blue cloud-cloth
    Away from the too-rough fingers
    Of the world.

    Not so wedding-ish but wonderful….

    My People
    Langston Hughes

    The night is beautiful,
    So the faces of my people.

    The stars are beautiful,
    So the eyes of my people.

    Beautiful, also, is the sun.
    Beautiful, also, are the souls of my people.

    The Negro Speaks of Rivers
    Langston Hughes

    I’ve known rivers:
    I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

    My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

    I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
    I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
    I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
    I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

    I’ve known rivers:
    Ancient, dusky rivers.

    My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

      There’s a beautiful photo book that uses My People as the text (My People, by Langston Hughes and Charles R. Smith Jr.).

  • Hintzy

    I have to share this because it’s one of my favorites – it describes so well a beautiful thoughtful evening scene and sets a good mood. So it’s not wedding related really, but I would like to include it on programs or otherwise have it posted as a mood-setting device rather than a reading.

    Mondnacht by Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff

    Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel
    Die Erde still geküsst
    Dass sie im Blütenschimmer
    Von ihm nun träumen müsst

    Die Luft ging durch die Felder
    Die Ähren wogten sacht
    Es rauschten leis die Wälder
    So sternklar war die Nacht

    Und meine Seele spannte
    Weit ihre Flügel aus
    Flog durch die stillen Lande
    Als flöge sie nach Haus

    in English

    Night of the Moon

    It was as though the sky
    had silently kissed the earth,
    so that it now had to dream of sky
    in shimmers of flowers.

    The air went through the fields,
    the corn-ears leaned heavy down
    the woods swished softly—
    so clear with stars was the night

    And my soul stretched
    its wings out wide,
    flew through the silent lands
    as though it were flying home.

    Pair it with Hafiz

    Even
    After
    All this time
    The sun never says
    To the Earth,
    ‘You owe me.’
    Look
    What happens
    With a love like that.
    It lights the
    Whole
    Sky.

  • Stalking Sarah

    “Love Is” by Nikki Giovanni
    Some people forget that love is
    tucking you in and kissing you
    “Good night”
    no matter how young or old you are

    Some people don’t remember that
    love is
    listening and laughing and asking
    questions
    no matter what your age

    Few recognize that love is
    commitment, responsibility
    no fun at all
    unless

    Love is
    You and me

  • Stalking Sarah

    “The Life that I Have” by Leo Marks (which was read at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding)

    The life that I have
    Is all that I have
    And the life that I have
    Is yours

    The love that I have
    Of the life that I have
    Is yours and yours and yours.

    A sleep I shall have
    A rest I shall have
    Yet death will be but a pause
    For the peace of my years
    In the long green grass
    Will be yours and yours and yours.

  • js

    These are my absolute favorites for wedding readings.

    From Union by Robert Fulghum
    You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

    The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

    Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

    For after today you shall say to the world –
    This is my husband. This is my wife.

    From Plato’s Symposium
    Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.

    To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.

    It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.

    Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love

    From The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
    “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

    “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

    “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

    “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

    “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

    “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

  • Stalking Sarah

    This is a poem I found online — I think it was written for a wedding poetry contest for some hotel chain in the UK. While my comp lit major self felt snobby about how this person probably wasn’t a Well-Renowned Poet, I couldn’t deny that the poem made me laugh and smile, and felt ridiculously applicable to our own redhead + German marriage:

    “Be My Homer” by CJ Munn

    Be my Homer
    I wanna be your Marge.
    If I’m your Norfolk Broads
    Will you be my barge?
    Let’s please be Tom and Barbara,
    I will show you The Good Life.
    Even though we’re not yet married
    I would love to be your wife.

    I’ve the passion Lily Munster
    has for her dear Herman.
    I would love you if you were ginger,
    I would love you if you were German.
    Like Mr and Mrs Huxtable,
    We’d smooch even when we’re wrinkly.
    I’ll even consider ironing your shirts,
    But I hope you like them crinkly.

    Like Mr and Mrs Incredible
    I’m flexible and you’re tough.
    But if you promise to be my true love
    That will always be enough.
    Like Bonny and that Clyde guy
    without all the dying.
    Like Gwyneth and that Coldplay man
    without all the crying.
    My partner in crime, the love of my life,
    My muse, my joy, my fun.
    Please be my one and only,
    Cos you’ve always been ‘The One’.

  • js

    This is a quote from Miss Manners. I think it works excellent as a reading in a wedding.

    While exclusionary interest in one other human being, which is what we call courtship, is all very exciting in the stages of discovery, there is not enough substance in it for a lifetime, no matter how fascinating the people or passionate the romance. The world, on the other hand, is chock full of interesting and curious things. The point of the courtship – marriage – is to secure someone with whom you wish to go hand in hand through this source of entertainment, each making discoveries, and then sharing some and merely reporting others. Anyone who tries to compete with the entire world, demanding to be someone’s sole source of interest and attention, is asking to be classified as a bore. “Why don’t you ever want to talk to me?” will probably never start a satisfactory marital conversation. “Guess what?” will probably never fail.”

  • Dash

    We are using “Revelation” by Robert Frost. I stumbled upon it in college, as we were beginning our relationship, and it reminds me of the time in my life when I went from being an angsty adolescent who was so concerned with appearances and being “strong” and/or “mysterious” that I couldn’t have productive, authentic relationships, to a person in the world, trying to be reasonable and act like the best self I want to be. Which I mostly was able to do thanks to his help. He got the first line engraved on a bracelet for me for our first anniversary and I have worn it for eight years now. (That line is also especially fitting with its secondary meaning because we are such hermit people, alone together, all the time.) They are also a reminder to keep it up–and in a way, our vows to each other: “Be clear about where you are and what you need.”

    Revelation
    Robert Frost

    We make ourselves a place apart
    Behind light words that tease and flout,
    But oh, the agitated heart
    Till someone find us really out.

    ‘Tis pity if the case require
    (Or so we say) that in the end
    We speak the literal to inspire
    The understanding of a friend.

    But so with all, from babes that play
    At hide-and-seek to God afar,
    So all who hide too well away
    Must speak and tell us where they are.

  • http://arealliveladyperson.blogspot.com Krissy

    So, this is an entire children’s book, but it is really reflective of me and my fiance. We are both definitely kids at heart, and some of our most special times together are because we are pretty in touch with our inner kid. So we took this book and took out all of our favorite phrases to be read as a poem at our wedding:

    I Like You by Sandol Stoddard
    
I like you
    And I know why
    I like you
    Because you are a good person
    To Like

    I like you because
    When I tell you something special
    You know it.s special
    And you remember it
    A long long time

    And you say remember when
    you told me
    Something Special
    And both of us remember

    When I think something is important
    You think it’s important, too.

    We have good ideas.

    When I say something funny

    You laugh

    I think Im funny
    You think Im funny, too

    You know how to be silly
    That’s why I like you
    Boy are you ever silly

    I like you because
    You know when it’s time to stop being silly

    Maybe day after tomorrow
    Maybe never

    Oops, too late
    It’s quarter past silly

    I like you because
If you find two four-leaf clovers
You give me one
If I find four
I give you two
If we only find three
We keep on looking.

    That’s because
    You really like me

    You really like me
    Don’t you

    And I really like you back
    And you like me back
    And I like you back
    And that’s the way we keep on going
    Every day

    If you go away then I go away too
    Or if I stay home
    You send me a postcard

    You don’t just say
    Well see you around
    Some time
    Bye

    I like you a lot because of that
    If I go away
    I send you a postcard too

    And I like you because
    When I am feeling sad
    You don’t always cheer me up right away

    Sometimes it is better to be sad
    You can’t stand the others being so googly and gaggly every minute
    You want to think about things
    It takes time

    I like you because if I am mad at you
Then you are mad at me too
    
It’s awful when the other person isn’t
    
They are so nice and hoo-hoo you could
just about punch them in the nose.

    I like you because
    I don’t know why but
    everything that happens
    Is nicer with you

    I can’t remember when I didn’t like you

    It must have been lonesome then

    On the Fourth of July
    I like you because
    It’s the Fourth of July

    On the fifth of july, I like you too

    If you and I had some drums
    And some horns and some horses

    If we had some flags and some
    Hats and some fire engines

    We could be a HOLIDAY
    We could be a parade

    We could be a whole CELEBRATION
    See what I mean?

    Even if it was the nine hundred and ninety ninth of July
    Even if it was August

    Even if it was way down at the bottom of november
    Even if it was no place particular in January
    
… I would go on choosing you
And you would
go on choosing me
Over and over again.

    That’s how it would happen everytime
    I don’t know why

    I guess just because I like you.

  • The Family Jules

    This is a beautiful poem about love. Maybe not a great wedding poem, but you should watch this video anyways. Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye are phenomenal spoken word poets.

    When Love Arrives- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mdJ6aUB2K4g

    An Origin Story- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esgfG3BoAPc
    ^^This one is about their friendship, but I feel like the last part of the poem would be great for a wedding, or even as vows (with a few edits).

    I will always see you for the alley-oop.
    I will always save you a seat.
    I will always pick you to be my partner even though you are terrible at handball.
    When the fire takes all you have, my home will be your home.
    When you are old and can no longer remember my face, I will meet you for the first time again and again.
    When they make fun of your accent, I will take you swimming because we all sound the same underwater.
    When Ellis Island tries to erase your past, I will call you by your real name.
    When they call your number for the draft, I will enlist to fight beside you.
    And I will march with you from Selma to Montgomery and back as many times as it takes.
    We will stand together against the hoses and the dogs –
    because it didn’t start with us.
    It started with Lennon and McCartney.
    It started with Thelma and Louise.
    It started with Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin.
    Bert and Ernie!
    Abbott and Costello!
    Rosencrantz and Guildenstern!
    Mario and Luigi!
    Watson and Sherlock!
    Pikachu and Charizard! And they could tell you what a miracle this is.
    They could tell you how rare this is.
    But they could tell you how rare friendship always is.
    The chances are slim.
    The cards are always stacked against you, the odds are always low.
    But I have seen the best of you, and the worst of you, and I choose both.
    I want to share every single one of your sunshines and save some for later.
    I will tuck them into my pockets so I can give them back to you when the rains fall hard.
    Friend
    I want to be the mirror that reminds you to love yourself.
    I want to be air in your lungs that reminds you to breathe easy.
    When the walls come down –
    When the thunder rumbles –
    When nobody else is home, hold my hand –
    and I promise –
    I won’t let go.

  • http://ladybrettashley.wordpress.com lady brett

    oh! this is my poem to my love: Resignation, by Nikki Giovanni.
    she is one of my very favorite poets anyhow, but the accuracy of this poem is startling, particularly the last stanza,which is simply the truth of us.

    Resignation

    I love you
    because the earth turns round the sun
    because the North wind blows north
    sometimes
    because the Pope is Catholic
    and most Rabbis Jewish
    because winters flow into springs
    and the air clears after a storm
    because only my love for you
    despite the charms of gravity
    keeps me from falling off this Earth
    into another dimension
    I love you
    because it is the natural order of things

    I love you
    like the habit I picked up in college
    of sleeping through lectures
    or saying I’m sorry
    when I get stopped for speeding
    because I drink a glass of water
    in the morning
    and chain-smoke cigarettes
    all through the day
    because I take my coffee Black
    and my milk with chocolate
    because you keep my feet warm
    though my life a mess
    I love you
    because I don’t want it
    any other way.

    I am helpless
    in my love for you
    It makes me so happy
    to hear you call my name
    I am amazed you can resist
    locking me in an echo chamber
    where your voice reverberates
    through the four walls
    sending me into spasmatic ecstasy
    I love you
    because it’s been so good
    for so long
    that if I didn’t love you
    I’d have to be born again
    and that is not a theological statement
    I am pitiful in my love for you

    The Dells tell me Love
    is so simple
    the thought though of you
    sends indescribably delicious multitudinous
    thrills throughout and through-in my body
    I love you
    because no two snowflakes are alike
    and it is possible
    if you stand tippy-toe
    to walk between the raindrops
    I love you
    because I am afraid of the dark
    and can’t sleep in the light
    because I rub my eyes
    when I wake up in the morning
    and find you there
    because you with all your magic powers were
    determined that
    I should love you
    because there was nothing for you but that
    I would love you

    I love you
    because you made me
    want to love you
    more than I love my privacy
    my freedom my commitments
    and responsibilities
    I love you ’cause I changed my life
    to love you
    because you saw me one friday
    afternoon and decided that I would
    love you
    I love you I love you I love you

  • Rachel

    At our wedding last month, we used Love Is Not All by Edna St. Vincent Millay. I love her, and I love everything about this poem! We also translated it into Spanish to be read in both languages, and it was beautiful in both.

    Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
    Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
    Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
    And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
    Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
    Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
    Yet many a man is making friends with death
    Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
    It well may be that in a difficult hour,
    Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
    Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
    I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
    Or trade the memory of this night for food.
    It well may be. I do not think I would.

    • amy

      Bloody love this. She is excellent.

  • http://www.empapers.com Eleanor

    My grandma, who was a total bad ass, read ‘Invictus’ by William Ernest Henley at my Aunt’s wedding.

    My Aunt and her betrothed were known for their knock-out, drag-down fights. Alas, they ended up divorcing. But I will never forget my grandma in her little red dress and her sly smile reading through the poem as everyone laughed and clapped:

    Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.

    In the fell clutch of circumstance
    I have not winced nor cried aloud.
    Under the bludgeonings of chance
    My head is bloody, but unbowed.

    Beyond this place of wrath and tears
    Looms but the Horror of the shade,
    And yet the menace of the years
    Finds and shall find me unafraid.

    It matters not how strait the gate,
    How charged with punishments the scroll,
    I am the master of my fate:
    I am the captain of my soul.

    • Emily

      This is quite possibly my favorite comment on the entire thread.

  • Elle

    My sister read “Wedding Song” by Bob Dylan at our wedding. It was perfect (only we don’t have babies yet!)

    I love you more than ever, more than time and more than love,
    I love you more than money and more than the stars above,
    Love you more than madness, more than waves upon the sea,
    Love you more than life itself, you mean that much to me.

    Ever since you walked right in, the circle’s been complete,
    I’ve said goodbye to haunted rooms and faces in the street,
    To the courtyard of the jester which is hidden from the sun,
    I love you more than ever and I haven’t yet begun.

    You breathed on me and made my life a richer one to live,
    When I was deep in poverty you taught me how to give,
    Dried the tears up from my dreams and pulled me from the hole,
    Quenched my thirst and satisfied the burning in my soul.

    You gave me babies one, two, three, what is more, you saved my life,
    Eye for eye and tooth for tooth, your love cuts like a knife,
    My thoughts of you don’t ever rest; they’d kill me if I lie,
    I’d sacrifice the world for you and watch my senses die.

    The tune that is yours and mine to play upon this earth,
    We’ll play it out the best we know, whatever it is worth,
    What’s lost is lost; we can’t regain what went down in the flood,
    But happiness to me is you and I love you more than blood.

    It’s never been my duty to remake the world at large,
    Nor is it my intention to sound a battle charge,
    ‘Cause I love you more than all of that with a love that doesn’t bend,
    And if there is eternity I’d love you there again.

    Oh, can’t you see that you were born to stand by my side.
    And I was born to be with you, you were born to be my bride,
    You’re the other half of what I am; you’re the missing piece.
    And I love you more than ever with that love that doesn’t cease.

    You turn the tide on me each day and teach my eyes to see,
    Just bein’ next to you is a natural thing for me.
    And I could never let you go, no matter what goes on,
    ‘Cause I love you more than ever now that the past is gone.

  • http://dearmrpostman.com Maggie

    Here’s a “second marriage” poem that I love by Carolyn Kizer– a bit tricky for weddings, since it includes mention of the ex-spouses, but lovely and about happiness and perhaps perfect for somebody:

    Afternoon Happiness
    BY CAROLYN KIZER
    for John

    At a party I spy a handsome psychiatrist,
    And wish, as we all do, to get her advice for free.
    Doctor, I’ll say, I’m supposed to be a poet.
    All life’s awfulness has been grist to me.
    We learn that happiness is a Chinese meal,
    While sorrow is a nourishment forever.
    My new environment is California Dreamer.
    I’m fearful I’m forgetting how to brood.
    And, Doctor, another thing has got me worried:
    I’m not drinking as much as I should . . .

    At home, I want to write a happy poem
    On love, or a love poem of happiness.
    But they won’t do, the tensions of every day,
    The rub, the minor abrasions of any two
    Who share one space. Ah, there’s no substitute for tragedy!
    But in this chapter, tragedy belongs
    To that other life, the old life before us.
    Here is my aphorism of the day:
    Happy people are monogamous.
    Even in California. So how does the poem play

    Without the paraphernalia of betrayal and loss?
    I don’t have a jealous eye or fear
    And neither do you. In truth, I’m fond
    Of your ex-mate, whom I name “my wife-in-law.”
    My former husband, that old disaster, is now just funny,
    So laugh we do, in what Cyril Connolly
    Has called the endless, nocturnal conversation
    Of marriage. Which may be the best part.
    Darling, must I love you in light verse
    Without the tribute of profoundest art?

    Of course it won’t last. You will break my heart
    Or I yours, by dying. I could weep over that.
    But now it seems forced, here in these heaven hills,
    The mourning doves mourning, the squirrels mating,
    My old cat warm in my lap, here on our terrace
    As from below comes a musical cursing
    As you mend my favorite plate. Later of course
    I could pick a fight; there is always material in that.
    But we don’t come from fighting people, those
    Who scream out red-hot iambs in their hate.

    No, love, the heavy poem will have to come
    From temps perdu, fertile with pain, or perhaps
    Detonated by terrors far beyond this place
    Where the world rends itself, and its tainted waters
    Rise in the east to erode our safety here.
    Much as I want to gather a lifetime thrift
    And craft, my cunning skills tied in a knot for you,
    There is only this useless happiness as gift.

    Carolyn Kizer, “Afternoon Happiness” from Cool, Calm & Collected. Copyright © 2002 by Carolyn Kizer. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.

  • Amy

    One of my favorite poems of all time is “Love is Not All” by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

    Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
    Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
    Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
    And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
    Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
    Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
    Yet many a man is making friends with death
    Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
    It well may be that in a difficult hour,
    Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
    Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
    I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
    Or trade the memory of this night for food.
    It well may be. I do not think I would.

    It speaks to me about how love cannot physically sustain us like air or water, but how it can feel that way for damn sure.

    : )

  • Raakele

    In addition to some excerpts from Wendell Berry’s The Country of Marriage, we used this poem at our wedding, which I like because it is lighthearted and revels in the everyday…

    A Picnic on the Earth
    By Shuntaro Tanikawa

    Let’s jump rope here, you and I. Right here!
    Let’s have lunch here, you and I.
    Here I will love you.
    Your eyes will reflect the blue of the sky
    and your back will be dyed the color of mugwort.
    Let’s learn, you and I, the names of the constellations.
    Here let us dream of all things distant.
    Here let’s gather shellfish.
    Let’s pick a little starfish
    from the sea of the dawning sky.
    At breakfast let’s throw it back
    and let the night recede.
    Here I’ll go on saying, “I’m home!”
    while you keep saying, “Welcome back!”
    I’ll come back here again and again.
    Here let’s drink hot tea.
    Let’s sit here, you and I, and be caressed for a while
    by the cool breeze.

  • http://proofitgood.tumblr.com Rizubunny

    We used these poems and readings in our ceremony. We also had a reading of the Sheva Brachot, in both Hebrew and an English paraphrase that I worked up to apply better to our two-lady/egalitarian situation than a number of standard translations.

    As I look at them all again (nearly two years on), I am struck by the theme of melding/mixing. Obviously we chose them all intentionally (and after LONG months of reading through hundreds), but it’s interesting to see that commonality when I didn’t realize it was there or plan it to be.

    [Kuan Tao-Sheng, Married Love]
    You and I have so much love,
    That it burns like a fire,
    In which we bake a lump of clay
    Molded into a figure of you
    And a figure of me.
    Then we take both of them,
    And break them into pieces,
    And mix the pieces with water,
    And mold again a figure of you,
    And a figure of me.
    I am in your clay.
    You are in my clay.
    In life we share a single quilt.
    In death we will share a single coffin.

    [Hindu Marriage Poem]
    Let the earth of my body be mixed
    with the earth my beloved walks on.
    Let the fire of my body be the brightness
    in the mirror that reflects the face.
    Let the water of my body join the waters
    of the lotus pool she bathes in.
    Let the breath of my body be air
    lapping her tired limbs.
    Let me be sky,
    and moving through me, my beloved.

    [Egyptian Poem]
    This love is as good
    as oil and honey to the throat,
    as linen to the body.
    It is like a ripe pear
    in the hand,
    it is like the seeds
    the baker adds to bread.
    You will be together
    even when old age comes.
    And the days in between
    will be food set before you,
    honey, bread and wine.

    [Maya Angelou, In and Out of Time]
    The sun has come
    The mists have gone
    We see in the distance our long way home
    I was always yours to have
    You were always mine
    We have loved each other in and out of time

    When the first stone looked up at the blazing sun
    And the first tree struggled up from the forest floor
    I have always loved you more
    You freed your braids, gave your hair to the breeze
    It hung like a hive of honey bees
    I reached in the mass for the sweet honeycomb there
    God, how I loved your hair

    You saw me bludgeoned by circumstance
    Lost, injured, hurt by chance
    I screamed to the heavens
    Loudly screamed
    Trying to change our nightmares into dreams

    The sun has come
    The mists have gone
    We see in the distance our long way home
    I was always yours to have
    You were always mine
    We loved each other in and out,
    in and out, in and out of time

    [C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity]
    Being in love is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. There are many things below it, but there are also things above it. You cannot make it the basis of a whole life. It is a noble feeling, but it is still a feeling. Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go. And in fact, whatever people say, the state called “being in love” usually does not last. If the old fairy-tale ending “They lived happily ever after” is taken to mean “They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married”, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friend-ships? But, of course, ceasing to be “in love” need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense – love as distinct from “being in love” – is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else. “Being in love” first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

    [Psalm 63:1-8]
    O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
    my soul thirsts for you;
    my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
    So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
    Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
    So I will bless you as long as I live;
    in your name I will lift up my hands.
    My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
    when I remember you upon my bed,
    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
    for you have been my help,
    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
    My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.

    [Romans 12:1-2, 9-18]
    I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

    • sg

      This is all beautiful, how lovely! I am curious about the structure of your ceremony. Many people mention having 1-3 readings and you have a few more. How did you string them together with the sheva brachot, ring exchange, sermon, vows, and/or whatever you did or did not do?

      • Rizubunny

        Hey there sg! I just realized that you left a comment here – I don’t know if you’re still reading or will get notifications, but I hope so! Thanks for your kind words :) I tried to make it flow naturally based on structure and sound and the words – the ceremony was about an hour long. Basically, the structure went like this: pastor welcome~hymn~prayer and pastor words~readingx3~pastor homily~readingx3~music/solo~vows~rings~pronouncement/blessing~reading~communion~sheva brachot~ketubah signing~hymn~recessional.

        I don’t want to post the whole thing here, but I’d be happy to send you a copy of our program that has details if you want to send me an email – my email is proofitgood@gmail.com.

  • http://www.sarahhoppes.com SarahHoppes

    Late to the party, but our wedding included readings from:

    I like you – Litany – Billy Collins

    I like you – Sandol Stoddard Warburg

    Still Life With Woodpecker –

    Also, my mother in law filled in on the Billy Collins reading last minute because the weather kept the original reader from making the wedding. She read it from her smartphone, the entire poem didn’t come through for some reason, so she couldn’t understand WHY we wanted that as a reading at our wedding. I told her to look for the video of the 3 year old (linked above), but she had no idea what I was talking about, and I was so busy the morning of our wedding I didn’t get a chance to show her.

    During the ceremony she just stopped reading reading after the third stanza. “There’s just no way YOU are the pine scented air.” Boom. Sits down. Fin.

    Hit with a moment of realization, I stood at our “alter” holding my husband’s hands and laughing really, really loud at the misunderstanding. Even though the version of that poem read at our wedding meant something TOTALLY different, I still get chills when I hear it.

    • CeeBeeUK

      I love this story so much! I’m glad you can laugh at it.

  • Amanda

    One of my favorites… The first line gets me every time.

    “Love’s Promise”
    Jacqualine Williams Rippy

    I promise to love you, as you – always
    And for tomorrow, if it should ever come
    Until the sun shines no more
    And the moon has lost its glow
    When Alpha and Omega rest side by side
    Only to hear his majesty’s calling
    And we as one take that last walk
    Towards eternity.

  • Donna

    A friend who is doing one of our readings chose this poem for us, and we love it. It is particularly suitable as I had just moved abroad for my partner, although I think it is also pretty good relationship advice in general. We have edited it slightly to be in line with out beliefs and make it a touch shorter. I don’t think it’s already here, apologies if it is – there are so many great posts to read through!

    “To an English Friend in Africa” – Ben Okri

    Be grateful for freedom
    To see other dreams.
    Bless your loneliness as much as you drank
    Of your former companionships.
    All that you are experiencing now
    Will become moods of future joys
    So bless it all.
    Do not think your ways superior
    To another’s
    Do not venture to judge
    But see things with fresh and open eyes
    Do not condemn
    But praise what you can
    And when you can’t be silent.

    Time is now a gift for you
    A gift of freedom
    To think and remember and understand
    The ever perplexing past
    And to re-create yourself anew
    In order to transform time.

    Live while you are alive.
    Learn the ways of silence and wisdom
    Learn to act, learn a new speech
    Learn to be what you are in the seed of your spirit
    Learn to free yourself from all things that have moulded you
    And which limit your secret and undiscovered road.

    Remember that all things which happen
    To you are raw materials
    Endlessly fertile

    Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change
    Your life and go on doing for ever.

    Never forget to pray and be thankful
    For all the things good or bad on the rich road;
    For everything is changeable
    So long as you live while you are alive.

    Fear not, but be full of light and love;
    Fear not but be alert and receptive;
    Fear not but act decisively when you should;
    Fear not, but know when to stop;
    Fear not for you are loved by me;
    Fear not, for death is not the real terror,
    But life -magically – is.

    Be joyful in your silence
    Be strong in your patience
    Do not try to wrestle with the universe
    But be sometimes like water or air
    Sometimes like fire

    Live slowly, think slowly, for time is a mystery.
    Never forget that love
    Requires that you be
    The greatest person you are capable of being,
    Self-generating and strong and gentle-
    Your own hero and star.

    Love demands the best in us
    To always and in time overcome the worst
    And lowest in our souls.
    Love the world wisely.

    It is love alone that is the greatest weapon
    And the deepest and hardest secret.

    So fear not, my friend.
    The darkness is gentler than you think.
    Be grateful for the manifold
    Dreams of creation
    And the many ways of unnumbered peoples.

    Be grateful for life as you live it.
    And may a wonderful light
    Always guide you on the unfolding road.

  • Amanda

    Nobody’s got this one yet? Maybe my favorite poem of all time.

    From Blossoms
    Li-Young Lee

    From blossoms comes
    this brown paper bag of peaches
    we bought from the boy
    at the bend in the road where we turned toward
    signs painted Peaches.

    From laden boughs, from hands,
    from sweet fellowship in the bins,
    comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
    peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
    comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

    O, to take what we love inside,
    to carry within us an orchard, to eat
    not only the skin, but the shade,
    not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
    the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
    the round jubilance of peach.

    There are days we live
    as if death were nowhere
    in the background; from joy
    to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
    from blossom to blossom to
    impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

  • http://rachelrughdance.com rachelroo

    Bob Dylan has always been my husband’s and my favorite musician/artist/poet, but it turned out to be surprisingly difficult to find a song of his that said nice things about love! Here’s the one we chose. My sister sang, accompanied by my uncle on guitar and harmonica:

    “If Not For You”

    If not for you, babe, I couldn’t find the door
    Couldn’t even see the floor
    I’d be sad and blue if not for you.

    If not for you, baby, I’d lay awake all night
    Wait for the morning light
    To shine in through
    But it will not be new if not for you.

    If not for you, my sky would fall, rain would gather too
    Without your love I’d be nowhere at all
    I’d be lost if not for you
    And you know it’s true.

    If not for you, my sky would fall, rain would gather too
    Without your love I’d be nowhere at all
    Oh what would I do if not for you?

    If not for you, winter would have no spring
    I couldn’t hear the robins sing
    I just wouldn’t have a clue
    Anyway it wouldn’t ring true if not for you
    If not for you, if not for you.

  • charmcityvixen

    We had an extremely difficult time choosing something to read (so many good things, as this thread demonstrates!).

    We chose to include this Hafiz poem as part of our elopement ceremony:

    Our union is like this:
    You feel cold, so I reach for a blanket to cover our shivering feet.

    A hunger comes into your body,
    so I run to my garden and start digging
    potatoes.

    You asked for a few words of comfort
    and guidance and
    I quickly kneel by your side offering you
    a whole book as a gift.

    You ache with loneliness one night so much
    you weep, and I say

    here is a rope, tie it around me,
    I will be your companion for life.

  • Jen

    From “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams
    “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

    “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

    “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

    “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

    “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

    “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

  • Sabrina

    Moon

    I am so delighted
    With you, because I know you
    And I know you
    Came down to me, answering.
    I walked up hill
    After you went all the way down.
    I hadn’t seen too,
    But I believed in you,
    And I believed you were dividing three cones
    Of sky down beyond
    The left shoulder of the white oak
    In Warnock,
    Ohio, and I remember and I pray
    Come down to me love and bring me
    One panther of silver and one happy
    Evening of snow,
    And I will give you
    My life, my own, and now
    My beloved has come to me and we have gone walking
    Below you beside the East
    River in the snow, all
    Three of us, leaving
    Six prints of panther, kind
    Woman, and happy
    Man,
    And I love you,
    Sky full of laurels and arrows,
    White shadow of cities where the scars
    Of forgotten swans
    Waken into feathers
    And new leaves.
    —James Wright

  • http://www.weddingbee.com Cheryl Flint

    Cant believe this one isn’t included in the other threads… my favorite of all

    The Hands Ceremony

    (Bride and Groom face each other holding hands)

    Please face each other and take each other’s hands, so that you may see the gift that they are to you.

    These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow and forever.
    These are the hands that will work along side yours as together you build your future.
    These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch will comfort you like no other.
    These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief temporarily comes your way.
    These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes, tears of sorrow and tears of joy.
    These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
    These are the hands that will give you support and encouragement to chase down your dreams.
    These are the hands that will hold you tight as you struggle through difficult times.
    These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
    These are the hands that will lift your chin and brush your cheek as they raise your face to look into eyes that are filled with overwhelming love for you.
    And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.

  • Samantha

    A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING.
    by John Donne

    AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
    And whisper to their souls to go,
    Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    “Now his breath goes,” and some say, “No.”

    So let us melt, and make no noise,
    No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move ;
    ‘Twere profanation of our joys
    To tell the laity our love.

    Moving of th’ earth brings harms and fears ;
    Men reckon what it did, and meant ;
    But trepidation of the spheres,
    Though greater far, is innocent.

    Dull sublunary lovers’ love
    —Whose soul is sense—cannot admit
    Of absence, ’cause it doth remove
    The thing which elemented it.

    But we by a love so much refined,
    That ourselves know not what it is,
    Inter-assurèd of the mind,
    Care less, eyes, lips and hands to miss.

    Our two souls therefore, which are one,
    Though I must go, endure not yet
    A breach, but an expansion,
    Like gold to aery thinness beat.

    If they be two, they are two so
    As stiff twin compasses are two ;
    Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
    To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

    And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet, when the other far doth roam,
    It leans, and hearkens after it,
    And grows erect, as that comes home.

    Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
    Like th’ other foot, obliquely run ;
    Thy firmness makes my circle just,
    And makes me end where I begun.

  • Amanda V.

    I’m late to the party, but I hope others still get a chance to see this one. I am an English teacher and saw this poem in a textbook the year we were planning our wedding. The practicality of each of the ways he will support his love is something that really resonates with me.

    I Am Offering this Poem by Jimmy Santiago Baca

    I am offering this poem to you,
    since I have nothing else to give.
    Keep it like a warm coat
    when winter comes to cover you,
    or like a pair of thick socks
    the cold cannot bite through,

    I love you,

    I have nothing else to give you,
    so it is a pot full of yellow corn
    to warm your belly in winter,
    it is a scarf for your head, to wear
    over your hair, to tie up around your face,

    I love you,

    Keep it, treasure this as you would
    if you were lost, needing direction,
    in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
    and in the corner of your drawer,
    tucked away like a cabin or hogan
    in dense trees, come knocking,
    and I will answer, give you directions,
    and let you warm yourself by this fire,
    rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

    I love you…

  • Chanel

    My brother is a excellent poet, so I asked him to write a poem for my wedding. This is what he came up with;

    To Love and to Cherish

    Today we’re here to honor love’s true seal,
    to witness two souls bonded for all time.
    And yet I first must tell you how I feel,
    for silence now would seem to be a crime.
    I fear at times we easily forget
    the ones we share our lives with day by day;
    for petty diff’rences can soon omit
    our brightest moments, much to my dismay.
    So cherish deeply ev’ryone you trust,
    please keep them close and never let them go;
    for when we’re gone and all has turned to dust,
    the ones we leave are all we’ll have to show.
    And so, with selfish thoughts now put to bed,
    please take your seats: these two shall now be wed.

  • Alyssa

    At my wedding, two days ago (!!!!!!!) my husband’s sister read “Our Union” by Hafiz:

    Our union is like this:

    You feel cold so I reach for a blanket to cover
    our shivering feet.

    A hunger comes into your body
    so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.

    You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance and
    I quickly kneel by your side offering you
    a whole book as a
    gift.

    You ache with loneliness one night so much
    you weep, and I say

    here is a rope, tie it around me,
    I will be your
    companion
    for life.

    It is so simple, but so powerful. It was especially meaningful because the 9 months before our wedding, we were long distance.

    We also had a bible verse. Colossians 3:12-17

    Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

    Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    We are both musicians, so the part about singing to God with gratitude was meaningful.

  • Liadee

    I’m way late to the party (oops!) but this is one of my absolute favorite sayings. It’s too short for a reading but i’m planning to use it on a program on sign for our eventual wedding, and then i hope to turn it into a tattoo…

    “In that book which is my memory,
    On the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you,
    Appear the words, ‘Here begins a new life’.” – Dante Alighieri, Vita Nuova

    Its how i feel about my fiancé. its how i feel about my son. it just feels perfect

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Jenny- Adventures Along the Way

    Well, theatre is in poetry in motion, right? We didn’t work this into our ceremony, but I wanted it in our wedding somehow, so I put it in a frame beside our guest book. We had an intercultural/bilingual wedding, so it worked well to acknowledge the idea of creating bridges between cultural differences.

    An excerpt from the play The Perfect Wedding by Charles Mee

    MERIDEE
    That’s the whole point of a wedding
    to reach out across the abyss
    and embrace someone who is different

    EDMUND
    Exactly:
    this is how it is
    for all human beings everywhere
    understanding who they are
    and reaching into the depths of their own particular souls
    and the civilizations they have come from
    to find even a deeper connection
    as they reach out across the gulf
    and through the courage of reaching out to each other,
    rediscover their self-confidence

  • Danger

    This isn’t a whole reading, but it gets right to the point:

    “Shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow half sorrow.”
    – Swedish proverb

  • Laura Lan

    We asked our siblings (his sister and my brother) to read these short poem blessings.

    May you need one another, but not out of weakness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you entice one another, but not compel one another. May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another. May you succeed in all-important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces. May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.
    – Blessing For A Marriage, by James Dillet Freeman

    Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter to the other.
    Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.
    Now there is no more loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other.
    Although there are two bodies, there is one life before you.
    Go now to enter into the days of your togetherness,
    And may your days be good and long upon the earth.
    -Apache Wedding Blessing

  • Claudia

    We are using the following quote from Rilke and two very short items we are writing about trips that we were on together. Here is the Rilke

    From “Letters To A Young Poet”
    by Rainer Maria Rilke

    Marriage is in many ways a simplification of life, and it naturally combines the strengths and wills of two young people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into the future than they did before. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness, – a new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner.

    The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of their solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a
    marvelous living side by side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.

    We are currently in negotiations about the this by Ogden Nash might or might not be the fourth reading.

    Though you know it anyhow
    Listen to me, darling, now,
    Proving what I need not prove
    How I know I love you, love.
    Near and far, near and far,
    I am happy where you are;
    Likewise I have never larnt
    How to be it where you aren’t.
    Far and wide, far and wide,
    I can walk with you beside;
    Furthermore, I tell you what,
    I sit and sulk where you are not.
    Visitors remark my frown
    Where you’re upstairs and I am down,
    Yes, and I’m afraid I pout
    When I’m indoors and you are out;
    But how contentedly I view
    Any room containing you.
    In fact I care not where you be,
    Just as long as it’s with me.
    In all your absences I glimpse
    Fire and flood and trolls and imps.
    Is your train a minute slothful?
    I goad the stationmaster wrothful.
    When with friends to bridge you drive
    I never know if you’re alive,
    And when you linger late in shops
    I long to telephone the cops.
    Yet how worth the waiting for,
    To see you coming through the door.
    Somehow, I can be complacent
    Never but with you adjacent.
    Near and far, near and far,
    I am happy where you are;
    Likewise I have never larnt
    How to be it where you aren’t.
    Then grudge me not my fond endeavor,
    To hold you in my sight forever;
    Let none, not even you, disparage
    Such a valid reason for a marriage.

    http://famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/ogden_nash/poems/19662

  • Cait

    This is a lovely one by Auden:

    Lullaby

    by W. H. Auden
    Lay your sleeping head, my love,
    Human on my faithless arm;
    Time and fevers burn away
    Individual beauty from
    Thoughtful children, and the grave
    Proves the child ephemeral:
    But in my arms till break of day
    Let the living creature lie,
    Mortal, guilty, but to me
    The entirely beautiful.

    Soul and body have no bounds:
    To lovers as they lie upon
    Her tolerant enchanted slope
    In their ordinary swoon,
    Grave the vision Venus sends
    Of supernatural sympathy,
    Universal love and hope;
    While an abstract insight wakes
    Among the glaciers and the rocks
    The hermit’s carnal ecstasy.

    Certainty, fidelity
    On the stroke of midnight pass
    Like vibrations of a bell,
    And fashionable madmen raise
    Their pedantic boring cry:
    Every farthing of the cost,
    All the dreaded cards foretell,
    Shall be paid, but from this night
    Not a whisper, not a thought,
    Not a kiss nor look be lost.

    Beauty, midnight, vision dies:
    Let the winds of dawn that blow
    Softly round your dreaming head
    Such a day of welcome show
    Eye and knocking heart may bless,
    Find the mortal world enough;
    Noons of dryness find you fed
    By the involuntary powers,
    Nights of insult let you pass
    Watched by every human love.

  • L

    My favourite, but that,y husband-to-be isn’t keen on so we’re not having it :(

    Valentine by Carol Ann Duffy

    Not a red rose or a satin heart.

    I give you an onion.
    It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
    It promises light
    like the careful undressing of love.

    Here.
    It will blind you with tears
    like a lover.
    It will make your reflection
    a wobbling photo of grief.

    I am trying to be truthful.

    Not a cute card or a kissogram.

    I give you an onion.
    Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
    possessive and faithful
    as we are,
    for as long as we are.

    Take it.
    Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
    if you like.

    Lethal.
    Its scent will cling to your fingers,
    cling to your knife.

  • Kristin

    I know I’m a little late to the game, but this is my all time favorite:

    Most Like an Arch This Marriage by John Ciardi (from I Marry You, Rutgers University Press, 1958)
    Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
    and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
    Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
    A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

    Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
    into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
    Two joined abeyances become a term
    naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

    Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
    what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
    at piling stone on stone apart from you
    is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss

    I am no more than upright and unset.
    It is by falling in and in we make
    the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
    in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.

  • amy

    I think we’re going to use ‘The Caravan’ by Clare Pollard. It’s unfussy and honest and just gorgeous. I love the internal almost-rhymes that make it a pleasure to speak, I love how the last 8 lines read like a nursery-rhyme but encapsulate what adult, respectful love looks like, I love how it acknowledges the constant possibility that this One Person might be lost, and the warmth of it makes me smile every time:-

    The Caravan

    We were alive that evening, on the north Yorkshire moors,
    in a valley of scuffed hills and smouldering gorse.
    Pheasants strutted, their feathers as richly patterned
    as Moroccan rugs, past the old Roma caravan –
    candles, a rose-cushioned bed, etched glass –
    that I’d hired to imagine us gipsies
    as our bacon and bean stew bubbled,
    as you built a fire, moustached, shirt-sleeves rolled.
    It kindled and started to lick, and you laughed
    in your muddy boots, there in the wild –
    or as close as we can now get to the wild –
    skinning up a joint with dirty hands, sloshing wine
    into beakers, the sky turning heather with night,
    the moon a huge cauldron of light,
    the chill wind blasting away our mortgage,
    emails, bills, TV, our broken washing machine.
    Smoke and stars meant my thoughts loosened,
    and took off like the owls that circled overhead,
    and I knew your hands would later catch in my hair,
    hoped the wedding ring on them never seemed a snare –
    for if you were a traveller I would not make you settle,
    but would have you follow your own weather,
    and if you were a hawk I would not have you hooded,
    but would watch, dry-mouthed, as you hung above the fields,
    and if you were a rabbit I would not want you tame,
    but would watch you gambolling through the bracken,
    though there is dark meat packed around your ribs,
    and the hawk hangs in the skies.

    Then as well an edited version of this letter</a> that Steinbeck wrote to his teenage son about falling in love. Because ‘nothing good gets away’ is a lovely sentence.

  • MEM

    After months of deliberation and searching, we finally picked our wedding poem! It’s an untitled poem written by neil gaiman for his friend’s wedding:

    This for you, for both of you,

    a small poem of happiness
    filled with small glories and little triumphs
    a fragile, short cheerful song
    filled with hope and all sorts of futures

    Because at weddings we imagine the future
    Because it’s all about “what happened next?”
    all the work and negotiation and building and talk
    that makes even the tiniest happily ever after
    something to be proud of for a wee forever

    This is a small thought for both of you
    like a feather or a prayer,
    a wish of trust and love and hope
    and fine brave hearts and true.

    Like a tower, or a house made all of bones and dreams
    and tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows

  • Garrison Berry

    My ex and I had been together 5 years and he left me with my 2 year old daughter all alone and moved to a different state permanently partially, because he does off shore drilling. But it hurt a lot. I found out that he got a girlfriend FFAASTTTer than i could say goodbye…and another…and another and that hurt me I was jealous that he could because i was the primary caretaker and more because i claim that my daughter needed her dad so bad, but in reality i wanted him to be there for me also……It hurts but you have to con fort the hurt loinesss sorrow and whatever you are dealing with and put all that energy into raisin your child. I didn’t have the best support group idk how yours was but i knew that i could just sit in the house all day so i gathered myself and I would put my all into my daughter now a little over a year later I have found the man of my dreams…through the help of great Zalilu, who help me in getting all i ever want in a relationship. i can now say goodbye to tear,you can get in touch with he at… greatzalilu@gmail.com