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Wedding Poems: Gifts & Laughter


by Emily Threlkeld, Contributor

Wedding Poems: Gifts & Laughter | A Practical WeddingSince I met most of my friends in undergraduate poetry classes, I don’t have a great sense of how important poetry is to people who didn’t study it in college. (Which is, let’s be honest, most people.) So last month, when I asked you to submit wedding poems that inspired you, I was thrilled to see so many familiar names on the list, and even more excited to discover new poems and poets that I hadn’t read before. (The Leo Marks poem, for example, was read at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, as many of you mentioned, but did you know that it was also used to encrypt messages during WWII?)

But before I dig into a few of my favorites from the open thread, we know that that poetry isn’t everyone’s bag. So for our next roundup, we’re asking for prose. If you have a favorite passage on love, relationships, or life, leave it in the comments for a future roundup!

And now, some of my favorite poems from your suggestions:

Wedding Poems: Gifts & Laughter | A Practical Wedding

Sonnet XI from Fatal Interview
by 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.”

I Am Offering This Poem from Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems
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,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
remember,

I love you.

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.

Laughter

Wedding Poems: Gifts & Laughter | A Practical Wedding

How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog from What Learning Leaves
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.
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 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.

Having a Coke With You from Collected Poems
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

The Return of Odysseus from The Good Kiss: Poems
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.

Top photo by APW Sponsor Lisa Wiseman, second and third photos by APW Sponsor Emily Takes Photos

Emily Threlkeld

Emily’s first marriage was to her stuffed raccoon Ringo (named for the Beatle). She wore her yellow Easter dress to the ceremony and her mother officiated. She has a BFA in Creative Writing, a cat named after the heroine of To Kill a Mockingbird, and a permanent case of wanderlust.

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  • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

    Ok, The Return of Odysseus has me tearing up at my desk, because my husband has been having a hell of a time at work lately, and the contemptuous throwing down of the bag upon arrival and the skillful gin and tonic (whiskey ginger, in his case) is so familiar these days.

    This is fantastic, and I’m going to email it to him at once.

    • Stalking Sarah

      It is absolutely so exactly exactly.

    • Rebecca

      That is me when I get home from class. So. Very. True.

  • https://twitter.com/SnippetsofSarah Sarah E

    Well in terms of more humorous fare, I’m a fan of just about anything from Tom Robbins. In particular, in Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, he wrote a short essay on kissing that’s spot on. (My partner and I determined the only thing he missed- for he did cover the tangle of braces- was the clink of glasses between bespectacled smoochers.)

    Thanks for keeping us in poetry, Emily! Though I was tempted to study words at school, I currently can’t imagine what a class on poetry even looks like, aside from constant discussion on what even _makes_ a poem. It’s kind of like what defines “art.” Is it only a poem because its creator said so? Does anyone else need to weigh in? If so, how many people need to give it the “This is a Poem” stamp of approval? And on and on. In my college career, I merely had to have that discussion about the word “community” every semester.

  • Beth

    We used this as the last reading at our ceremony before we said our vows.

    An excerpt from Bertrand Russell’s book Marriage and Morals:

    It is […] possible for a civilised man and woman to be happy in marriage, although if this is to be the case a number of conditions must be fulfilled. There must be a feeling of complete equality on both sides; there must be no interference with mutual freedom; there must be the most complete physical and mental intimacy; and there must be a certain similarity in regard to standards of values […].Given all these conditions, I believe marriage to be the best and most important relation that can exist between two human beings. If it has not often been realised hitherto, that is chiefly because husbands and wives have regarded themselves as each other’s policemen. If marriage is to achieve its possibilities, husband and wife must learn to understand that, whatever the law may say, in their private lives they must be free.

  • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

    These are the prose readings we included in our ceremony.

    From “Goodridge Vs. Department of Health”
    By Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall
    “Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the ‘welfare of the community.’ It is a ‘social institution of the highest importance.’ … Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”

    o From Moon Palace by Paul Auster
    “As Uncle Victor had once told me long ago, a conversation is like having a catch with someone. A good partner tosses the ball directly into your glove, making it almost impossible for you to miss it; when he is on the receiving end, he catches everything sent his way, even the most errant and incompetent throws. That’s what Kitty did. She kept lobbing the ball straight into the pocket of my glove, and when I threw the ball back to her, she hauled in everything that was even remotely in her area: jumping up to spear balls that soared above her head, diving nimbly to her left or right, charging in to make tumbling, shoestring catches. More than that, her skill was such that she always made me feel that I had made those bad throws on purpose, as if my only object had been to make the game more amusing. She made me seem better than I was, and that strengthened my confidence, which in turn helped me to make my throws less difficult for her to handle. In other words, I started talking to her rather than to myself, and the pleasure of it was greater than anything I had experienced in a long time.”

    o 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. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling.”

    • Remy

      In the same spirit of Goodridge, an excerpt from Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling on Prop 8 when it came to the Ninth Circuit Court:

      The right to marry has been historically and remains the right to choose a spouse and, with mutual consent, join together and form a household.

      Race and gender restrictions shaped marriage during eras of race and gender
      inequality, but such restrictions were never part of the historical core of the institution of marriage.

      Today, gender is not relevant to the state in determining spouses’ obligations to each
      other and to their dependents. Relative gender composition aside, same-sex couples are situated identically to opposite-sex couples in terms of their ability to perform the rights and obligations of marriage under California law.

      Gender no longer forms an essential part of marriage; marriage under law is a union of equals.
      ————-
      It’s something we had on our wedsite, but didn’t include in the ceremony. (Particularly meaningful to us as we are an interracial couple, and so were my grandparents, who were only permitted the right to legally marry in California the year before they did.) Now that Prop 8 has been overturned for good, I’m all for this reading at the right sort of wedding.

  • Jo

    We used this quote from the Symposium by Plato. I just loved the image of the round cartwheeling acrobats. Plus we’re nerdy.

    “Our original nature was by no means the same as it is now. There was a kind composed of both sexes and sharing equally in male and female. The form of each person was round all over; each had four arms, and legs to match these, and two faces perfectly alike. The creature walked upright, and whenever it started running fast, it went like our acrobats, whirling over and over with legs stuck out straight, swiftly round and round.

    Now they were so lofty in their notions that they even conspired against the gods… Then Zeus said “Me thinks I can contrive that men shall give over their iniquity through a lessening of their strength.” So saying, he sliced each human being in two.

    Now when our first form had been cut in two, each half in longing for his fellow would come to it again; and then would they fling their arms about each other and in mutual embraces yearn to be grafted together…

    Well, when one happens on his own particular half, the two of them are wondrously thrilled with affection and intimacy and love, and are hardly to be induced to leave each other’s side for a single moment. These are they who continue together throughout life. No one could imagine this to be the mere amorous connection: obviously the soul of each is wishing for something else that it cannot express. Suppose that Hephaestus should ask “Do you desire to be joined in the closest possible union, that so long as you live, the pair of you, being as one, may share a single life?” Each would unreservedly deem that he had been offered just what he was yearning for all the time.”

    • Erin

      Ohh! I never thought Plato would have me tearing up at my desk!

  • Cass

    We had two readings in our cermony two months ago (yipee!) that we read by my MIL and Nana, respectively. I choose the first one, while my hubby picked the second scripture reading.

    The Prophet by Khalil Gibran

    When you find someone you can love and who can love you, then love one another. And, as you love one another, remember this: Make your love a joyous, freedom-loving adventure. Let your love be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Sing, dance, and be joyous together, and yet, let each of you have moments alone. Let there be spaces in your togetherness so that the winds of the heavens dance between you.

    Remember, the strings of the lute are together, yet alone as they quiver with the same music. As the pillars of the temple stand apart, they serve a common goal. Fill each other’s cup, and yet, allow each to drink at their own choosing. Give one another of you bread, while allowing each to season it to their own taste.

    Give your hearts to each other, while providing space for each other’s heart to be free, for there is much in life to be loved. Let your lover’s heart be free to answer the call of life.
    Stand together, yet not too near each other, for in the garden of life, the oak tree & the cypress each have air to breathe and a little earth to call their own, where the sun can reach down & touch them bringing forth the hidden beauty that lies within each one. Yes, be together, and be yourself. Be free, and always be together.

    Romans 12:9-18 The Voice (VOICE)
    Love others well, and don’t hide behind a mask; love authentically. Despise evil; pursue what is good as if your life depends on it. Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Do not slack in your faithfulness and hard work. Let your spirit be on fire, bubbling up and boiling over, as you serve the Lord. Do not forget to rejoice, for hope is always just around the corner. Hold up through the hard times that are coming, and devote yourselves to prayer. Share what you have with the saints, so they lack nothing; take every opportunity to open your life and home to others.If people mistreat or malign you, bless them. Always speak blessings, not curses. If some have cause to celebrate, join in the celebration. And if others are weeping, join in that as well. Work toward unity, and live in harmony with one another.

    Other ones I wish we had room for that I love!

    “A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other’s lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” ~Wendell Berry

    Courageous Love sustain us in living steadfastly, risking faithfully, imagining a better world, and working to create that world hour by hour. Strengthen us to nourish and encourage each other for another day. Recall us through stories that matter to more generous lives that we feel capable of in our most weary moments, stories that give us heart and help us cross difficulties to live for love’s sake. Courageous Love when we are shaken with grief or with anger, with hunger or with thirst, with worry or with injustice, help us hold steady, keep reaching out, and keep risking faithfully. Let us not be turned away from the generous, whole-hearted life, but as we are challenged to make our way together through, singing until our hearts catch up to the courage we need to live as we have promised. Amen.

    “Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”

    “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

    “There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.”
    ― John Lennon

    “It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world. He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.”
    ― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

    • ItsyBitsy

      I love love love The Prophet. I alway find myself wanting to quote it… and then I end up reading pages out loud to some poor soul because I can’t find a word that I don’t want to share.

  • Becs

    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.”

    • http://landlockedlove.com Kelly

      Every time I see that someone is about to quote The Velveteen Rabbit I think, “Oh, such a beautiful book. Even though I cry every single time I read this passage, I will read it this time without crying.”

      I am always wrong. Crying, crying, crying forever.

      • Grif

        It’s the same for me. I would love to use this excerpt but there is no way I’d make it through without turning into a sobbing mess.

  • Becs

    Ruth 1:16

    But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

    • http://andshelovesyou.com Lucy

      We read this AND the Velveteen Rabbit passage, so it was quite fun to see them right next to each other here. So here’s our other prose reading, 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.”

      • KC

        I especially love the bit: “It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.”

      • Ruth

        We had that Lewis reading and the one from Ruth also! I am no longer constantly “in love” with my husband, but there is a deep, quiet unity that is so precious.

      • Courtney

        Lucy, I pulled these exact words out of C.S. Lewis for my wedding, too! My husband’s aunt read them, and even though I was afraid it was a little long, I loved what he was saying too much to cut any of it out. At least I know now that I’m not the only person who likes this passage!

  • Lindsay

    we included this bit from alan watts in our ceremony:

    What I am about to say may at first sound depressing and even cynical, but I think you will not find it so in practice. There are three things I would have you bear in mind. The first is that as you now behold one another, you are probably seeing each other at your best. All things disintegrate in time, and as the years go by you will tend to get worse rather than better. Do not, therefore, go into marriage with projects for improving each other. Growth may happen, but it cannot be forced. The second has to do with emotional honesty. Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command. For the same reason, do not require love from your partner as a duty, for love given in this spirit doesn’t ring true, and gives no pleasure to the other. The third is that you do not so cling to one another as to commit mutual strangulation. You are not each others chattels, and you must so trust your partner as to allow full freedom to be the being that he and she is. If you observe these things your marriage will have surer ground than can be afforded by any formal contract or promise, however solemn and legally binding

  • http://coliesplace.com Nicole

    From “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 river bed. 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 river bed’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 himself 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, or when dinner is five minutes later than she was planning, because, let’s face it, it’s Joseph who’s putting that paper on the roll and dinner on the table, disregarding whether the beet is a better vegetable than the cabbage, 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.”

    –My Maids of Honor read this at our wedding as their toast to us.

  • Karyn

    This was SUPPOSED to have been read at our wedding, but the officiant left it out. My husband and I were really bummed, because we’d really been looking forward to this.

    (from “So Long and Thanks for All the Fish” by Douglas Adams)

    There was a sort of gallery structure in the roof space which held a bed and also a bathroom which, Fenchurch explained, you could actually swing a cat in. “But,” she added, “only if it was a reasonably patient cat and didn’t mind a few nasty cracks about the head. So. Here you are.”

    “Yes.”

    They looked at each other for a moment.

    The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.

    For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone 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 of his cage hanging open and the savanna stretching grey 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.”

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

    Andrew Boyd, from Daily Afflictions:

    We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complimentary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you who you truly are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any person: the right wrong person; someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, This is the problem I want to have.

  • http://www.wrightremedy.blogspot.com addie

    I have no idea where we are using these quotes but they are going in the ceremony somewhere:

    “The purpose of life is to be alive. Not to gather objects, achieve, accumulate successes, or forge your body to fit a mold. It’s simply to be alive. To touch, feel, sense, hear, see, and live in the dynamic flow of whatever arises in the moment; to accept the wild and crazy thoughts that go through your mind, your animal nature, your wisdom, your fears that arise and grip your chest, the laughter that brings tears, and the joy that takes you beyond yourself. To be alive is to meet and accept every a part of yourself-the skuzzy, sweet, passionate, talented, or slow. From this place of self-acceptance you can be a good friend to yourself and others.”
    -Charlotte Kasl, If the Buddha Got Stuck

    Also, since ManPerson and I are an interracial couple (with some not so marriage equality minded family), we’re using words from Loving v. Virginia to not so subtly make our point (but without offending anyone…probably):

    The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.
    (ahem, sexual orientation, ahem)
    Loving v. Virginia

    • Remy

      Rock on! I also really like (outside of the wedding reading context, even) what Mildred Loving said about the current marriage equality fight in 2007:

      “I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry… I am proud that Richard’s and my name is on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

  • L

    From STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER
    –Tom Robbins
    Love is the ultimate outlaw. It just won’t adhere to any rules. The most any of us can do is to sign on as its accomplice. Instead of vowing to honor and obey, maybe we should swear to aid and abet. That would mean that security is out of the question. The words “make” and “stay” become inappropriate. My love for you has no strings attached. I love you for free.

    David Foster Wallace:

    …there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talked about in the great outside world of winning and achieving and displaying. The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Ours were straight from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, except our Rector insists on having the 1 Cor. 13 passage in addition. Bah.

    At a Marriage.

    The Collect.

    O ETERNAL God, we humbly beseech thee, favourably to behold these thy servants now (or about to be) joined in wedlock according to thy holy ordinance; and grant that they, seeking first thy kingdom and thy right-eousness, may obtain the manifold blessings of thy grace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    The Epistle. Ephesians v. 20.

    GIVE thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submit-ting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.

    The Gospel. St. Matthew xix. 4.

    JESUS answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

  • Katherine

    To be read at our wedding on Saturday (!):

    From The Commitment by Dan Savage: (a conversation Dan has with his 6 year old son)

    “Grandma says you’re supposed to marry the person you love,” D.J. suddenly said. He hadn’t fallen asleep; he was quietly working through something.
    “That’s right,” I said. “Grandma does say that.”
    “But you love me and we’re not going to get married.”
    “Grown-up love is a special kind of love,” I said. “People don’t fall in that special kind of love with their sisters, or their mothers, or their sons. There’s something in your heart that makes you go out into the world and find someone new, someone you’ve never met before, and you fall in love with that new person.”
    “Why?”
    “Because that’s how new families are made. Two people who aren’t already related fall in love with each other and bring their families together, and create new relatives.”
    “Like Grandma and Grandpa?”
    “That’s right. Once my mother and Terry’s mother didn’t know each other, and now they’re related to each other through our family. And one day you’ll meet the person you want to make a new family with and that’s the person you’re supposed to marry.”
    “Why?”
    “Because marriage is a promise that you make to that other person, a promise to stay in love with them forever, to be related forever. My mom will always be my mom, and she’ll always be your grandma. You’ll always be my son. But when you meet someone new and fall in love, there’s a chance you could fall out of love with that person. Marriage is a promise you make to always try and stay in love with each other, so that you’ll always be together.”
    ….
    “You and Dad have to stay together forever.”
    “We will,” I said. “We love each other and always will.”
    D.J. sat up on the couch and looked me in the eye.
    “I want you and Daddy to promise, to pinky promise, to seriously and forever promise, and no breaking your promise.”

    From Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert:
    I do not need this man in almost any of the ways that women have needed men over the centuries. I do not need him to protect me physically, because I live in one of the safest societies on earth. I do not need him to provide for me financially, because I have always been the winner of my own bread. I do not need him to extend my circle of kinship, because I have a rich community of friends and neighbors and family all on my own. I do not need him to give me the critical social status of “married woman,” because my culture offers respect to unmarried women…
    I need him only because I happen to adore him, because his company brings me gladness and comfort, and because, as a friend’s grandfather once put it, “Sometimes life is too hard to be alone, and sometimes life is too good to be alone.”

    Our two more poetry-like readings are the standard Corinthians passage (because I wanted something biblical for our religious relatives, but that wasn’t too religious for us) and the text of a song from the original stage musical of The Sound of Music. (They didn’t use it in the movie, but I listened to my mother’s record a LOT as a kid.) the song is Ordinary Couple:

    An ordinary couple
    Is all we’ll ever be,
    For all I want of living
    Is to keep you close to me,
    To laugh and weep together
    While time goes on its flight,
    To kiss you ev’ry morning
    And to kiss you ev’ry night.
    We’ll meet our daily problems
    And rest when day is done,
    Our arms around each other
    In the fading sun.
    An ordinary couple,
    Across the years we’ll ride,
    Our arms around each other
    Our family by our side.
    (The song actually says “our children by our side,” but we changed it to “family” because we don’t have kids & it seems weird to imply that we do…or definitely will.)

  • AnnDee

    Neil Gaiman:

    “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.”

  • AnnDee

    Oops, pasted the poetry and not the prose above!

    This was our first reading, and really set the tone for the whole ceremony:

    “Loving the Wrong Person” by Andrew Boyd

    “We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”

  • Michelle

    This is one of my all-time favorites!

    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.

  • Renee

    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 promises and agreements in an informal way. These common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows 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.” Before this moment you have been many things to one another. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never be quite the same. For after these vows, you will say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife.

    Blessing of the Hands -Revised by Rev Daniel L Harris
    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 alongside 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 fills your mind. These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and as in today, tears of joy. These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children, the hands that will help you to hold your family as one. These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it. 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.

    • Alyssa

      These are beautiful. They resonate for me, so thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.0dsdfdd33.com/sdfddd Janis Peveler

    Ditto to Ginny re: posting the earlier letters for new subscribers. Alsocan you tell us who wrote the January letters?

  • Liliana

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