Open Thread: Wedding Readings


They're more than just window dressing for your vows

by Lucy Bennett, Deputy Editor

Open Thread: Wedding Readings | A Practical Wedding

A few weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of standing by two very good friends for their wedding. During the ceremony, another friend read from A Year With C.S. Lewis, which, as it happened, we’d selected to be read at our own wedding back in 2012. It’s a peculiar and rare feeling, when someone reads aloud the same words that were once read at our wedding. It was hard to keep myself inside the current moment when the pull of wedding zen nostalgia beckoned. But I did, because I didn’t want to miss anything—especially when I was on point for passing vows and holding bouquets, and God forbid my mind wandered and then I’d have bitchy resting face in all the ceremony photos. I digress.

I remember choosing that C.S. Lewis reading, in part for the words, but also for the connection that the reader, my best friend and maid of honor, and I had to it. In our senior year of high school, I sat behind my best friend, and day in and day out, we pored over various works by C.S. Lewis. In between the usual high school dramatics that follow any close teenage friendship, we picked apart The Screwtape Letters and wondered about the nature of true evil. Nine years later, when I read over that passage from A Year With C.S. Lewis, I knew it would be perfect—for outlining our feelings about the marriage we were entering into, and for the connection my best friend and I had to it.

And that’s the thing I love about wedding readings. While the words may stay the same when used in multiple ceremonies, people bring their own meanings to them. With that in mind, this is the first of a few open threads dedicated to prose wedding readings. We’ve given lots of attention to wedding poems, but now I want to know:

What passages are special to you? What Readings are you considering including in your ceremony? Share your inspiration in the comments!

Photo by Marble Rye Photography (APW Sponsor)

Lucy Bennett

Lucy is the Deputy Editor of APW and a freelance designer/ writer hybrid. When not coming up with weird self-challenges, she can be found marathoning TV shows or playing board games. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, her moderately-internet-famous-pup, and two cats. She takes herself very seriously.

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  • TeaforTwo

    When we were thinking about readings for our wedding, I was quite adamant that I didn’t want any “love poems” – nothing about being in love or completely infatuated, because it seemed beside the point.

    Because we were having a religious ceremony, it would have been a bit of a struggle to include secular reading, anyway, so we decided to keep it simple, and had my aunt read this from Isaiah:

    “Each will be like a hiding-place from the wind, a covert from the tempest,
    like streams of water in a dry place, like the shade of a great rock in a weary land.

    Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.
    The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust for ever.
    My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.”

    In her speech at the reception, my MOH read from a Wendell Berry essay that was read at her wedding, too. if we had chosen non-religious readings for the ceremony, this would have been one of my top choices:

    “Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go.

    It is going where the two of you—and marriage, time, life, history, and the world—will take it.

    You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.

    Forms join us to time, to the consequences and fruition of our own passing.

    The Zen student, the poet, the husband, the wife—no one knows with certainty what he or she is staying for, but all know the likelihood that they will be staying “awhile”: to find out what they are staying for. And it is the faith of all of these disciplines that they will not stay to find that they should not have stayed.

    That faith has nothing to do with what is usually called optimism. As the traditional marriage ceremony insists, not everything that we stay to find out will make us happy. The faith, rather, is that by staying, and only by staying, we will learn something of the truth, that the truth is good to know, and that it is always both different and larger than we thought.”

    • http://www.rachelrughdance.com rachelroo

      Might I recommend this book to anyone planning a ceremony: http://www.amazon.com/Into-The-Garden-Anthology-Marriage/dp/0060924691 My parents have been giving it as an engagement gift to young couples for years, and I’ve begun to carry on that tradition with my friends because it’s just so DAMN USEFUL! It’s got a really interesting introduction on the history of marriage, sample wedding ceremonies from many different traditions, and a ton of beautiful readings I’d never seen before. Seriously, get this book. It’ll make ceremony planning the meaningful and thought-provoking process it was meant to be, rather than an anxiety-induced headache.

      For our wedding, my dad chose the same excerpt from Wendell Berry’s essay “Poetry and Marriage.” Not surprisingly, he found it in the aforementioned wedding anthology :)

      Here’s more of it, for anyone who’s interested:

      “The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot
      join ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be
      an unconditional giving, for in joining ourselves to another we join
      ourselves to the unknown. We can join one another only by joining the
      unknown. We must not be misled by the procedures of experimental
      thought: in life, in the world, we are never given two known results to
      choose between, but only one result that we choose without knowing what
      it is.

      Marriage rests upon the immutable givens that compose it: words,
      bodies, characters, histories, places. Some wishes cannot succeed; some
      victories cannot be won; some loneliness is incorrigible. But there is
      relief and freedom in knowing what is real; these givens come to us out
      of the perennial reality of the world, like the terrain we live on. One
      does not care for this ground to make it a different place, or to make
      it perfect, but to make it inhabitable and to make it better. To flee
      from its realities is only to arrive at them unprepared.

      Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning
      communal, no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone
      think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you
      want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you –
      and marriage, time, life, history, and the world – will take it. You do
      not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.

  • Becs

    Excerpt 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 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.”

  • Lindsay

    the entire “theme” of our ceremony was maintaining individuality while still voluntarily coming together to be our own unit, our baby family. this passage from in my own way by alan watts seemed to be a perfect fit:

    “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 other’s 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 in your marriage will have surer ground than can be afforded by any contract or promise, however solemn and legally binding.”

  • Victwa

    My dad read Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 (because when I read it in high school, many years previous, I decided that when I met someone who left me feeling like that, I would know I had found the person I wanted to marry). My dad could barely get through it without crying, which, of course, made me cry. However, this is probably the part of the wedding I had about 400 ideas for– we were just trying to keep it short and not a poetry reading, which I could easily have turned it into. I would really be quite happy to serve as a reading resource for anyone for their wedding.

    • Cc

      Hi Victwa,

      My fiance and I are trying to figure out our ceremony right now. How should I contact you as a “reading resource”? I read it as “reading rainbow” the first time. We’re having a secular ceremony and we’re both Chinese Americans, so there’s a fair amount of stuff to figure out. I love to read, but don’t recall very much about weddings in the books I like to read.

  • Marina

    We’re using this passage from “Gift of 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.

    • april

      Love this! “Gift from the Sea” is a really beutiful meditation on love and marriage – especially impressive given when it was written.

    • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

      Gorgeous! I need to read that book again. I love it so much!!

  • dg

    We have 4 children between the two of us and were going to have our reader read a shortened down version of I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg.

    • dg

      I like you,
      And I know why.

      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.

      You know how to be silly.
      That’s why I like you.
      Boy are you ever silly.
      I never met anybody sillier than me til I met you.

      I like you because
      You know when it’s time to stop being silly.

      Maybe day after tomorrow.
      Maybe never.

      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.

      • Beth R

        We used a shortened version of this, too! Mostly because the “I would go on choosing you” part made cry every single freaking time I read it.

      • CPR

        Thanks so much for posting this! It’s pretty much exactly what I’ve been looking for – sweet and honest without being overly sappy!

      • http://www.smittenchickens.com/ Sarah Hoppes

        This was one of our readings, and it was so silly and sweet, and it was just perfect for us.

      • JDrives

        I plan to ask my “something blue” ladies to each read a part from this very excerpt. Several months ago when an APW commenter mentioned this book, I looked it up and gushed to my fiance about how sweet it sounded and how much it seemed to fit us. A few days later he surprised me with a copy! So it’s a no-brainer to me.

    • dg

      The other story book we considered was “Wherever you are my love will find you” by Nancy Tillman. Text for those interested:
      I wanted you more
      than you ever will know
      so I sent love to follow
      wherever you go.
      It’s high as you wish it. It’s quick as an elf.
      You’ll never outgrow it…it stretches itself!

      So climb any mountain…
      climb up to the sky!
      My love will find you.
      My love can fly!

      Make a big splash! Go out on a limb!
      My love will find you. My love can swim!

      It never gets lost, never fades, never ends…

      if you’re working…

      or playing…

      or sitting with friends.

      You can dance ’til you’re dizzy…

      paint ’til you’re blue…

      There’s no place, not one,
      that my love can’t find you.

      And if someday you’re lonely,
      or someday you’re sad,
      or you strike out at baseball,
      or think you’ve been bad…

      just lift up your face, feel the wind in your hair.
      That’s me, my sweet baby, my love is right there.

      In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…
      in the clouds floating by…at the top of a tree…
      in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…

      “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved,” they all say.

      My love is so high, and so wide and
      so deep, it’s always right there, even
      when you’re asleep.

      So hold your head high
      and don’t be afraid
      to march to the front
      of your own parade.

      If you’re still my small babe
      or you’re all the way grown,
      my promise to you
      is you’re never alone.

      You are my angel, my darling,
      my star…and my love will find you,
      wherever you are.

      You are loved.

      ~ Nancy Tillman

      • Winny the Elephant

        I LOVE that!

      • JDrives

        this is so lovely!!

  • Sarah

    My memory of picking out our wedding readings is such a fond one. My wife and I were traveling back from visiting family and found ourselves with a three hour layover. We decided to be diligent, so we found a sit-down restaurant, popped open the laptop, hooked up to some wifi, and hashed it out. We’re coming up on our second anniversary and I still think very fondly back on that memory — we made such good use of that time, and then those were such memorable and lovely readings!

  • Sarah

    We had three prose readings, all excerpts from things:
    -The Irrational Season, by Madeline L’Engle (which we loved for its statement of what a marriage was, and because she’s an alum of my alma mater)
    -When Harry Met Sally (which is one of my favorite movies ever)
    -Goodridge v. Department of Public Health (my wife is a lawyer… this was a no-brainer!)

    • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

      What did you pick from When Harry Met Sally? I love that movie.

      • Sarah

        The speech that Harry gives Sally at the end of the movie:

        “I love that you get cold when it’s seventy one 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 a 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 Years 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 the life to start as soon as possible.”

        For me, this was about celebrating all the things that drive you crazy about somebody, and loving them because of those things, not despite. And also about not waiting — we weren’t young when we got married and we didn’t have an unusually speedy timeline, but for me, it was about saying, “Life is short. I love you. Let’s do this.”

        Also, I just love that movie so much! Our friend who read it delivered it wonderfully!

        • scw

          ahh this is such a great idea!

    • APracticalLaura

      What was the excerpt from When Harry Met Sally??

      • Sarah

        See below! :)

  • karyn_arden

    Our officiant skipped over the reading we had chosen – honestly, I didn’t really miss it too much in the moment, but in retrospect I’m surprisingly bummed that it was left out. It’s just so entirely US that losing it was a real letdown. So we just read it every now and then ourselves and smile.

    Our reading is below and was a funny passage 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 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.” “

  • Kelly

    FH and I are looking for readings for our wedding this summer. I would love to hear any suggestions of nature-focused readings. We are avid outdoorspeople, and would like to incorporate that aspect of ourselves in our ceremony. Any thoughts?

    • Gen

      I’ve been combing through Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, which both my fiance and I have read multiple times. I haven’t found anything quite perfect yet, but I’ve found some lovely passages.

      “At this latitude I’m spinning 8356 miles an hour round the earth’s axis; I often fancy I feel my sweeping fall as a breakneck arc like the dive of dolphins, and the hollow rushing of wind raises hair on my neck and the side of my face. In orbit around the sun I’m moving 64,800 miles an hour. The solar system as a whole, like a merry-go-round unhinged, spins, bobs, and blinks at the speed of 43,200 miles an hour along a course set east of Hercules. Someone has piped, and we are dancing a tarantella until the sweat pours. I open my eyes and I see dark, muscled forms curl out of water, with flapping gills and flattened eyes. I close my eyes and I see stars, deep stars giving way to deeper stars, deeper stars bowing to deepest stars at the crown of an infinite cone.”Still,” wrote van Gogh in a letter,”a great deal of light falls on everything.””

    • Raakele

      I thought I posted already, but apparently had a disqus fail… anyway, my cousin included an excerpt from “The Pine Island Paradox” by Kathleen Dean Moore in her wedding ceremony and I loved it. If you’re not familiar with Kathleen Dean Moore, then I definitely encourage you to check her out: http://www.riverwalking.com/.

      Here’s the excerpt that I connected with:
      “To love – a person and a place – means at least this:
      One. To want to be near it, physically.
      Number two. To want to know everything about it- its story, its moods, what it looks like by moonlight.
      Number three. To rejoice in the fact of it.
      Number four. To fear its loss, and grieve for its injuries.
      Five. To protect it – fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically, but to be helpless to do otherwise.
      Six. To be transformed in its presence- lifted, lighter on your feet, transparent, open to everything beautiful and new.
      Number seven. To want to be joined with it, taken in by it, lost in it.
      Number eight. To want the best for it.
      Number nine. Desperately.”

      And the passage continues from there – check out the essay from Pine Island on what it means to love a place.

  • http://flawlessexecutionevents.com/ Heather

    We had two. The first was from the movie Frida:
    Frida: “[A]t worst, [marriage] is a hostile political act. A way for small minded men to keep their women in the house and out of the way, wrapped in the guise of conservative religious nonsense. At best, it is a happy delusion: it is two people who really love each other, who have no idea how truly miserable they are about to make each other. But! When two people know that and they decide, with eyes wide open, to face each other and get married anyway… I don’t think it’s conservative or delusional. I think it’s radical. And courageous. And very romantic.”

    The second was from 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.”

    • http://twitter.com/mollyepollard Molly Pollard

      I’m using the second one, too. I love that.

    • Alyssa M

      wow, I love that second one.

  • http://brokensaucer.blogspot.com/ sera

    Ok, I’m coming back to read all these when I won’t burst into emotional tears and love.

  • Jessica B.

    These were mine… they’re from Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. I knew the moment I read them (way before I was even dating my husband!) that I would have to say them if I ever got married.

    “I will love you, as sure as God has loved me. I will discover what I can discover and though you remain a mystery, save God’s own knowledge, what I disclose of you I will keep in the warmest chamber of my heart, the very chamber where God has stowed Himself in me. And I will do this to my death.

    I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again.

    God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you.”

  • Lindsay Rae

    I love all these ideas. We are having a Catholic ceremony, so unfortunately not much room to get creative in the readings. However, I read 1 Corinthians (Love is patient, love is kind…. love never fails) at my friends wedding and although everyone knows it’s the cliche church reading, in that moment the words were so meaningful that I think we might include it in ours.

    • Lisa

      We, too, are having a Catholic wedding, and I’m stressing over trying to find readings that are meaningful to us and our relationship without googling “traditional Catholic wedding readings” or actually reading the entirety of the Bible. Would you mind sharing what you’re thinking of doing?

      The one place where I’m looking to be creative is in the offertory song/hymn. Most churches will let you get away with non-religious music at this part of the ceremony so I’m using this spot to insert a favorite operatic duet of mine (“Ours the Hours” from Little Women by Mark Adamo). If you have a particular poem or text that is meaningful to you and your fiance, you can usually find a classical vocal setting of it that you could give to your cantor/pianist to learn.

      • Lindsay Rae

        When we went to pre-cana we were given a book with a readings to choose from. We haven’t picked yet, though. I want them to be personal, too, and while we are spiritual we’re not at church every Sunday, so I’d like to find a balance. Hoping some other Catholic brides post on here too, maybe they’ll inspire both of us !

        • Lisa

          Our church doesn’t let us schedule pre-cana until 6 months out from the wedding, which is next month. We try to attend church most Sundays, but we don’t participate in anything outside of that really. Hopefully more like us will post with some good ideas!

          • neighborhoodmap

            I’m coming out of lurker status (and apparently I even have a long-dormant discus account — who knew?) because my fiance and I just went through this whole thing for our Catholic wedding, and our connection to the Church sounds similar to yours. Our priest was actually nice enough to give us some of his own suggestions, in addition to the “Together for Life” book that they give you to pick from. Which was good, because neither of us liked any of the Old Testament readings in the book. We ended up choosing Sirach 6:5-17 for our first reading because, as our priest described it in offering it to us, it’s about true friendship, and using it as a wedding reading highlights the importance of that in a marriage.

            For our second reading, we’ll be using Hebrews 13:1-4a, 5-6b, which was from the book, because it’s about valuing hospitality, and caring more about people than things (just ignore that gap between 4a and 5, where “sexually immoral” comes in and implies all kinds of things that aren’t our values — there’s a reason they specifically leave that part out).

            And for the gospel, we’re using the Beatitudes, mostly just because it’s beautiful and has always been my favorite Bible passage.

            I was actually pleasantly surprised at the modernity (and some implied feminism, even) in the Together for Life book, especially after the terrible, terrible One in Christ Pre-Cana textbook that had all kinds of 1950s gender role stuff in it. I felt like the Together for Life booklet at least had some modern women given input.

          • Lindsay Rae

            Looks like we both received a lot of helpful suggestions. :)

            Thanks ladies!!

        • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

          Go off book! The book to choose from is just a suggestion – the Bible is packed with other great readings. And don’t be afraid to tell your priest why you picked specific readings. We were struggling because there were parts of a particular reading we loved and parts we didn’t. Through the homily our priest was able to highlight for our congregation why we chose it.

          • Lisa

            The issue my fiance and I are running into is that we want to choose something personal instead of going with cliched readings, but our knowledge of scripture isn’t the greatest. Reading the entirety of the Bible in the next couple of months probably isn’t a viable option. How would you suggest to go about looking for meaningful/relevant readings that go a bit off the traditional script?

          • KC

            One option might possibly be to use a concordance (or, um, an online resource like BibleGateway.com is even easier) to look up random words that are meaningful to you. The vast majority of passages this will turn up will not be “right” for wedding readings (not relevant At All; too short; too long), but it does give you a chance of finding something. Song of Solomon/Songs (depending on the translation) is fairly… fruitful romantically and not incredibly long to just read through, although not everything is stuff you’d want read in front of your grandmother, potentially (chapter 7, verses 7-8 would be an example there. Right.), and some bits are already frequent wedding readings.

            Another option is to reframe the “everyone uses them” into either “hey, carrying on tradition, yay!” or into the “okay, so everyone performs Shakespeare, too. There’s a reason.” and just go with one that, yeah, it’s been used before, but… when you’re using a book that’s really quite old, what hasn’t? And either excise the ones that are used really *all* the time and use a more-uncommon one out of the “normal” ones, or just go with it and say, hey, 1 Corinthians 13 is pretty cool.

          • Lindsay Rae

            I agree KC! Like I posted above, my friends asked me to read 1 Corinthians and at first I thought it might be too “overdone” for our own wedding, but it is traditional – and for a reason – and that doesn’t make it less beautiful or meaningful!

          • Lisa

            Woof, I totally went to a wedding where the couple had selected what felt like a very risque part of Songs, and I was so surprised they had chosen that with their families present.

            I’ve been using BibleGateway a little bit to just look some passages up. I might see what I can find by searching on there!

          • Hayley

            Agreed – we went outside the pre-cana book as well, and it was great to talk to our priest about why we chose the readings we did. Picking out the readings with Nick has been one of my favorite parts of wedding planning, actually. We’re going with Ecclesiastes 4 (“Two are better than one…”), Romans 12 (“Love must be sincere, hate what is evil, cling to what is good…”), and John 15 (“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”).

          • Lisa

            I have John 15 and Romans 12 on our list of possibilities currently. :)

        • Claire

          Episcopalian bride, not catholic, but I’ve had a similar issue! I’ve
          ended up liking Isaiah 32:2, 16-18 (Each will be like a hiding-place
          from the wind) which technically isn’t a wedding reading, and Tobit
          8:4b-9 (grant that we may find mercy and grow old together) which is a
          wedding reading but is a lot less common. I’m going to try to work in a
          passage from Lord of the Rings or Terry Pratchett as well, just to cover
          all my bases!

      • Claire

        We are doing a Catholic wedding as well! Still trying to figure out the first reading, but the second reading is from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans, we may cut this down a bit:

        Let love be sincere;

        hate what is evil,

        hold on to what is good;

        love one another with mutual affection;

        anticipate one another in showing honor.

        Do not grow slack in zeal,

        be fervent in spirit,

        serve the Lord.

        Rejoice in hope,

        endure in affliction,

        persevere in prayer.

        Contribute to the needs of the holy ones,

        exercise hospitality.

        Bless those who persecute you,

        bless and do not curse them.

        Rejoice with those who rejoice,

        weep with those who weep.

        Have the same regard for one another;

        do not be haughty but associate with the lowly;

        do not be wise in your own estimation.

        Do not repay anyone evil for evil;

        be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all.

        If possible, on your part, live at peace with all.

        • Lisa

          This is beautiful! I’ll have to put it on my list of potential readings to share with the fiance. :)

          • Claire

            Thank you! One thing our priest recommended was finding readings that don’t just apply to who you are now, but will be equally meaningful years down the road. I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder!

        • Hayley

          We’re doing this one, too! Finding Catholic readings was tricky at first but once we branched out from readings that explicitly referred to marriage, it was a lot easier.

      • Sara

        Just want to say that I love the Ours the Hours addition! Glad I’m not the only who thinks it would be lovely to include in a ceremony. :)

        • Lisa

          I can’t believe someone else knows that piece!! The first time I heard it, I knew that it had to be a part of my wedding some day. If all goes according to plan, I’m hoping to have both of my voice teachers sing it!

      • Kat Robertson

        We’re not Catholic, but we are using Bible passages for two of our readings – Hosea 2:14-23 and Isaiah 62:4-5. For us the metaphor of Christ marrying the Church was really important, so we chose readings that used that imagery. I also really like Song of Solomon 2:10-13 for weddings, though we didn’t choose that one. Hopefully that gives you a couple more ideas!

        • Lisa

          Thank you for sharing! I appreciate any and all help. :)

      • Claire

        Episcopalian bride, not catholic, but I’ve had a similar issue! I’ve
        ended up liking Isaiah 32:2, 16-18 “Each will be like a hiding-place from the
        wind, a covert from the tempest, like streams of water in a dry place,
        like the shade of a great rock in a weary land. Then justice will dwell
        in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. The
        effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness,
        quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful
        habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quite resting places.”

        and also Tobit 8:5b-9 “Tobias began by saying ‘Blessed are you, O God of
        our ancestors, and blessed is your name in all generations forever. Let
        the heavens and the whole creation bless you forever. You made Adam and
        Eve his wife to be his helper and support. From the two of them the
        human race has sprung. You said ‘It is not good that the man should be
        alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.’ I now am taking this
        my beloved to wife, not because of lust, but with sincerity. Grant that
        she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together.’ They both
        said Amen.”

      • Alisha

        We’re using 1 Corinthians 16:13-14. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.

      • Hannah B

        The book “Partners in Life and Love” (http://www.amazon.com/Partners-Life-Love-Preparation-Celebration/dp/081890934X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1395187924&sr=1-1&keywords=partners+in+life+and+love)
        has a whole bunch written out in long and short form, as well as a guide to helping you pick out readings. We got the book when we took our Pre-cana class in NYC, so maybe if you haven’t done that, you can wait until you do? And I wish I could have an opera duet in my wedding! I think my parish is fairly strict about the no secular music rule. For first reading, I’m somewhat learning towards Jeremiah 31:31-32a, 33-34a
        ” “The days are coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers: the day I took them by the hand to lead them forth from the land of Egypt. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days” says the Lord. “I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be hteir God, and they shall be my people. No longer will they haave need to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from least to greatest, shall know me.” says the Lord. ”
        I like it because of the idea of correlating our new covenant together to God’s new covenant with his people. Not fully decided, yet, but it’s a non-overtly marriage related one.

        • Lisa

          Thanks for the advice! That reading is wonderful. I’m mostly starting to collect ideas right now so I don’t get down to a month before (life my FSIL did) and have to scramble to pick something out.

          You should totally ask about any music you want! I justified it by saying that the one I chose speaks of marriage as a covenant and a vocation (posted below), which is what I feel the Church calls us to. If you have a piece of music that really speaks to you, you should contact the music director with your reasoning. (I mean, the traditional bridal march is from Wagner’s Lohengrin, and that is played fairly often at religious ceremonies.) It can’t hurt to check! :)

    • Hope

      We picked Colossians 3:12-17 and Hebrews 13:1-6 for our readings. Both mention love/marriage but for us it was the additional aspects the passages mention that spoke to us about what we wanted our life together to look like. These include forgiveness, thankfulness, community, singing, hospitality, remembering those suffering, being satisfied with what you have.

    • Amy M.

      Our Old Testament reading is from Ruth 1, the conversation between Ruth and Naomi. We are including this one because it highlights the idea that marriage is not only a bond between people, but a bond between families. I love verse 17-18, Ruth’s vow that she will not leave her mother-in-law, even though they are no longer bound by marriage (because Ruth is the widow of Naomi’s son), “Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay. Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God. Where you die I will die and there I will be buried.” Lovely.

  • Carly

    Haven’t hashed it out quite yet, but we’ll definitely be including a (annotated, possibly) reading from bell hooks’s All About Love: New Visions [her treatise on - surprise - love in modern society]. I’m looking forward to going through it together and figuring it out.

    • KaitlynwithaK

      I definitely want to use a reading from her book All About Love, as well.

    • MC

      Ohhhh I love that book but hadn’t thought about having a reading from it! What a great idea.

    • enfp

      Yes great choice! Friends of mine used a reading from All About Love at their wedding, it was lovely. I’m also planning to use a reading from it, though I haven’t hashed this out yet with my partner.

  • Jenny

    This isn’t so much a reading, but another way to select them. We chose 4 people to be our readers, and then asked them if they would do a surprise reading, as in a surprise to us. We told them it could be anything, poem, passage, religious, non religious, lyrics, anything, and to please keep it 1-3 minutes. It was fantastic. For one, they each picked wonderful and different readings about love and marriage, and it also meant something we didn’t need to worry about. I’m sure this approach isn’t for everyone, but I wanted to mention it as an option, because it was one of my favorite things about that day. Plus, our people really liked it and felt like it was an extra honor to be trusted with something like that (which it was, we chose them very carefully).

    • macrain

      Oh my goodness, I love this! The people I have in mind to do our readings would be PERFECT for this.

      • Jenny

        DO IT! Seriously! I was so excited about hearing what people had chosen, and honestly, it was such a great gift to receive from people on our day. K and I were both so moved and getting to hear beautiful things read to us by our people, for the first time on our wedding day was amazing!

    • Kirstin

      I really love this idea. We already picked two readings, but now I’m kind of wishing that we hadn’t!

    • Emily

      This idea is so great, I may just use it!

    • Peekayla

      My MoH is very shy, so I told her to choose a poem/passage/etc. to read as her “speech” during our rehearsal dinner. I can’t wait to find out what she chose!

  • Kristinyc

    We used two readings: one from the 2003 Massachusetts Supreme court ruling that legalized gay marriage and one from “This is How” by Augusten Burroughs.

    First one:
    “Marriage is a vital social institution.The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support. 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 fulfills 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.

    It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a ‘civil right.’ Without the right to choose to marry, one is excluded from the full range of human experience.”

    Second reading (From “This is How” by Augusten Burroughs – slightly edited from the original text): From “This is How” by Augusten Burroughs

    Be the person you actually are, not the person you think you should be. The theoretical, vastly improved, Oprah magazine-cultivated New You is nice weekend project to tinker with. If you want to improve as a person, do this slowly, over time. And not all at once, as you sit down at the bar and open your mouth to talk about your true self on a date.

    It is much better and wiser to appear on that first date looking as you do in real life with your real friends on a real weekend. Because here is the truth: if you want to have a chance at meeting somebody with whom you are genuinely compatible, never put your best foot forward. There’s no such thing as taking out an advance against your future personality. It never works to go on dates disguised as the person you plan to be.

    Never, ever, try to impress somebody. Be exactly the person you would be if you were alone or with somebody it was safe to fart around. Be that person. Be the person you are right now, alone, reading this book. And then meet people. Then hold out until you meet somebody who is utterly impressed. Because then? You will not have impressed them. They will have been impressed by you.

    The difference may seem just a matter of semantics. But it’s not. The difference is finding a person who’s right for you. Not one you think is correct. The other ways won’t work. Even if they work for a while…they will fail. You will always slide back into being who you actually are. And the person you are with will want a refund.

    But. If you meet somebody and they love you when you are your true, awful, not-ready-yet, boring, not cool enough, not handsome enough, not pretty enough, too fat, too poor self? And if you love them back so much it makes you calm? And they have flaws and you do not mind a single one of them?

    That means you get yourself to the church and you pull one of those priests out of bed and you have him cast one of those wedding spells on you. Because if you found that, you found IT.

    • SarahAreBee

      I used Goodridge, too. (And a Robert Frost poem.) Our LGBT friends & fam were vocally pleased re including Goodridge.

  • InTheBurbs

    We had a full Catholic Mass – and planning it generated the most discussion between my wife and I. We couldn’t find anything from the Old Testament that we liked well enough to have part of our ceremony. Luckily our Priest is amazing and had absolutely no issues with us doing what we wanted. We ended up with 1 Corinthians 12:31 – 13:8a…which includes “Love is patient, love is kind…” passage for the first reading. For the second reading we used Colossians 3:12-3:17, which begins, “Put on then as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion…” and then finished with Matthew 5:1-12a…which is known as the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

    As a side note we used Psam 95 but it was sung. We also managed to have the music be all hymn based, with the exception of a reflection after Communion.

    • Lisa

      Stealing the Colossians reading to add to my list of reading suggestions. It’s lovely!

  • Beth R

    We used 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.”

  • Michelle M.

    One of our readings is going to be a quote from the movie Shall We Dance that always stuck with me:
    “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”
    As an introvert prone to occasional loneliness, and in a time before much social media, the last 2 lines really stuck with me, even from a marginal rom-com. :)

    • KM

      I’ve always remembered – and loved – this marginal-movie passage too! We worked the same idea into our vows, promising to be a witness to each other’s lives.

  • KerryMarie

    I love “Instructions for Life in the New Millenium” by his holiness the 14th Dali Lama

    “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.”

    • Ariel

      Ooh, I may need to send this one to my future BIL. Thanks for sharing.

    • Cat

      Putting this on our short list! Thanks for sharing!!

  • lady brett

    i *loved* the readings at our ceremony – we asked four of our people to read something of their choice. we had no idea what the readings would be until they happened. that in itself was lovely, though the results were wonderful too:

    the spouse’s step-dad is a minister, and we asked him to read in part to allow for an injection of religion in an otherwise atheistic ceremony. he read from the tao te ching (which was on a piece of paper slipped into his bible, and introduced with proper ministerial pomp as a reading from an ancient text of utmost religious importance) he also read a bible verse.
    my “godmother” read the lovely bit about “what is real” from the velveteen rabbit.
    my dearest friend read from the massachusetts supreme court gay marriage ruling as well as one of shakespeare’s sonnets.
    and my spouse’s boss and good friend wrote a piece herself.

  • MirandaVanZ

    In Christian Reformed wedding ceremonies the couple usually picks one bible verse to be read, but we asked if we could have two since we each connected to different verses.

    The one I picked was Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
    Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
    If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.
    But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
    Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
    Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
    A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

    And the one J picked was Song of Songs 8:6-7
    Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm;
    for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
    It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.
    Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.
    If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love,
    it would be utterly scorned.

    • Kara

      We had my husband’s Corp of Cadets Chaplain marry us, and he was a Methodist preacher. We got to choose a scripture to read, and we Song of Songs 8:6-7, too. It was short and to the point.

      Plus, it kind of reminded me of The Princess Bride.

    • Stella

      We had the Ecclesiastes!

  • c

    I chose Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 for our wedding — it talks about two being better than one because two people working together will take care of each other. The minister for our wedding objected a bit and said that he doesn’t think the passage is about “love” and that marriage should emphasize love. I said, bluntly, that I’m not getting married for love. I’m marrying my fiance because I want a partner…someone who will stand by my side and keep me warm at night and help me through all of life’s battles, and I want that partner to be someone I could trust to actually be there when I fall. I also said that I read this particular passage as being FULL of love, as two people who despise each other aren’t exactly going to be helping each other up if one of them falls.

    The minister agreed to including the passage from Ecclesiastes but insisted we choose another passage about love, so we’re also going to read 1 Corinthians 13 (love is patient and kind).

    • Lindsay Rae

      I’m surprised your minister was opposed to Ecclesiastes – I’ve definitely heard it at weddings before. It’s totally about partnership (read: marriage) – to me too at least! Good for you for sticking to your guns.

    • YetAntherMegan

      We’re using the Ecclesiastes passage. Our minister actually included it in a list of suggestions. I definitely agree with it being about marriage even if it isn’t “about” marriage/love.

  • Fiona

    We’re using two excerpts from “I Loved A Girl” by Walter Trobisch, one in English, one in Spanish about a correspondence between two Camerounian teenagers and their pastor. We chose it because my dad gave the book to my mom when he was 17 and she was 16. The copy I have has both of their handwriting in it. Precious.

    The excerpt we chose in English is: Let me try to tell you what it really should mean if a fellow said to a girl, “I love you.” It means, “You, you, you. You alone. You shall reign in my heart. You are the one whom I have longed for-without you I am incomplete. I will give everything for you. And I will give up everything for you, myself as well as all that I possess. I will live for you alone, and I will work for you alone. And I will wait for you; it doesn’t matter how long. I will always be patient with you. I will never force you, not even by word. I want to guard you, protect you and keep you from all evil. I want to share with you my thought, my heart and my body, all that I possess. I want to listen to what you have to say. There is nothing I will undertake without your blessing. I want to remain always at your side.”

    I’ll save you from having to read the excerpt we chose in Spanish!

  • MC

    We haven’t picked out our readings yet (although from APW I have a running list of possibilities) but one good place to find love/relationship quotes is inside Chocolove wrappers! Fiance and I have a tradition of always reading the poem/quote aloud to each other and we’ve talked about having a collage of some of our favorites as a wedding decoration. (Win-win because that means we get to eat more chocolate!) One of my favorites is this quote from Dr. Seuss:
    “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

  • Abby

    Here are a couple from our wedding that I don’t think have been mentioned yet:

    I know it’s a poem but my husband and I read this to each other and it was one of my favorite parts of the ceremony:

    Love by
    Roy Croft

    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 the works

    Of my every day

    Not a reproach

    But a song.

    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.

    TheBuddhist monk, teacher and activist Thich Nhat Hahn from his book “Teachings
    on Love:”

    “Your strong feelings for each other are very important, but they are not enough to
    sustain your happiness…We need the support of friends and other people. That is why we have a wedding ceremony. The two families join together with other
    friends to witness the fact that you have come together to live as a couple and
    they weave a kind of web. The strength
    of your feelings is only one of the strands of that web. Supported by many elements, the couple will
    be solid, like a tree.” This community
    serves as many strands in the web and roots for the anchoring of your life
    together and we are grateful for their presence today.”

    Excerpt
    from The Little Prince Antoine
    de Saint-Exupery

    “One only understands the things that one tames,” said the
    fox. “Men have no more time to understand anything. They buy things all
    ready made at the shops. But there’s no shop anywhere where one can buy
    friendship, and so men have no friends any more. If you want a friend, tame
    me…”

    “What must I do, to tame you? asked the little prince.

    “You must be very patient,” replied the fox. First you’ll
    sit down at a little distance from me – like that – in the grass. I shall look
    at you out of the corner of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the
    source of misunderstandings. But you’ll sit a little closer to me, every
    day…”

    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. 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 “

    • JSwen

      Ooof. Needed a tissue after the Robert Fulghum excerpt. Thank you for posting!

    • Kelly Benvenuto

      We had the Robert Fulgham reading at our wedding – love it so much, and get teary when I hear it at other weddings.

  • Glen

    We had one poem, read by our officiant, and one prose, read by a friend. The poem was Touched by an Angel by Maya Angelou. The prose was from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke:

    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 his 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.

  • Laura C

    Many of our friends have had readings from the Goodridge decision; we’re going to be super original and use one from a different marriage equality decision. And then probably a poem? My fiance is a huge Shakespeare fan, but there just aren’t a lot of appropriate bits of Shakespeare.

    • J.T.

      Try Sonnet 116.

    • ART

      I tried to find one in the California decision, but it’s like the least gushy thing you could ever read about marriage, which I think made it a great decision, but doesn’t give us anything romantic to work with!

      • Laura C

        Huh, that’s the decision my fiance wants to draw from — he has a passage in mind, but I’m not sure what it is and he’s in Portugal so I can’t ask him. I’m kind of in love with the recent Virginia one:

        The Court is compelled to conclude that Virginia’s Marriage Laws unconstitutionally deny Virginia’s gay and lesbian citizens the fundamental freedom to choose to marry. Government interests in perpetuating traditions, shielding state matters from federal interference, and favoring one model of parenting over others must yield to this country’s cherished protections that ensure the exercise of the private choices of the individual citizen regarding love and family.

        Ultimately, this is consistent with our nation’s traditions of freedom. “[T]he history of our Constitution … is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded.” United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 557 (1996). Our nation’s uneven but dogged journey toward truer and more meaningful freedoms for our citizens has brought us continually to a deeper understanding of the first three words in our Constitution: we the people. “We the People” have become a broader, more diverse family than once imagined. Justice has often been forged from fires of indignities and prejudices suffered. Our triumphs that celebrate the freedom of choice are hallowed. We have arrived upon another moment in history when We the People becomes more inclusive, and our freedom more perfect.

  • http://readingandthensome.blogspot.com/ Martha Smith

    We had a Catholic wedding service, and all of the readings are biblical. Seems rather dull, right? WRONG. According to our priest, who was in his 60′s so we assume had performed a wedding or two, we were his first couple to choose a reading outside of the “recommended readings” book the church provides for planning your service.

    It was so crazy too us – with an entire book of the bible dedicated to Psalms, why wouldn’t anyone else have thought to comb it’s pages for something more fitting or unique? None of the suggested Psalms spoke to us so we picked a different one. We were especially touched when our priest highlighted this choice during his homily.

  • Fay

    We had two readings and yes it was quite the ordeal finding the “right” ones that spoke to us and fit the type of ceremony we were planning. My wonderful uncle stepped in last minute after my step-sister bailed on us (that’s another story entirely, lets just say when a 17 year old tells a bride who is a week out from her wedding that she’s not going to do something she agreed to do months in advance for very selfish reasons, you get one ticked off bride), He read:

    As You Marry ~ Author Unknown
    On this your wedding day
    May angels smile upon you
    For a single heart now beats
    Where once there had been two
    The Lord has brought you to this day
    Through all of life’s confusions
    To come full circle all the way
    To bless your wedded union
    May your days be filled with laughter
    And your nights be filled with peace
    As you grow old together
    Sharing happiness and ease
    Til the oceans cease to flow
    And deserts lose their sands
    “This is my beloved, and this is my friend.”

    Our second reading was done by my husband’s 16yr old sister (she did great, very poised):

    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 blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”

  • Stephanie B.

    We had 3 readings: one by a member of my husband’s family, one by a member of my family, and one by one of our friends. My husband’s father read the often-used (but still lovely) passage from 1 Corinthians 13, my aunt read the poem by Roy Croft that was posted above (“I love you / Not only for what you are, / But for what I am / When I am with you.”), and our friend read Edward Monkton’s “A Lovely Love Story.”

    Since “A Lovely Love Story” is about dinosaurs, our friend wore a dinosaur tie pin, and over the course of the reception, sneaked toy dinosaurs in and left them in prominent places, culminating in an inflatable dinosaur (about the size of a fat cat) on top of the gift. The dinosaurs guard our TV now.

    A Lovely Love Story:

    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.
    So let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together.
    For the sun is warm.
    And the world is a beautiful place.

    • ART

      I read that as “dinosaur pie tin” and had a series of funny mental images before re-reading it correctly…

      • Stephanie B.

        That might be kind of cool, actually!

  • Sarah

    Picking our readings was one of my favorite parts of planning!

    Probably my favorite is this quote by Robert Senghas:

    “Each of us was brought into the world without any decision of his own; each of us was
    stamped with the condition of mortality from the moment of conception. And so,
    of the three most significant events in our lives, birth, marriage and death,
    it is only in marriage that we have the full power of personal decision.

    In marriage the greatest courage will be required. We shall be put to the
    test of continuing to accept husband or wife with all defects revealed; but
    beyond this we shall be faced with the anguish of having to accept our own
    weaknesses. And this is the most difficult of all that is required of us: to
    accept that we are not as we should like to think we are, and that we are not
    as we should like the world to think we are.

    But marriage also offers us the condition for the supreme fulfillment of human
    life: for our acceptance of our spouse with all the strengths and
    weaknesses, our works of love for our companion in marriage and for our
    children, and above all our acceptance of ourselves as we are, all these open
    us to receive the very ground of our being; all these bring us to the glory of
    existence.”

    We also used this poem called Come with Me by Fran Landesman:

    “Come with me, go with me, burn with me, glow with me,
    Write me a sonnet or two
    Sleep with me, wake with me, give with me, take with me
    Love me the way I love you.

    Let me get high with you, laugh with you, cry with you,
    Be with you when I am blue
    Rest with you, fight with you, day with you, night with you,
    Love me whatever I do.

    Work with me, play with me, run with me, stay with me
    Make me your partner in crime
    Handle me, fondle me, cradle me tenderly
    Say I’m your reason and rhyme
    Pray with me, sin with me, lose with me, win with me
    Love me with all of my scars
    Rise with me, fall with me, hide from it all with me
    Nothing is mine now, it’s ours.”

  • Anya

    We had three readings. The third one was long, so we broke it up and had two of our friends read. Then we had a “blessings” bit by our parents. His parents did the traditional Jewish blessing, while mine read an excerpt from Vysotsky (a Russian bard). See below for the rest:

    1). “We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but… there’s no right person. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. 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.” from Loving the Wrong Person by Andrew Boyd.

    We chose this reading because we always say how we are not perfect, we are not right, we are crazy, but it works.

    2). “When I see the way that mankind loves… You could search to the furthest reaches of the universe and never find anything more beautiful. So yes, I know that love is unconditional. But I also know that it can be unpredictable, unexpected, uncontrollable, unbearable and strangely easy to mistake for loathing, and… What I’m trying to say is… I think I love you. I never imagined I’d know it for myself. My heart… It feels like my chest can barely contain it. Like it’s trying to escape because it doesn’t belong to me any more. It belongs to you. And if you wanted it, I’d wish for nothing in exchange – no gifts. No goods. No demonstrations of devotion. Nothing but knowing you loved me too. Just your heart, in exchange for mine.” from Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

    We are fantasy geeks and we love Neil Gaiman. this made sense to us.

    3). “Union”, from “Beginning to End” by Robert Fulghram — someone already posted it.

    First time I read this here on APW, I cried. We’ve also been together for such a long time before we got married (almost 7 years), that this just fit us. Perfectly.

    My parents read “The Ballad about Love” by Vladimir Vysotsky. It’s really long so I won’t crowd this comment anymore. It’s beautiful though.

    • Ariel

      I’m having “Union” as one of my readings… by the time we get married, we’ll have been together for 8.5 years. The last line gets me every time :-)

      • Heather

        We were together 7 years when we got married, and the last line DESTROYED me at the rehearsal, and again at the ceremony. MAN. Be prepared to bawl when you hear your people read at the rehearsal, guys. I was a mess.

        • ASH

          We’re using Union too (5.5 weeks away…after 8 years together!!). Every time I read it I tear up…so I’m guessing that will probably happen when my friend reads it at the ceremony. So thankful someone suggested it here in a previous roundup! :)

      • Kat91314

        Do you have text or a link? I’m curious…..

  • Katelyn

    If anyone is looking for a more humorous reading, here’s one on our short list:

    Loving the Wrong Person
    An excerpt from “Daily Afflictions,” 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. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. 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.”

    • anna_dee

      We used this one at our wedding, went down a treat!

  • Gingerbeer

    Does anyone have good readings about community, marriage in the context of loved ones and wider world, etc? We have readings about love between 2 people, but we’d like to have something more outward looking, too, to thank all our loved ones for being there and to ask for their support.

    • JSwen

      It’s not a reading, per se but have you considered community vows? This is after (?) the wedding vows when the officiant asks those in attendance to stand, reminds them that they are here because they are part of the couple’s community, and asks if they will support the couple as they have supported the individual. In more beautiful language, of course. ;) Then they say “we do,” and things move on from there.

      • JRB

        We did this!

        • JSwen

          Cool! Where did you put it in the ceremony?

          • Rachel

            We’re putting ours right after the walk down the aisle and asking the parents/community for vows of support.

          • Gingerbeer

            Oh, yeah, definitely doing community vows! I love them. We’re going to do them just before our vows. We want a little reading to introduce them, though.

      • Heather

        We did community vows, and it was hands-down my favorite part of the ceremony (and to be honest, the entire day). Taking a moment to look around at everyone there made me feel very present- it was absolutely astounding to feel all the love pouring out from our people. We put ours earlier- after the welcome by our officiant, which started with a quote from Goodridge vs. Dept. of Public Health. That led into a bit about the idea that marriage is both a private agreement and a public relationship. I took the basis of these vows from someone else, many clicks through a Google search- couldn’t say who from This section was followed by the statement of intent, and then the personal message from our officiant- a dear friend.

        “I ask you, friends and family, to please stand. (Guests stand)

        T and Heather, I ask that you turn and acknowledge them, as they acknowledge
        you. As family and friends, you form a community of support that surrounds Heather and T. Each of you, by your presence here today, is being called upon to uphold them in loving each other.

        Always stand beside them, never between them. Offer them your love and your support, not
        your judgment. Encourage them when encouragement is needed, and listen to them when they ask for advice. In these ways, you can honor this marriage into which they will be joined today.

        Do you offer your love and support to strengthen their marriage, and bless this family created by their union? Please answer by saying: We do.

        (Guests: We do)

        Thank you, please be seated.” (Guests sit)

  • Kat Robertson

    I’m using C. S. Lewis, too! The passage is on the long side, but I love it. I told Fiance it’s totally going to make me cry off my mascara.

  • Kait

    We had so many readings to choose from, and settled on this, it was perfect and I am so glad one of our dear friends could read it.

    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 I s
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

    • Mezza

      We had this one too! One of our close friends who is an actor did an amazing job of reading it and we got a ton of comments from people who liked it.

      We also had the passage from Madeleine L’Engle’s “Irrational Season” that was mentioned elsewhere in these comments, and we used part of Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road” as our vows. There were a million other things I wanted to include, but we were trying to keep it short. :)

    • Aubry

      We are doing that one too! I found it on one of the APW poetry posts and I totally love it. Somehow, it reminds me of C and makes me so happy.

  • http://www.smittenchickens.com/ Sarah Hoppes

    We had readings from:

    I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

    Litany by Billy Collins

    An Excerpt from Still Life With Woodpecker by Tim 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.”

    Our ceremony (written with our input by our officiant, and very secular) had various quotes/excerpts included. Off the top of my head, I know we had

    ‘Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction. – The Little Prince

    “Do or do not. There is no try.” The Empire Strikes Back

    “Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

  • Libby

    I scrolled quickly through and don’t think I saw the two we are thinking of using, though I don’t think they are super original or anything:

    We have been lucky to have two sets of parents who have been great models of partnership, so we are hoping to have all four get up and each read a verse of the first reading:
    A Marriage by Michael Blumenthol

    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.

    The second is still up for debate:

    By Neil Gaiman

    This is 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 dreams
    and tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows.

  • K.

    Ooh, I’m a little late to the party, but does anyone have any suggestions for a reading/poem that’s in Spanish? I’m very familiar with Pablo Neruda, but we’d like to have a little more variety to consider and we’ve been blanking.

    • YOQ

      One of my favorite poems EVER is by Gustavo Aldolfo Becquer (sorry, I can’t do accents here, but if you know Spanish you’ll see where they belong). It’s from _Rimas y Leyendas_ and I learned it so many years ago I’m surprised I know that. Unfortunately I don’t remember the title–I think it’s a number? Anyway, here it is:

      Hoy la tierra y los cielos me sonrien.
      Hoy llega al fondo de mi alma el sol.
      Hoy la he visto; la he visto y me ha mirado.
      Hoy creo en Dios!

      (Also it’s short, so maybe not enough for a wedding. But still…)

      • K.

        Beautiful! Thank you! And we’re trying to have a pretty short bilingual ceremony (not the easiest task…), so less lengthy poems are actually perfect. :)

  • http://www.rachelrughdance.com rachelroo

    Might I recommend this book to anyone planning a ceremony: http://www.amazon.com/Into-The-Garden-Anthology-Marriage/dp/0060924691 My parents have been giving it as an engagement gift to young couples for years, and I’ve begun to carry on that tradition with my friends because it’s just so DAMN USEFUL! It’s got a really interesting introduction on the history of marriage, sample wedding ceremonies from many different traditions, and a ton of beautiful readings I’d never seen before. Seriously, get this book. It’ll make ceremony planning the meaningful and thought-provoking process it was meant to be, rather than an anxiety-induced headache.

    For our wedding, my dad chose an excerpt from Wendell Berry’s essay “Poetry and Marriage.” Not surprisingly, he found it in the aforementioned wedding anthology :)

    Excerpt from “Poetry and Marriage,” by Wendell Berry

    The meaning of marriage begins in the giving of words. We cannot join
    ourselves to one another without giving our word. And this must be an unconditional
    giving, for in joining ourselves to another we join ourselves to the unknown.
    We can join one another only by joining the unknown. We must not be misled
    by the procedures of experimental thought: in life, in the world, we are
    never given two known results to choose between, but only one result that
    we choose without knowing what it is.

    Marriage rests upon the immutable givens that compose it: words, bodies,
    characters, histories, places. Some wishes cannot succeed; some victories
    cannot be won; some loneliness is incorrigible. But there is relief and
    freedom in knowing what is real; these givens come to us out of the perennial
    reality of the world, like the terrain we live on. One does not care for
    this ground to make it a different place, or to make it perfect, but to
    make it inhabitable and to make it better. To flee from its realities is
    only to arrive at them unprepared.

    Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal,
    no one party to it can be solely in charge. What you alone think it ought
    to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go,
    it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you – and marriage,
    time, life, history, and the world – will take it. You do not know the
    road; you have committed your life to a way.

    • Hope

      We used this too. I love it!

  • Stacey Fraser

    We read two scriptural readings (Ruth 1:16-17 and Song of Solomon 8:6-7) and this secular reading:

    The Country of Marriage, by Wendell Berry
    Stanza III.

    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.

  • Andi Montgomery

    We had three readings: a fairly serious one from my favorite author, Madeleine L’Engle, from her book “Irrational Season.” For brevity’s sake, I won’t post the whole thing here, but it’s fairly easy to search for. It’s about risk, specifically about “the risk of love which is permanent.” Then we had Sonnet 116, in both English and Spanish, about unalterable, ever-fixed love. We ended our readings with this selection from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy:
    “The attraction between native qualities will be perpetual only as it is pure and true, bringing sweet seasons of renewal like the returning spring. Beauty, wealth, or fame is incompetent to meet the demands of the affections, and should never weigh against the better claims of intellect, goodness, and virtue. Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it.” We wanted to think about our marriage as a source of good and joy; a blessing not just for us, but for our family, our future children, and our community.

  • Valerie Day

    We are Catholic but having an Episcopalian service as we can’t get married in the Catholic church (too gay gay gay). We are ecstatic about the priest and church and so grateful for a place that is so welcoming. And uses welcoming language and is so open to readings. Our first reading and gospel will be scripture. We are using non-wedding readings, including Colossians “Clothe yourselves with compassion, forgive one another…” I like this one because one of my marriage models told me “Your vows could just be “I will forgive you” because that is what love will call you to”. We’re doing a foot washing, and so the gospel will be about how Christ washed his people’s feet. For our second reading we are using a Mary Oliver poem, Poppies. Which makes me very happy. We are using an Over the Rhine song for our processional, and then all hymns. I think it will work. We’re pretty devoted Catholics (gay ones) but its nice to have the mix. That is how we live our lives, taking our faith out with us, and our lives in to church.

  • Plum

    I read ‘i carry your heart with me’ by e.e. cummings at my friend’s wedding. She let me choose what I thought would be appropriate and I think it worked out well. The punctuation/spacing is as written.

    [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

    BY E. E. CUMMINGS

    i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
    my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
    i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
    by only me is your doing,my darling)

    i fear
    no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
    no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
    and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
    and whatever a sun will always sing is you

    here is the deepest secret nobody knows
    (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
    and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
    higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
    and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

    i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

  • Alyssa M

    I REALLY love some of these, you guys have great suggestions. I know I’m a little late to the game here, but if anybody is still reading I’d love suggestions for a way to include my Christian faith in a reading that is appropriate for my atheist partner.

  • http://www.jenshootsweddings.com/ Jennifer

    I love all of the readings listed! Absolutely adore hearing genuine readings, as compared to things being read in a monotone “just because”. Finding something meaningful to YOU is so meaningful to everyone else involved.

  • Chiara M

    Oh dear, I agonized over this. So much. I found two of them at the last minute and it was amazing.

    We started with an excerpt from “Committed” by Elizabeth Gilbert, which we read right before the community vow.

    He was uncompromising in his insistence that private vows, spoken only before God do not count as marriage. “MARRIAGE IS NOT PRAYER!” he insisted. “That’s why you have to do it in front of others, even in front of your aunt who smells like cat litter. It’s a paradox, but marriage actually reconciles a lot of paradoxes: freedom with commitment, strength with subordination, wisdom with utter nincompoopery, etc. And you’re missing the main point–it’s not just to ‘satisfy’ other people. Rather, you have to hold your wedding guests to their end of the deal. They have to help you with your marriage; they have to support you, if one of you falters.

    Then we did “A Marriage” by Michael Blumenthal, which I found here (http://apracticalwedding.com/2013/09/non-cheesy-wedding-poems/) and fell in love with on first read. We read that right before our officiant read her “Charge to the Couple”.

    We finished with an excerpt from “What Looks like Crazy” by Pearl Clege, which I picked up trawling through the comments on various posts about readings on this website. We put that right before the pronouncement and blessing. It had so many people in tears, it was amazing. And I kept thinking about it all through the night.

    He leaned over and kissed her like they were alone in that room, and right then, right there, she didn’t care what came next. Whatever it was, she knew it would be all right, or it wouldn’t be all right, but it would be part of the same unbroken line they were all walking in, which is, of course, the real lesson, and about as much perfection as she could stand without crying right there in front of everybody, which is, of course, what she did. Then it was done, official, and the party could begin in earnest. And it did. And they danced too wild, and they sang too long, and they hugged too hard, and kissed too sweet, and threw their heads back and howled just as loud as they wanted to howl, because by now they 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.

  • clairekfromtheuk

    a little late to the party (stupid time difference) but we used Taylor Mali’s ‘how falling in love is like owning a dog’ (we have dogs!!), it went down a treat (especially as my sister is a top dog reader)

    http://thehenrybrothers.wordpress.com/2011/04/13/falling-in-love-is-like-owning-a-dog/

    aside, I would normally link directly but a) the link won’t work and b) TM seems like a cool guy who won’t mind (see the text on the link!)

  • khrideon

    We have asked two great friends (would have been best man/maid of honor if we had a bridal party) to select readings and surprize us – I can’t wait!

  • Hope

    I picked an excerpt of But Do Settle Down from the collection of essays, The Bitch Rules by Elizabeth Wurtzel. The previous essay is called Enjoy Your Single Years and then she writes this essay about moving on and settling down. It described how I felt at the time.

  • Shannon Kachuba

    I loved our readings! We decided to have two friends read the lyrics from songs that were part our parents’ weddings. So, one friend read:

    Song Bird by Fleetwood Mac (the song that was sung at my parent’s ceremony by my aunt)

    For you, there’ll be no more crying.
    For you, the sun will be shining.
    And I feel that when I’m with you,
    It’s alright, I know it’s right.

    To you, I’ll give the world.
    To you, I’ll never be cold.
    ‘Cause I feel that when I’m with you,
    It’s alright, I know it’s right.

    And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
    And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.

    And I wish you all the love in the world.
    But most of all, I wish it from myself.

    And the songbirds keep singing, like they know the score
    And I love you, I love you, I love you
    Like never before.

    And the other did:

    “More” by Frank Sinatra (my in-laws first dance)

    More than the greatest love the world has known,
    This is the love I give to you alone,
    More than the simple words I try to say,
    I only live to love you more each day.
    More than you’ll ever know, my arms long to hold you so,
    My life will be in your keeping, waking, sleeping, laughing, weeping,
    Longer than always is a long long time, but far beyond forever you’re
    gonna be mine.
    I know I’ve never lived before and my heart is very sure,
    No one else could love you more.

  • Amy

    In case anybody’s still reading, I think we’re having an edited version of this letter that John Steinbeck wrote to his teenage son. I love the sentence ‘nothing good gets away’ – those solid blunt equally weighted syllables just *sound* so good out loud, and feel good in your mouth. Does that sound odd? Probably. But still.

    And this poem by Clare Pollard, which I think is perfect for us, and to express the idea of marriage generally:-

    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.

  • Claire

    We had 4 readings (including ‘Blessing for a Marriage’ by James Dillet Freeman; an excerpt from the British Quaker text, Faith & Practice; and ‘Love does not consist in gazing at each other’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery). But, by far, my favourite was a reading by Rolfe Gerhardt. I had an incredibly visceral reaction to it when I first read it.

    “Let this be a reminder that you are guaranteed by the seasons of nature a significant winter each year, and you are guaranteed by the whimsies of life more winters of the soul than you can now imagine. So I am bringing before you these words to ask you to remember the springtimes that should follow each winter, springtimes that are not always given to you but sometimes must be created by you even when it seems impossible. Find the time to arise and come away with each other; be romantic; listen to the voices of birds that aren’t there; laugh and cry deeply; and be silly as a daisy in spite of the chill and dark times that must come into everyone’s life. That is the love I am wishing you. As much of any of us would wish otherwise, there must be winters in your life, so we pray for your springtimes as well.”

    On a side note, I found a lot of readings/poems had a message along the lines of marriage/partnership is better than being alone. I really reacted badly to those messages; the implication being that you can’t be happy alone, or are somehow leading a lesser life. My take anyway…

    • KH_Tas

      Extra agreement on the side note. I attended a wedding a couple of years ago where a reading included the line ‘life alone is no fun’. I Was Not Impressed.

    • Lacy

      Claire, I can’t find the text or source for the Rolfe Gerhardt reading. Can you provide it? Thanks!

      • Claire

        Hey Lacy, the woman who married us (a Unitarian Universalist Minister from the San Fran area) emailed us a list of readings in a Word doc, to help us with ideas. One of those was the Rolfe Gerhardt one. I can’t find the reading when I google it though, so maybe it’s an unpublished one within the UUA church? There is this link, that shows he was a Minister in the UUA Church and has written a couple of other pieces: https://www.uua.org/worship/authors/5490.shtml.

        • Lacy

          Thanks!

  • Anna Lindsey

    I agonized over our readings. Though there were other religious aspects to the ceremony, I wanted the readings to be from literature, as we had a book-themed wedding. In the end, I chose a passage from Jane Eyre and my husband chose on from The Alchemist. I was concerned that some of the traditional southern guests wouldn’t approve of the choices, but we surprisingly only received positive feedback.

    You can read the excerpts we chose here: http://annalindsey.com/?p=133

  • AmandaKS

    We are frequent travelers and now live abroad, so it felt fitting to adapt Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”:

    Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road,
    Healthy, free, the world before you,
    The long path leading wherever you choose.

    Say only to one another:
    I give you my hand,
    I give you my love, more precious than money,
    I give you myself before preaching or law.
    Give me yourself,
    Come travel with me,
    and we’ll stick by each other as long as we live.

    Our second reading was an excerpt from “The Blaze of the Poui: An Epithalamion” by 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.

  • Remy

    My former girlfriend, who is a good friend to both me and my wife, read this Millay sonnet that I found very appropriate for an open marriage:
    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.”

  • Remy

    Two of my wife’s friends, who have been a couple for 15+ years, read this at the end of our ceremony.

    “We Will Not Wish You Joy” by Brian Zouch

    We will not wish you joy on this great day,
    For joy is in your hearts and goes with you
    Along the fragrant, mystic, sunlit way:
    We will not wish you joy while love is new.

    But this is our wish: May you be strong enough
    To shelter love, and keep it safe from harm,
    When winds blow high, and roads are steep and tough
    May you protect your love, preserve its charm.

    When days are dark, may love be your sure light,
    When days are cold, may love be your bright fire,
    Your guiding star when hope is out of sight,
    The essence and the sun of your desire.

    May love be with you through the flight of years,
    Then after storms, there always be calm.
    Though you have cause for heartache and for tears,
    Despair lasts not, where love is there for balm.

    This be the prayer we breathe for you today:
    When you have reached the summit of life’s hill,
    May it be possible for you to say,
    “Married long years, but we are lovers still.”

  • soothingoceansounds

    Super late to the party (helloooo Feedly catchup party!) but have some recs! We went reallllly secular with our ceremony so our first reading was from the Massachusetts court decision (by a wedding party member whose (gay, legal) wedding had taken place a few months before). Our second was this passage by Kurt Vonnegut:

    “. . . My late Uncle Alex . . . was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ”If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

    So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’”

    The third I would recommend is this short e.e. cummings poem, which we actually used in our wedding invitations and not our ceremony, but I’m sure it would work:

    “love is a place
    & through this place of
    love move
    (with brightness of peace)
    all places

    yes is a world
    & in this world of
    yes live
    (skilfully curled)
    all worlds”

    Yay words! Yay love!