The Ultimate List of (Non-cheesy) Wedding Poems


Poems you haven't seen before

by Najva Sol, Brand Manager

I studied poetry undergrad and (briefly) in grad school. While I wasn’t super into traditional poems or abstract poems, I was a sucker for a well-done non-cheesy love poems, you know, the kind just made to be wedding poems.

Out of focus woman behind 30 alternative wedding poems text

So when the time came to court a new beau, whip up a valentine, or give a heartfelt speech, I was always ready with a bounty of words that gave me goose bumps.

Related: 20 Bible Verses About Love (That You Haven’t Heard Before)

When I discovered that APW has done plenty of themed poetry roundups, a few posts on weddings readings, and an open thread on our favorite wedding poems, I was pretty excited. However, I quickly realized we were missing an ultimate wedding poems list, one that could save you from searching through a million posts/comments to find the right love poems for your wedding readings. (Plus, there were some serious contemporary gems missing.)

Related: Love Quotes For Your Wedding

So, I’m pleased to present thirty of the most epic wedding poems to cover any of your reading needs.

The Ultimate List Of Wedding Poems

1.

Variation on the Word Sleep

by Margaret Atwood

I would like to watch you sleeping.
I would like to watch you,
sleeping. I would like to sleep
with you, to enter
your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head

and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of bluegreen leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear

I would like to give you the silver
branch, the small white flower, the one
word that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in

I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.

2. 

The Privileged Lovers

by Rumi

The moon has become a dancer
at this festival of love.
This dance of light,

This sacred blessing,
This divine love,
beckons us
to a world beyond
only lovers can see
with their eyes of fiery passion.

They are the chosen ones
who have surrendered.
Once they were particles of light
now they are the radiant sun.

They have left behind
the world of deceitful games.
They are the privileged lovers
who create a new world
with their eyes of fiery passion.

3.

Chemistry

by Nayyirah Waheed

chemistry
is
you
touching my arm
and
it
setting fire to my mind.

—flood

4.

Touched by an Angel

by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

5.

Defeated by Love

by Rumi

The sky was lit
by the splendor of the moon

So powerful
I fell to the ground

Your love
has made me sure

I am ready to forsake
this worldly life
and surrender
to the magnificence
of your Being

6. 

Desire

by Alice Walker

My desire
is always the same; wherever Life
deposits me:
I want to stick my toe
& soon my whole body
into the water.
I want to shake out a fat broom
& sweep dried leaves
bruised blossoms
dead insects
& dust.
I want to grow
something.
It seems impossible that desire
can sometimes transform into devotion;
but this has happened.
And that is how I’ve survived:
how the hole
I carefully tended
in the garden of my heart
grew a heart
to fill it.

7.

The Day Sky

by Hafiz

Let us be like
Two falling stars in the day sky.
Let no one know of our sublime beauty
As we hold hands with God
And burn

Into a sacred existence that defies—
That surpasses

Every description of ecstasy
And love.

8.

Children Running Through

by Rumi, Translation by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

I used to be shy.
You made me sing.

I used to refuse things at table.
Now I shout for more wine.

In somber dignity, I used to sit
on my mat and pray.

Now children run through
and make faces at me.

9.

I Got Kin

by Hafiz

Plant
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,

“Ahhhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh
Because that is the purest
Sound.

10. 

The Wedding Vow

by Sharon Olds

I did not stand at the altar, I stood
at the foot of the chancel steps, with my beloved,
and the minister stood on the top step
holding the open Bible. The church
was wood, painted ivory inside, no people—God’s
stable perfectly cleaned. It was night,
spring—outside, a moat of mud,
and inside, from the rafters, flies
fell onto the open Bible, and the minister
tilted it and brushed them off. We stood
beside each other, crying slightly
with fear and awe. In truth, we had married
that first night, in bed, we had been
married by our bodies, but now we stood
in history—what our bodies had said,
mouth to mouth, we now said publicly,
gathered together, death. We stood
holding each other by the hand, yet I also
stood as if alone, for a moment,
just before the vow, though taken
years before, took. It was a vow
of the present and the future, and yet I felt it
to have some touch on the distant past
or the distant past on it, I felt
the silent, dry, crying ghost of my
parents’ marriage there, somewhere
in the bright space—perhaps one of the
plummeting flies, bouncing slightly
as it hit forsaking all others, then was brushed
away. I felt as if I had come
to claim a promise—the sweetness I’d inferred
from their sourness; and at the same time that I had
come, congenitally unworthy, to beg.
And yet, I had been working toward this hour
all my life. And then it was time
to speak—he was offering me, no matter
what, his life. That is all I had to
do, that evening, to accept the gift
I had longed for—to say I had accepted it,
as if being asked if I breathe. Do I take?
I do. I take as he takes—we have been
practicing this. Do you bear this pleasure? I do.

11. 

[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)

12. 

Every Day You Play…

by Pablo Neruda

Every day you play with the light of the universe.
Subtle visitor, you arrive in the flower and the water.
You are more than this white head that I hold tightly
as a cluster of fruit, every day, between my hands.

You are like nobody since I love you.
Let me spread you out among yellow garlands.
Who writes your name in letters of smoke among the stars of the south?
Oh let me remember you as you were before you existed.

Suddenly the wind howls and bangs at my shut window.
The sky is a net crammed with shadowy fish.
Here all the winds let go sooner or later, all of them.
The rain takes off her clothes.

The birds go by, fleeing.
The wind. The wind.
I can contend only against the power of men.
The storm whirls dark leaves
and turns loose all the boats that were moored last night to the sky.

You are here. Oh, you do not run away.
You will answer me to the last cry.
Cling to me as though you were frightened.
Even so, at one time a strange shadow ran through your eyes.

Now, now too, little one, you bring me honeysuckle,
and even your breasts smell of it.
While the sad wind goes slaughtering butterflies
I love you, and my happiness bites the plum of your mouth.

How you must have suffered getting accustomed to me,
my savage, solitary soul, my name that sends them all running.
So many times we have seen the morning star burn, kissing our eyes,
and over our heads the gray light unwind in turning fans.

My words rained over you, stroking you.
A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
I go so far as to think that you own the universe.
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains, bluebells,
dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees.

13.

The Ache of Marriage

by Denise Levertov

The ache of marriage:

thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth

We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each

It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it

two by two in the ark of
the ache of it.

14.

A Great Need

by Hafiz

Out
Of a great need
We are all holding hands
And climbing.
Not loving is a letting go.
Listen,
The terrain around here
Is
Far too
Dangerous
For
That.

15.

We

by Nayyirah Waheed

we
return to each other in waves.
this is how water
loves.

16.

love is a place

by e.e. cummings

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

17.

So Much Happiness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

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

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

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

18. 

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond

by e.e. cummings

somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

19.

It’s all I have to bring today (26)

by Emily Dickinson

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

20.

Having a Coke with You

by Frank O’Hara

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

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

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

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

21.

[untitled]

by Mindy Nettifee

if a man is only as good as his word,
then I want to marry a man with a vocabulary like yours.

the way you say “dicey” and “delectable” and “octogenarian”
in the same sentence—
that really turns me on,
the way you describe the oranges in your backyard
using “anarchistic” and “intimate” in the same breath.

i would follow the legato and staccato of your tongue
wrapping around your diction
until listening become more like dreaming
and dreaming became more like kissing you.

i want to jump off the cliff of your voice
into the suicide of your stream of consciousness.
i want to visit the place in your heart where the wrong words die.
i want to map it out with a dictionary and points of brilliant light
until it looks more like a star chart than a strategy for communication.
i want to see where your words are born.
i want to find a pattern in the astrology.

i want to memorize the scripts of your seductions.
i want to live in the long-winded epics of your disappointments,
in the haiku of your epiphanies.
i want to know all the names you’ve given your desires.
i want to find my name among them,
‘cause there is nothing more wrecking-sexy than the right word.
i want to thank whoever told you there was no such thing as a synonym.
i want to throw a party for the heartbreak that turned you into a poet.

and if it is true that a man is only as good as his word
then, sweet jesus,
let me be there the first time you are speechless,
and all your explosive wisdom
becomes a burning ball of sun in your throat,
and all you can bring yourself to utter is, oh god,
oh god….

22.

Peanut Butter

by Eileen Myles

I am always hungry
& wanting to have
sex. This is a fact.
If you get right
down to it the new
unprocessed peanut
butter is no damn
good & you should
buy it in a jar as
always in the
largest supermarket
you know. And
I am an enemy
of change, as
you know. All
the things I
embrace as new
are in
fact old things,
re-released: swimming,
the sensation of
being dirty in
body and mind
summer as a
time to do
nothing and make
no money. Prayer
as a last re-
sort. Pleasure
as a means,
and then a
means again
with no ends
in sight. I am
absolutely in opposition
to all kinds of
goals. I have
no desire to know
where this, anything
is getting me.
When the water
boils I get
a cup of tea.
Accidentally I
read all the
works of Proust.
It was summer
I was there
so was he. I
write because
I would like
to be used for
years after
my death. Not
only my body
will be compost
but the thoughts
I left during
my life. During
my life I was
a woman with
hazel eyes. Out
the window
is a crooked
silo. Parts
of your
body I think
of as stripes
which I have
learned to
love along. We
swim naked
in ponds &
I write be-
hind your
back. My thoughts
about you are
not exactly
forbidden, but
exalted because
they are useless,
not intended
to get you
because I have
you & you love
me. It’s more
like a playground
where I play
with my reflection
of you until
you come back
and into the
real you I
get to sink
my teeth. With
you I know how
to relax. &
so I work
behind your
back. Which
is lovely.
Nature
is out of control
you tell me &
that’s what’s so
good about
it. I’m immoderately
in love with you,
knocked out by
all your new
white hair

why shouldn’t
something
I have always
known be the
very best there
is. I love
you from my
childhood,
starting back
there when
one day was
just like the
rest, random
growth and
breezes, constant
love, a sand-
wich in the
middle of
day,
a tiny step
in the vastly
conventional
path of
the Sun. I
squint. I
wink. I
take the
ride.

23. 

Habitation

by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house, or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

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

where painfully and with wonder

at having survived
this far

we are learning to make fire

24.

This Marriage

by Rumi

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcomes the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.
25.

Witch-Wife

by Edna St. Vincent Millay

She is neither pink nor pale,
And she never will be all mine;
She learned her hands in a fairy-tale,
And her mouth on a valentine.

She has more hair than she needs;
In the sun ’tis a woe to me!
And her voice is a string of coloured beads,
Or steps leading into the sea.

She loves me all that she can,
And her ways to my ways resign;
But she was not made for any man,
And she never will be all mine.

26.

Admonitions To A Special Person

by Anne Sexton

Watch out for power,
for its avalanche can bury you,
snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain.

Watch out for hate,
it can open its mouth and you’ll fling yourself out
to eat off your leg, an instant leper.

Watch out for friends,
because when you betray them,
as you will,
they will bury their heads in the toilet
and flush themselves away.

Watch out for intellect,
because it knows so much it knows nothing
and leaves you hanging upside down,
mouthing knowledge as your heart
falls out of your mouth.

Watch out for games, the actor’s part,
the speech planned, known, given,
for they will give you away
and you will stand like a naked little boy,
pissing on your own child-bed.

Watch out for love
(unless it is true,
and every part of you says yes including the toes) ,
it will wrap you up like a mummy,
and your scream won’t be heard
and none of your running will end.

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

Special person,
if I were you I’d pay no attention
to admonitions from me,
made somewhat out of your words
and somewhat out of mine.
A collaboration.
I do not believe a word I have said,
except some, except I think of you like a young tree
with pasted-on leaves and know you’ll root
and the real green thing will come.

Let go. Let go.
Oh special person,
possible leaves,
this typewriter likes you on the way to them,
but wants to break crystal glasses
in celebration,
for you,
when the dark crust is thrown off
and you float all around
like a happened balloon.

27.

About Marriage

by Denise Levertov

Don’t lock me in wedlock, I want

marriage, an
encounter—

I told you about the
green light of
May

(a veil of quiet befallen
the downtown park,
late

Saturday after
noon, long
shadows and cool

air, scent of
new grass,
fresh leaves,

blossom on the threshold of
abundance—

and the birds I met there,
birds of passage breaking their journey,
three birds each of a different species:

the azalea-breasted with round poll, dark,
the brindled, merry, mousegliding one,
and the smallest, golden as gorse and wearing
a black Venetian mask

and with them the three douce hen-birds
feathered in tender, lively brown—

I stood
a half-hour under the enchantment,
no-one passed near,
the birds saw me and

let me be
near them.)

It’s not
irrelevant:
I would be
met

and meet you
so,
in a green

airy space, not
locked in.

28.

The Invitation

by Oriah

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

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.
I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.
I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.
It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.
I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”
It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.
It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

29.

Married Love

by Kuan Tao-sheng, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung

You and I
Have so much love,
That it
Burns like a fire,
In which we bake a lump of clay
Molded into a figure of you
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them,
And break them into pieces,
And mix the pieces with water,
And mold again a figure of you,
And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
You are in my clay.
In life we share a single quilt.
In death we will share one bed.
30.A Blessing for Wedding 

by Jane Hirshfield

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

Najva Sol

Najva Sol is a queer Iranian-American writer, photographer, branding consultant, artist, and ex-poet.  She’s the token staff Slytherin and—while formally based in Brooklyn—tends to travel as much as possible. Storytelling is her life, but making chicken broth is a close second.
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  • Laura C

    The last wedding I attended included a Denise Levertov poem that I was simultaneously ragingly jealous I hadn’t found and used in my own wedding and also glad because it was so perfect for that particular wedding: Prayer for Revolutionary Love.

  • SarahG

    Yay love the love poetry! We had an all-queer lineup of readings for our wedding (not intentionally; but queer writing is what I did my Ph.D. on, so that’s the well I draw from). My favorite poetry bit was from Whitman:
    Camerado, I give you my hand!
    I give you my love more precious than money,
    I give you myself before preaching or law;
    Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
    Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
    — Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road
    There’s something really jaunty and positive about it that I just love.

    • RMC

      I love love love this one – we used it, too. It just feels like you’re setting out on a grand adventure together, right?!

  • Lena S

    Hot damn, that last poem. Was looking for a reading for our winter wedding.

    • EW

      I just posted that I read that one at my sister’s winter wedding and it was ab-so-lutely perfect. I’m getting chills thinking about it hoping that it brings you the same beauty!

    • Kelly

      That was one of the readings from our wedding (which was in August, but whatever…we replaced “snow scent” with “sun scent”) and I loved it sooo much. My mother in law read it, and I still get a lump in my throat every time I read it and think about the warm happy wedding memories that are ours to keep forever.

  • Mel

    Beautiful work compiling these! There are a few I had never seen before that struck me – particularly, The Invitation, We and untitled. (Love how different poems strike different people.) Thank you! Will have to save them.

  • EW

    I read the last poem at my sister’s very APW-y winter wedding – just siblings and parents, 10-minute ceremony, on a bridge in a park, snow and creek and trees all around, late afternoon sunlight slanting through the branches. It was one of the most emotional and magical moments of my life.

    Point being, A+ 10/10 WOULD READ AGAIN!

  • Anon

    I have a possibly stupid question…

    So, I assume that often these are included as readings.

    I love the sentiment of a lot of these, but since it’s generally a third party doing the reading, is it weird that they’re speaking in first person?

    • RMC

      I don’t think it’s a stupid question! We had a traditional Jewish wedding with friends and family reading the seven blessings but no additional readings so we didn’t have this exact challenge. However, we included several poems/readings in our program and that felt more appropriate for the first person point of view.

    • You can always have someone share a little story or a few words to preface the choice (was it a poem that was important? favorite author? a sentiment they wish for you?) that way it can clarify context! Should be no big deal.

  • AP

    Oh man, The Invitation. Damn.

  • LydiaB

    Habitation is going on the back of our wedding programs as it just didn’t seem to fit into any of our reading slots. We are having the wonderful Neil Gaiman wedding poem;

    This for you, for both of you,

    a small poem of happiness
    filled with small glories and little triumphs
    a fragile, short cheerful song
    filled with hope and all sorts of futures

    Because at weddings we imagine the future
    Because it’s all about “what happened next?”
    all the work and negotiation and building and talk
    that makes even the tiniest happily ever after
    something to be proud of for a wee forever

    This is a small thought for both of you
    like a feather or a prayer,
    a wish of trust and love and hope
    and fine brave hearts and true.

    Like a tower, or a house made all of bones and dreams
    and tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows

    • Ah! I love this poem too! Why are there so many. Also, sidenote: Neil is an exceedingly nice human. I happened to have met him a few times and he totally cemented his position in my favorite author’s list.

  • What a fantastic compilation. I’m thinking about printing a few off on fancy paper, popping them in ikea frames and dotting them about the venue. Words are my favourite part of wedding planning.

    • Kayjayoh

      What a great idea!

    • Ohhhhh! That’s a great idea!

  • Kate B

    I’m English, so I am extremely sensitive to cheese and can think of nothing worse than public expressions of sincere emotion. With this in mind, I had these two poems at my wedding:

    ‘I Wanna Be Yours..’ by John Cooper Clarke

    I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
    breathing in your dust
    I wanna be your Ford Cortina
    I will never rust
    If you like your coffee hot
    let me be your coffee pot
    You call the shots
    I wanna be yours

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

    I wanna be your electric meter
    I will not run out
    I wanna be the electric heater
    you’ll get cold without
    I wanna be your setting lotion
    hold your hair in deep devotion
    Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
    that’s how deep is my devotion.

    and

    ‘Beliefs and promises’ by John Hegley

    I believe in dog, the rather all bitey.
    I believe that saying I will do something
    makes me more likely to do it.

    I believe that a bus is less well served by a single operator
    than if you crew it
    but I still believe in thanking the driver when I get off,
    although if the exit is through a middle door
    you can’t make eye contact with your thanks
    unless you go down to the cabin before leaving
    which all seems a bit much for this small courtesy.

    I believe that Jesus would have been a smoker.
    I believe that Buddha would have been a good goalie.
    I believe there is a greater whole which I am part of.
    I believe in not ending sentences with prepositions.

    I believe that rules are there to suggest the possibility of
    breaking them,
    but I don’t believe that rules are made to be broken
    because that’s just another rule.

    I promise to remember that you are beautiful.
    I promise to remember that I too am beautiful.
    I promise to be less negative and paranoid,
    who are you looking at?

    I promise to sing.
    I promise to dance.
    I promise to love.
    I promise to kiss.

    I promise to think before I speak.
    I promise to speak before I think.
    I promise to spink before theak.
    I promise to know when to stop.

  • meredith

    We’re having a very quick ceremony (reading, vows, rings, kiss, booze) but I wanted a meaningful reading as I have a MA in literature. My fiancé could care less and thinks readings are dumb. I struggled to find something “literary-enough” yet something he wouldn’t roll his eyes at. I also wanted to reflect our spirit and the spirit of the wedding: travel and adventure, as we are travel junkies will filled passports (and a second wedding planned in India!). I ended up picking the last 2 sections of the very long, “Song of the Open Road” by Walt Whitman and the final stanza,

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

    GETS ME EVERY EFFING TIME.

    • chirpygirl

      we said this to one another as we exchanged rings last June. My, what excellent taste in readings you have! : )

  • Kate

    Love this post! The last one made me tear up. We’re still thinking about what to use at our wedding… here are some options.

    I remember by Anne Sexton – (we’re getting married on june 20)

    By the first of August the invisible beetles began
    to snore and the grass was
    as tough as hemp and was
    no color—no more than
    the sand was a color and
    we had worn our bare feet
    bare since the twentieth
    of June and there were times
    we forgot to wind up your
    alarm clock and some nights
    we took our gin warm and neat
    from old jelly glasses while
    the sun blew out of sight
    like a red picture hat and
    one day I tied my hair back
    with a ribbon and you said
    that I looked almost like
    a puritan lady and what
    I remember best is that
    the door to your room was
    the door to mine.

    From Blossoms
    Li-Young Lee

    From blossoms comes
    this brown paper bag of peaches
    we bought from the boy
    at the bend in the road where we turned toward
    signs painted Peaches.

    From laden boughs, from hands,
    from sweet fellowship in the bins,
    comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
    peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
    comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

    O, to take what we love inside,
    to carry within us an orchard, to eat
    not only the skin, but the shade,
    not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
    the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
    the round jubilance of peach.

    There are days we live
    as if death were nowhere
    in the background; from joy
    to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
    from blossom to blossom to
    impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

    ‘Vow’ by Clare Shaw:

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

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

    Say yes.

  • Kaleb

    Wow. I just sent #21 to my fiancee. It’s a bit too much to have at the wedding, with my uptight southern relatives. But it fits.

    Having never really gotten into poetry, one of my favorites is still Aedh Wishes For the Cloths of Heaven by W.B. Yeats. But that doesn’t fit the topic, as it is both written by a straight white man and cheesy as all hell.

  • Angela

    My friends read Mary Oliver’s “Coming Home” at our wedding and it was perfect:

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

    My husband and I got tattoos about a month after the wedding and mine incorporates elements of this poem. it was one of the most beautiful and emotional parts of the day, and I never wanted to forget it.

  • JDrives

    Gah, e.e. cummings! I could not include “i carry your heart” in our wedding because I BAWL EVERY TIME and I was trying to keep it together as much as possible. It is so dear to me, though. #tinyregrets

    We had my stepsisters read “I Like You” by Sandol Stoddard Warberg (http://ategato.tumblr.com/post/1178367035). It’s so simple and sweet and it was an APW recommendation!

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  • Sarah Nelson

    Thank you so much. xx