Over the last eleven years we have collected tons of amazing wedding readings in the APW archives. But recently I realized that we’d never collected all of these wedding readings into one place. And generally (if I know anything about wedding planning… and I do) wedding readings are selected during a frantic Google search in the last month, when you realized you haven’t picked exactly the right thing yet, and can the internet help you out, maybe a little?
The thing is, even though we generally relegate wedding readings to a last minute frantic search, they’re important. They let you say that thing you want to say… but can’t fully put words to… as a non poet/ world renowned author. They let you set the mood, create atmosphere, and convey the emotional weight that you wish to convey to your friends and family attending your wedding. They don’t always need to be sappy, or serious, or even funny—but they can be all of those things, sometimes at the same time. Just like life and marriage right?
When I think back on our wedding ceremony, it’s the readings that jump out at me. Not because they contained the perfect words, that I didn’t quite have (though they did), but because they were read by friends. Friends who laughed, who cried, and who earnestly told the story of what we hoped our lives would hold. Love, richness, silliness, and whatever comes beyond love… that thing that binds us (if we’re lucky) ’till death.
So today we’ve collected some of our favorite wedding readings. No list like this is ever comprehensive, though, so we’re hoping you’ll share the readings that you love the most in the comments.
Modern Wedding Poems
by Margaret Atwood
Marriage is not
a house or even a tent
it is before that, and colder:
the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn
the edge of the receding glacier
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
we are learning to make fire
I Am Offering This Poem
by Jimmy Santiago Baca
I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,
I love you,
I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,
I love you,
Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe,
I love you,
It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;
I love you.
Living With It
By Craig Arnold
It is nothing that they did
Or could have helped, two people
Falling in love. Not even
Because they shared a toothbrush,
Once. It is their germs
They take turns being sick
–one makes the tea, the other
answers the phone. Slowly,
they can’t tell better from worse.
This goes on
Until one dies.
From From Blossoms
by Li-Young Lee
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.
Love Song for Lucinda
by Langston Hughes
Is a ripe plum
Growing on a purple tree.
Taste it once
And the spell of its enchantment
Will never let you be.
Is a bright star
Glowing in far Southern skies.
Look too hard
And its burning flame
Will always hurt your eyes.
Is a high mountain
Stark in a windy sky.
Would never lose your breath
Do not climb too high.
by Kim Crosby
I didn’t fall in love with you
I fought in love with you
Round 15, breathing heavy, stinging softly, aching belly, trembling jaw
You caught me
I sparred, you danced
You pulled me into the corner and you talked me into myself
I loved you because I loved me
Before you asked me to love you,
You moved mountains so I could love me
by Kuan Tao-sheng, translated by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung
You and I
Have so much love,
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.
[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)
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)
by Mary Lambert
Where did you come from, bright star
What heaven did you leap from, dear love
How can I spell your name without the sound of
Autumn underneath my tongue
Without acknowledging the lovers who bent me in half
Bless them for bringing me to you
How can I say your name without
Also breathing the words, my God, I found you
How can I ever speak again with this mouth
When it has found where it belongs
When you touch me
I am a bed of calla lilies
I will make a house for you and fill it with evergreens
I will paint sunsets on every wall
So you can only see beautiful things
How can I say ‘love’ without wanting to fold myself into you
Like a thousand paper cranes
I was halved the moment I was born
The other piece of me is inside of your mouth
And I was found whole the moment you spoke
Children Running Through
by Rumi, translated 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.
Wedding readings from Literature
From Autograph Man
by Zadie Smith
People don’t settle for people. They resolve to be with them. It takes faith. You draw a circle in the sand and agree to stand in it and believe in it.
From Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Brontë
I have for the first time found what I can truly love – I have found you. You are my sympathy — my better self — my good angel — I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you — and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.
From Wuthering Heights
by Emily Brontë
He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same… my great thought in living is himself. If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger. I should not seem a part of it.
From Leaves of Grass
by Walt Whitman
I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,
All alone stood it and the moss hung down from the branches,
Without any companion it grew there uttering joyous of dark green,
And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself,
But I wonder’d how it could utter joyous leaves standing alone there
without its friend near, for I knew I could not,
And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it and
twined around it a little moss,
And brought it away, and I have placed it in sight in my room,
It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,
(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them,)
Yet it remains to me a curious token, it makes me think of manly love;
For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana
solitary in a wide in a wide flat space,
Uttering joyous leaves all its life without a friend a lover near,
I know very well I could not.
by Toni Morrison
Let me tell you about love, that silly word you believe is about whether you like somebody or whether somebody likes you or whether you can put up with somebody in order to get something or someplace you want or you believe it has to do with how your body responds to another body like robins or bison or maybe you believe love is how forces or nature or luck is benign to you in particular not maiming or killing you but if so doing it for your own good. Love is none of that. There is nothing in nature like it. Not in robins or bison or in the banging tails of your hunting dogs and not in blossoms or suckling foal. Love is divine only and difficult always. If you think it is easy you are a fool. If you think it is natural you are blind. It is a learned application without reason or motive except that it is God.
Traditional Celtic Vow
You cannot possess me for I belong to myself
But while we both wish it, I give you that which is mine to give
You cannot command me for I am a free person
But I shall serve you in those ways you require
And the honeycomb will taste sweeter coming from my hand
I vow you the first cut of my meat, the first sip of my wine
From this day it will be only your name I cry out in the night
And into your eyes that I smile in the morning
I shall be a shield for your back as you are for mine
Nor shall a grievous word be spoken about us
For our marriage is sacred and no stranger will hear my grievance
Above and beyond this I will cherish and honor you
Through this life and into the next
UnEXPECTED AND FUNNY Wedding Readings
From Still Life with Woodpecker
by Tom Robbins
The bottom line is that (a) people are never perfect, but love can be, (b) that is the one and only way that the mediocre and the vile can be transformed, and (c) doing that makes it that. Loving makes love. Loving makes itself. We waste time looking for the perfect lover instead of creating the perfect love. Wouldn’t that be the way to make love stay?
Also from Still Life With Woodpecker
Who knows how to make love stay?
1. Tell love you are going to Junior’s Deli on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn to pick up a cheesecake, and if love stays, it can have half. It will stay.
2. Tell love you want a memento of it and obtain a lock of its hair. Burn the hair in a dime-store incense burner with yin/yang symbols on three sides. Face southwest. Talk fast over the burning hair in a convincingly exotic language. Remove the ashes of the burnt hair and use them to paint a mustache on your face. Find love. Tell it you are someone new. It will stay.
3. Wake love up in the middle of the night. Tell it the world is on fire. Dash to the bedroom window and pee out of it. Casually return to bed and assure love that everything is going to be all right. Fall asleep. Love will be there in the morning.
From True Love
by Robert Fulghum
We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.
From Your Personal Penguin
by Sandra Boynton
I like you a lot.
You’re funny and kind.
So let me explain
What I have in mind.
I want to be your personal penguin.
I want to walk right by your side.
I want to be your personal penguin.
From Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog
by Taylor Mali
First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
especially in a city like New York.
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you’re all wound up and can’t move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.
From The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I.
Wedding Readings From Children’s Literature
From I Like You
by Sandol Stoddard Warburg
And I like you because when I am feeling sad, you don’t always cheer me up right away. Sometimes it is better to be sad.
You can’t stand the others being so googly and gaggly every single minute.
You want to think about things.
It takes time.
I like you because if I am mad at you, then you are mad at me too.
It’s awful when the other person isn’t. Phooey.
They are so nice and hoo-hoo you could just about punch them in the nose.
I like you because if I think I am going to throw up, then you are really sorry.
You don’t just pretend you are busy looking at the birdies and all that.
You say, “maybe it was something you ate.”
You say, “same thing happened to me one time.”
And the same thing did.
If you find two four-leaf clovers, you give me one.
If I find four, I give you two.
If we only find three, we keep on looking.
Sometimes we have good luck and sometimes we don’t.
If I break my arm and if you break your arm too, then it is fun to have a broken arm.
I tell you about mine; you tell me about yours.
We are both sorry.
We write our names and draw pictures.
We show everybody and they wish they had a broken arm too.
From Winnie the Pooh
by A.A. Milne
Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”
From I Love My Family So Much
by Filoi Hemopo
To be apart of a family like mine
is so divine
where love is shown
hurt is shared
our love for each other is never impaired
but we are a family
and we do it all together
for as a family we do it all as one
for we are family
a family full of strength
a family full of love
a family no one can touch
that’s why I love my family so much
my family is my life and always will be forever
It’s You I Like
by Mr. Fred Rogers
It’s you I like.
Not the things you wear,
Not the way you do your hair,
But it’s you I like.
The way you are right now.
The way down deep inside you.
Not the things that hide you.
Not your toys,
They’re just beside you.
It’s you I like.
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings,
Whether old or new.
I hope that you remember
Even when you’re feeling blue,
That it’s you I like.
It’s you yourself.
It’s you I like.
From Put Something In
by Shel Silverstein
Draw a crazy picture,
Write a nutty poem,
Sing a mumble-gumble song,
Whistle through your comb.
Do a loony-goony dance
‘Cross the kitchen floor,
Put something silly in the world
That ain’t been there before.
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 Nanna came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your 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.”
Wedding Readings from Harry Potter
“‘Even after all this time?’ ‘Always.’”
– Albus Dumbledore to Severus Snape, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
“We can’t choose our fate, but we can choose others. Be careful in knowing that.”
– Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“Until the very end.”
– James Potter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
“It is impossible to manufacture or imitate love.”
– Professor Slughorn, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
– Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”
– Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
“I never really gave up on you.”
– Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
“The ones that love us never really leave us. You can always find them, in here.”
– Sirius Black, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
“Things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”
– Luna Lovegood, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
“You are protected, in short, by your ability to love!”
—Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince
Now you! What are some of your favorite wedding readings? What wedding readings did you select for your ceremony? Which ones didn’t quite make the cut, but still rank among your favorites?