"Love is patient, love is kind." (Where's the record scratch noise when you need it?)
Whoever wrote that (and assuming that's what it meant in whatever tongue it was originally written in) was correct - but oh the background noise of it all! You're in the market for something that you and your guests won't simply tune out. I have some ideas for you! If you've taken my deep dive on ceremony theory, you know that your ceremony is devoid of cliché, and this includes your ceremony readings. Here I'll give you some general guidelines for choosing a good reading, a few restrictions on what I'll read, and a helpful and varied list of readings that work exceptionally well within the framework of the ceremony I'll be performing for you. And if you give this all a read and still aren't quite sure which direction to go, you can just ask me to pick a reading that I think will suit you. After reading through your answers to my ceremony questionnaire and getting to know you a bit, I promise to pick something you'll love!
Wedding Reading Hell Yeahs
- The ideal length for a reading is 200-300 words. When read aloud at a relaxed pace, it should be between 1-2 minutes long.
- Choose something that speaks to you! For easy reference, I compiled a list of readings below that are suitable, both in tone and length, for your ceremony. There's a little something here for everyone - direct, no-nonsense examinations of love, classic love poems and literary excerpts full of metaphor and grandiose imagery, and everything in between. There's something here to suit any taste!
- Having trouble choosing a single reading? There's time during your ceremony for two!
- While I'm happy to read whatever you select, you're also welcome to invite a friend or family member to read as well.
Wedding Reading Hell Naws
- I won't read anything at all that has been written by another wedding officiant or minister.
- Song lyrics are not suitable readings. If the song in question is that meaningful to you, have your DJ play it at your reception. Lyrics were meant to be sung - when read, they're clunky and lose their charm. This, in turn, interrupts the flow of the ceremony.
- I won't read unsourced or poorly sourced materials, or misquotations.
- With the exception of First Corinthians (13:4-8 up to "Love never fails") and Song of Solomon (2:10-13 and/or 8:6-7), I won't read from religious texts or anything with overt religious references or themes. (However, in the ceremony questionnaire, you may elect a friend or family member to read from such texts.)
- If the reading you selected relies too heavily on cliché or empty sentimentality or was written for children, I'll ask you to choose another reading. Some examples include (but are not limited to):
- "Blessing of the Hands" by Daniel Harris
- "Friendship" by Judy Bielicki
- Anything by Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, A.A. Milne or Margery Williams
- If you choose a reading that's too short (that feels more like an excerpt or a quotation than a reading) I'll ask you to choose another reading (or allow me to) for the sake of keeping the ceremony balanced. I'll still incorporate the "quote" you asked me to, but in a different way than I do with readings. Readings are best as standalone segments of the ceremony (read during Act I - see ceremony theory for details) whereas quotes work best when weaved organically into the fabric of the ceremony, usually toward the end.
The Best Wedding Readings I Know!
After performing hundreds of ceremonies, I present you with this collection of the finest readings I've been asked to share. These readings, while outstanding in their own right, tick all of my boxes for suitable readings - they're secular, of appropriate length and tone, and don't suck. There's something here for absolutely everyone. Enjoy!
Clementine Von Radics, A Mouthful of Forevers
I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.
This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.
And I will not be afraid
of your scars.
I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.
Neil Gaiman, All I Know About Love
This is everything I have to tell you about love: nothing. This is everything I've learned about marriage: nothing. Only that the world out there is complicated, and there are beasts in the night, and delight and pain, and the only thing that makes it okay, sometimes, is to reach out a hand in the darkness and find another hand to squeeze, and not to be alone. It's not the kisses, or never just the kisses: it's what they mean. Somebody's got your back. Somebody knows your worst self and somehow doesn't want to rescue you or send for the army to rescue them. It's not two broken halves becoming one. It's the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home because home is wherever you are both together. So this is everything I have to tell you about love and marriage: nothing, like a book without pages or a forest without trees. Because there are things you cannot know before you experience them. Because no study can prepare you for the joys or the trials. Because nobody else's love, nobody else's marriage, is like yours, and it's a road you can only learn by walking it, a dance you cannot be taught, a song that did not exist before you began, together, to sing. And because in the darkness you will reach out a hand, not knowing for certain if someone else is even there. And your hands will meet, and then neither of you will ever need to be alone again. And that's all I know about love.
Victor Hugo, excerpt from Les Misérables
I encountered in the street, a very poor young man who was in love. His hat was old, his coat was worn, his elbows were in holes; water trickled through his shoes, and the stars through his soul. Love partakes of the soul itself. It is of the same nature.
Like the soul, it is a divine spark; it is incorruptible, indivisible, imperishable. It is a point of fire within us, which is immortal and infinite, which nothing can limit and nothing can extinguish. We feel it burning even in the marrow of our bones, and we see it radiate even to the depths of the sky. The future belongs to hearts even more than it does to minds.
Love, that is the only thing that can occupy and fill eternity. When love has melted and mingled two beings into a sacred unity, the secret of life is found for them; they are then but the two terms of a single destiny; they are then but the two wings of a single spirit.
Pablo Neruda, Sonnet 17
I do not love you as if you were the salt-rose, or the topaz,
or the arrows of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that does not bloom and carries,
hidden within itself, the light of those flowers.
Thanks to your love, darkly in my body lives
the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you so, because I know no other way than this,
in which there is no "I" or "you,"
so close that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
Wilferd Peterson, The Art of Marriage
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created. In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow old.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner; it is being the right partner.
Louis de Bernières, excerpt from Captain Corelli's Mandolin
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 promises 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.
Khalil Gibran, excerpt from On Marriage
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together. For the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
Diane Ackerman, excerpt from A Natural History of Love
Love. What a small word we use for an idea so immense and powerful. It has altered the flow of history, calmed monsters, kindled works of art, cheered the forlorn, turned tough guys to mush, consoled the enslaved, driven strong women mad, glorified the humble, fueled national scandals, bankrupted robber barons, and made mincemeat of kings. How can love's spaciousness be conveyed in the narrow confines of one syllable? Love is an ancient delirium, a desire older than civilization, with taproots spreading into deep and mysterious days. The heart is a living museum. In each of its galleries, no matter how narrow or dimly lit, preserved forever like wondrous diatoms, are our moments of loving, and being loved.
Roy Croft, I Love You
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. Perhaps that is what being a friend means, after all.
Plato, excerpt from The Symposium
Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.
To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans’ insolence without destroying them.
It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.
Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other’s sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.
Robert Fulghum, Union
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 two. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, "this is my husband," "this is my wife."
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.
Madeleine L'Engle, excerpt from The Irrational Season
Ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature. To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.
James Kavanaugh, To Love Is Not To Possess
To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another--and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are--and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.
Maya Angelou, Touched by an Angel
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.
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.