One Hard Part of Weddings

Joanna Goddard and Alex Williams

Are you going to any weddings this summer? When Alex and I got married seven years ago, we luckily didn’t have too many hitches with our wedding planning. But one part threw us for a loop…

The wedding readings. Did you feel the same? It felt weirdly impossible to find a romantic reading that didn’t either sound corny or pat or end with a depressing twist. We were big readers — couldn’t we come up with something? — but somehow we kept hitting walls. Should we just scrap that part of our ceremony?

Finally, in the eleventh hour, we found two poems we really loved.

First, our friend Kenan read “Our Union” by Hafiz. This beautiful poem still breaks my heart:

Our union is like this: You feel cold, so I reach for a blanket to cover our shivering feet. / A hunger comes into your body, so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes. / You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance, and I quickly kneel by your side offering you a whole book as a gift. / You ache with loneliness one night so much you weep, and I say here is a rope, tie it around me, I will be your companion for life.

And, for bit of comic relief, our friend Nora read “I’ll Be There For You” by Louise Cuddon:

I’ll be there, my darling, through thick and through thin
When your mind’s in a mess and your head’s in a spin
When your plane’s been delayed, and you’ve missed the last train
When life is just threatening to drive you insane
When your thrilling whodunit has lost its last page
When somebody tells you, you’re looking your age
When your coffee’s too cool, and your wine is too warm
When the forecast said, ‘Fine,’ but you’re out in a storm
When your quick break hotel, turns into a slum
And your holiday photos show only your thumb
When you park for five minutes in a resident’s bay
And return to discover you’ve been towed away
When the jeans that you bought in hope or in haste
Just stick on your hips and don’t reach round your waist
When the food you most like brings you out in red rashes
When as soon as you boot up the bloody thing crashes
So my darling, my sweetheart, my dear…
When you break a rule, when you act the fool
When you’ve got the flu, when you’re in a stew
When you’re last in the queue, don’t feel blue
’Cause I’m telling you, I’ll be there.

Emma Straub wedding

For her lovely small wedding, writer Emma Straub chose Frank O’Hara’s “Having a Coke with You,” David Sedaris’s essay “The End of the Affair,” and the last paragraph of Jane Austen’s Emma:

The wedding was very much like other weddings, where the parties have no taste for finery or parade; and Mrs. Elton, from the particulars detailed by her husband, thought it all extremely shabby, and very inferior to her own. — “Very little white satin, very few lace veils; a most pitiful business! Selina would stare when she heard of it.” — But, in spite of these deficiencies, the wishes, the hopes, the confidence, the predictions of the small band of true friends who witnessed the ceremony, were fully answered in the perfect happiness of the union.

Diana Moss wedding

Says graphic designer Diana Moss: “I found our wedding reading — Union by Robert Fulghum — pretty quickly and immediately knew, this is it. There’s something so straightforward about it, much like our relationship. Anton and I are not very mushy or sentimental people, and this was just the right mix of touching and true without making me want to, well, gag.”

And when I asked her about wedding readings, the author Una LaMarche told me about the best one she’d ever seen: “The bride and groom met through Craigslist in the early 2000s, so they had two friends do a staged reading of their first months of online messages.”

What readings would (or did) you have at your wedding? Help out any future couples! I’d love to hear…

P.S. A casual City Hall wedding and 15 wedding dos and don’ts. Plus, did you have sex on your wedding night?

(Photos from our wedding by Max Wanger. Emma Straub’s photo by Cappy Hotchkiss. Diana Moss’s photo by Love Made Visible.)

  1. Rebecca | Seven2Seven8 says...

    Circling back to this after reading 2019’s poem post. Like several others, above, we chose ee cummings’ [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in], 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, a little bit of Anne Morrow Lindbergh (Gift from the Sea), and part of Marianne Williamson’s “Illuminata” (“With this ring…Amen”). I would chose the same things to read to my spouse today (almost twelve years later).

  2. Megan says...

    The comments on this post were an incredible resource and a gold mine of beautiful words and inspiration as we planned our wedding ceremony. I don’t think the reading we ultimately chose was listed here – so I’m adding it now for any brides-to-be that dig this post up as they plan their wedding! We did this reading by Neil Gaiman, and I am so in love with it:

    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.

    • Jen says...

      LOVE THIS. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Jen Hodges says...

    We didn’t have any readings at our wedding (it was short and sweet), but this poem is framed next to our wedding portrait:

    Most Like an Arch This Marriage
    By John Ciardi

    Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
    and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
    Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
    A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

    Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
    into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
    Two joined abeyances become a term
    naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

    Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
    what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
    at piling stone on stone apart from you
    is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss

    I am no more than upright and unset.
    It is by falling in and in we make
    the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
    in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.

  4. Amanda says...

    I’ve been looking for readings today, as my fiance and I are secretly eloping at City Hall tomorrow (but are having a wedding in October), and we’re looking for pieces to read at both events. I came across this poem today and felt so compelled by it. I love the assertion of individuality juxtaposed against the power of the partnership.

    “i do not want to have you
    to fill the empty parts of me
    i want to be full on my own
    i want to be so complete
    i could light a whole city
    and then
    i want to have you
    cause the two of us combined
    could set it on fire”

    Rupi Kaur / Milk and Honey

  5. As an avid reader people ALWAYS ask me to read so I started keeping a list of readings that I liked.

    Here are a couple of my favorites that I didn’t see in the comments so far:

    Coming Home by Mary Oliver

    When we’re driving, in the dark,
    on the long road
    to Provincetown, which lies empty
    for miles, when we’re 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 the 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 — the headlights
    like lanterns
    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.

    “Waiting,” by Raymond Carver
    from All of Us: The Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf)

    Left off the highway and
    down the hill. At the
    bottom, hang another left.
    Keep bearing left. The road
    will make a Y. Left again.
    There’s a creek on the left.
    Keep going. Just before
    the road ends, there’ll be
    another road. Take it
    and no other. Otherwise,
    your life will be ruined
    forever. There’s a log house
    with a shake roof, on the left.
    It’s not that house. It’s
    the next house, just over
    a rise. The house
    where trees are laden with
    fruit. Where phlox, forsythia,
    and marigold grow. It’s
    the house where the woman
    stands in the doorway
    wearing the sun in her hair. The one
    who’s been waiting
    all this time.
    The woman who loves you.
    The one who can say,
    “What’s kept you?”

    From Blossoms by 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.

    Jazz by Toni Morrison
    “It’s nice when grown people whisper to each other under the covers. Their ecstasy is more leaf-sigh than bray and the body is the vehicle, not the point. They reach, grown people, for something beyond, way beyond and way, way down underneath tissue. They are remembering while they whisper the carnival dolls they won and the Baltimore boats they never sailed on. The pears they let hang on the limb because if they plucked them, they would be gone from there and who else would see that ripeness if they took it away for themselves? How could anybody passing by see them and imagine for themselves what the flavor would be like? Breathing and murmuring under covers both of them have washed and hung out on the line, in a bed they chose together and kept together never mind one leg was propped on a 1916 dictionary, and the mattress, curved like a preacher’s palm asking for witnesses in His name’s sake, enclosed them each and every night and muffled their whispering, old-time love.”

    An Apache Blessing
    ‘Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years, May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

    Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives – remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.’

  6. Natalie says...

    We had the Emma reading mentioned in the post at our wedding, along with about 6 other short slices of things. Here are three of my favorites that I haven’t seen in other comments, should anyone else be looking:

    “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get only with what you are expecting to give — which is everything.” -Katharine Hepburn

    “But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

    To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take. If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. 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.” – Madeline L’Engle

    “There is nothing more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends.” ― Homer, The Odyssey

  7. Emilie says...

    At a Catholic wedding you have limited options. I thought the “Love is patient, love is kind” reading was a little trite after hearing it over and over as an altar server when I was a kid, so I decided to pick the trippiest readings allowed. The Song of Songs reading – it starts with “hark!” – is outright erotic and it was one of my favorite parts of the liturgy. My friend who is a poet read it and she definitely stirred the crowd. I still love hearing the line “My lover is like a gazelle” – it makes me laugh and transports me back to my wedding day.

  8. Choosing readings will be the easy part for me — I would love to hear more about choosing bridal attendants! Part of me wants to ask just one close friend to stand with me, so as not to have a parade of people (I have been in weddings with 6, 10, 12 bridesmaids…). The other part of me wonders if I will later regret not including more friends to stand with me? If you are looking for another wedding-related topic, this is one my friends and I debate often (we are in our late 20s — it’s that season of life!).

    • Cailtin says...

      I had this same issue – I selected 3 maids. They’re my ride or die girls :) I have many more friends it would have been nice to include, but a smaller group feels more intimate to me. I also think this made it easier financially – I was able to do more and bigger things for the few maids I selected versus having to buy gifts for a ton of ladies. AND…less people to wrangle and coordinate!

  9. Jessica says...

    The timing of this post was impeccable. Last Friday our friends asked us to be readers in their wedding. We sent them a link to this post, they picked a poem mentioned in the comments & we’re reading it today at their wedding!

  10. Megan says...

    At our wedding this past October, our readings were all poems. And while two of them are pretty ubiquitous when it comes to wedding readings, [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] by e.e. cummings and Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda, they’re favorites of ours, which made them still feel special. But, the third is one that my husband printed out and gave to me in our first weeks of dating, as part of a packet of poems that he wanted me to know (I pretty much knew right then I’d marry the guy), and I think it’s so wonderful and human and simply sweet:

    “I Love You Sweatheart” by Thomas Lux

    A man risked his life to write the words.
    A man hung upside down (an idiot friend
    holding his legs?) with spray paint
    to write the words on a girder fifty feet above
    a highway. And his beloved,
    the next morning driving to work…?
    His words are not (meant to be) so unique.
    Does she recognize his handwriting?
    Did he hint to her at her doorstep the night before
    of “something special, darling, tomorrow”?
    And did he call her at work
    expecting her to faint with delight
    at his celebration of her, his passion, his risk?
    She will know I love her now,
    the world will know my love for her!
    A man risked his life to write the words.
    Love is like this at the bone, we hope, love
    is like this, Sweetheart, all sore and dumb
    and dangerous, ignited, blessed – always,
    regardless, no exceptions,
    always in blazing matters like these: blessed.

  11. These comments have me sobbing on my couch so hard that my normally super calm dog is wagging her tail in worry, looking up at me with big droopy eyes and hoping i’ll get my shit together soon. How beautiful to be surprised with such delicate language and all these gifted people trying to express just what it means to them. So many true sentiments here that pang my very soul!

  12. Nora says...

    Good ol’, traditional Bible readings. The fact that so many marriages, for so many years have been blessed with the same words made our wedding feel that much more meaningful and significant.

  13. Lesley says...

    From Captain Correllis Mandolin, picked because it is not about the first flush of love and romance or the excitement of getting married but about settling in to love and binding your lives together, which is ultimately what marriage is supposed to be:

    Love is a temporary madness,
    It erupts like a volcano 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 that 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.

    • Danielle says...

      This is so beautiful! <3

  14. “Supposing a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?’
    ‘Supposing it didn’t,’ said Pooh after careful thought.
    Piglet was comforted by this.”

    ― A.A. Milne

  15. Ever since I was Maid of Honor in a friend’s wedding a few years ago, I’ve decided not to have any readings at my future wedding. The reason being that I could not stop crying! I really struggled to get through the whole thing and had to pause several times. Luckily everyone thought it was really sweet and moving and apparently I made many other guests cry as well. But it was still embarrassing :)

  16. biba says...

    for wordy people like us (two writers) this was SOOO hard. we ultimately decided on these two readings, a Robert Frost poem & a snippet from A Farewell To Arms.

    The Master Speed
    No speed of wind or water rushing by
    But you have speed far greater. You can climb
    Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
    And back through history up the stream of time.
    And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
    Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
    But in the rush of everything to waste,
    That you may have the power of standing still-
    Off any still or moving thing you say.
    Two such as you with such a master speed
    Cannot be parted nor be swept away
    From one another once you are agreed
    That life is only life forevermore
    Together wing to wing and oar to oar
    Robert Frost

    At night, there was the feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a woman wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.- A Farewell To Arms, Ernest Hemingway

  17. Sasha says...

    My husband read to me the lyrics from the Who’s song Bargain at our wedding. At the time, 21 years ago, it felt raw, naked, obsessive even…I’m private and it made me squirm for him to say these things outloud. But looking back, it’s on of the best ways he ever chose to say he loved me. Sometimes readings are about the beauty of love, the goodness, “I’d stand naked stoned and stabbed..And call that a bargain” is one of the truest statements about unconditional and lasting love I know.


    I’d gladly lose me to find you
    I’d gladly give up all I had
    To find you I’d suffer anything and be glad

    I’d pay any price just to get you
    I’d work all my life and I will
    To win you I’d stand naked, stoned and stabbed

    I’d call that a bargain
    The best I ever had
    The best I ever had

    I’d gladly lose me to find you
    I’d gladly give up all I got
    To catch you I’m gonna run and never stop

    I’d pay any price just to win you
    Surrender my good life for bad
    To find you I’m gonna drown an unsung man

    I’d call that a bargain
    The best I ever had
    The best I ever had

    I sit looking ’round
    I look at my face inm the mirror
    I know I’m worth nothing without you
    And like one and one don’t make two
    One and one make one
    And I’m looking for that free ride to me
    I’m looking for you

    I’d gladly lose me to find you
    I’d gladly give up all I got
    To catch you I’m gonna run and never stop

    I’d pay any price just to win you
    Surrender my good life for bad
    To find you I’m gonna drown an unsung man

    I’d call that a bargain
    The best I ever had
    The best I ever had

    • Laura says...

      I love this so much!! Thank o for sharing.

  18. Meagan says...

    We used “Blessing For A Marriage” by James Dillet Freeman:
    May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding. May you always need one another — not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete. The valley does not make the mountain less, but more. And the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you. May you need one another, but not out of weakness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you entice one another, but not compel one another. May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another. May you succeed in all-important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces. May you look for things to praise, often say, “I love you!” and take no notice of small faults. If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back. May you enter into the mystery that is the awareness of one another’s presence — no more physical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities. May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.

  19. it was from your own wedding that i chose Our Union by Hafiz. it was our only reading. i cant ever read that poem without tearing up. and this my friend Nuria doing the reading: pic

  20. Michelle says...

    Our first wedding anniversary is coming up next month and after seeing this post I reread our readings. The Thomas Hardy ‘far from the madding crown’ reading still makes me tear up!

    We are all on our own paths, all on our own journeys.
    Sometimes the paths cross, and people arrive at the crossing points at the same time and meet each other. There are greetings, pleasantries are exchanged, and then they move on. But then once in a while the pleasantries become more, friendship grows, deeper links are made, hands are joined and love flies. The friendship has turned into love. Paths are joined, one path with two people walking it, both going in the same direction, and sharing each other’s journeys. Today N and N are joining their paths. They will now skip together in harmony and love, sharing joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, strengthening and upholding each other as they walk along side by side. At home by the fire, whenever I look up, there you will be. And whenever you look up, there I shall be.

  21. Susanne says...

    Ours was “warum” by Erich Fried, which is so beautiful in german. However, this english translation seems to come close:


    Not you , for the love
    but for your sake
    love ( and also for my sake )

    because I have to love
    but because I thee
    must love

    Perhaps because I am
    like I am
    why, surely
    because you
    how you are

  22. Miranda says...

    Love this post! It’s fun to see what everyone is sharing!

    We had this poem by Neil Gaiman at our wedding:

    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

  23. Jess west says...

    We also googled “unromantic love poems” and had a gorgeous reading of Ogden Nash
    To my Valentine

    More than a catbird hates a cat,
    Or a criminal hates a clue,
    Or the Axis hates the United States,
    That’s how much I love you.

    I love you more than a duck can swim,
    And more than a grapefruit squirts,
    I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
    And more than a toothache hurts.

    As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
    Or a juggler hates a shove,
    As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
    That’s how much you I love.

    I love you more than a wasp can sting,
    And more than the subway jerks,
    I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
    And more than a hangnail irks.

    I swear to you by the stars above,
    And below, if such there be,
    As the High Court loathes perjurious oathes,
    That’s how you’re love by me.

    • We used this one too; I love it so much!

  24. What a beautiful post, and what wonderful comments!
    In our wedding brochure, we included “Mysteries, Yes” by Mary Oliver:

    Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
    to be understood.

    How grass can be nourishing in the
    mouths of the lambs.
    How rivers and stones are forever
    in allegiance with gravity
    while we ourselves dream of rising.
    How two hands touch and the bonds
    will never be broken.
    How people come, from delight or the
    scars of damage,
    to the comfort of a poem.

    Let me keep my distance, always, from those
    who think they have the answers.

    Let me keep company always with those who say
    “Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
    and bow their heads.

  25. Carlie says...

    This post is perfect! We are getting married in a few months and starting to look for readings.

    I’d love to see a similar post on the songs people chose for their ceremonies!

  26. briar says...

    I was asked to pick a reading for two dear friends’ wedding earlier in the year, and I really wanted something related to nature rather than the church. They got married on a beautiful hill overlooking the ocean. This was perfect.

    John Agard

    River, be their teacher,
    that together they may turn
    their future highs and lows
    into one hopeful flow

    Two opposite shores
    feeding from a single source.

    Mountain, be their milestone,
    that hand in hand they rise above
    familiarity’s worn tracks
    into horizons of their own
    Two separate footpaths
    dreaming of a common peak.

    Birdsong, be their mantra,
    that down the frail aisles of their days,
    their twilight hearts twitter morning
    and their dreams prove branch enough.

  27. Bonnie says...

    We chose this for our 2010 wedding, at a time when many of our gay friends couldn’t be legally married, as an acknowledgment to how lucky we were.

    From “Goodridge Vs. Department of Health” by MassachusettsnSupreme Court Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall

    Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations….Without question, civil marriage enhances the “welfare of
    the community.” It is a “social institution of the highest importance.” … Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on
    those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal
    commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family…. Because it 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.

  28. Kelly says...

    We got married a year ago and I remember googling “wedding readings that won’t make you vomit”!

    In the end we choose “I like you” by Stoddard which was read by my much younger teenage brother and sister so it was age appropriate and lovely.

    We also had Bob Marleys “he’s not perfect” which sounds terrible but was lovely.

    …………..He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.

    • Laura says...

      LOVE THIS!!!

  29. My partner and I eloped in NYC in February, which was incredibly romantic and no fuss, but later decided we’d also like to celebrate with our closest friends and family, which just happened on May 7. My father officiated our ceremony, and read the lyrics from The Velvet Underground’s “I’ll Be Your Mirror” as 45 of our closest friends and family gathered around us. My favourite part was when my dad choked up while he was reading through the lyrics… there wasn’t a dry eye in sight.

    “I’ll be your mirror
    Reflect what you are, in case you don’t know
    I’ll be the wind, the rain and the sunset
    The light on your door to show that you’re home

    When you think the night has seen your mind
    That inside you’re twisted and unkind
    Let me stand to show that you are blind
    Please put down your hands
    ‘Cause I see you

    I find it hard to believe you don’t know
    The beauty that you are
    But if you don’t let me be your eyes
    A hand in your darkness, so you won’t be afraid

    When you think the night has seen your mind
    That inside you’re twisted and unkind
    Let me stand to show that you are blind
    Please put down your hands
    ‘Cause I see you

    I’ll be your mirror”

    • sarah says...

      teared up reading this. beautiful.

  30. Getting married in 35 days, so this post and the comments are so timely and helpful. It has been so difficult to find the right reading!

    I’m not sure we’ll use this one in our ceremony, but I I’ve been collecting readings, and I haven’t seen this poem on here yet!

    Stubbornly, but Sarah Lindsay

    Pass by the showy rose,
    blabbing open,
    suckling a shiny beetle;

    pass by the changeless diamond
    that falls asleep in shadow—

    this love is a lichen,

    alga and fungus made one fleck,
    feeding on what it feeds,

    growing slightly faster than stone
    into a patch of gray lace,
    a double thumbprint,

    its bloom distinguishable, with practice,
    from its dormant phase,

    crocheting its singular habit
    over time, a faithful stain
    bound to its home,

    etching on the unmoved rock
    the only rune it knows.

  31. lin says...

    Poetry is very personal. I find poems/readings at weddings absolutely cringe-worthy. I’d prefer that they be left out.

  32. Hi Jo! Lovely post and answers. I had a contained but lovely outdoor wedding party in the truly special and atmospheric La Font Del Gat restaurant in the Montjuïc mountain in Barcelona. A small group of friends and family flew from Brazil and London to celebrate with us. Since we had already been legally married a few months before in Brazil and wouldn’t have that formal structure to the celebration in Barcelona, we chose to have some family members do a couple of readings in front of everyone anyway (under a lovely blooming tree). My favourite was the reading my sister did, of ee cumming’s “i carry your heart”. It had a personal significance for us as sisters, but later in life it indirectly brought me and my husband together. I was a mess of tears after she was done!

    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)

    (You can see our wedding photos here:, password 2may2015)

  33. Whitney says...

    Now that you’ve asked… both of my wedding readings came from your blog! I loved two things you shared: John Steinbeck’s letter to his son on falling in love as well as portions of George Saunders’ advice to graduates on choosing kindness, which in turn has become our family guiding principle.

  34. Christina R says...

    We had the EE Cummings poem I carry your heart with me and Blessing for a Marriage by James Dillet Freeman.

  35. Kendra says...

    We read excerpts from Harry Potter. Our vows were the vows read for Barney and Robin’s wedding on How I Met Your Mother.

    • Juliana says...

      What excerpts did you read? Looking for suggestions – trying to go through all 7 books but it’s taking a while.

    • I’m looking for Harry Potter excerpts to read as well! Curious which ones you read!

  36. Danielle says...

    The readings were my favorite part of the ceremony! We did:

    from Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road”
    I do not offer the old smooth prizes,
    But offer rough new prizes,
    These are the days that must happen to you:
    You shall not heap up what is called riches,
    You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve.
    However sweet the laid-up stores,
    However convenient the dwellings,
    You shall not remain there.
    However sheltered the port,
    And however calm the waters,
    You shall not anchor there.
    However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you
    You are permitted to receive it but a little while
    Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road,
    Healthy, free, the world before you,
    The long brown path before you,
    leading wherever you choose.
    Say only to one another:
    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?

    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,
    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.

    • Lauren says...

      Ugh, this is SO beautiful. I started sobbing part way through.

    • molly says...

      So touching. It made me weep.

  37. Zhasmene says...

    We used this quote:

    “You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)

    And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.

    PS You have to be brave.”

    ― Jeanette Winterson

    • Amy says...

      I’m so happy you posted this quote- I will be using it for my speech as a maid of honor next weekend. Thank you!

  38. Jen says...

    My husband and I chose a passage from Goodrich v. Massachusetts Department of Public Health. It’s a fairly popular wedding reading, but we met in law school and at the time I was very uneasy about marrying when I knew so many loved ones were not legally permitted to. The act of reading this case law felt as though we were honoring that ultimate right to marriage equality that our legal system had not fully embraced.

    Our second reading was from a fairy tale–More than Salt. (A version of which can be found here–A-Fairy-Tale–by-Kyddryn). From the time my husband first began telling me he loved me, he would tell me that he loved me more than salt. Given our love of food, it was the most apt way to express our love for each other.

    With respect to the former, when the Supreme Court finally ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same sex sex couples had a fundamental right to marry, my husband and I brought our two children out to celebrate in the streets of Manhattan. The photo of us with our infant son and toddler daughter, joyously waving our rainbow flags, only serves as a reminder of the joy we felt the day we were married–and the joy we hope all couples will have in the future.

  39. VP says...

    That Hafiz poem is my absolute favorite, and the one I posted on Facebook the day before my wedding. Thanks so much for that sweet reminder!

  40. Martha says...

    We chose Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII, which is so lovely. We also used one of my favorite poems “La Vita Nuova” by Dante on the programs.

    In that book which is
    My memory . . .
    On the first page
    That is the chapter when
    I first met you
    Appear the words . . .
    Here begins a new life

    • Carly says...

      I love that.

  41. sandy says...

    Just finished proofing the wedding program for my son’s wedding today! They are having the Apache Blessing read and using Justice Anthony Kennedy’s beautifully written paragraph from the ruling on same sex marriage sprinkled throughout. What a timely topic!

  42. The minute I heard my first love story, / I started looking for you, not knowing / how blind that was. / Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. / They’re in each other all along. – Rumi

    It was exactly how we felt, like we’d always been in each other.

  43. Joey says...

    One of our readings was Instructions for Life by the Dalai Lama

  44. I got married in 2012 and had a variation of this quote read at my wedding:

    “Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become 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 of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”
    ― Louis de Bernières, Corelli’s Mandolin

    What’s so interesting is… we got divorced two years later. I still truly love the quote, but now it just seems so fitting that we had chosen it at our wedding. Even then I realized that the being “in love” had already burned away.

  45. Lara says...

    I attended 3 weddings in 3 months earlier this year, and the readings each couple selected were very special. My favourites were Sandol Stoddart’s poem “I Like You”, Reagan’s letter to his son on the eve of his wedding (the bride’s 89-year-old granddad was the reader – you can imagine the waterworks), and excerpts from Obergefell v Hodges – the prose expounded in the majority judgment is beautiful and universal in its sentiment.

  46. E says...

    My favorite from a friend’s ceremony was a Chinese poem (read in English and Chinese) :

    Married Love – Kuan Tao-Sheng (1263 – 1319)
    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 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 the same bed.

  47. HannH says...

    I have been struggling to find a reading for my friends’ wedding for a year. This post has many wonderful ideas. Thanks Joanne, and your lovely readers!

  48. Laurel says...

    We were married at city hall in SF and had a record quick ceremony. A few days later we had a big party to celebrate (we had parents and one friend attend the ceremony). A guest gave us a card with this quote “marriage is not for sissies. It’s a lot like life, only with more fun parts. Some “experts” will try and tell you what to do, ignore them. The only trick is to show up every day with an open heart.” It’s really stuck with me and something I think on when we fight or I’m overwhelmed. It’s never stopped being true for me, so that’s something!

  49. Erika says...

    No real readings, but we asked my cousin’s husband, a Rabbi, to “open” the festivities. Our family isn’t Jewish (my cousin converted), so while he was unable to perform the actual ceremony, his sweet sentiments set the tone for the whole evening. And still bring tears to my eyes!

  50. Meghan W. says...

    What a fun post! We chose a passage from Khalil Gibran’s On Marriage, though the whole thing is quite beautiful:
    You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
    You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
    Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
    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.

  51. Lucy S says...

    We had a little snippet from Hemmingway which was lovely but in retrospect not as meaningful as this short piece from Homer that was printed on our orders of service:

    “For there is nothing better or more excellent than when two people manage a household with a United mind, the husband and wife together. They are a great joy to their friends, a grief to their foes, but they know it best themselves.”

    And we do!

    • Lucy S says...

      Argh autocorrect!

  52. Lauren says...

    We used a selection from the book The Pine Island Paradox by Kathleen Dean Moore. We loved it because it very much embodies the way we feel about each other, as well as the feelings we have about some of the special places we’ve come to love together as a couple.

    To love – a person and a place – means at least this:
    Number 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.
    Number Five: To protect it – fiercely, mindlessly, futilely, and maybe tragically, but to be helpless to do otherwise.
    Number 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.

    I know there’s something important missing from my list, but I’m struggling to put it into words. Loving isn’t just a state of being, it’s a way of acting in the world. Love isn’t a sort of bliss, it’s a kind of work. To love a person is to act lovingly toward him, to make his needs my own. To love a place is to care for it, to keep it healthy, to attend to its needs. Obligation grows from love. It is the natural shape of caring.

    Number ten, I write in my notebook: To love a person or a place is to take responsibility for its well-being.

  53. Stephanie says...

    Late to the commenting game but wanted to add: we did a snippet from Walt Whitman’s Song of the Open Road. In the months leading up to the wedding we were studying for the bar exam and two days after the wedding we left on a six week long honeymoon road trip around the United States, so it felt particularly relevant:

    “Allons! the road is before us!
    It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!

    Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
    Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
    Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
    Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.

    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?”

  54. Our officiant had a really nice reading that I have tucked away and can’t remember, but when I heard “i carry your heart with me” by e.e. cummings read by Cameron Diaz in the movie “In Her Shoes”, I wished we had that too!

    i carry your heart with me

    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 the 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)

    • Kaitlin says...

      We thought about using the e.e. cummings poem. In the end, we went with two very fun, frivolous, but ultimately appropriate pieces: “Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog” by Taylor Mali and an excerpt from A A Milne.

  55. Love that Hafiz poem!! All right, I have to add mine, even though there’s already so many comments! I still adore the text we chose, by my favorite author ever, Frederick Buechner. It’s both realistic and hopeful, and just beautifully written.

    “They say they will love, comfort, honour each other to the end of their days. They say they will cherish each other and be faithful to each other always. They say they will do these things not just when they feel like it but even – for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health – when they don’t feel like it at all. In other words, the vows they make at a marriage could hardly be more extravagant. They give away their freedom. They take on themselves each other’s burdens. They bind their lives together in ways that are even more painful to unbind emotionally, humanly, than they are to unbind legally. The question is: what do they get in return?

    They get each other in return. Assuming they have any success at all in keeping their rash, quixotic promises, they never have to face the world quite alone again. There will always be the other to talk to, to listen to. If they’re lucky, even after the first passion passes, they still have a kindness and patience to depend on, a chance to be patient and kind. There is still someone to get through the night with, to wake into the new day beside. If they have children, they can give them, as well as each other, roots and wings. If they don’t have children, they each become each other’s child.

    They both still have their lives apart as well as a life together. They both still have their separate ways to find. But a marriage made in Heaven is one where a man and a woman become more richly themselves together than the chances are either of them could ever have managed to become alone. When Jesus changed the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, perhaps it was a way of saying more or less the same thing.”

  56. Kate says...

    Didn’t see this one up, but we included in our ceremony.

    Nothing Twice, by Wislawa Szymborska

    Nothing can ever happen twice.
    In consequence, the sorry fact is
    that we arrive here improvised
    and leave without the chance to practice.

    Even if there is no one dumber,
    if you’re the planet’s biggest dunce,
    you can’t repeat the class in summer:
    this course is only offered once.

    No day copies yesterday,
    no two nights will teach what bliss is
    in precisely the same way,
    with precisely the same kisses.

    One day, perhaps some idle tongue
    mentions your name by accident:
    I feel as if a rose were flung
    into the room, all hue and scent.

    The next day, though you’re here with me,
    I can’t help looking at the clock:
    A rose? A rose? What could that be?
    Is it a flower or a rock?

    Why do we treat the fleeting day
    with so much needless fear and sorrow?
    It’s in its nature not to stay:
    Today is always gone tomorrow.

    With smiles and kisses, we prefer
    to seek accord beneath our star,
    although we’re different (we concur)
    just as two drops of water are.

  57. Amy Eriksmoen says...

    We had part of a letter John Steinbeck wrote to his son talking about love. We were on maybe our second date when the subject of the website Letters of Note came up and we realized we had both recently read this letter and loved it. I remember sitting at the narrow counter of the burger joint with my (now) husband and feeling like I was in a magic moment while talking about it with him. We both are very impulsive by nature and the last line really resonated with both of us. It still gives me shivers thinking about it. Here is the part we used:

    First — if you are in love — that’s a good thing — that’s about the best thing that can happen to anyone. Don’t let anyone make it small or light to you.

    Second — There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you — of kindness and consideration and respect — not only the social respect of manners but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak but the second can release in you strength, and courage and goodness and even wisdom you didn’t know you had.

    Glory in it for one thing and be very glad and grateful for it.

    The object of love is the best and most beautiful. Try to live up to it.

    And don’t worry about losing. If it is right, it happens — The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.

  58. Sonja says...

    We read Songs of Soloman 8:6-7. I sang a song in choir based on the verses and it stuck with me, particularly the image of the seal.

    “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.”

  59. My husband and I, both lawyers, were inspired by the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. As soon as the opinion was released and I read the poetic words of Justice Kennedy, I knew it had to be part of our wedding ceremony. We chose the following excerpt and it was very well received:

    The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations.
    Choices about marriage shape an individual’s destiny. “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.” The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality.
    Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out only to find no one there. It offers the hope of companionship and understanding and assurances that while both still live there will be someone to care for the other.
    No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than they once were.

    • This is truly beautiful! A great idea xxx

  60. Rebecca says...

    My mum read a beautiful section of Rilke, and our best friends each chose a reading (we didn’t know what until the day!) They were all lovely- a Neruda poem that means a lot to the friend, my husband and me; a tiny bit of Raymond Carver that said everything… All lovely and chosen for us by our loved ones. We were never worried about what they’d choose, and the fact that they picked them not us was so incredibly meaningful.
    The biggest surprise was my best friend who gave a quote from Satan’s wife about the gloriousness of chance but also spoke really movingly about the lengths she would go to to protect and support our marriage. We all wept buckets, particularly because she is someone who rarely talks explicitly about her feelings. It still makes me weepy thinking about it.

  61. Sarah Christine says...

    Wow, the irony of this post!! I was married 3 weeks ago and was SCOURING the internet for wedding readings, exactly for this reason. We were excited about the prospect of something literary and cute and meaningful but along the way I realized that all of my favorite love stories are somewhat… tragic :) Maybe that’s why they make great stories! Anyway, after months and months of searching and reading, my wonderful fiance (husband!) wrote something himself. We had our dear friend read it (very dramatically!) and didn’t tell anyone that John wrote it. It was perfect. Anyway, I would have killed for this post a month ago but it turned out so much better without. Thanks for sharing, everyone!

  62. Sarah says...

    Thank you so much to Joanna and Everyone, we are getting married in 35 days(AHH) and this really is the hardest part of the wedding so far. I love so many of these but so far “I like you” might be my favorite.

  63. Karrie says...

    We used FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE by Regina Hill
    “Love, trust, and forgiveness are the foundations of marriage. In marriage, many days will bring happiness, while other days may be sad. But together, two hearts can overcome everything. In marriage, all of the moments won’t be exciting or romantic, and sometimes worries and anxiety will be overwhelming. But together, two hearts that accept will find comfort together. Recollections of past joys, pains, and shared feelings will be the glue that holds everything together during even the worst and most insecure moments. Reaching out to each other as a friend, and becoming the confidant and companion that the other one needs, is the true magic and beauty of any two people together. It’s inspiring in each other a dream or a feeling, and having faith in each other and not giving up… even when all the odds say to quit. It’s allowing each other to be vulnerable, to be himself or herself, even when the opinions or thoughts aren’t in total agreement or exactly what you’d like them to be. It’s getting involved and showing interest in each other, really listening and being available, the way any best friend should be.

    Exactly three things need to be remembered in a marriage if it is to be a mutual bond of sharing, caring, and loving throughout life: love, trust, and forgiveness.”

  64. Veronica says...

    We had a really hard time with this as well! We ended up finding a box of old letters from my husband’s grandfather to his grandmother and used the beautiful letter he wrote to her the day before their wedding as our reading. Luckily for us his grandfather was a phenomenal writer. Our guests loved it and his family really appreciated how their legacy was incorporated into our ceremony.

    • Leigh says...

      So many years after you posted this but I was reading through (and loving) these comments and this made me burst into tears. How powerful and beautiful.

  65. lynda says...

    I think the book “The Big O Meets The Missing Piece” by Shel Silverstein is lovely. If I took a different turn in my life that book would have been what was read at my wedding.

  66. Meredith says...

    We had two poems that mutual friends of ours read. The first, “The Master Speed” by Robert Frost is now framed and hanging on our living room wall. I love it so much:

    No speed of wind or water rushing by
    But you have speed far greater. You can climb
    Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
    And back through history up the stream of time.
    And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
    Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
    But in the rush of everything to waste,
    That you may have the power of standing still-
    Off any still or moving thing you say.
    Two such as you with such a master speed
    Cannot be parted nor be swept away
    From one another once you are agreed
    That life is only life forevermore
    Together wing to wing and oar to oar

  67. margaret says...

    We had two poems. One was Rilke–I don’t remember it. It was a little too formal and intense for us, though I love Rilke. But I still love the other poem:
    Robert Frost’s “The Pasture”. The line “–You come too” with the dash and the capital “You” still moves me.

  68. Tovah says...

    This post is a GOLD MINE! I wish It’d been around when we were building our ceremony; we finalized it with less than 24 hours to go, while sticking flowers in jars in the living room. We went with Thich Nhat Hanh and Velveteen Rabbit.

  69. Jillian says...

    We had a dear friend read “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss. We try not to take ourselves too seriously, but funnily enough the reading was surprisingly moving and had us all in tears (including my dad). It was a touching moment I’ll never forget.

  70. Jen says...

    YES! I’ve been waiting/hoping for this post. Thanks Jo!

  71. I just got tears in my eyes reading Union! What a gorgeous and yet completely unfussy reading.

  72. TC says...

    We had an excerpt from the end of Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Love”:

    What a difference, whether, in all your walks, you meet only strangers, or in one house is one who knows you, and whom you know. To have a brother or a sister! To have a gold mine on your farm! To find diamonds in the gravel heaps before your door! How rare these things are! To share the day with you–to people the earth. Whether to have a god or a goddess for companion in your walks, or to walk alone with hinds and villains and carles. Would not a friend enhance the beauty of the landscape as much as a deer or hare? Everything would acknowledge and serve such a relation; the corn in the field, and the cranberries in the meadow. The flowers would bloom, and the birds sing, with a new impulse. There would be more fair days in the year.

    The object of love expands and grows before us to eternity, until it includes all that is lovely, and we become all that can love.

  73. Carole says...

    My husband and I wrote each other lovey emails every single day for the 2 years before we got married – so when it came time to deciding on readings I struggled with this as well. Our minister really got to know us and somehow this came about – and he said “why don’t you use the letters you write to each other?” So we decided to each pick a handful of letters we had written to each other (to keep the element of surprise) and turned those into our readings. We had our closest friends and family read the snippets. It was perfect for our small intimate wedding :)

  74. liz says...

    We used this sonnet from Edna St. Vincent Millay. For us it struck a perfect balance of realistic romance without getting too sentimental.

    Love is Not All (Sonnet XXX)
    Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1892 – 1950

    Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
    Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
    Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
    And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
    Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
    Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
    Yet many a man is making friends with death
    Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
    It well may be that in a difficult hour,
    Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
    Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
    I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
    Or trade the memory of this night for food.
    It well may be. I do not think I would.

  75. jen says...

    Thank goodness this wasnt a thing when we married. We were both in tears anyway, so it would have been a sobfest!

  76. Brenda says...

    Our reading was a poem by Aldous Huxley, the author of Brave New World. I think it captures that space between people that is love and fellowship:

    We apprehend Him in the alternate voids and fullness of a cathedral; in the space that separates the
    salient features of a picture; in the living geometry of a flower, a seashell, an animal; in the pauses
    and intervals between the notes of music, in their difference of tones and sonority; and finally, on the
    plane of conduct, in love and gentleness, the confidence and humility, which give beauty to the
    relationships between human beings.

  77. Liz says...

    My aunt married my brother and his now wife as she is an ordained Presbyterian minister. They let her take care of the whole ceremony, including the readings. I found out at the rehearsal that she had chosen some Emily Dickinson poem for me to read. Something about “docking my ship at your shore”… I try to block it out because it was basically a sex poem. I had to read a sex poem at my brother’s wedding and I wasn’t happy about it.

    • Joanna Goddard says...


  78. Sabrina says...

    We read e.e. cummings, I carry your heart and the Prayer of St. Francis.

    Although, for years I loved this poem by Nikki Giovanni (and still wish I would’ve read it at the ceremony)
    The Journey
    It’s a journey . . . that I propose . . . I am not the guide . . . nor technical assistant . . . I will be your fellow passenger . . .
    Though the rail has been ridden . . . winter clouds cover . . . autumn’s exuberant quilt . . . we must provide our own guide-posts . . .
    I have heard . . . from previous visitors . . . the road washes out sometimes . . . and passengers are compelled . . . to continue groping . . . or turn back . . . I am not afraid . . .
    I am not afraid . . . of rough spots . . . or lonely times . . . I don’t fear . . . the success of this endeavor . . . I am Ra . . . in a space . . . not to be discovered . . . but invented . . .
    I promise you nothing . . . I accept your promise . . . of the same we are simply riding . . . a wave . . . that may carry . . . or crash . . .

    It’s a journey . . . and I want . . . to go . . .

  79. Amy Mixell says...

    My grandfather read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Wedding Poem at my small family wedding.

    Lord, behold our family here assembled.
    We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
    for the love that unites us,
    for the peace accorded us this day,
    for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
    for the health, the work, the food,
    and the bright skies that make our lives delightful;
    for our friends in all parts of the earth.

    And I read I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg at my brother’s wedding. It is a sweet and vintage children’s book but I could barely get through it without crying “I would go on choosing you and you would go on choosing me over and over again.” Because isn’t that what marrying someone is all about?

  80. Nina says...

    I’m not married and don’t ever plan on it but my, these are all so beautiful. I love them! thanks for sharing everyone.

  81. Julianne says...

    I read the kick-ass 18th century American poet Anne Bradstreet’s lovely, “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” I completely cried while reading it – it is short, concise, perfect, so full of immense love. I don’t know why more people don’t read this lovely ode!:

    If ever two were one, then surely we.
    If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
    If ever wife was happy in a man,
    Compare with me ye women if you can.
    I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
    Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
    My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
    Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
    Thy love is such I can no way repay;
    The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
    Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
    That when we live no more we may live ever.

  82. Kate says...

    I’m getting married in September and in addition to a bible reading (song of Songs), we’re going to use excerpts from Obergefell v. Hodges, Kennedy’s majority decision legalizing gay marriage. It’s important to us to underscore marriage as an important civil institution as well as a religious one.

    • Allison says...

      OMG ME TOO! same <3

  83. I loved and related to this post. It was a challenge worth taking to find a wedding reading that was personal and unique. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to following along!