We've rounded up a beautiful and cheese-free selection of wedding readings for your big day
Combing through wedding readings for your big day? It’s one of those wedding planning tasks you can’t really rush. You are, after all, looking for a collection of words that distil the relationship between you and your significant other in a meaningful, non-cheesy way. Is that best reflected in a Shakespearean sonnet (something of a wedding readings classic) or an extract from Winnie the Pooh? A droll but meaningful song lyric or a bit of William Wordsworth?
These days, like wedding style, almost anything goes when it comes to wedding readings (though if you’re getting married in a church it’s worth sounding out your priest first, as some might veto a very modern one) which makes the selection of readings to choose from pretty extensive.
To get you started, we’ve picked fifteen of our favourites wedding readings. Good news is, unlike virtually everything else on your big day, these won’t put a dent in your wedding budget.
1) Extract from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
‘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. 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.’
Why we love it: it’s beautiful and meaningful without being too cheesy (two ideals on your wedding readings checklist) and there’s also extra significance if you loved the book.
2) Bob Marley on love…
‘She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together – but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyse and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.’
Why we love it: the simplicity of this wedding reading makes it a great choice for couples with a low cheese tolerance. Also ideal for Bob Marley fans.
3) I carry your heart by E.E. Cummings
‘I carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)
I fear no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) I want no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
Here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
I carry your heart (I carry it in my heart)‘
Why we love it: E.E Cummings does excellent wedding readings.
4) Extract from The Good Morrow by John Donne
‘I wonder by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
‘Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be;
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.’
Why we love it: Donne is another solid wedding reading choice. The whole poem works just as well as a wedding reading, but if you want something shorter this is a particularly beautiful extract.
5) Letter from Johnny Cash to June Carter (1994)
‘We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others’ minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit.
Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.’
Why we love it: it captures the feeling of finding your soulmate in an uncomplicated way (though anyone who’s seen Walk The Line might possibly hope for an easier marriage than theirs)
6) The Apache wedding prayer
Now you will feel no rain, For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold, For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness, For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies, But there is one life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place, To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth.
Why we love it: it’s unfussy but beautiful
7) Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
‘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 wandering 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 proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.‘
Why we love it: sometimes there’s a reason why a wedding reading is really popular. As poems about love go, if in doubt go Shakespeare or go home
8) I wanna be yours by John Cooper-Clarke
‘I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours
I wanna be your raincoat
for those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
when you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours
I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
you’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
that’s how deep is my devotion.’
Why we love it: If you want to tickle your guests with a funny wedding reading rather than have them weeping in the pews, then this is a good pick (or if you’re going for multiple wedding readings this would be offset nicely with something more serious)
9) Extract from A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
‘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.’
Why we love it: it’s subtler than a lot of other wedding readings but still gets the point across
10) Extract from Blue-eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas
‘I no longer believed in the idea of soul mates, or love at first sight. But I was beginning to believe that a very few times in your life, if you were lucky, you might meet someone who was exactly right for you. Not because he was perfect, or because you were, but because your combined flaws were arranged in a way that allowed two separate beings to hinge together.’
Why we love it: this would also work nicely as one of those order of service intros for guests to read when they’re waiting for you to arrive in your knockout wedding dress
11) Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
‘People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.’
Why we love it: It’s the perfect length compared to some wedding readings and a lovely extended simile.
12) Extract from Every Day by David Levithan
‘This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be.’
Why we love it: beautiful but not too flowery
13) Albert Einstein on relativity
‘Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.’
Why we love it: again this one’s not too flowery – and highly topical if you happen to be marrying a scientist (bit of a niche sub-story there: wedding readings for scientists)
14) Delirium by Lauren Oliver
‘Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the centre of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.‘
Why we love it: sometimes the simplest wedding readings are the best.
15) Extract from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
‘You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.’
Why we love it: a wedding reading from Les Mis? What’s not to love!
16) Soul Mates by Lang Leav
‘I don’t know how you are so familiar to me — or why it feels less like I am getting to know you and more as though I am remembering who you are. How every smile, every whisper brings me closer to the impossible conclusion that I have known you before, I have loved you before — in another time, a different place, some other existence.’
Why we love it: it feels beautifully earnest
17) Extract from Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
‘When you love someone; you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity — in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern. The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits — islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.’
Why we love it: it’s great relationship advice
18) Extract from Plato’s 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. There were three sexes then: one comprised of two men called the children of the Sun, one made of two women called the children of the Earth, and a third made of a man and a woman, called the children of the Moon. 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. Those whose original nature lies with the children of the Sun are men who are drawn to other men, those from the children of the Earth are women who love other women, and those from the children of the Moon are men and women drawn to one another. 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.’
Why we love it: it’s a long one, but it’s so elegantly written
19) Extract from De Imitatio Christi by Thomas à Kempis
‘Love often knows no limits but overflows all bounds. Love feels no burden, thinks nothing of troubles, attempts more than it is able, and does not plead impossibility, because it believes that it may and can do all things. For this reason, it is able to do all, performing and effecting much where he who does not love fails and falls.
‘Love is watchful. Sleeping, it does not slumber. Wearied, it is not tired. Pressed, it is not straitened. Alarmed, it is not confused, but like a living flame, a burning torch, it forces its way upward and passes unharmed through every obstacle.’
Why we love it: it’s touching – and as wedding readings go, it’s definitely a tear-jerker!