To create a beautiful and powerful wedding ceremony, your wedding officiant will strive to weave together your past, present, and future as a couple. A collection of just the right words, placed in just the right order, tells the story of who you are, touching the hearts of everyone within earshot. Readings play an important role in that narrative.
Yes, you may already know you want to incorporate readings to help define this moment, but perhaps you don’t know where to begin. Readings and quotes can come from almost any source, but here are some classic sources to consider.
Many rely on their faith as a GPS for life. I officiated a wedding for a couple who ascribes to this philosophy. Here are a few readings they chose, setting the tone for their sacred ceremony.
- 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs…”
- Ecclesiastes 3: 1-14 “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up…”
- Song of Solomon 2: 10-13 “My beloved speaks and says to me: Arise, my love, my beautiful one, and come away, for behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, And the voice of the turtledove Is heard in our land…”
As an officiant, when couples tell me their love stories, I often hear their words set to music, almost like a soundtrack to their lives, and I think of the perfect song. Here are a few recent situations and the songs I suggested.
- Samantha and Ronny were separated during Ronny’s military tour in Afghanistan. In an effort to feel close to her after he’d been away a while, Ronny asked Sam to go outside and look at the stars. He promised to do the same. The lyrics I read were from the song Wishing on the Same Star by Diane Eve Warren. Incidentally, when Sam went outside, Ronny was standing there. He had finished his tour and come home to marry her.
- Brittany and Dave met in the second grade and were each other’s best friend until life took them on different paths after college. After being apart for six years, each came home to the other, physically and emotionally, and married. The song lyrics I chose for them was You’re My Home by Billy Joel.
- If you use song lyrics in your ceremony, consider using that same song as your first dance. You’ve introduced the lyrics to your guests in your ceremony, and then they get to hear it during your reception. How about I Choose You, written by Sarah Bareilles or A Thousand Years written by Christina Perry?
Think of all the great love stories portrayed in movies. Do any of them sound like yours? Here are a few epic examples to inspire you.
- Replace the words in When Harry Met Sally with those that apply to you, “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts….”
- In The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks writes, “I am who I am because of you. You are every reason, every hope, every dream I’ve ever had….Every day we have together is the greatest day of my life….”
- Love Disney classics? Steal a scene from Pocahontas, “If I never knew you, If I never felt this love, I would have no inkling of how precious life can be…”
It seems like I’m stating the obvious, but books are a great source of readings. Whether you’re looking for pretty prose or silly sonnets, books are where it’s at.
- This is from The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach. “A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are…”
- Children’s books provide a clear path to truths. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams is a bride favorite. “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real…”
- The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle is one that my own husband chose for our wedding. “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…”
Poets are the ultimate artists, using words as their medium to express the profound mysteries of love. Weaving poems into your ceremony will add a sense of romance like nothing else can.
- The works of Maya Angelou are provocative. Here is one of her classics called 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…”
- In a recent wedding I officiated, two people read this e.e. cummings poem in concert. The second person read the words in parenthesis. “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)…”
- Graham was a gardener. A tree in his future mother-in-law’s yard was dying. Together, Graham and his fiancé Erin, nurtured it back to life until it bore fruit. Erin chose the poem Together, by Jo Lynn Wood as her reading. “Two trees near to each other stood when they were young and life was new. Their limbs reach out and their branches entwine and thus together they grew…”
Another important reading resource is your officiant. Use these examples as a starting point when searching for the perfect words to describe your unique love story. If not these, it’s likely your JP has a notebook full of beautiful words for you to choose from.
Find your perfect JP at findaJP.com
Cindy Dumont is a Justice of the Peace in North Hampton, New Hampshire.