When couples get in touch with me about carrying out their ceremonies I usually send them a blue print of how it could all go. This is very much the beginning rather than the end of a process but helps to shape ideas. I usually explain that the ceremony is divided into three parts, the first about them: their story, loves and hates and so on, the second part is more formal and the final part would be vows and rings. Using readings I try to split up these three distinct parts of the ceremony and usually suggest doing a couple. Below you will find some example readings and on the following tab there are some fun ones that I have come across over the years. A song or poem or personal insights or music might replace a reading ... as with almost everything in a symbolic ceremony, it is very much up to you.
Here is a great link to a page with many readings that are on the web and some that are not.
Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
1. Love One Another
Love one another with all your hearts.
Give more than you take.
Don't ever take your relationship for granted.
Have heart to heart talks and really communicate.
Be trusting, playful, intimate and kind.
Appreciate all the little, special things.
Recognize that time spent together is a treasure.
Make the most of what each day brings.
Know that nothing is sweeter than the warmth of one hand within another.
Walk together in the direction you want to go.
Be supportive and sharing and open to change.
Always continue to grow.
Cherish the blessing, which so few truly find.
Have dreams to reach out for through the years.
Share one another's smiles through the good times.
Be everything to one another through the tears.
What your time together lacks in quantity, make up for with quality.
Call to say, "I love You" in the middle of the day.
Keep your sense of humor and hold on to your hopes.
Don't let work or worries get in the way.
Make love a sanctuary and a celebration.
Make each moment more precious and each season gladder.
Realize how lucky you are to be two ... together.
And make the best memories any two people ever had.
2. Every Two Unique
"No human relationship gives one possession of another - every two persons are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together, to find what one cannot reach alone.
Learn to see the greatness and the loveliness in one another - and to tell one another of it when you see it. If you accept the sunshine and warmth, you must also accept the thunder and the lightning.
Among intelligent people the surest basis for marriage is friendship - the sharing of real interests - the ability to work out ideas together and understand each other's thoughts and dreams."
3. Friendship (Judy Bielicki)
It is often said that it is love that makes the world go round. However, without doubt, it is friendship that keeps our spinning existence on an even keel. True friendship provides so many of the essentials for a happy life - it is the strong foundation on which to build an enduring relationship, it is the mortar which bonds us together in harmony, and it is the calm, warm protection we sometimes need when the world outside seems cold and chaotic. True friendship holds a mirror to our foibles and failings, without destroying our sense of worthiness. True friendship nurtures our hopes, supports us in our disappointments, and encourages us to grow to our best potential. Name and Name come together as friends. Today, they pledge to each other not only their love, but also the strength, warmth and, most importantly, the fun of true friendship.
4. Through the Years
Through the years we have learned
A lot about each other,
And we have grown together.
We have learned about forgiveness;
It takes two understanding people
To accept one another's faults
And still find it in their hearts
To forgive each other
And forget old arguments
We have learned about friendship;
Friends stick together,
they're always truthful to each other,
And they always comfort one another
In times of turmoil.
Most of all, we have learned about love.
It is something that takes time,
And after all our time together,
Our love has never been stronger.
5. Taking Into Your Care
You are now taking into your care and keeping the happiness of the one person in all the world whom you love best. You are adding to your life not only the affection of each other, but also the companionship and blessing of a deep trust as well. You are agreeing to share strength, responsibilities and to share love.
6. Blessing of the Apaches
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.
7. Treat Yourselves With Respect
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, difficulty 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.
8. Blessing for a Marriage (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 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 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.
May you enter into the mystery, which 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.
9. Kahlil' Gibran's much-loved verse "On Marriage" (The Prophet)
You were born to be together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the wings of death scatter your days.
A)\ you shall be together even in your silent memory.
But let there be spaces 'in your togetherness,
and let the winds of the heaven dance between you.
Love one another, but make not bondage 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 of the same loaf
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each' 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.
10. The Art of a Good Marriage II (Wilferd Arlan Peterson)
Across the years I'll walk with you, in deep green forest, on shores of sand,
and when our time on earth is through, in heaven too, you will have my hand.
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage
must be created. In the art of marriage, the little things are the big things:
It is never being too old to hold hands. It is remembering to say, I love you,
once each day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is forming a circle of love
that gathers in the whole family.
It is at no time taking for granted. The courtship should not end with
the honeymoon, but continue through all the years. It is doing things for each
other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is the speaking of words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in
thoughtful ways: It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding, and a sense of humor.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is finding room for the
things of the spirit. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is not marrying the right partner; it is being the right partner.
(Many couples choose to end there, although the reading concludes with
this line:) It is discovering what marriage can be at its best, as expressed
in the words of Mark Twain used in a tribute to his wife:
"Wherever she was, there was Eden”
11. by Roy Croft
I love you,
Not only for what you are
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you,
For putting your hand
Into my . . . heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.
I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.
12. The Greatest Gift (Katharine Whiteside Taylor; adapted)
All things I would give my love,.
All things tender, caring, serving, true.
I would enwrap her in my loving arms
And shield her from all stress and pain.
I would enchant him with the vision bright
Of those rare gifts that are his deepest self
And I would carry her on wings of joy
To all the heights the soul of man, can know.
13. by Rainer Maria Rilke
For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.
Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person. It is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distance .
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.
14. excerpt Gift from the Sea, (Anne Morrow Lindbergh)
(....a wonderful reading for .musicians, dancers, and lovers of music!)
A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country-dance of Mozart's. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back-it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.
15. (by Walt Whitman)
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:
Camerada, 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 together as long as we shall live?
16. Sonnet 16, (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.
0, 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.
17. Sonnet 43 (Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old grief’s, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose .
With my lost saints, I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! and if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Apart from Love, everything passes away. The way to heaven is in your heart.
Open and lift the wings of Love! When Love's wings are strong, you need no ladder.
Though the world be thorns, a lover's heart is a bower of roses.
Though heaven's wheel be mired down, lovers' lives go forward.
Invite love into each dark corner.
The lover is bright as a hundred thousand candles!
Even if a lover seems to be alone, the secret Beloved is nearby.
The time-span of union is eternity. The life is a jar, and in it,
union is the pure wine. If we aren't together, of what use is the jar?
The moment I heard my first love story I began seeking you,
not realizing the search was useless. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere;
they are in one another's souls all along.
19. (author unknown)
What is a Friend? I'll tell you.
It is a person with whom you dare to be yourself
Your soul can go naked with him.
He seems to, ask you to put on nothing, only to be what you really are. When you are with her, you do not have to be on your guard.
You can say what you think, as long as it is genuinely you.
She understands those contradictions in your nature that cause others to misjudge you.
With her you breathe freely. You can avow your little vanities
and envies and absurdities and in opening them up to her,
they are dissolved on the white ocean of loyalty.
He understands. You can weep with him, laugh with him,
pray with him:
Through and underneath it all he sees; knows and loves you.
20. (From a letter by Vincent van Gogh to his brother, Theo)
I want to paint men and women with something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize. . . . To express the love of two lovers by a wedding of two complementary colors, their mingling and opposition, the mysterious vibration of kindred tones. To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a somber background. To express hope by some star, the eagerness of a soul by a sunset radiance.
21. "Somewhere I have never travelled" (E. E. Cummings)
somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which I cannot touch because they are too near
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
or if your wish be to close me, I and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;
nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing
(I do not know-what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands
22. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint Exupéry)
In Antoine de' Saint Exupery's classic story, the Little Prince came upon a flower that he believed to be unique-only to discover a field of roses just like his own. He was disappointed, until his encounter with the fox, who taught him an important lesson. Afterward, the Little Prince went back once more to look at the garden of roses, now with new eyes. Here is a passage from The Little Prince:
"You are not at all like my rose," he said. ''As; yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world. . . .
"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you-the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses; because it is she that I have watered. . . because it is she that I have sheltered. . . because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose."
And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye," he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. ''And now here is my secret, a very simple secret:
It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye. . . . It is the time you have devoted to your rose that makes your rose so important
. . . You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose."
23. (from an unknown author of ancient Egypt)
I breathe the sweet breath, which comes forth fromThy mouth. I behold Thy beauty every day. It is my desire that I may hear Thy sweet voice, even on the north wind, that my limbs may be rejuvenated with life through love of Thee. Give me Thy hands, holding Thy spirit that I may receive it and may live by it. Call Thou upon my name unto eternity, and it shall never fail.
24. "Fidelity" (D. H. Lawrence)
And man and woman are like the earth that brings forth flowers
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae,
older than plasm altogether is the soul of a man underneath.
And when, throughout all the wild orgasms of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten rocks
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks, a man's heart and a woman's,
that is the crystal of peace, the slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.
25. adapted from Iphigeneia at Aulis, by Euripides
Let me know love within reason, and desire within marriage, and feel your presence.
The natures of humans are various, and human ways of acting are different,
but everyone knows what is right, and teaching inclines them at last to virtue.
Humility is wisdom, making us see the right way as something beautiful.
And from this beauty honor is born and life earns immortal fame.
It is a great thing, the pursuit of virtue: at home, it is a stillness in their love;
in the world, multiplied ten thousand times among citizens, it makes a city great.
26. "Wedding Song" (Naomi Long Madgett)
I cannot swear with any certainty
That I will always feel as I do now,
Loving you with the same fierce ecstasy,
Needing the same your lips upon my brow.
Nor can I promise stars forever bright
Or vow green leaves will never turn to gold.
I cannot see beyond this present night
To say what promises the dawn may behold.
And yet I know my heart must follow you
High up to hilltops, low through vales of tears,
Through golden days and days of somber hue.
And love will only deepen with the years
Becoming sun and shadow, wind and rain,
Wine that grows mellow, bread that will sustain.
27. Sonnet 17 (Pablo Neruda)
I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul
I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way
than this: where I do not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
28. Margaret Atwood
I would like to watch you sleeping,
which may not happen.
I would like to watch you, sleeping.
I would like to sleep with you,
to enter your sleep as its smooth dark wave
slides over my head.
and walk with you through that lucent
wavering forest of blue green leaves
with its watery sun & three moons
towards the cave where you must descend,
towards your worst fear
I would like to give you the silver branch,
the small white flower, the one word
that will protect you
from the grief at the center
of your dream, from the grief
at the center. I would like to follow
you up the long stairway
again & become
the boat that would row you back
carefully, a flame
in two cupped hands
to where your body lies
beside me, and you enter
it as easily as breathing in
I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.
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