As a celebrant couples often ask my advice on readings to include in their wedding ceremony. The traditional prayers of the faithful are now being replaced with lyrics from favourite songs, extracts from childhood stories, quotes from the big screen, and everything in between. There really is no right or wrong answer, and I always recommend to the couples I work with to pick something that rings true for them, that means something to them, and not what they think they should include. Now I am all for adding a prayer in respect of or memory of a loved one and often couples themselves may not be religious but a grandparent or parent might be and they will want to include something for them. With an independent ceremony that is absolutely fine and I am always guided by the couple.
If you are including readings in a ceremony I recommend 2 or 3, depending on the other elements within the ceremony.
Here are a few of my favourite readings. Some romantic, some practical advice, some religious, trust your own feelings when it comes to choosing what type of readings to go for.
1. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Little Nutbrown Hare, who was going to bed, held on tight to Big Nutbrown Hare’s very long ears. He wanted to be sure that Big Nutbrown Hare was listening.
“Guess how much I love you,” he said.
“Oh, I don’t think I could guess that,” said Big Nutbrown Hare.
“This much,” said Little Nutbrown Hare, stretching out his arms as wide as they could go.
Big Nutbrown Hare had even longer arms. “But I love YOU this much,” he said.
Hmm, that is a lot, thought Little Nutbrown Hare.
“I love you as high as I can reach.” said Little Nutbrown Hare.
“I love you as high as I can reach,” said Big Nutbrown Hare.
That is quite high, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I had arms like that.
Then Little Nutbrown Hare had a good idea. He tumbled upside down and reached up the tree trunk with his feet.
“I love you all the way up to my toes!” he said.
“And I love you all the way up to your toes,” said Big Nutbrown Hare, swinging him up over his head.
“I love you as high as I can HOP!” laughed Little Nutbrown Hare, bouncing up and down.
“But I love you as high as I can hop,” smiled Big Nutbrown Hare – and he hopped so high that his ears touched the branches above.
That’s good hopping, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. I wish I could hop like that.
“I love you all the way down the lane as far as the river,” cried Little Nutbrown Hare.
“I love you across the river and over the hills,” said Big Nutbrown Hare.
That’s very far, thought Little Nutbrown Hare. He was almost too sleepy to think any more. Then he looked beyond the thorn bushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be further than the sky.
“I love you right up to the MOON,” he said, and closed his eyes.
“Oh, that’s far,” said Big Nutbrown Hare. “That is very, very far.”
Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves. He leaned over and kissed him good night.
Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, “I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK.”
2. Hedwig and the Angry Inch – Musical
Our original human nature was not like it is now. 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, one made of two women, and a third made of a man and a woman. Due to the power 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. So Zeus hurled down his lightning bolts and divided the humans in half.
But the Gods—worried that the humans, now alone and losing the will to live, might not survive or multiply—decided on a few repairs.
Instead of heads facing backwards or out, they would rotate our heads back forward. They pulled our skin taut and knotted it at the belly button. And most important they left us with a memory, a longing for our original other half.
Separated, we are but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. And when one of us meets our other half, we pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one. One person instead of two. And so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two. 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.
3. A Lovely Love Story by Edward Monkton
The fierce Dinosaur was trapped inside his cage of ice.
Although it was cold he was happy in there. It was, after all, his cage.
Then along came the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
The Lovely Other Dinosaur melted the Dinosaur’s cage with kind words and loving thoughts.
I like this Dinosaur thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
Although he is fierce he is also tender and he is funny.
He is also quite clever though I will not tell him this for now.
I like this Lovely Other Dinosaur, thought the Dinosaur.
She is beautiful and she is different and she smells so nice.
She is also a free spirit which is a quality I much admire in a dinosaur.
But he can be so distant and so peculiar at times, thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
He is also overly fond of things.
Are all Dinosaurs so overly fond of things?
But her mind skips from here to there so quickly thought the Dinosaur.
She is also uncommonly keen on shopping.
Are all Lovely Other Dinosaurs so uncommonly keen on shopping?
I will forgive his peculiarity and his concern for things, thought the Lovely Other Dinosaur.
For they are part of what makes him a richly charactered individual.
I will forgive her skipping mind and her fondness for shopping, thought the Dinosaur.
For she fills our life with beautiful thoughts and wonderful surprises. Besides,
I am not unkeen on shopping either.
Now the Dinosaur and the Lovely Other Dinosaur are old.
Look at them.
Together they stand on the hill telling each other stories and feeling the warmth of the sun on their backs.
And that, my friends, is how it is with love.
Let us all be Dinosaurs and Lovely Other Dinosaurs together.
For the sun is warm.
And the world is a beautiful place.
4. Sonnet 116ʼ – 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 wandʼring 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.
5. Extract from ‘Touched by an Angel’
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of loveʼs light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free – Maya Angelou
6. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
“Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
7. (Song of Solomon 8:6-7)
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned.”
8. A Walled Garden – Author Unknown
ʻYour marriageʼ, he said, ʻshould have within it A secret and protected place, open to you alone. Imagine it to be a walled garden. Entered by a door to which only you have the key. Within this garden you will cease to be a mother, father, employee, Homemaker or any other roles which you fulfil in daily life. Here you are yourselves, two people who love each other. Here you can concentrate on one anotherʼs needs. So take my hand and let us go back to our garden. The time we spend together is not wasted but invested. Invested in our future and the nurture of our love.ʼ
9. Mark Twain These I can promise
I cannot promise you a life of sunshine;
I cannot promise riches, wealth, or gold;
I cannot promise you an easy pathway
That leads away from change or growing old.
But I can promise all my heart’s devotion;
A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow;
A love that’s ever true and ever growing;
A hand to hold in yours through each tomorrow.
10. -Albert Einstein
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.
For more ideas on how to personalise your ceremony click here.
Yvonne Cassidy is a wedding celebrant and stylist, based in Dublin, Ireland. Yvonne works with couples who want to create and design a wedding which tells their love story.