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Wedding reading - serious
June 25, 2005 2:09 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting married in two weeks tomorrow, and we are having trouble finding a serious reading for during the ceremony.

We have certain requirements - as a marriage between two agnostics with some tension about religion in the family, the wedding is explicitly non-religious (I've just spent 1/2 taking out all of the references to God out of the vows bit). We also have very liberal ideas towards marriage - we like it, but we also recognise that other people start families without it, and that's fine. I was looking at an Elizabethan Homily for Marraige - and had to reject it as it was all about getting married to avoid fornication (opps, little late for that). We're also very gender neutral in the whole ceremony (we are actually both coming down the aisle, as there are two).

The problem is, this leaves us with potentially very cheesy poems about the nature of love (I've been reading around websites, and coming across mostly Hallmark like poems). We both tend to have somewhat more unusual and quirky tastes (the "light" reading after the vows is the "Owl and the Pussycat", which is damned romantic, and our wedding favours consist of retro rocket shaped bubble blowers), but wanted something to capture the seriousness and solemnity of making such an important vow to each other.

Does anyone have any ideas? Any sort of passage from literature, poetry - even biblical, if it is not overly God-oriented would be good. Passages from other cultures are also welcome.
posted by jb to Writing & Language (18 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Try these for size:

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.

- From Shakespeare's Hamlet


and I especially like this one:

You are my husband, you are my wife
My feet shall run because of you
My feet dance because of you
My heart shall beat because of you
My eyes see because of you
My mind thinks because of you
And I shall love, because of you.

(I can only find it credited as "Eskimo Love Song")
posted by Lotto at 2:20 PM on June 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


For serious marriage readings from the bible that fit your criteria you can't beat 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, jealousy is cruel as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned."
posted by true at 2:29 PM on June 25, 2005


Just because you mentioned Biblical, check out the Song of Solomon.

Previous thread.
posted by rafter at 2:36 PM on June 25, 2005


Another thread.
posted by rafter at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2005


But wait, there's one more.
posted by rafter at 2:40 PM on June 25, 2005


ummm, I would really have liked to get married to verses of Pablo Neruda... The Captain's Verses.
posted by carmina at 3:32 PM on June 25, 2005


Rainer Maria Rilke:
The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But 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 always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.
(translated by Stephen Mitchell)

from Rilke's Letters To A Young Poet:
People have (with the help of conventions) oriented all their solutions toward the easy and toward the easiest side of the easy; but it is clear that we must hold to what is difficult; everything alive holds to it, everything in Nature grows and defends itself in its own way and is characteristically and spontaneously itself, seeks at all costs to be so and against all opposition. We know little, but that we must hold to what is difficult is a certainty that will not forsake us; it is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.

To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all out tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation. For this reason young people, who are beginners in everything, cannot yet know love: they have to learn it. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered close about their lonely, timid, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time, and so loving, for a long while ahead and far into life, is - solitude, intensified and deepened loneness for him who loves.

Love is at first not anything that means merging, giving over and uniting with another (for what would a union be of something unclarified and unfinished, still subordinate?), it is a high inducement to the individual to ripen, to become world, to become world for himself for another's sake, it is a great exacting claim upon him, something that chooses him out and calls him to vast things. Only in this sense, as the task of working at themselves ("to hearken and to hammer day and night"), might young people use the love that is given them. Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must save and gather for along, long time still), is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives as yet scarcely suffice.



(you did say serious!)
posted by youarejustalittleant at 3:57 PM on June 25, 2005 [2 favorites]


I second youarejustalittleant, here's a cut and paste from our text using parts of the same Rilke quote.

Our written introduction:

We should realize that marriage is not only the sublimation of love, it is also a shelter built over an expanse that exists between two souls. In this, marriage provides an opportunity to facilitate growth and care, as expressed by the poet Rilke in the following reading:

Marriage is in many ways a simplification of life, and it naturally combines the strengths and wills of two young people so that, together, they seem to reach farther into the future than they did before. Above all, marriage is a new task and a new seriousness, - a new demand on the strength and generosity of each partner, and a great new danger for both.

The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of their solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But 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 always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.


Enjoy married life!
posted by sled at 4:04 PM on June 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


We are using this poem next week :

In Midsummer a Wedding, by Arnold Kenseth

Now in midsummer a wedding. Attend.
Applaud. The music must be played lightly,
Quietly, at first, like July birdsongs
Hidden in thickets, like sun drying out
The mornings, like grass browsing, dreaming.
Then the words: this man, protecting, serving,
Believing; and this woman, favoring,
Giving, hoping. This family arriving.

Let the music accentuate, arise, float.
Dearly beloved, very dearly beloved,
This act praises and extends us all, as if,
In the afternoon airs, we are all made
Family, as if we are all sun, grass, dreaming.
Now, bells, astound! Ring out aloud, aloft!
posted by Cecilia at 4:14 PM on June 25, 2005


Mario Benedetti, of course:

Don´t Save Yourself

Don’t Save yourself,
Don´t be immobile
On the edge of the road,
Don’t freeze the joy,
Don’t love with reluctance,
Don’t save yourself now
or ever,
Don’t save yourself,
Don’t fill with calm,
Don’t reserve of the world
Just a calm place,
Don’t let fall your lids
Heavy as trials,
Don´t speak without lips,
Don’t fall asleep without sleepiness,
Don’t think of you without blood,
Don’t judge yourself without time.
But if in spite of everything
You cannot avoid it
And you freeze the joy,
And you love with reluctance,
And you save yourself now,
And you full with calm,
And you reserve of the world
Just a calm place,
And you let fall your lids
Heavy as trials,
And you speak without lips,
And you fall asleep without sleepiness,
And you think yourself without blood,
And you judge yourself without time,
And you are immobile
On the edge of the road,
And you save yourself,
Then
Don’t stay with me.

and

Tactic And Strategy

My tactic is
Looking at you,
Learning how you are,
Loving you as you are,
My tactic is
Talking to you
And listening to you
To build with words
An indestructible bridge
My tactic is
Remaining in your memories
I don’t know how
Nor with which pretext
But remaining with you.
My tactic is
Being frank,
And knowing that you are frank,
And not selling each other
Simulations
So that between us
There is no curtain
Nor abyss.

My strategy is,
However,
Deeper and
Easier,
My strategy is
That one of these days
I don’t know how
Nor with which pretext
You finally
Need me.

The Spanish originals are infinitely superior, of course.
posted by signal at 4:42 PM on June 25, 2005 [2 favorites]


For our wedding, too,
the light was wakened
and shone. The light!
the light stood before us
waiting
I thought the world
stood still.
At the altar
so intent was I
before my vows,
so moved by your presence
a girl so pale
and ready to faint
that I pitied
and wanted to protect you.
As I think of it now,
after a lifetime
it is as if
a sweet-scented flower
were poised
and for me did open.
Asphodel
has no odor
save to the imagination
but it too
celebrates the light.
It is late
but an odor
as from our wedding
has revived for me
and begun again to penetrate
into all crevices
of my world.

William Carlos Williams, from "Asphodel, that greeny flower"

couldn't reproduce his funny line breaks ... anyway, i love this poem
posted by pyramid termite at 5:10 PM on June 25, 2005


Thank you all for your help.

The seriousness of the Rilke was just exactly the sorts of thing we were looking for. Not about the joy of love, per se (we have a reading for that), but the committment of and seriousness of marriage. My fiance's father will be reading it - we're teasing him that he won't be able to keep a straight face, but we know he'll read it wonderfully.

That said, if people have more in a similar vein, I would be happy to see it - I'm collecting them all to send on to my fiance.
posted by jb at 6:46 PM on June 25, 2005


From the Book of Ruth:

"Do not entreat me to leave you, or to keep from following you. Wherever you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more also, if even death part thee and me."

It could be edited into:

Do not entreat me to leave you, or to keep from following you. Wherever you go, I will go; and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people. Where you die, will I die, and there will I be buried.

Ruth says this to Naomi, her mother-in-law. Ruth's husband is dead and there is famine in the land. Naomi wants to release Ruth and let her go back to her family. Ruth says nope, even though it's rough right now, I'm staying with you, where I belong.
posted by deborah at 7:21 PM on June 25, 2005


Your love requires space in which to grow.
This space must be safe enough
to allow your hearts to be revealed.
It must offer refreshment for your spirits
and renewal for your minds.
It must be a space made sacred
by the quality of your honesty,
attention, love, and compassion.
It may be anywhere,
inside or out,
but it must exist.

- Lao Tzu, interpreted by William Martin

and congratulations, jb!
posted by ambrosia at 7:25 PM on June 25, 2005 [1 favorite]


If you need a poem to dedicate to your spouse, I'm fond of:

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloth,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths beneath your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-William Butler Yeats
posted by Rock Steady at 7:55 AM on June 26, 2005


We used the following readings during our ceremony:

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
by 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 will easily 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.

---

The Invitation
by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

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 are willing to look 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 center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals,
or have become shriveled 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, 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, be realistic,
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's not pretty, everyday.
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, "Yes!"
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 center 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.
posted by suchatreat at 9:51 AM on June 26, 2005 [1 favorite]


At our ceremony, our pastor sprung this on us at the last moment. My wife just about crumbled into a teary blob when she finished:

"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"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."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."


-- The Velveteen Rabbit.
posted by thanotopsis at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2005 [2 favorites]


Congratulations, jb (and Dreadnought?); I wish you both every possible happiness.

I like the Rilke passage, but I feel that as an early modern historian, you need something from the seventeenth century. How about this, from the sermons of Jeremy Taylor:

Marriage is a school and exercise of virtue: here kindness is spread abroad, and love is united and made firm as a centre. The state of marriage hath in it the labour of love, and the delicacies of friendship, the blessing of society, and the union of hands and hearts. It hath in it less of beauty, but more of safety, than the single life; it hath more care, but less danger; it is more merry, and more sad; is fuller of sorrows, and fuller of joys; it lies under more burdens, but it is supported by all the strengths of love and charity, and those burdens are delightful. Marriage is the mother of the world, and preserves kingdoms, and fills cities, and churches, and heaven itself. Celibacy, like the fly in the heart of an apple, dwells in a perpetual sweetness, but sits alone, and is confined and dies in singularity; but marriage, like the useful bee, builds a house and gathers sweetness from every flower, and labours and unites into societies and republics, and sends out colonies, and feeds the world with delicacies, and obeys the king, and keeps order, and exercises many virtues, and promotes the interest of mankind, and is that state of good things to which God hath designed the present constitution of the world.
posted by verstegan at 4:50 AM on July 1, 2005 [1 favorite]


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