Wedding readings about distance relationships
October 7, 2008 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Looking for wedding ceremony readings about distance relationships

We're getting married in a few weeks, and we still haven't picked a reading for the wedding ceremony (to be read by a relative). Neither of us is religious, neither of us likes schmaltz, corn, or cliché, but we want something meaningful and sweet.

Because a significant part of our relationship has been long-distance (i.e. a 12-hour flight apart) I thought something that speaks to that theme would be good, although any and all suggestions that are non-religious, non-clichéd, and don't sound too much like a Hallmark card are most certainly welcome.

We like Robert Fulghum's Union, as an example of the kind of thing that appeals.
posted by Paragon to Grab Bag (6 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Wendell Berry's "The Country of Marriage" fit the bill for mr. headnsouth and me (two 12-hour flights apart at first). Here are the parts that we used:


I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep.


This comes after silence. Was it something I said
that bound me to you, some mere promise
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,
like the earth's empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss
that lay before me, but only the level ground.


Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,
provided we stay brave
enough to keep on going in.


How many times have I come to you out of my head
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace
in you, when I arrive at last.
posted by headnsouth at 8:31 PM on October 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

We had a passage from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke. It seems to fit your non-cheesy requirements and the letter/written element captures the long-distance sentiment... Sorry for the long cut and paste, I can't find the source I used right now...

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.

That is why this too must be the criterion for rejection or choice: whether you are willing to stand guard over someone else's solitude, and whether you are able to set this same person at the gate of your own depths, which he learns of only through what steps forth, in holiday clothing, out of the great darkness.

Life is self-transformation, and human relationships, which are an extract of life, are the most changeable of all, they rise and fall from minute to minute, and lovers are those for whom no moment is like any another. People between whom nothing habitual ever takes place, nothing that has already existed, but just what is new, unexpected, unprecedented. There are such connections, which must be a very great, an almost unbearable happiness, but they can occur only between very rich beings, between those who have become, each for his own sake, rich, calm, and concentrated; only if two worlds are wide and deep and individual can they be combined....

...For the more we are, the richer everything we experience is. And those who want to have a deep love in their lives must collect and save for it, and gather honey.
posted by hibbersk at 12:28 AM on October 8, 2008 [2 favorites]

It's short, but I really like this haiku (my husband sent it with me when we were engaged, when I was traveling for a few months in Europe):

Blossoms on a pear
A woman in the moonlight
Reads a letter there

-Yosa Buson

There are a number translations, that's just the one I like best.
posted by Margalo Epps at 8:00 AM on October 8, 2008

John Donne's poem to his wife when he was about to go away on a long trip. It might be an obvious choice but you can't go wrong with Donne. ("Sublunary" = below the moon; i.e., earthly rather than celestial. "Sense" = physical sensory pleasures as opposed to a more spiritual "soulmate" style connection. "Compasses" here refers to the two legs of the geometric tool for drawing a circle, not to the navigational aid.)

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men pass mildly away,
And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say
The breath goes now, and some say, No:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,
'Twere profanation of our joys
To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears,
Men reckon what it did and meant,
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers' love
(Whose soul is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assur'd of the mind,
Care less, eyes, lips, and hands to miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if th' other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
Yet when the other far doth roam,
It leans and hearkens after it,
And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end where I begun.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:32 AM on October 8, 2008

I had Auden's Carry her over the Water inscribed on the inside back cover of our wedding booklet. I'm Irish, and my wife is Australian, so I guess that counts as "long distance".

Carry her over the water,
And set her down under the tree,
Where the culvers white all days and all night,
And the winds from every quarter,
Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeably of love.

Put a gold ring on her finger,
And press her close to your heart,
While the fish in the lake snapshots take,
And the frog, that sanguine singer,
Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeably of love.

The streets shall flock to your marriage,
The houses turn round to look,
The tables and chairs say suitable prayers,
And the horses drawing your carriage
Sing agreeably, agreeably, agreeably of love.
posted by Mephisto at 2:32 AM on October 9, 2008

My friend who was in a long-distance relationship proposed to his gf by reading from the end of the Odyssey, where Odysseus comes home to his love after many years away. They both cried.
posted by mai at 12:26 PM on November 28, 2008

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