Modern Wedding Readings
January 5, 2005 12:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm officiating my little sister's wedding ceremony this Friday, and I'm looking for a great reading. She's young and somewhat cynical, so something modern-sounding and non-mushy would be great. Any suggestions?
posted by waxpancake to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
These may be too non-mushy, but if the wedding party and guests have a black sense of humor, they may be appropriate.

from Ambrose Bierce's Devil's Dictionary:

LOVE, n.
A temporary insanity curable by marriage or by removal of the patient from the influences under which he incurred the disorder. This disease, like caries and many other ailments, is prevalent only among civilized races living under artificial conditions; barbarous nations breathing pure air and eating simple food enjoy immunity from its ravages. It is sometimes fatal, but more frequently to the physician than to the patient.

The state or condition of a community consisting of a master, a mistress and two slaves, making in all, two.

A ceremony at which two persons undertake to become one, one undertakes to become nothing, and nothing undertakes to become supportable.

Also, Pablo Neruda is en vogue at weddings these days. Check out his Twenty Love Poems.
posted by mds35 at 12:42 PM on January 5, 2005

True Love

True love. Is it normal
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?

Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,
drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way - in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others?
Doesn't this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn't it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.
Couldn't they at least try to hide it,
fake a little depression for their friends' sake?
Listen to them laughing - its an insult.
The language they use - deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines -
it's obviously a plot behind the human race's back!

It's hard even to guess how far things might go
if people start to follow their example.
What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced?
Who'd want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life's highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn't populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love
keep saying that there's no such thing.

Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.

Wislawa Szymborska

(translated from the original Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh)
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:56 PM on January 5, 2005 [3 favorites]

Also, at home I have some poems by Ilyas Abu S(h)abaka (Lebanese, 1903-47). One, "You Or I?" was read at my own wedding. I will post it here tonight.

(Bierce was not read at my wedding, though I did try).
posted by mds35 at 1:02 PM on January 5, 2005

How about a reading from "The Message," a "plain language" contemporary bible transliteration. It can be a really fresh look at the usual bible readings at weddings. For instance, from Song of Songs 3:

Restless in bed and sleepless through the night, I longed for my lover.
I wanted him desperately. His absence was painful.
So I got up, went out and roved the city, hunting through streets and down alleys.
I wanted my lover in the worst way!
I looked high and low, and didn't find him.
And then the night watchmen found me as they patrolled the darkened city.
"Have you seen my dear lost love?" I asked.
No sooner had I left them than I found him, found my dear lost love.
I threw my arms around him and held him tight, wouldn't let him go until I had him home again, safe at home beside the fire.
Oh, let me warn you, sisters in Jerusalem, by the gazelles, yes, by all the wild deer:
Don't excite love, don't stir it up, until the time is ripe -- and you're ready.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:04 PM on January 5, 2005

We had i carry your heart with me, by ee cummings.
posted by sugarfish at 1:11 PM on January 5, 2005

I Do, I Will, I Have by Ogden Nash, if by "modern" you mean "amusing"
posted by jessamyn at 1:14 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Apache wedding prayer.
posted by adampsyche at 1:29 PM on January 5, 2005

While it may not qualify as "non-mushy" my sister-in-law (a bridesmaid) read this during our wedding ceremony, and we had lots of compliments and questions about where it was from afterwards.

From James Dillet Freeman, a Blessing for a Marriage:
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 to know your fullness.
May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
May you want one another, but not out of lack.
May you entice, but not compel one another.
May you embrace, 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.
If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.
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.
posted by gregchttm at 1:33 PM on January 5, 2005 [2 favorites]

It's short, but I have long been of the opinion that William Carlos' Williams' "This is Just to Say" is the greatest love poem ever written:

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold
posted by rafter at 1:46 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

While I imagine that this might be a good fit based on what I know about you, this may or may not work depending a lot on the overall mood of the wedding and how you feel about your sister's taste in music, but have you looked into selecting some lyrics from an appropriate song by one of her and/or her future husband's favorite artists?

I've found it to be a fun twist on the "choose a poem by your [bride's/groom's] favorite poet" thing, but clearly not always a good fit.
posted by safetyfork at 2:20 PM on January 5, 2005

Every rose. Has its thorn.
Just like every night. Has its dawn.

Hmm. Why not a little Shakespeare?

And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 2:48 PM on January 5, 2005

The forums at indiebride might be a great place to look, especially in the Vows and Weddings We Loved areas. I think there are even threads specifically devoted to collecting interesting readings etc. for you to browse.
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 2:51 PM on January 5, 2005

i second sidhedevil's recommendation. that szymborska poem gets me every time.
posted by ifjuly at 3:10 PM on January 5, 2005

A wise man once said "If you love him, set him free...."
No, sorry. I got that wrong.
A Policeman once said If you love him, set him free and come out with your hands up.

See also ... here for more wedding related love poems. I reccomended, Atlas by U A Fanthorpe and Wedding by Alice Oswald.
posted by seanyboy at 3:28 PM on January 5, 2005

Response by poster: Some of these are great, and the Indiebride link is extremely useful, particularly this thread. I'm leaning towards prose or song lyrics.
posted by waxpancake at 3:31 PM on January 5, 2005

Although you may need to do a bit of editing to make it look about your sister and brother in law. Instead of you and your sister. Which may not go down too well.
posted by seanyboy at 3:32 PM on January 5, 2005

Well, it's hard to beat Psalm 69 for cynicism - it's refrain is "Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck..." - it's hard to imagine any reading more appropriate for a wedding ceremony!

(Note: be sure to get the New International translation.)
posted by fairmettle at 3:46 PM on January 5, 2005

We used Edna St. Vincent Millay's Love Is Not All, and a passage from Calvino's If On a Winter's Night a Traveller. Our Calvino passage elided a bit for compactness (and maybe leaving out something a bit too sexxxy for the occasion?) and I'm pulling from our program rather than the book. Here it is as we used it:

And you too, O Reader, are meanwhile an object of reading: the Other Reader now is reviewing your body as if skimming the index, and at some moments she consults it as if gripped by sudden and specific curiosities, then she lingers, questioning it and waiting till a silent answer reaches her, as if every partial inspection interested her only in the light of a wider spatial reconnaissance…. And from this start she gains impetus, covers (you cover together) pages and pages from top to bottom without skipping a comma.

Already, in the confused improvisation of the first encounter, the possible future of a cohabitation is read. Today each of you is the object of the other's reading, each reads in the other the unwritten story. Tomorrow, Reader and Other Reader, if you are together, if you lie down in the same bed like a settled couple, each will turn on the lamp at the side of the bed and sink into his or her book; two parallel readings will accompany the approach of sleep; first you, then you will turn out the light; returning from separate universes, you will find each other fleetingly in the darkness, where all separations are erased, before divergent dreams draw you again, one to one side, and one to the other. But do not wax ironic on this prospect of conjugal harmony: what happier image of a couple could you set against it?
posted by redfoxtail at 4:16 PM on January 5, 2005 [3 favorites]

I'd go for at least a paragraph from Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke:

"It is also good to love: because love is difficult. 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.

That is why young people, who are beginners in everything, are not yet capable of love: it is something they must learn. With their whole being, with all their forces, gathered around their solitary, anxious, upward-beating heart, they must learn to love. But learning-time is always a long, secluded time ahead and far on into life, is - ; solitude, a heightened and deepened kind of aloneness for the person who loves.

Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person (for what would a union be of two people who are unclarified, unfinished, and still incoherent - ?), it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, 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 distances.

Only in this sense, as the task of working on themselves ("to hearken and to hammer day and night"), may young people use the love that is given to them.

Merging and surrendering and every kind of communion is not for them (who must still, for a long, long time, save and gather themselves); it is the ultimate, is perhaps that for which human lives are as yet barely large enough. "

-- From Letter Seven
posted by ?! at 4:21 PM on January 5, 2005 [1 favorite]

Wear sunscreen.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:38 PM on January 5, 2005

Never go to bed mad. Don't yell unless the house is on fire.
posted by fixedgear at 5:58 PM on January 5, 2005

As promised:

You Or I?
by Iliyas Abu Shabaka

This beauty, is it yours or is it mine?
In you I see a person beautiful in love
Like me. And which of us has given me life?
Is it your shape or mine that I love so?
When in my dream I see love’s images
Is it your shadow in my soul or mine?
Love, all of love, dwells in all I see
Whence all this light? Your universal soul?

Did I create you in the world of fancy
Or are you my creator?
Am I the first whom inspiration blessed
Or was it you? Who writes this verse?
Did I write it for you or you for me?
And who in love can be dictated to
And who dictates? Our imaginations blend,
Your soul within my soul, your mind in mine
When things appear obscure to me I see
A doubting shadow dawning in your eyes
When we met first I found my beginning
As if you were a lost part of my being.

This translation taken from: Modern Arabic Poetry: An Anthology. Salma Khadra Jayyusi, ed. New York, Columbia UP: 1987.
posted by mds35 at 6:28 AM on January 6, 2005

I don't know how religious this event may or may not be, but we had this as the ending prayer for our ceremony, and the minister loved it, and we got a lot of compliments for it:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
May God give you grace never to sell yourself short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous
for anything but truth; and too small for anything but love.
So, may God take your minds and think through them,
May God take your lips and speak through them,
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.
May God lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen"

posted by Medieval Maven at 7:13 AM on January 6, 2005

Marge Piercy has some good poems. I read one at my sister's wedding.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:30 AM on January 6, 2005

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