A poem or quote to bring a tear to the eye of the grandfather who raised the bride
February 10, 2010 8:32 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good, classy quote—with which to toast newlyweds that I don't know very well (but wish the very best).

Since I don't know them very well, I can't really bust out stories about how I knew the bride and groom when they met or whatever. Instead, if asked to make a toast, I'd like to have a nice short quote from Shakespeare or Ralph Waldo Emerson or something (I love Emerson's "To laugh often and much" but it doesn't feel exactly right for a wedding toast).

Ideally I'm looking for something 4 to 12 lines long so that I'm not up there reading The Iliad.

Also, I'd like to avoid any poems that are specifically wedding related—anything that sounds like "groom, take her hand and promise her blah blah blah", and please nothing that talks about the brides appearance ("her beauty is blah blah..."), or anything that sounds more like a private note between the couple ("I long for the taste of your lips...").

Something perhaps rather that speaks to the wonder of love, the great fortune one feels to know the other, of finding that other person. (Again, I really like Here at the frontier...—something that really speaks to the idea of one carrying another in their heart—but that poem sounds more appropriate to be written to someone far away)

Any suggestions?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
My Greatest wish for the two of you is that through the years your love for each other will so deepen and grow, that years from now you will look back on this day, your wedding day, as the day you loved each other the least.

--shamelessly plagiarized from some website
posted by _cave at 8:41 PM on February 10, 2010 [4 favorites]

I guess it's not a poem, though...
posted by _cave at 8:42 PM on February 10, 2010

Sometimes hidden from me
in daily custom and in trust,
so that I live by you unaware
as by the beating of my heart,

Suddenly you flare in my sight,
a wild rose blooming at the edge
of thicket, grace and light
where yesterday was only shade,

and one again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.

-by Wendell Berry, for his wife
posted by sallybrown at 8:52 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

That's a great sentiment, _cave! How about making it a poem?

"My greatest hope for the two of you
Is that you grow in love so true
That years from now you look back and say
You loved each other least, today."

The scan is slightly off, but that may actually make it less a formal feel and more personal. :)
posted by darkstar at 8:53 PM on February 10, 2010 [7 favorites]

(Feel free to adapt as desired.)
posted by darkstar at 8:54 PM on February 10, 2010

There you are then..collaborative effort.
posted by _cave at 8:56 PM on February 10, 2010

quick follow up from the OP "Thanks for the suggestions so far but—and I should've mentioned this before—I'd also like to stay away from anything rhyme-y"
posted by jessamyn at 9:49 PM on February 10, 2010

I could have sworn there was a very similar question here once where someone posted what I'm about to, but maybe not. From Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events, feel free to cut down to the appropriate size:

Dewey was wrong when he said that being noble enough is all we can ask for in this world, because we can ask for much more than that. We can ask for a second helping of pound cake, even though someone has made it quite clear that we will not get any. We can ask for a new watercolor set, even though it will be pointed out that we never used the old one, and that all of the paints dried into a crumbly mess. We can ask for Japanese fighting fish, to keep us company in our bedroom, and we can ask for a special camera that will allow us to take photographs even in the dark, for obvious reasons, and we can ask for an extra sugar cube in our coffees in the morning and an extra pillow in our beds at night. We can ask for justice, and we can ask for a handkerchief, and we can ask for cupcakes, and we can ask for all the soldiers in the world to lay down their weapons and join us in a rousing chorus of “Cry Me A River”, if that happens to be your favorite song. But we can also ask for something we are much more likely to get, and that is to find a person or two, somewhere in our travels, who will tell us that we are noble enough, whether it is true or not. We can ask for someone who will say “You are noble enough,” and remind us of our good qualities when we have forgotten them, or cast them into doubt.
posted by naoko at 10:03 PM on February 10, 2010 [14 favorites]

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.
May the rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

My best man read most of this at my wedding (not religious, so he skipped the last two lines). It's not necessarily romantic, but it conveys the feeling of wanting nothing but the best for the newly weds.

It's maybe a bit overused, but I think it's still poignant.
posted by SNWidget at 10:07 PM on February 10, 2010

Would you like some of my own verse?
of course you wouldn't, but here you go regardless:

Before it makes us old,
this love we have,
is what we do
while youth and vigor abound.
Then, this love,
it makes us old.
In doing so, it makes us
what we are and
what we will be,
forever more.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:39 PM on February 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Love is not just something that happens to you: it is a certain special way of being alive. – Thomas Martin

To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.— Ogden Nash

To fall in love is easy, even to remain in it is not difficult; our human loneliness is cause enough. But it is a hard quest worth making to find a comrade through whose steady presence one becomes steadily the person one desires to be. Anna Louise Strong

"When the happiness of another person becomes as essential to yourself as your own, then the state of love exists."
-Robert Heinlein

"Love thus validates our existence as nothing else can, and with an unparalleled immediacy, helps turn us into the people we knew we were always meant to be." -- CSE (73)

"Anyone who has ever been in love will tell you it is glorious and that you will know when it happens (by the same sort of reasoning which is applied to knowing there is a G-d)." -- CSE (78)

"To share true love is to make life worthwhile, to make existence a privilege. In a society which specializes in exploitation and manipulation, in an era where despair and anxiety are characteristic, love is the most precious of accomplishments." -- CSE (109)

The most important thing in life is to love someone. The second most important thing in life is to have someone love you. The third most important thing is to have the first two happen at the same time. -- Howie Schneider

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh. -- W. H. Auden (1907-1973) American poet, The Dyer's Hand (1962)
posted by eleanna at 10:39 PM on February 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

/mostly sourced from About.com

To Be One With Each Other by George Eliot

What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen
each other in all labor, to minister to each other in all sorrow,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be one with each other in the
silent unspoken memories?

Sonnet 116 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:
Oh, 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.

I have a fondess for this piece as we chose it for our wedding in '91. Chose just the second paragraph if you like.

An excerpt from "The Prophet" by Khalil Gabran
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond 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 from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one 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.

"The Irrational Season" by Madeleine L'Engle
But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take…It is indeed a fearful gamble…Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take…If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation…It takes a lifetime to learn another person…When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.
posted by b33j at 10:47 PM on February 10, 2010

"... something that really speaks to the idea of one carrying another in their heart ..."

Perhaps you were thinking of the e.e. cummings poem "i carry your heart with me".
posted by paulsc at 10:58 PM on February 10, 2010

Short and sweet:

Here's to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold pint-- and another one!
posted by numberstation at 2:12 AM on February 11, 2010

I think this is a lovely poem that incorporates the heightened pre-marriage infatuation experience with the post-marriage anticipation of many years to enjoy.

When you came, you were like red wine and honey,
And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness.
Now you are like morning bread,
Smooth and pleasant.
I hardly taste you at all for I know your savor,
But I am completely nourished.

- Amy Lowell, A decade.
posted by skauskas at 3:05 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

May your days be long and full of joy and your ... nights be ... long and ... full of ... joy ....

But it's all in the delivery.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:49 AM on February 11, 2010

My company publishes a book called Toasts, edited by Paul Dickson, which is an excellent resource for such things, should you not find what you need from other answers.
posted by ocherdraco at 7:51 AM on February 11, 2010

Walt Whitman's Song of the Open Road is quite long, but here's a little snippet from it that I really like:

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:
Camerado, 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 by each other as long as we live?
posted by anderjen at 8:02 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came here to express the "love the least today" sentiment (really) but it's already been suggested. So I'll second the idea. I'd express it with confidence and hope, though, as if you already know they will succeed. And maybe let them know how much you want/need to them to succeed:

"When I see you at your 50th, I want you to tell me that this day was nowhere close to the happiest day of your life. I want to hear about that so-called bad day last week when the car broke down and you had to share a coupon meal at Denny's because your wife had to pick you up in the minivan instead of preparing the standard chicken dinner. I want to hear how even that day was profoundly more joyful than your wedding day because it was lit up by a billion decisions to love each other over your life together. And by the quiet assurance that a billion more will follow and the flame, though it flickers, will never go out.

Thank you for being brave enough to choose this life of love and light. I thank you in advance for choosing to stick with it every time it becomes hard to keep the darkness out. Couples like you are the lights I need to find my way. We all need you to shine. So I toast to the flame you lit today and that it grows brighter each year."
posted by cross_impact at 8:03 AM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

There is nothing nobler or more admirable than when two people who see eye to eye keep house as man and wife, confounding their enemies and delighting their friends. —Homer
posted by craven_morhead at 8:12 AM on February 11, 2010

May you be friends to each other as only lovers can; and may you love each other as only best friends can.

May all your ups and downs be only in the bedroom.

May you grow old together on one pillow.

And may you get all your wishes but one, so you always have something to strive for.
posted by misha at 8:25 AM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

May all your ins and outs and ups and downs be between the sheets.
posted by Twicketface at 9:36 AM on February 11, 2010

We used parts of Blessings for a Marriage by James Dillet Freedman in the closing of our secular wedding ceremony. It reads very much the way I think you're looking for - a person wishing happiness and fulfillment to two people in a lifetime partnership. I especially love: "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."

My sister read The Master Speed by Robert Frost during our wedding. It might be on the edge of "too poem-y" for you, but the phrasing of two people agreeing to live wing to wing and oar to oar was exactly right for us and our relationship.
posted by nelleish at 10:39 AM on February 11, 2010

No idea where it's from(I didn't create it), but I had to do a toast once and worked this in:

May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.
posted by specialnobodie at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2010

another variation on specialnobodie's bit:

May the best of your yesterdays pale in comparison to the worst of your tomorrows.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2010

follow-up from the OP
OP here:
Again, thanks for all of the contributions!
That said, there are few suggestions that don't fit the criteria of the actual question and I wanted to get the thread back onto "classy" before it got totally derailed (thereby becoming essentially useless).

Please remember that these people, this couple, they are not my frat brothers and this won't be a bawdy toast in a corner bar.

Again... —I hardly know these people—

I am looking for something timeless and classy—please no more suggestions referring to their "ups and downs between the sheets" or their long nights in the bedroom—I'm not looking for quotes to get laughs or to make people say "isn't that toaster a scamp!"

Instead, I'm looking for something that the listeners might close their eyes to as they listen to the words; that they would think, "God, that is a beautiful quote—and I almost tear up when I think of it as it applies to the couple!" Again, the title of the post is "A poem or quote [that might] bring a tear to the eye of the grandfather who raised the bride".

I know I may be coming off as too picky or too "Internet. Serious Business!", but please, no more "funny" quotes.
posted by jessamyn at 1:45 PM on February 11, 2010

You may want to skim some of previous threads on weddings (try searching AskMe for "wedding readings") - there is a lot of nontraditional silliness but also some things you might think are nice like this Apache wedding prayer.
posted by naoko at 7:09 PM on February 11, 2010

You know, not everyone at the wedding has to, or is expected to, make a toast. It may be that those who know the couple better should be doing the readings during the service, or the toasts afterward.

Be that as it may:


Marriage is not
a house, or even a tent

It is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back, where we squat
outdoors, eating popcorn
where painfully and with wonder
at having survived
this far

we are learning to make fire.

Margaret Atwood

To Be One With Each Other

What greater thing is there for two human souls
than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen
each other in all labor, to minister to each other in all sorrow,
to share with each other in all gladness,
to be one with each other in the
silent unspoken memories?

George Eliot

Love has no other desire but to fulfill itself
But if you love and must needs have desires,
Let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook
That sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart
And give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love's ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer
For the beloved in your heart
And a song of praise upon your lips.

Gibran Kahlil Gibran
posted by misha at 4:39 PM on February 13, 2010

Some of these seem awfully long. Keep in mind that reception halls often do not have the best sound systems or acoustics. Few people appreciate sitting through a long spiel they can hardly hear while their baked chicken gets cold.

I toasted my sister and her husband with "May you live as long as you wish, and love as long as you live" (Heinlein). Short, sweet and to the point.
posted by superna at 9:03 PM on February 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

I've heard this in wedding vows, and once as a toast.

My True Love Hath My Heart
by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

My true-love hath my heart, and I have his,
By just exchange one for another given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss,
There never was a better bargain driven:
My true-love hath my heart, and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,
My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:
He loves my heart, for once it was his own,
I cherish his because in me it bides:
My true-love hath my heart, and I have his.
posted by chana meira at 5:19 PM on February 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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