Poem for a Wedding
June 8, 2010 2:26 PM   Subscribe

What's a good poem to send to a friend getting married soon?

A good friend of mine is getting married in a month or so. She's having a small private ceremony but has asked her friends to send her written best wishes which she will read out aloud at the ceremony. My friend is a first-rate literary writer and I would love to send her a suitable poem. What are your suggestions?
posted by storybored to Media & Arts (21 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
This is one of my favorite poems about marriage.

I Do, I Will, I Have

How wise I am to have instructed the butler
to instruct the first footman to instruct the second
footman to instruct the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered
into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and a
woman who can't sleep with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between
flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people
one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other
never forgetsam,
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or
the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate
or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the
windowsill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all right,

it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of
the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and
combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.
posted by chatongriffes at 2:37 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

Shakespeare's Sonnet #116: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds ..."
posted by John Borrowman at 2:38 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's another one by Ogden Nash:

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

Admittedly a little on the side side, but hey, silly is good.
posted by lriG rorriM at 2:40 PM on June 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

I (MFA poet, lit nerd) had a friend read this poem at my wedding:

Cave Dwellers

by A. Poulin Jr.

I’ve carved a cave in the mountainside.
I’ve drilled for water, stocked provisions
to last a lifetime. The walls are smooth.
We can live here, love, safe from elements.
We’ll invent another love that can’t destroy.
We’ll make exquisite reproductions of our
selves, immortal on these walls.

And when
this sea that can’t support us is burned clean,
when the first new creatures crawl from it,
gasping for water, air, more wondrous and more
wild than earth’s first couple, they shall see
there were two before them: you and me.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:55 PM on June 8, 2010 [5 favorites]

Khalil Gibran on Marriage:

Then Almitra spoke again and said, 'And what of Marriage, master?'
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the 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.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:57 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

We had this read at our wedding. We loved that said the way forward will be new and maybe quite difficult, but that it is an exciting adventure nonetheless made worth it by each other's company and love.

Song of the Open Road
by Walt Whitman

Listen! I will be honest with you. I do not offer the
old smooth prizes, but I offer rough new prizes.

These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve.
However sweet the laid-up stores.

However convenient the dwelling,
You shall not remain there.
However sheltered the port, and however calm the waters,
You shall not anchor there.
However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you,
You are permitted to receive it but a little while.

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:

Comerado, 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 Wink Ricketts at 3:00 PM on June 8, 2010 [15 favorites]

At our wedding, we had this read.

by Reginald Gibbons

This charm is green in the red world.
Low leaf that opens anyway
among dry shells, by a hard road.
In the chained world, this charm is free.
A private charm against good-byes
when you and I release each other --
this kiss we give, these orphan cries
we swallow, this turning to a feather.

I kiss your mouth, you kiss me back:
this charm's a statement and reply --
and a seed, a wedge, a way to take
some change into our work today.

This kiss is hidden in the border of night.
Leaf that is ours, love that is green,
give us all more life, more sweet
hours and days together again.
posted by Skot at 3:06 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really love this poem by Molly Peacock. It is not so much for a wedding as it is for a marriage:

by Molly Peacock

What if we got outside ourselves and there
really was an outside out there, not just
our insides turned inside out? What if there
really were a you beyond me, not just
the waves off my own fire, like those waves off
the backyard grill you can see the next yard through,
though not well -- just enough to know that off
to the right belongs to someone else, not you.
What if, when we said I love you, there were
a you to love as there is a yard beyond
to walk past the grill and get to? To endure
the endless walk through the self, knowing through a bond
that has no basis (for ourselves are all we know)
is altruism: not giving, but coming to know
someone is there through the wavy vision
of the self's heat, love become a decision.
posted by ocherdraco at 3:31 PM on June 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wendell Berry

The Wild Rose

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 once again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 3:41 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

recommend The Country of Marriage by Wendell Berry.

And John Ciardi has a whole volume entitled I Marry You with pieces like:

Most Like an Arch This Marriage


Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
Two joined abeyances become a term
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
at piling stone on stone apart from you
is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss

I am no more than upright and unset.
It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.
posted by cross_impact at 4:15 PM on June 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

by Margaret Atwood

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
outside, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire
posted by hades at 4:54 PM on June 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

At my good friend's wedding, I read "A Birthday" by Christina Rossetti, which is quite lovely. I really wanted to read "Alive Together" by Lisel Mueller [please note that that's a rather poor transcription, but I am apparently too lazy to find the actual book and type it up at the moment--get in touch if you'd like the real thing], but we decided it would be a bit much for some of her relatives.
posted by newrambler at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Hades beat me to it.
posted by Vibrissa at 7:59 PM on June 8, 2010

Fidelity by D.H. Lawrence

Man and woman are like the earth, that brings forth flowers
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than foraminiferae,
older than plasm altogether is the soul underneath.
And when, throughout all the wild chaos of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten rocks
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks,
a man’s heart and a woman’s,
that is the crystal of peace, The slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos of love.
posted by pineapple at 8:05 PM on June 8, 2010

(hit post before I could add that, clearly, this one is only suitable if your friend is marrying a man)
posted by pineapple at 8:06 PM on June 8, 2010

Short Shakespeare (Hamlet, Act II):

Doubt thou the stars are fire
Doubt that the sun doth move
Doubt truth to be a liar
But never doubt I love.
posted by insouciant at 11:39 PM on June 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

On the recommendation of a 6-year-old thread on a similar subject, this is the poem that we read at our wedding two months ago:

Sonnet by Bill Knott

The way the world is not
astonished at you
it doesn't blink a leaf
when we step from the house
leads me to think
that beauty is natural, unremarkable
and not to be spoken of
except in the course of things
the course of singing and worksharing
the course of squeezes and neighbors
the course of you, tying back your raving hair to go out
and the course, of course, of me
astonished at you
the way the world is not.
posted by Mayor West at 5:18 AM on June 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Li-Young Lee


Love, Love, Love, where are we now?
Where did we begin?
I think

one of us wanted to name this,
wanted to call it something!
Shadows on the Garden Wall.
A Man Rowing Alone Out to Sea.
A Song in Search of a Singer.

I think that was me, I wanted to call it something.
And you? You were happy
with a room, two rooms, and a door to divide them.
And daylight on either side of the door.
Borrowed music from an upstairs room.
And bells. Bells from down the street.
Bells to urge our salty hearts.

But I wanted to call it something.
I needed to know what we meant
when we said we, when we said
us, when we said this.

So call it Seven Happy Endings.
That would have been enough.

You see, I woke up one night
and realized I was falling.
I turned on the lamp and the lamp was falling.
And the hand that turned on the lamp was falling.
And the light was falling, and everything the light touched
falling. And you were falling
asleep beside me.
And that was the first happy ending.

And the last one?
it went something like this:

A child sat down, opened a book,
and began to read. And what he read out loud
came to pass. And what he kept to himself
stayed on the other side of the mountains.

But I promised seven happy endings.
I who know nothing about endings.
I who am always at the beginning of everything.
Even as our being together
always feels like beginning.
Not just the beginning of our knowing each other,
but the beginning of reality itself.

See how you and I
make this room so quiet with our presence.

With every word we say
the room grows quieter.

With every word we keep ourselves
from speaking, even quieter.

And now I don't know where we are.
Still needing to call it something:

A clock the bees unearth,
gathering the over-spilled minutes.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:49 AM on June 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just went to a wedding, and they had non-traditional vows. They read excerpts from
"The Book of Love" by Rumi. And if you read the reviews, the can attest to how absolutely and astoundingly beautiful it is. I suggest getting the book and looking through.

Also read at the ceremony:
The poem The Art of MarriageBy Wilfred Peterson. The link includes the poem, worth checking out. And then there's To Be One with Each Other by George Eliot.
posted by shesaysgo at 7:41 PM on June 9, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, this is great. I'm leaning towards S of the Open Roads, just because it seems to fit my friend's personality nicely. Thanks Wink!

I can see some of these other poems may be useful for future matrimonies! Thanks a lot everyone.
posted by storybored at 9:29 AM on June 10, 2010

Coming in a bit on the late side, and this is sort of long, but here's another D.H. Lawrence. This was read at my and el_lupino's wedding. I still love it.

“Wedlock”, parts III-VI by D.H. Lawrence


My little one, my big one,
My bird, my brown sparrow in my breast.
My squirrel clutching in to me;
My pigeon, my little one, so warm,
So close, breathing so still.

My little one, my big one,
I, who am so fierce and strong, enfolding you,
If you start away from my breast, and leave me,
How suddenly I shall go down into nothing
Like a flame that falls of a sudden.

And you will be before me, tall and towering,
And I shall be wavering uncertain
Like a sunken flame that grasps for support.


But now I am full and strong and certain
With you there firm at the core of me
Keeping me.

How sure I feel, how warm and strong and happy
For the future! How sure the future is within me
I am like a seed with a perfect flower enclosed.

I wonder what it will be,
What will come forth of us.
What flower, my love?

No matter, I am so happy,
I feel like a firm, rich, healthy root,
Rejoicing in what is to come.

How I depend on you utterly,
My little one, my big one!
How everything that will be, will not be of me,
Nor of either of us,
But of both of us.


And think, there will something come forth from us,
We two, folded so small together,
There will something come forth from us.
Children, acts, utterance,
Perhaps only happiness.

Perhaps only happiness will come forth from us.
Old sorrow, and new happiness.
Only that one newness.

But that is all I want.
And I am sure of that.
We are sure of that.


And yet all the while you are you, you are not me.
And I am I, I am never you.
How awfully distinct and far off from each other’s being we are!

Yet I am glad.
I am so glad there is always you beyond my scope,
Something that stands over,
Something I shall never be,
That I shall always wonder over, and wait for,
Look for like the breath of life as long as I live,
Still waiting for you, however old you are, and I am,
I shall always wonder over you, and look for you.

And you will always be with me.
I shall never cease to be filled with newness,
Having you near me.
posted by jocelmeow at 3:26 PM on June 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

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