Help me pick a reading for a wedding
May 9, 2005 6:10 PM   Subscribe

My friends have asked me to do a reading at their wedding. Only trouble is, I'm allowed to pick it myself...

So their wedding is at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. They are pretty non-traditional people, one's a psychologist, one's a neuroscientist. They are both atheists and vegetarians, and are very cool and laid back.

I'm at a loss for something to pick. My only guideline was more of a threat ("it better not be from Lord of the Rings"). I'm thinking they would be down with poetry, science, humor...Any ideas or advice appreciated!
posted by gaspode to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Richard Dawkins has some pretty inspiring passages that utilize the cadences of religion to promote a secular sense of wonder.
posted by orthogonality at 6:15 PM on May 9, 2005

Mawwiage. Mawwiage is wot bwings us togevver today. Mawwiage, that bwessed awwangement. That dweam wiv-in a dweam.

You might find a pithy, not-effusively-Christian reading from Madeleine L'Engle's non-fiction; Two-Part Invention or, googling, The Irrational Season. You'll have to skim through effusively-Christian stuff to get to it, but ISTR her having good things to say about it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:30 PM on May 9, 2005

We had a remarkable sunset one day last November. I was walking in a meadow, the source of a small brook, when the sun at last, just before setting, after a cold grey day, reached a clear stratum in the horizon, and the softest brightest morning sun-light fell on the dry grass and on the stems of the trees in the opposite horizon, and on the leaves of the shrub-oaks on the hill-side, while our shadows stretched long over the meadow eastward, as if we were the only motes in its beams. It was such a light as we could not have imagined a moment before, and the air also was so warm and serene that nothing was wanting to make a paradise of that meadow. When we reflected that this was not a solitary phenomenon, never to happen again, but that it would happen forever and ever an infinite number of evenings, and cheer and reassure the latest child that walked there, it was more glorious still.

The sun sets on some retired meadow, where no house is visible, with all the glory and splendor that it lavishes on cities, and perchance, as it has never set before,—where there is but a solitary marsh hawk to have his wings guilded by it, or only a musquash looks out from his cabin, and there is some little black-veined brook in the midst of the marsh, just beginning to meander, winding slowly round a decaying stump. We walked in so pure and bright a light, gilding the withered grass and leaves, so softly and serenely bright—I thought I had never bathed in such a golden flood, without a ripple or a murmur to it. The west side of every wood and rising ground gleamed like the boundary of elysium, and the sun on our backs seemed like a gentle herdsman, driving us home at evening.

So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn.

This is from Thoreau's Walking.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:33 PM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A friend of mine chose C.P. Cavafy's Ithaka as a reading at our wedding. I thought it was lovely.
posted by BT at 7:03 PM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: I read the following piece at a wedding yesterday, at the request of the bride and groom:
Loving the Wrong Person

We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.”
It went over very well, and judging from the description of your couple, they would like it too. It's from Daily Afflictions, by Andrew Boyd.
posted by alms at 7:12 PM on May 9, 2005 [6 favorites]

from the Bible, Corinthians
If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,
5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails;
there are multiple tranlations here.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116
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:
O 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.

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, EXCERPT FROM 100 LOVE SONNETS

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way

than this: Where “I” does not exist, nor “You”, so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

This search was very productive.
posted by theora55 at 8:37 PM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Check out the Kvetch forums at Indiebride, especially the Vows section. They have threads on general readings that might be helpful.
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 8:41 PM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

I once read a compilation of excerpts from Joseph Campbell's Power of Myth at a wedding and it was very well received. There is a chapter on the symbolism of weddings, the significance of the ring, etc.
posted by Manjusri at 1:02 AM on May 10, 2005

I read this for a friend's wedding a few weeks ago:

Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

Louis de Bernieres (from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)
posted by idest at 4:04 AM on May 10, 2005 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: This is great people -- lots of good ideas (although by all means keep the ideas coming.) I had done all the typical google searches, but would like something a little different.
posted by gaspode at 4:54 AM on May 10, 2005

I'm not sure that this falls into the "something a little different" category, but I've always liked the section on marriage from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran:

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 Joe Schlabotnik at 5:57 AM on May 10, 2005

I have no specific links, but the priest who married my spouse and I read a passage from Rumi's poems.
posted by smcniven at 7:21 AM on May 10, 2005

Response by poster: Hee, Joe, that might not go over so well, as the bride read that at my wedding last year. But I agree, it's a good piece.
posted by gaspode at 8:06 AM on May 10, 2005

Perhaps something from Loren Eisley would be appropriate.
posted by googly at 10:30 AM on May 10, 2005

Corinthians and Kahlil Gibran are in practically every wedding I have ever attended. To make myself not roll my eyes when the Corinthians reading starts, I have Reverend Lovejoy from the Simpsons read it aloud in my head. This stops the eye rolling, but not the incredibly inappropriate snickering. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD: DON'T READ CORINTHIANS.

I have given readings at a few weddings, and both times I gave readings from children's books. This may sound odd, but books written for children are often very philosophical and they keep it simple, which is exactly what you need in a wedding reading. The two readings I gave were from The Little Prince (the part where he befriends the fox), and Winnie the Pooh (a section that involves Pooh telling Piglet what comfort Piglet brings to him). Both went over like gangbusters.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:30 AM on May 11, 2005

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