What conveys the importance of marriage and/or love in approximately 1-3 minutes?
May 26, 2012 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Wedding readings filter... I realize this has been asked before, but new members are constantly being added and new material is constantly being generated, plus there's always a bit of individual nuance. In short, I'm looking for an entirely non-religious wedding reading for a humanist ceremony. A few more details inside.

I've been asked to do a brief reading at a good friend's wedding ceremony. No time limit was provided - I'd think one or two pieces that take between 1-3 minutes to read in their entirety would be great.

What I have been told is that it is a humanist ceremony and the reading cannot contain anything religious or even allude to religion or a higher power, etc. One suggestion was excerpts from the Massachusetts Supreme Court's decision in Goodridge (the same-sex marriage decision) about the nature and importance of marriage. I've heard that used at weddings before, and may end up with that, but I've been given license to make other suggestions and I'd like to consider everything and give the couple some options to choose from! And so I turn to you, Metafilter - hit me with some good wedding readings!
posted by slide to Human Relations (14 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Marriage Joins Two People in the Circle of Its Love is a classic, and I think for good reason. (The page I linked to also includes some other "alternative readings," as the page author describes them.)
posted by pecanpies at 12:37 PM on May 26, 2012

My friends had The Owl and the Pussycat. It was perfect.
posted by ZipRibbons at 12:47 PM on May 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pam Ayers -- Yes I'll marry you. It's not particularly egalitarian but it's fun.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 12:58 PM on May 26, 2012

We used part of this reading - I'm not sure who the original source was, but it's not religious.
posted by beyond_pink at 1:00 PM on May 26, 2012

Best answer: We also wanted something about 2 minutes and non religious and ended up going with Robert Fulghrum's "Union".
Union by Robert Fulghum

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.

The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife.
posted by lyra4 at 1:05 PM on May 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

Seconding Union by Robert Fulghum. I got to read this at my son's wedding and it was perfect.
posted by SLC Mom at 2:31 PM on May 26, 2012

At my wedding I asked my brother to read a passage from Norman Rush's Mortals, which comes early in the book (before the ironies and bitterness begin to pile up). It's an astonishing piece of writing but obvsly a bit weird for that context. Perfect for my reading, I thought. (My wife didn't mind. :)

My brother refused to say the word 'fuck' at my wedding, and subbed in the word 'hell,' which (far as I'm concerned) wrecks the percussive character of that crescendo and climax. No matter.

It's the part up to 'I am so happy.' The rest is gravy, to show off what a ridiculous writer Rush is.
It came to him then that probably one of the best things, or at least one of the simplest good things, you could do with your mortal life would be to pick out one absolutely first-rate deserving person and do everything you could conceive of in the world to make her happy, as best you might, and never be an adversary on small things.... And the idea was to let this single flower bloom without notifying her of what was going on. Because it would be on the order of a present because it was only fair reciprocation for someone who enthralled you and who had incidentally saved you from your demons. Or the idea was to so charge her life with his appreciation that some morning she would sit up and say What the fuck is going on with us, I am so happy. The idea was to let this single flower bloom until it was something monstrous, like an item in a Max Ernst collage, something that fills the room and the occupant says Oh, this is you, this is you, my beloved friend, my love, now I see, something along those lines. He was going to float her in love and she would be like those paper flowers that open up. Water rising around her. She didn't know about him that he could get an erection just thinking in passing about her and that on one occasion he had to claim that he was having a hamstring problem, sitting facing Boyle was when it had happened, sitting facing Boyle and saying Ow and massaging his Achilles tendon so he could sit there until it was decent to get up. Boyle was divorced, or rather separated, since he was a Roman Catholic. He was in some null state with his wife, was the story. A lot of regular officers in the agency were divorced. A divorce would kill Ray. Maybe the evaporation of Russia would make it easier. He wasn't sure what he meant, unless it was that a certain pressure had gone out of that sector of his work. He couldn't believe it was over with the Russians, leaving only bullshit antagonists on the horizon, it looked like now. Maybe they could all relax some. And the joke of it was that Russia had gone up in mist not because of anything we had done, really. The agency had been amazed, startled. All this would probably never lead to a verbal event, where she says Good God, I seem to be floating in love. It would be enough if she just thought it, or something like it. No, he had been too average in his attitude and all that toward her in the past, and now he knew it and so would she, soon enough, although she would feel it before she truly knew it, but he was repeating himself. So this would be his new secret work. It would be like adding, say, potted blue hyacinths, one pot at a time, to a shelf or a ledge in the living room, one at a time, until the atmosphere was paradisiacal.
Sidebar: Read Mortals.
posted by waxbanks at 5:04 PM on May 26, 2012

(Sidebar #2: I've considered the possibility that this quote is creepy; but I think the first bit is earnest and beautiful, and doesn't get as weird and controlling as the rest. IM NOT TERRIBLE PERSON
posted by waxbanks at 5:06 PM on May 26, 2012

One of the readings my wife and I chose, and my favorite, was the Benediction of the Apache:

"Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness for you.
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one Life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth"

We liked it especially because it emphasizes strength from one another rather than strength from a god.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:22 PM on May 26, 2012

There's always e.e. cummings.

Two lighthearted suggestions, if that's what you're after:

Friends read this at a wedding reception, and it's just so nice: "I Like You" by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

And from The Last Unicorn (the book...) -

"I am no king, and I am no lord,
And I am no soldier at-arms," said he.
"I'm none but a harper, and a very poor harper,
That am come hither to wed with ye."

"If you were a lord, you should be my lord,
And the same if you were a thief," said she.
"And if you are a harper, you shall be my harper,
For it makes no matter to me, to me,
For it makes no matter to me."

"But what if it prove that I am no harper?
That I lied for your love most monstrously?"

"Why, then I'll teach you to play and sing,
For I dearly love a good harp," said she.

posted by goodbyewaffles at 6:39 PM on May 26, 2012

"And in the end
the love you take
is equal to the love you make."
posted by Silvertree at 8:42 PM on May 26, 2012

We had Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 read at our wedding:

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.

Covers all the marriage bases of loving over time with fidelity. Also, it has the gravitas that comes with something several hundred years old. If you combine this with another reading, I suggest you finish with the Shakespeare. No writer wants to follow the Bard.
posted by jeoc at 8:54 PM on May 26, 2012

My friends recently got married, and the groom's sister read A Lovely Love Story (text here) by Edward Monkton. And gave them a copy of the book as a gift. Adorable and lighthearted.
posted by Ridge at 11:50 PM on May 26, 2012

We ran into the problem that a lot of secular readings were too cutesy or cliche for us so we did some digging for suggestions for our readers. Here are three of the options we provided.

1. Well Planted- Lao Tzu
What is well planted will not be torn up.
What is well kept will not escape.
Whosoever leaves their memory to their children will not fade away.
Whosoever moulds their person, their life becomes true.
Whosoever moulds their family, their life becomes complete.
Whosoever moulds their community, their life will grow.

2. Risk -Anais Nin
And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

3. I Carry Your Heart With Me -e.e. Cummings
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)
i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
posted by Luminiferous Ether at 4:00 AM on May 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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