Non-soppy wedding readings for non-heterosexual wedding?
September 9, 2014 7:36 AM   Subscribe

My cousin is marrying his boyfriend and has asked me to speak at his wedding reception. I don't know my cousin but as nearly his only family there I would like to pull this off, preferably by dint of reading a poem. Please help me find the poem.

Being British I can't do serious-and-romantic well. I first thought of this lovely dinosaur story, but it is very obviously about heterosexual dinosaurs, and I'm reluctant to maul the poem by introducing gay dinosaurs, or to read the heterosexual dinosaur poem as-is.

Can anyone think of a similarly lighthearted / non-mushy poem or reading which is suitable for a wedding and which isn't overtly heterosexual? I have no objection to gay dinosaurs being involved, I just doubt my own literary ability in this matter.
posted by emilyw to Human Relations (30 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
This passage from the Velveteen Rabbit seems so be pretty popular at the weddings I've been invited to (I'll admit, it isn't my favourite passage ever, but maybe you and your friends will like it?)

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit
posted by sparklemotion at 7:47 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I love ee cummings for weddings. i carry your heart with me is lovely. We had somewhere I have never travelled as our poem at our wedding.
posted by goggie at 7:50 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't have a poem to suggest, but at my queer wedding, my sister read an excerpt from Madeleine L'engle's The Irrational Season:

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.


Ungendered, not religious, and my sister and I are both L'engle fans, so it was a lovely choice.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:51 AM on September 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


The Poetry Foundation has an index of poems for LGBT weddings. There's also an article from The Guardian with some reflections on good poems for LGBT weddings/civil partnerships.
posted by spunweb at 7:53 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


We were in this boat, plus her girlfriend was one of the bridesmaids, so we were trying to avoid anything about two people coming together and such (I wanted to use the L'engle that carrioncomfort quoted, because it's beautiful, but in the end we just decided it'd be a little much, even though we're all getting along great now.)

So we had my cousin read a short passage from Serenity:

You know what the first rule of flying is? … Love. You can learn all the math in the universe, but you take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting before she keens. Makes her a home.

I'll be honest, I think it went over some folk's heads (I should have printed the text on the programs), but it was ungendered and a nod to our geekiness and didn't cover up our polyness (without advertising it, girlfriend isn't super out) and hit on the point the each other feels like home to us, and we were super pleased.
posted by joycehealy at 7:58 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: ah also, there isn't a high level of formal education in this crowd, so down-to-earth material will probably be extra appreciated.
posted by emilyw at 7:59 AM on September 9, 2014


I'm a big fan of Litany by Billy Collins, and it was one of the readings at my (two ladies) wedding.
posted by marginaliana at 8:02 AM on September 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Shakespeare's Sonnet 116 might work well here. If it's read as prose (ignore the line breaks and read it sentence-by-sentence) it is pretty easy to follow and talks beautifully about enduring love.
posted by workerant at 8:13 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Down to earth and romantic yet not soppy? You want Wendell Berry. A number of his poems from his book "The Country of Marriage" are wonderful. Here's a link to the title poem, which while long you can pick from any of several sections, like section IV:

How many times have I come to you out of my head
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace
in you, when I arrive at last.

I particularly like this poem from this collection, "A Homecoming:"

One faith is bondage. Two
are free. In the trust
of old love, cultivation shows
a dark graceful wilderness
at its heart. Wild
in that wilderness, we roam
the distances of our faith,
safe beyond the bounds
of what we know. O love,
open. Show me
my country. Take me home.
posted by barchan at 8:15 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


"This Marriage" by Rumi:

May these vows and this marriage be blessed.
May it be sweet milk,
this marriage, like wine and halvah.
May this marriage offer fruit and shade
like the date palm.
May this marriage be full of laughter,
our every day a day in paradise.
May this marriage be a sign of compassion,
a seal of happiness here and hereafter.
May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,
an omen as welcome
as the moon in a clear blue sky.
I am out of words to describe
how spirit mingles in this marriage.

It's beautiful, simple, and mentions nothing about gender.
posted by MsMartian at 8:24 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Also came in to say Sonnet 116 -- and to read it as prose and with feeling, it makes perfect sense that way.

Here is a previously with some nice poems. Most can easily replace references to "her" with "him" a second time. I was at a wedding with "I Do, I Have, I Will" (the first poem there) and it was hilariously well-received by the audience.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:25 AM on September 9, 2014


Best answer: I was at a wedding where an excerpted version of this bit from Dr. Seuss was read and it was really nice, and really appropriate for sending two people off on fantastic, but sometimes challenging, adventure (aka marriage).
posted by bimbam at 8:27 AM on September 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Best answer: I was asked to read a shorter excerpt from Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss at a non-traditional wedding. It was amazing. I didn't realize my friends who asked me to read it sort of set me up. I tend to be a little loud and push for the fun parts of most thing. It was the perfect counterpoint to the more serious and emotional music and readings.
posted by Classic Diner at 8:47 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I came in to recommend the same Dr. Seuss reading as bimbam. We used it in our wedding in March and we got so many positive comments about it. We also had a John Muir reading but your attachment to mountains may vary.
posted by carolr at 8:49 AM on September 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


At my (hetero, but the readings are completely neutral) wedding this past Saturday, our two readings were the aforementioned Litany by Billy Collins (really great if the people involved are playful and like debating and bantering about semantics) and So Much Happiness by Naomi Shihab Nye. People really enjoyed both of them.
posted by ilana at 9:15 AM on September 9, 2014


My (straight) parents had Kahlil Gibran's On Marriage read at their wedding. I'm not really sure where it rates in terms of non-mushy and it is kind of cliché at this point, but it's non-heterosexual.
posted by naturalog at 9:34 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


How about "The Missing Piece Meets the Big O" by Shel Silverstein? It's not terribly soppy, but it is a nice modern message about equality and support in relationships?
posted by jph at 10:08 AM on September 9, 2014


We had the lyrics of The Book of Love by The Magnetic Fields read at our wedding. It's explicitly wedding themed, lighthearted, and vague enough to be about any gender pairing.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:45 AM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm getting gay married in a month! These poems/literature chunks were on our short list for our brothers to read, after a ton of internet research. You might also ask them if they care re: dinosaurs. We found that Monkton dinosaur poem and it ended up on the shortlist, because it's funny and we weren't particularly perturbed by the gender issues, especially because it gets at a core thing.

This one needed to be adapted:

Union by Robert Fulgham (ends with this is my husband this is my wife, we were going to cut the this is my husband, you would likely cut this is my wife)


These did not:

Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

I Like You by Sandol Stoddard Warburg

I think Captain Corelli's and Scaffolding are the least soppy of this set.
posted by edbles at 1:31 PM on September 9, 2014


Gonna plug Frank O'Hara here: I considered "Poem (Light clarity avocado salad in the morning)" as a reading for my wedding, and the last stanza of "Steps" is one of my favorite debatably sappy bits of love poetry. The poet was openly gay although you wouldn't necessarily know it from either of these poems.
posted by torridly at 2:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've read this at a couple of weddings and it's an utter delight to read out loud.

Wedding (1996)

Alice Oswald

From time to time our love is like a sail
and when the sail begins to alternate
from tack to tack, it’s like a swallowtail
and when the swallow flies it’s like a coat;
and if the coat is yours, it has a tear
like a wide mouth and when the mouth begins
to draw the wind, it’s like a trumpeter
and when the trumpet blows, it blows like millions…
and this, my love, when millions come and go
beyond the need of us, is like a trick;
and when the trick begins, it’s like a toe
tip-toeing on a rope, which is like luck;
and when the luck begins, it’s like a wedding,
which is like love, which is like everything.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:02 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Sweet, funny, accessible, not strictly heterosexual, something that (most) everyone can relate to?
You need "How Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog" by Taylor Mali.
(I tried to link to Mali's own website, but it appears to be down. There are also several videos of people reciting the poem.)
posted by Ardea alba at 3:05 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I Rely on You

I rely on you
like a Skoda needs suspension
like the aged need a pension
like a trampoline needs tension
like a bungee jump needs apprehension
I rely on you
like a camera needs a shutter
like a gambler needs a flutter
like a golfer needs a putter
like a buttered scone involves some butter
I rely on you
like an acrobat needs ice cool nerve
like a hairpin needs a drastic curve
like an HGV needs endless derv
like an outside left needs a body swerve
I rely on you
like a handyman needs pliers
like an auctioneer needs buyers
like a laundromat needs driers
like The Good Life needed Richard Briers
I rely on you
like a water vole needs water
like a brick outhouse needs mortar
like a lemming to the slaughter
Ryan's just Ryan without his daughter
I rely on you

© Hovis Presley 1994
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 3:27 PM on September 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've heard of both straight and gay couples having gay marriage opinions read at their weddings, which I think is a neat idea. See here: http://nymag.com/news/intelligencer/goodridge-same-sex-marriage-2012-8/
posted by bananafish at 4:52 PM on September 9, 2014


This unitarian reading is what we did for our wedding. I don't think it is soppy or particularly hetero-- though I guess husband and wife should be swapped out for spouse.


“Union” by Robert Fulghum

If this reading is before the vows (the first reading):

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 promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” — 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 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, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this is my husband, this is my wife.

If this reading is after the vows (the second reading):

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 promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks — all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” — 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 have just made are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things 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, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you have said a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this is my husband, this is my wife
posted by bananafish at 4:59 PM on September 9, 2014


Robert Frost is very accessible and I love this one-especially the few lines starting with "two such as you" for a wedding:

No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still-
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with such a master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar
posted by purenitrous at 5:53 PM on September 9, 2014


I personally do not find poetry that accessible, regardless of education level. Our officient used the previously suggested Rumi at our wedding, and though it was in Scotland, we still used Goodridge, in common with many other MeFites. It does not require context to resonate:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations.

Without question, civil marriage enhances the welfare of the community. It is a social institution of the highest importance. Civil marriage anchors an ordered society by encouraging stable relationships over transient ones.

Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life's momentous acts of self-definition.


And then you congratulate them for finding the defining love in their lives, raise a glass, and sit down.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:54 PM on September 9, 2014


My favorite poem about marriage:

Habitation

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

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

--Margaret Atwood
posted by yeti at 9:13 AM on September 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Not sappy, not gendered, modern, occasionally amusing and easy to follow if you're a good reader. You could even pull just a chunk of it out if you wanted something short.

Resignation

I love you
because the Earth turns around the sun
because the North wind blows north
sometimes
because the Pope is Catholic
and most Rabbis Jewish
because winters flow into springs
and the air clears after a storm
because only my love for you
despite the charms or gravity
keeps me from falling off this Earth
into another dimension

I love you
because it is the natural order of things

I love you
like the habit I picked up in college
of sleeping through lectures
or saying I’m sorry
when I get stopped for speeding
because I drink a glass of water
in the morning
and chain-smoke cigarettes
all through the day
because I take my coffee Black
and my milk with chocolate
because you keep my feet warm
though my life a mess
I love you
because I don’t want it
any other way

I am helpless
in my love for you

It makes me so happy
to hear you call my name
I am amazed you can resist
locking me in an echo chamber
where your voice reverberates
through the four walls
sending me into spasmatic ecstasy
I love you
because it’s been so good
for so long
that if I didn’t love you
I’d have to be born again
and that is not a theological statement
I am pitiful in my love for you<>

The Dells tell me Love
is so simple
the thought though of you
sends indescribably delicious multitudinous
thrills throughout and through-in my body
I love you
because no two snow flakes are alike
and it is possible
if you stand tippy-toe
to walk between the raindrops
I love you
because I am afraid of the dark
and can’t sleep in the light
because I rub my eyes
when I wake up in the morning
and find you there
because you with all your magic powers were
determined that
I should love you
because there was nothing for you but that
I would love you

I love you
because you made me
want to love you
more than I love my privacy
my freedom my commitments
and responsibilities
I love you ‘cause I changed my life
to love you
because you saw me one Friday
afternoon and decided that I would
love you
I love you I love you I love you

-Nikki Giovanni
posted by donnagirl at 6:57 AM on September 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


A friend of ours read this passage by Ralph Waldo Emerson during our wedding:
To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.
posted by Lexica at 11:21 PM on September 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


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