Autumn wedding poems please
September 27, 2022 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I live in Vermont and am a Justice of the Peace. I perform weddings. People love getting married here in the Autumn. I very often write the ceremonies myself or make suggestions to the couple. I am looking for more fall-themed wedding-appropriate poems for my collection and would love to know what poems you like along these lines.

My favorite poem for this is Last Night the Rain Spoke to Me by Mary Oliver. A few specifics:

- Poems should be short-ish.
- I am not religious and these ceremonies are not religious.
- I marry people of varying age ranges and genders.
- Short prose readings also okay but need to stand alone.
- My preferences tend more towards modern and less towards Robert Frost type things but I'm open to suggestions.

I do not need generic love poems and I do not need generic autumn poems that are not suitable for a wedding, though they can be humorous, strange, old fashioned, whatever. I have seen this thread. Thank you for suggestions.
posted by jessamyn to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's more Autumn/Winter than Autumn Autumn, and you may already know about it, but Jane Hershfield's A Blessing for Wedding:
Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days
posted by zamboni at 11:38 AM on September 27, 2022 [13 favorites]


For their first dance at their wedding, my parents used Kurt Weill's September song, and I think portions of the lyrics may work (I say "Portions" only since I think the whole thing is too long). Here's the bits I'd use:
It's a long, long while
From May to December
But the days grow short
When you reach September
The autumn weather turns
The leaves to flame
And I haven't got time
For the waiting game
And the days turn to gold
As they grow few
And these few golden days
I'd spend with you
These few precious days
I'd spend with you
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:41 AM on September 27, 2022 [5 favorites]


Red Leaves, by Al Purdy? The first stanza is odd, but the second sublime.

—all over the earth
little fires starting up
especially in Canada
some yellow leaves too
buttercup and dandelion yellow
dancing across the hillside
I say to my wife
“What’s the yellowest thing there is?”
“School buses”
—a thousand school buses are double
parked on 401 all at once

I suppose this is the one thing
your average level-headed Martian
or Venusian could not imagine
about Earth:
red leaves
and the way humans attach emotion
to one little patch of ground
and continually go back there
in the autumn of our lives
to deal with some of the questions
that have troubled us
on our leapfrog trip thru the Universe
for which there are really no answers
except at this tranquil season
of falling leaves
watching them a kind of jubilation
sometimes mistaken for sadness

posted by Capt. Renault at 11:44 AM on September 27, 2022 [4 favorites]


I am fond enough of Litany by Billy Collins that I used it at my (fall) wedding. It's not explicit but feels like fall to me. By the styling--including an attributed verse from another poem--I assume Litany is a response to that poem. But when we used it at our wedding, we left that part out.

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine...
-Jacques Crickillon


You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker,
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way that you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I'm not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and--somehow--the wine.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:45 PM on September 27, 2022 [5 favorites]


We had Love is a Constant by Janet Lewis at our October wedding:

Love is a constant
Like the speed of light,
Unbroken spectrum
Of the purest white,
Rainbow unbroken
In the beam of light.

Love is an anguish
That, gathering at the root,
Rises in sap along the rugged branch,
Pulsing in sunlight,
To lose itself in fruit,
To break in fragrance
Above the sunny ground,
Like wine in autumn,
Like insect wings unbound,
Like wings of gauze and rainbow.

Or so I dreamed.
Or so I found.
posted by littlemisslaika at 12:51 PM on September 27, 2022 [2 favorites]


By Mary Oliver:
Song for Autumn


In the deep fall
don’t you imagine the leaves think how
comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees themselves, especially those with mossy,
warm caves, begin to think
of the birds that will come – six, a dozen – to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
vanishes, and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its blue shadows. And the wind pumps its
bellows. And at evening especially,
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
As I got ready to post this comment, I realized the poem didn’t quite match up with my memory of it — it was missing a line about the 'wind wagging its many tails' — and it turns out there's another version which I like a little better :
Don’t you imagine the leaves dream now
how comfortable it will be to touch
the earth instead of the
nothingness of the air and the endless
freshets of wind? And don’t you think
the trees, especially those with
mossy hollows, are beginning to look for

the birds that will come—six, a dozen—to sleep
inside their bodies? And don’t you hear
the goldenrod whispering goodbye,
the everlasting being crowned with the first
tuffets of snow? The pond
stiffens and the white field over which
the fox runs so quickly brings out
its long blue shadows. The wind wags
its many tails. And in the evening
the piled firewood shifts a little,
longing to be on its way.
posted by jamjam at 12:52 PM on September 27, 2022 [3 favorites]


Best answer: Walt Whitman's When I Heard at the Close of the Day

[...] when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way coming, O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food nourish’d me more, and the beautiful day pass’d well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast – and that night I was happy.
posted by Iris Gambol at 2:02 PM on September 27, 2022 [5 favorites]


I think Returning Home by John Ciardi is autumnal plus in considering the rich longitudinal aspect of the bond of marriage, Jessamyn. This comes from a book of his poems largely centered on marriage:

I want to tell you a
gentlest thing. Like light
to you. Like old faces
being fed a good memory
from inside themselves.
Like eyes that do not
watch but slowly meet
across a room in which
everyone is, and no one
need hurry to what he is
sure of. I want to say
before we run out of
rooms and everyone
that I am slowest,
surest, gentlest, too,
across whatever room
I look at you.
posted by Arch1 at 7:26 AM on September 28, 2022 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: Thanks everyone. I have added all of these to my list of autumnal poems. I did use Walt Whitman's When I Heard at the Close of the Day in my most recent ceremony but I am sure I'll have time to use all the other ones. Very much appreciate people's input.
posted by jessamyn at 12:36 PM on October 27, 2022 [2 favorites]


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