Any good wedding readings or vows?
July 10, 2006 2:36 AM   Subscribe

I am getting married in the fall and I'd like to find some smart, unusual readings to include in the ceremony.

I found an earlier thread with some good options, but they had slightly different parameters. For us, both secular and religious/spiritual are welcome (other posters were atheists) - but please nothing too cliche/sappy!
posted by piers to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of message do you want the readings to send? I think it would help if you gave us more info about what kind of people you are and what you consider the most important aspects of your relationship. eg are you very focused on family? Are you adventurous travellers? That kind of thing.
posted by Lucie at 3:32 AM on July 10, 2006

Response by poster: Good question, Lucie. For starters, the service will be primarily secular and/or ecumenical, since our families are are a mixed bag of Jews, Episcopals, Hindus, and atheists. However, we are comfortable with adding some spiritual elements into the ceremony from any of the above faiths and/or keeping it secular.

I am looking for serious commentary on the commitment of marriage, its sacrifices, etc. We are also very focused on our families and becoming part of one another's family, etc.

Other than that, I'm looking at anything - I majored in medieval studies and love classics, too, so anything old and venerable is always a great choice. I have some maybes already from Marcus Aurelius, Augustine, and some others.
posted by piers at 3:50 AM on July 10, 2006

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
posted by Alison at 3:58 AM on July 10, 2006

Mark Twain also said some wonderful things about marriage.
posted by Alison at 4:03 AM on July 10, 2006

I had a similar question just over a year ago - and had some excellent responses. I especially liked verstegan's (but I also study the 17th century). The thread is here.
posted by jb at 4:08 AM on July 10, 2006

Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet has some beautiful words on love and marriage.
posted by lucyleaf at 7:31 AM on July 10, 2006

We found some great readings in this book about multicultural marriages called Joining Hands and Hearts by Susanna Stefanachi Macomb.

There are some great passages in there by Einstein, Rumi, Tagore, and other secularists. A popular one is this Apache Indian wedding blessing: "Now you will feel no rain / For each of you will be shelter for the other. / Now you will feel no cold, / For each of you will be warmth for the other. / Now there is no more loneliness. / Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. / Go now to your dwelling, to enter into the days of your life together. / And may your days be good and long upon the earth."
posted by mattbucher at 8:24 AM on July 10, 2006 [3 favorites]

Sorry, maybe that is too sappy or sentimental, but there is some really obscure serious stuff in that book if you are interested (you can search inside it on amazon).
posted by mattbucher at 8:26 AM on July 10, 2006

I was in a wedding a few weeks ago and I read something from the Divine Comedy and I choked up as I read it. Maybe because I was just grateful not to be reading "love is patient, love is kind...."

Of course now I can't find the direct quote. I'm emailing the bride to find out but it involved lovers reflecting each other like mirrors.
posted by clairezulkey at 8:46 AM on July 10, 2006

here we go:

The love of god, unutterable and perfect, flows into a pure soul the way light rushes into a transparent object. The more love we receive, the more love we radiate; so that, as we grow clear and open, the more complete the joy of loving is. And the more souls who resonate together, the greater the intensity of their love, for mirror-like, each soul reflects the other.
posted by clairezulkey at 8:57 AM on July 10, 2006 [1 favorite]

We chose the following for the Dismissal:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you,
May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you,
May God give you grace never to sell yourself short,
Grace to risk something big for something good,
Grace to remember that the world is now too dangerous
for anything but truth; and too small for anything but love.
So, may God take your minds and think through them,
May God take your lips and speak through them,
May God take your hearts and set them on fire.
May God lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. Amen"
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:25 AM on July 10, 2006

My wife (part Belgian) and I (part Polish) had a reading from the book of Ruth:

[6] Then [Naomi] arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the LORD had visited his people in giving them bread.
[7] Wherefore she went forth out of the place where she was, and her two daughters in law with her; and they went on the way to return unto the land of Judah.
[8] And Naomi said unto her two daughters in law, Go, return each to her mother's house: the LORD deal kindly with you, as ye have dealt with the dead, and with me.
[9] The LORD grant you that ye may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband. Then she kissed them; and they lifted up their voice, and wept.
[10] And they said unto her, Surely we will return with thee unto thy people.
[11] And Naomi said, Turn again, my daughters: why will ye go with me? are there yet any more sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? [...]
[14] And they lifted up their voice, and wept again: and Orpah kissed her mother in law; but Ruth clave unto her.
[15] And she said, Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law.
[16] And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
[17] Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me
posted by athenian at 11:28 AM on July 10, 2006

I'm fond of the poem "The Wild Rose," which Wendell Berry wrote about, and for, his wife. It speaks to the nature of long-term intimacy, both honestly and with deep love:

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 one again I am blessed, choosing
again what I chose before.
posted by bookish at 1:27 PM on July 10, 2006 [5 favorites]

We chose:

Ogden Nash: Advice on Marriage (although I've seen other titles elsewhere) and a chunk of the Franklins Tale from the Canterbury Tales, in the translation by Neville Coghill (lines 761 to 798).
posted by pharm at 1:52 PM on July 10, 2006

We picked Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet and also some readings from Rumi. Joseph Campbell also has a nice chapter about marriage on "The Power of Myth".
posted by Mr. Gunn at 2:05 PM on July 10, 2006

We went with a traditional Irish blessing:

May the raindrops fall lightly on your brow
May the soft winds freshen your spirit
May the sunshine brighten your heart
May the burdens of the day rest lightly upon you
And may God enfold you in the mantle of His love.

May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
and the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again my friend
May God hold you in the hollow (palm) of his hand

May God be with you and bless you
May you see your children's children
May you be poor in misfortunes and rich in Blessings
May you know nothing but happiness
from this day forward

But rich or poor, quick or slow,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the joys of today
Be those of tomorrow.
posted by raider at 3:54 PM on July 10, 2006

I don't think we'll have readings at my wedding in early September, but if we did I'd be tempted to go with Richard Brautigan's Rural Electrification Project. (It's not a choice that would suit most people, I'll concede.)
posted by hot soup girl at 6:38 PM on July 10, 2006

This is from an episode of Babylon 5. With a few subustitutions (races/cultures rather than aliens, this might be an offbeat choice for a wedding reading. It's been done before with some success.

The Universe speaks in many languages, but only one voice.
The language is not Narn or Human or Centauri or Gaim or Minbari.

It speaks in the language of hope. It speaks in the language of trust.
It speaks in the language of strength, and the language of compassion.
It is the language of the heart and the language of the soul.
But always it is the same voice.

It is the voice of our ancestors speaking through us.
And the voice of our inheritors waiting to be born.
It is the small, still voice that says we are One.

No matter the blood, no matter the skin,
No matter the world, no matter the star,
We are One.
No matter the pain, no matter the darkness,
No matter the loss, no matter the fear.
We are One.

Here, gathered together in common cause
We agree to recognize this singular truth and this singular rule:
That we must be kind to one another.

Because each voice enriches us and ennobles us,
And each voice lost diminishes us.
We are the voice of the universe, the soul of creation,
The fire that will light the way to a better future.

We are One.
posted by JDC8 at 1:15 AM on July 11, 2006

Love is not all: It is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain,
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
and rise and sink and rise and sink again.
Love cannot fill the thickened lung with breath
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
pinned down by need and moaning for release
or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It may well be. I do not think I would.

-- Edna St. Vincent Millay
posted by ZippityBOP at 10:57 AM on July 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

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