Wedding Vows & Readings: How to Find the Perfect Passages

Organizing a wedding is like producing a musical, complete with singing, dancing, and declarations of love. Like the gorgeous words in your vows, readings are a wonderful way to express yourself -- and to include important people in your ceremony.

You might choose several long readings and have just a few readers, or select five or six short passages and include more of your nearest and dearest. You and your fiance can also read alternating verses of a poem or different prose passages.

Some wedding readings are definitely overdone; you might want to delve deeper to find pieces your guests haven't heard. Here's where to start your search.

Religious Texts
The Bible is rich with classic passages -- your officiant can point you in the right direction. Review your choices with a religious officiant first: Some houses of worship may have restrictions Though a reading from the Song of Songs is a good choice, conservatives may consider it inappropriate.

Shakespeare's love sonnets are wonderful to read aloud. Accessible modern poets include e. e. cummings, Pablo Neruda, Walt Whitman, and Nikki Giovanni. Other options? Check out the deeply moving William Butler Yeats and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Sonnets from the Portuguese. Consider consulting a Unitarian minister; since poetry is a regular part of the Unitarian service, he or she should have good suggestions.

Historical Lit
If you like prose, the pantheon of world literature is rich with the love-struck and philosophical. The Kama Sutra and Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet are popular options. Anecdotes by Confucius or Gandhi, not necessarily about romantic love but about the striving of the human spirit, can be inspiring, moving, and appropriate. Browse books and short stories you adore to find passages that get across your message about love and your marriage.

Love Letters
Passages from love letters (from writer James Joyce to his wife, Nora, or Simone De Beauvoir's missives to Jean-Paul Sartre, for example) beautifully express strong feelings. If you'll have two or more readings, consider having a man read from a letter to a female lover, then have a woman read from a note to a male lover.

Children's Books
Regress a little. Your favorite poems or storybooks from childhood can have a very stirring and emotional effect. A selection as simple as the poem The Owl and the Pussycat, something from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, and other classics can resound with amazing meaning and symbolism within the context of a marriage ceremony. Have a youngster read the passage -- there won't be a dry eye in the house.

Movie Moments & Sentimental Songs
Look to pop culture for inspiration. If the idea of incorporating literature into the ceremony seems forced and insincere, feel free to draw from movie quotes and song lyrics. There are some great declarations of love in "The English Patient," "Moonstruck," and "Casablanca." Alternatively, the sentiments expressed in any love song, whatever the style, will be breathtaking when spoken aloud.


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