Literary Ceremony Readings
This is a collection of wedding ceremony readings from various pieces of literature, both classic and modern. If you are having a secular wedding ceremony, or your officiant allows for non-religious readings, these excerpts are a great place to start!
Literary Ceremony Readings
"Friendship" by Author Unknown
It is often said that it is love that makes the world go round.
However, without doubt, it is friendship which keeps our spinning existence on an even keel.
True friendship provides so many of the essentials for a happy life, it is the foundation on which to build an enduring relationship, it is the mortar which bonds us together in harmony, and it is the calm, warm protection we sometimes need when the world outside seems cold and chaotic.
True friendship holds a mirror to our foibles and failings, without destroying our sense of worthiness.
True friendship nurtures our hopes, supports us in our disappointments, and encourages us to grow to our best potential.
This couple came together as friends, they pledge to each other not only their love, but also the strength, warmth and, most importantly, the fun of true friendship.
"On Marriage" from The Prophet by Kahil Gibran
You were born to be together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in your silent memory.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not bondage of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup, but drink not from one cup.
Give one other of your bread, but eat not of the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone, though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping,
For only the hand of life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together,
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
From "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom
There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage:
If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.
If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.
If you can't talk openly about what goes on between you, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.
And if you don't have a common set of values in life, you're gonna have a lot of trouble.
Your values must be alike. And the biggest one of those values? Your belief in the importance of your marriage.
Love each other or perish.
From "Captain Corelli's Mandolin" by Louis de Bernieres
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because this is what love is.
Love is not breathless, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. . . .
That is just 'being in love', which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
May your roots grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms fall from your branches, you find out that you are one tree, and not two.
From "Now We Are Six" by A.A. Milne
A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks.
When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be.
Each unveils the best part of the other.
No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise.
Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction.
When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person.
Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.
"In One Another's Souls" by Rumi
The moment I heard my first love story I began seeking you,
not realizing the search was useless.
Lovers don't meet somewhere along the way.
They're in one another's souls from the beginning.
From "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rainer Maria Rilke
For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.
Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person, it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself for the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to vast distance.
Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distance exists, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of seeing each other as a whole before an immense sky.
From "Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules.
The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart's.
To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endless changing beauty of its unfolding.
There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing.
Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back, it does not matter which.
Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.
From "The Oyster Bed, Gift from the Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Love does not consist of gazing at each other (one perfect sunrise gazing at another) but in looking outward together in the same direction. For, in fact man and woman are not only looking outward in the same direction; they are working outward. Here one forms ties, roots, a firm base. Here one makes oneself part of the community of men, of human society. And here the bonds of marriage are formed. For marriage, which is always spoken of as a bond, becomes actually, in this stage, many bonds, many strands, of different texture and strength, making up a web that is taut and firm. The web is fashioned of love. Yes, many kinds of love: romantic love first, then a slow growing devotion and playing these through, a constantly rippling companionship. It is made of loyalties, and interdependencies, and shared experiences. It is woven of memories of meetings and conflicts; of triumphs and disappointments. It is a web of communication, a common language, and the acceptance of lack of language, too; a knowledge of likes and dislikes, of habits and reactions, both physical and mental. It is a web of instincts and intuitions, and known and unknown exchanges. The web of marriage is made by propinquity, in the day to day living side by side, looking outward and working outward in the same direction. It is woven in space and in time of the substance of life itself.
"Marriage Joins Two People in the Circle of Its Love" by Edmund O'Neill
Marriage is a commitment to life, the best that two people can find and bring out in each other. It offers opportunities for sharing and growth that no other relationship can equal. It is a physical and an emotional joining that is promised for a lifetime.Within the circle of its love, marriage encompasses all of life's most important relationships. A wife and husband are each other's best friend, confidant, lover, teacher, listener and critic. And there may come times when one partner is heartbroken or ailing, and the love of the other may resemble the tender caring of a parent for a child. Marriage deepens and enriches every facet of life. Happiness is fuller, memories are fresher, commitment is stronger, even anger is felt more strongly and passes away more quickly. Marriage understands and forgives the mistakes life is unable to avoid. It encourages and nurtures new life, new experiences and new ways of expressing a love that is deeper than life. When two people pledge their love and care for each other in marriage, they create a spirit unique unto themselves, which binds them closer than any spoken or written words. Marriage is a promise, a potential made in the hearts of two people who love each other and takes a lifetime to fulfill.
From "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery
"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.
But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life.
I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others.
Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground.
Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow.
And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder?
These wheat fields have nothing to say to me.
And that is sad.
But you have hair that is the color of gold.
Think how wonderful that will be, when you have tamed me!
The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you.
The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time.
"Please-tame me!" he said.
"I want to, very much," the little prince replied.
"What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince.
"You must be very patient," replied the fox.
"First you will sit down at a little distance from me - like that - in the grass.
I shall look at you out of the comer of my eye,
and you will say nothing.
Words are the source of misunderstandings.
But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .
The next day the little prince came back.
"It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox.
"If, for example, you come at four o'clock in the afternoon,
then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy.
I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances.
At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about.
But if you come at just any time, I shall never know
at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you .
From "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte
I have for the first time found what I can truly love & I have found you. You are my sympathy & my better self, my good Angel. I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wraps my existence about you, and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.
"Us Two" by A.A. Milne
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.
"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh.
"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.
"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.
"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."
So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said: "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. "That's how it is," says Pooh.
"The Promise" by Heather Berry
Within this blessed union of souls, where two hearts intertwine to become one, there lies a promise. Perfectly born, divinely created, and intimately shared, it is a place where the hope and majesty of beginnings reside. Where all things are made possible by the astounding love shared by two spirits. As you hold each other's hands in this promise, and eagerly look into the future in each other's eyes, may your unconditional love and devotion take you to places where you've both only dreamed. Where you'll dwell for a lifetime of happiness, sheltered in the warmth of each other's arms.
From "Adam Bede" by George Eliot
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel they are joined for life & to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent, unspeakable memories,at the moment of the last parting.
From "The Irrational Season" by Madeleine L'Engle
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.
By Theodore Parker
It takes years to marry completely two hearts, even the most loving and well assorted. A happy wedlock is a falling in love. Young persons think love belongs to the brow-haired and crimson cheeked. So it does for its beginning. But the golden marriage is part of love which the bridal day knows nothing of...Such a large and sweet fruit is marriage that is needs a long summer to ripen, and then a long winter to mellow and season it.
"A Wedding Reading" from Adam Bede by George Eliot
It was Dinah who spoke first.
'Adam,' she said, 'it is the Divine Will. My soul is so knit with yours that it is but a divided life I live without you. And this moment, now you are with me, and I feel that our hearts are filled with the same love, I have a fullness of strength to bear and do our heavenly Father's will, that I had lost before.'
Adam paused and looked into her sincere loving eyes.
'Then we'll never part any more, Dinah, till death parts us.'
And they kissed each other with a deep joy.
What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life - to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?
An excerpt from "A Farewell to Arms" by Ernest Hemingway
At night, there was the feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a woman wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.
An excerpt from "The Two Towers" from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
ENT: When Spring unfolds the beechen leaf, and sap is in the bough;
When light is on the wild-wood stream, and wind is on the brow;
When stride is long, and breath is deep, and keen the mountain-air,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!
ENTWIFE.: When Spring is come to garth and field, and corn is in the blade;
When blossom like a shining snow is on the orchard laid;
When shower and Sun upon the Earth with fragrance fill the air,
I'll linger here, and will not come, because my land is fair.
ENT.: When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold
Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold;
When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!
ENTWIFE. : When Summer warms the hanging fruit and burns the berry brown;
When straw is gold, and ear is white, and harvest comes to town;
When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the West,
I'll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!
ENT.: When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I'll look for thee, and call to thee; I'll come to thee again!
ENTWIFE : When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I'll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!
BOTH : Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.
From Plato's Symposium
Humans have never understood the power of Love, for if they had they would surely have built noble temples and altars and offered solemn sacrifices; but this is not done, and most certainly ought to be done, since Love is our best friend, our helper, and the healer of the ills which prevent us from being happy.
To understand the power of Love, we must understand that our original human nature was not like it is now, but different. Human beings each had two sets of arms, two sets of legs, and two faces looking in opposite directions. There were three sexes then: one comprised of two men called the children of the Sun, one made of two women called the children of the Earth, and a third made of a man and a woman, called the children of the Moon. Due to the power and might of these original humans, the Gods began to fear that their reign might be threatened. They sought for a way to end the humans insolence without destroying them.
It was at this point that Zeus divided the humans in half. After the division the two parts of each desiring their other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one. So ancient is the desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healing the state of humankind.
Each of us when separated, having one side only, is but the indenture of a person, and we are always looking for our other half. Those whose original nature lies with the children of the Sun are men who are drawn to other men, those from the children of the Earth are women who love other women, and those from the children of the Moon are men and women drawn to one another. And when one of us meets our other half, we are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and would not be out of the other's sight even for a moment. We pass our whole lives together, desiring that we should be melted into one, to spend our lives as one person instead of two, and so that after our death there will be one departed soul instead of two; this is the very expression of our ancient need. And the reason is that human nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and pursuit of the whole is called Love.
An excerpt from "Jazz" by Toni Morrison
It's nice when grown people whisper to each other under the covers. Their ecstasy is more leaf-sigh than bray and the body is the vehicle, not the point. They reach, grown people, for something beyond, way beyond and way, way down underneath tissue. They are remembering while they whisper the carnival dolls they won and the Baltimore boats they never sailed on. The pears they let hang on the limb because if they plucked them, they would be gone from there and who else would see that ripeness if they took it away for themselves? How could anybody passing by see them and imagine for themselves what the flavor would be like? Breathing and murmuring under covers both of them have washed and hung out on the line, in a bed they chose together and kept together never mind one leg was propped on a 1916 dictionary, and the mattress, curved like a preacher's palm asking for witnesses in His name's sake, enclosed them each and every night and muffled their whispering, old-time love. They are under the covers because they don't have to look at themselves anymore; there is no stud's eye, no chippie glance to undo them. They are inward toward the other, bound and joined by carnival dolls and the steamers that sailed from ports they never saw. That is what is beneath their undercover whispers.
From "The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"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."
From "The Irrational Season" by Madeleine L'Engle
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.
From "Gift From The Sea" by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity - in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.
The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits - islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.