When I am helping couples to plan their wedding in Central Park, one of the things I do is to write the ceremony wording with the couple. What I usually do is start off by sending them a list of basic questions, about themselves as a couple, their relationship, their families, and so on. Then I use their answers to create a first draft of ceremony wording for the couple to check over. Sometimes the couple are happy with the first draft. I’ve written over 200 hundred wedding ceremonies now so I’ve got a tried and tested process. Sometimes there’s some discussion and we make lots of changes to get the ceremony just how the couple want it. Something a lot of couples like is to have a poem or reading towards the beginning of the ceremony. This might be done by the officiant, or a guest. I am often asked for suggestions, so I thought I’d publish the top twenty readings that my couples have used in the past, and some of my favorites. Some are lighthearted and funny, some are serious and intended to bring a tear to the eye. Some are traditional, some modern. I hope to bring some useful inspiration to many with this list.
Blessing For A Marriage
by James Dillet Freeman
May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, and understanding.
May you always need one another — not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness.
A mountain needs a valley to be complete.
The valley does not make the mountain less, but more.
And the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it.
So let it be with you and you.
May you need one another, but not out of weakness.
May you want one another, but not out of lack.
May you entice one another, but not compel one another.
May you embrace one another, but not out encircle one another.
May you succeed in all-important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces.
May you look for things to praise, often say, “I love you!” and take no notice of small faults.
If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back.
May you enter into the mystery that is the awareness of one another’s presence — no more physical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities.
May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy.
May you have love, and may you find it loving one another.
by Dena Acolatse
Because of the depths of me, I long to love one person,
With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body.
Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me,
Who won’t hold them against me,
Who loves me when I’m unlikable,
Who sees the small child in me, and
Who looks for the divine potential of me.
Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night,
With someone who is thankful for me,
With someone I feel blessed to hold.
Because marriage means opportunity
To grow in love in friendship.
Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements.
Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole.
Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me,
I take half of the responsibility for my marriage
Together we create our marriage.
Because with this understanding
The possibilities are limitless
and our love will last forever…
How Do I Love Thee
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
Benediction of the Apaches
by Elliott Arnold
Now you will feel no rain,
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold,
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness for you.
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is only one Life before you.
Go now to your dwelling place,
To enter into the days of your togetherness.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth
by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love,
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Oh, no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests.. and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love is not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out.. even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
Marriage Joins Two People in the Circle of Its Love
by Edmund O’Neill
Marriage is a commitment to life, to the best that two people can find and bring out in each other. It offers opportunities for sharing and growth that no other human relationship can equal; a 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 a husband are each other’s best friend, confidant, lover, teacher, listener, and critic. 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 love through the seasons of life. When two people pledge to love and care for each other in marriage, they create a spirit unique to 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, which takes a lifetime to fulfil.
by Roy Croft
I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can’t help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.
I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple;
Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.
I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good,
And more than any fate
To make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
The Art of a Good Marriage
by Wilferd Arlan Peterson
A good marriage must be created.
In marriage the “little” things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say, ”I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is having a mutual sense of values, and common objectives.
It is standing together and facing the world.
It is forming a circle that gathers in the whole family.
It is speaking words of appreciation, and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is not only marrying the right person — it is being the right partner.
by Robert Fulghum
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 commitments in an informal way.
All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversa-tions that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all 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 that 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, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.
For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife.
Yes, I’ll Marry You
by Pam Ayres
Yes, I’ll marry, my dear, and here’s the reason why;
So I can push you out of bed when the baby starts to cry,
And if we hear a knocking and it’s creepy and it’s late,
I hand you the torch to see, and you investigate.
Yes I’ll marry you, my dear, you may not apprehend it,
But when the tumble-drier goes it’s you that has to mend it.
You have to face the neighbour should our Labrador attack him,
And if a drunkard fondles me it’s you that has to whack him.
Yes I’ll marry you, you’re virile and you’re lean,
My house is like a pigsty you can help to keep it clean.
That sexy little dinner which you served by candlelight,
As I do chipolatas, you can cook it every night!
It’s you who work the drill and put up curtain track,
And when I’ve got PMT it’s you who gets the flak,
I do see great advantages, but none of them for you,
And so before you see the light, I do, I do, I do !
Traditional Irish Wedding Blessing
May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
May God be with you and bless you;
May you see your children’s children.
May you be poor in misfortune,
Rich in blessings,
May you know nothing but happiness
From this day forward.
May the road rise to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the warm rays of sun fall upon your home
And may the hand of a friend always be near.
May green be the grass you walk on,
May blue be the skies above you,
May pure be the joys that surround you,
May true be the hearts that love you.
Corinthians, chapter 13, verses 1 to 8
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith,so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
A passage from The Bridge Across Forever
by Richard Bach
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.
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)
by ee cummins
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
A passage from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
by Louis de Bernieres
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes 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 that is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, It is not the proclamation of promises of eternal passion…. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is left over when being in love has burned away, And this both an art and a fortunate accident….. To have roots that grow towards each other underground, So that when all the pretty blossom has fallen from your branches You find that you are one tree and not two.
by Wendy Cope
I cannot promise never to be angry;
I cannot promise always to be kind.
You know what you are taking on, my darling –
It’s only at the start that love is blind.
And yet I’m still the one you want to be with
And you’re the one for me – of that I’m sure.
You are my closest friend, my favorite person,
The lover and the home I’ve waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve you
From this day on. I hope to pass that test.
I love you and I want to make you happy.
I promise I will do my very best.
The Life That I Have
by Leo Marks
The life that I have
Is all that I have
And the life that I have
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.
A sleep I shall have
A rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.
A passage from The Amber Spyglass
by Phillip Pullman
“I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, eve-ry single moment.
And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…
And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me.”
I Will Be Here
by Steven Curtis Chapman
If in the morning when you wake,
If the sun does not appear,
I will be here.
If in the dark we lose sight of love,
Hold my hand and have no fear,
I will be here.
I will be here,
When you feel like being quiet,
When you need to speak your mind I will listen.
Through the winning, losing, and trying we’ll be together,
And I will be here.
If in the morning when you wake,
If the future is unclear,
I will be here.
As sure as seasons were made for change,
Our lifetimes were made for years,
I will be here.
I will be here,
And you can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us we’re older.
I will hold you, to watch you grow in beauty,
And tell you all the things you are to me.
We’ll be together and I will be here.
I will be true to the promises I’ve made,
To you and to the one who gave you to me.
I will be here.
by Eileen Rafter
The sun danced on the snow with a sparkling smile,
As two lovers sat quietly, alone for a while.
Then he turned and said, with a casual air
(Though he blushed from his chin to the tips of his hair),
“ I think I might like to get married to you”.
“Well then, she said, “Well there’s a thought,
But what if we can’t promise to be all we ought,
If I’m late yet again, when we plan to go out.
For I know I can’t promise that I’ll learn to ignore
Dirty socks and damp towels strewn all over the 28 floor.
So if we can’t vow to be all that we should
I’m not sure what to do, though the idea’s quite good”
But gently he smiled and tilted his head
Till his lips met her ear and softly he said
“I promise, to weave my dreams into your own,
That wherever you breathe will be my hearts’ home.
I promise, that whether with rags or riches I’m blessed
Your smile is the jewel I’ll treasure the best.
Do you think then, my love, we should marry – do you?”
“Yes “ she said smiling “ I do”.
I would love to hear any other suggestions for readings, poems or prayers for a wedding. If you are considering a Central Park wedding, visit our website, or “like” us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and follow us on Pinterest where you will find lots of lovely photos and many more inspiring stories of real weddings. Please comment below if you have any suggestions of your own, or let me know what reading(s) you had at your own wedding.