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Non-Traditional Wedding Ceremonies: Poetry Readings

Updated on November 28, 2016

Reading of Sonnet 116

Typically readings at a wedding are usually taken from the bible, but for those out there who want a more non-traditional wedding there are other routes you can take. The bible isn't the only place where one can get a heart felt idea of love, many poems express that very same sentiment. Poetry is an expression of feeling so it's very common to have readings from poets at a wedding ceremony. My favorite poet who composed love poems was William Shakespeare. His sonnets are ones that exhibit truth in love and in being in love, but there are others out there whose work confesses the same feelings about love and what it is to love and to be loved.

The first poem I will begin with is William Shakespeare's Sonnet 116. It is fairly popular when deciding on a reading for a wedding ceremony, and is one that I choose for my wedding. This sonnet shows the strength of true love and describes what true love looks like.

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:

O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's 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 wit, nor no man ever loved.

The second poem is Love is Enough by William Morris. What I like about this poem is how it expresses that love is all you need to get you through difficult times.

Love is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,
And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass'd over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.

The third poem is one by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Presence of Love. This is a beautiful poem written to a lover about their love. It would possibly a good poem to incorporate into wedding vows somehow. It can be read here:

The fourth poem is by Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese 14: If Thou. This is another poem written to a lover expressing that the lover love them for love and nothing else because love is ever lasting and appearances or characters can be changed.

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
I love her for her smile ... her look ... her way
Of speaking gently, ... for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day'—
For these things in themselves, Belovèd, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

The fifth poem is by John Donne entitled The Good-Morrow. This is a beautiful poem and the last stanza is referenced in various movies about a passionate love, one of those movies being Tristan & Isolde. Of the poem I feel that the last stanza is good enough to stand on it's own and still convey the same message. The rest of the poem can be read here:

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

The sixth poem is one by Anne Bradstreet entitled To My Dear and Loving Husband. This poem is about having everlasting marital bliss. It is another one that could be incorporated in to the vows somehow. The poem can be seen here:

The seventh poem is one by Anne Sexton, Admonitions to a Special Person. The poem in it's entirety wouldn't be a good fit, but there is a section of the poem that expresses some uncontrolable feeling about love that is difficult to describe. You can read the entire poem here

Love? Be it man. Be it woman.
It must be a wave you want to glide in on,
give your body to it, give your laugh to it,
give, when the gravelly sand takes you,
your tears to the land. To love another is something
like prayer and can't be planned, you just fall
into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

The eighth poem is by E.E. Cummings entitled i carry your heart with me i carry it in. This is a good devotion poem about lovers giving themselves to one another and carrying their lover with them in their heart. Once you are married you become as one and this poem does a good job of illustrating that. The poem can be read here:

The ninth poem I have chosen is one by Christina Rossetti entitled I loved you first.

Christina Rossetti

I loved you first: but afterwards your love
Outsoaring mine, sang such a loftier song
As drowned the friendly cooings of my dove.
Which owes the other most? my love was long,
And yours one moment seemed to wax more strong;
I loved and guessed at you, you construed me
And loved me for what might or might not be –
Nay, weights and measures do us both a wrong.
For verily love knows not ‘mine’ or ‘thine;’
With separate ‘I’ and ‘thou’ free love has done,
For one is both and both are one in love:
Rich love knows nought of ‘thine that is not mine;’
Both have the strength and both the length thereof,
Both of us, of the love which makes us one.

The last and final one isn't really a poem but I thought it was interesting to see this being used at a wedding ceremony. O The Places You Will Go! by Dr. Seuss. I thought that was the most interesting reading for a wedding because it makes the wedding very light-hearted and comical. It's definitely one for weddings that are non-traditional and more fun and care-free.


Which is better a biblical reading or a more poetic reading?

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