Now that I'm in my 20s, not a year goes by without a flood of wedding invitations, and with each ceremony I attend comes new ideas for my own special day. I've already decided that my dress will be knee-length, the venue will be outside, and by now, I've been to enough weddings to know that the best ceremonies have a wedding reading from a poem. The question isn't whether or not I'll use a poem at my wedding, but which poem I'll chose.
Usually the celebration— food, champagne, dancing, the works — is everyone's favorite part of a wedding, but I always look forward to the ceremony, because that's when you really get to see what makes the couple's love unique and special. The words they chose to say to each other and share with their friends and family says a lot about their relationship and their feelings for one another. It's one of the most personal, moving, and romantic parts of the wedding. While a lot of people chose to share religious readings, write their own vows, or quote from book passages, love poems are always a great choice for a beautiful, touching ceremony.
Whether you're engaged and planning your wedding IRL or just planning the one of your dreams, here are 13 wedding readings from poems perfect for any ceremony.
1. Not a red rose or a satin heart.I give you an onion.It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.It promises lightlike the careful undressing of love.
—Carol Ann Duffy, “Valentine”
2. I would like to watch you sleeping,which may not happen.I would like to watch you,sleeping. I would like to sleepwith you, to enteryour sleep as its smooth dark waveslides over my head
and walk with you through that lucentwavering forest of bluegreen leaveswith its watery sun & three moonstowards the cave where you must descend,towards your worst fear
I would like to give you the silverbranch, the small white flower, the oneword that will protect youfrom the grief at the centerof your dream, from the griefat the center. I would like to followyou up the long stairwayagain & becomethe boat that would row you backcarefully, a flamein two cupped handsto where your body liesbeside me, and you enterit as easily as breathing in
I would like to be the airthat inhabits you for a momentonly. I would like to be that unnoticed& that necessary.
—Margaret Atwood, "Variation on the Word Sleep"
3. Give me your hand
Make room for meto lead and followyoubeyond this rage of poetry.
Let others havethe privacy oftouching wordsand love of lossof love.
For meGive me your hand.
—Maya Angelou, "A Conceit"
4. You are the bread and the knife,the crystal goblet and the wine.You are the dew on the morning grassand the burning wheel of thesun.You are the white apron of the bakerand the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
—Billy Collins, "Litany"
5. I know the secret shapein you. It's in the bone, burning there —a thing I can't call. Fine-made.A shape with the sky in it, & so much quiet.I could drive all my horses through & never reach the end.But I've been thinking, deciding now —If I just knew the words to still you down, some soundto ride by. I'd find a way to keep you with me, then.If you just asked me to give up my horsesI'd give up my horses.
—Kiki Petrosino, "Sense-Certainty"
6. Let me not to the marriage of true mindsAdmit impediments. Love is not loveWhich 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 wandering 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 writ, nor no man ever loved.
—William Shakespeare, "Sonnet 116"
7. A lover asked his beloved,
Do you love yourself morethan you love me?
The beloved replied,I have died to myselfand I live for you.
I’ve disappeared from myselfand my attributes.I am present only for you.
I have forgotten all my learning,but from knowing youI have become a scholar.
I have lost all my strength,but from your powerI am able.
If I love myselfI love you.If I love youI love myself.
—Rumi, "Do You Love Me?"
8. 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 withAnd you're the one for me – of that I'm sure. You are my closest friend, my favourite person,The lover and the home I've waited for.
I cannot promise that I will deserve youFrom 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.
—Wendy Cope, "A Vow"
9. To love is not to possess,To own or imprison,Nor to lose one's self in another.Love is to join and separate,To walk alone and together,To find a laughing freedomThat lonely isolation does not permit.It is finally to be ableTo be who we really areNo longer clinging in childish dependencyNor docilely living separate lives in silence,It is to be perfectly one's selfAnd perfectly joined in permanent commitmentTo another–and to one's inner self.Love only endures when it moves like waves,Receding and returning gently or passionately,Or moving lovingly like the tideIn the moon's own predictable harmony,Because finally, despite a child's scarsOr an adult's deepest wounds,They are openly free to beWho they really are–and always secretly were,In the very core of their beingWhere true and lasting love can alone abide.
—James Kavanaugh, "To Love is Not to Possess"
10. The life that I haveIs all that I haveAnd the life that I haveIs yours.The love that I haveOf the life that I haveIs yours and yours and yours.A sleep I shall haveA rest I shall haveYet death will be but a pause.For the peace of my yearsIn the long green grassWill be yours and yours and yours.
—Leo Marks, "The Life That I Have"
11. I rely on you
like a camera needs a shutterlike a gambler needs a flutterlike a golfer needs a putterlike a buttered scone involves some butter
I rely on youlike an acrobat needs ice cool nervelike a hairpin needs a drastic curvelike an HGV needs endless dervlike an outside left needs a body swerve
I rely on youlike a handyman needs plierslike an auctioneer needs buyerslike a laundromat needs drierslike The Good Life needed Richard Briers
I rely on you.
—Hovis Presley, "I Rely on You"
12. Laugh at the night,at the day, at the moon,laugh at the twistedstreets of the island,laugh at this clumsyboy who loves you,but when I openmy eyes and close them,when my steps go,when my steps return,deny me bread, air,light, spring,but never your laughterfor I would die.
—Pablo Neruda, "Your Laughter"
13. "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 somethinglike prayer and can’t be planned, you just fallinto its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief."
—Anne Sexton, "Admonitions"
Images: Rachel Crowe/Unsplash; Giphy (13)