17 Non-Religious Wedding Poems

by Caitlin White

Wedding planning can be such a stressful, family-pleasing, wallet-busting process that sometimes you forget what you're doing it all for. Choosing readings for your wedding ceremony can be a meditative experience in the middle of all the chaos. It lets you delve down deep into how to state your love for your partner, your future husband or future wife. And for those who don't follow a particular faith, non-religious wedding poems are a beautiful option for your ceremony.

If you're not bound by traditional religious readings, your doors are open to choose wedding poetry that's classic, contemporary, fun and lively, or slow and meditative. Of course, how could the list leave off classic wedding poems from people like Rumi, Pablo Neruda, and William Shakespeare? But there are also poems from old-school bohemian poets, our goddess Maya Angelou, and modern writers like Nayyirah Waheed and Mindy Nettifee. There are long, beautiful poems, and, don't worry, if you have that one ceremony reader who starts to sweat and panic in front of large crowds, there are poems only a couple lines long so you won't leave them hanging.

For a little inspiration, here is a list of 17 non-religious wedding poems that can add a personal touch to your wedding ceremony.

1. "Pathways" by Rainer Maria Rilke

Understand, I'll slip quietlyAway from the noisy crowdWhen I see the paleStars rising, blooming over the oaks.I'll pursue solitary pathwaysThrough the pale twilit meadows,With only this one dream:You come too.

2. "Touched by an Angel" by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courageexiles from delightlive coiled in shells of lonelinessuntil love leaves its high holy templeand comes into our sightto liberate us into life.Love arrivesand in its train come ecstasiesold memories of pleasureancient histories of pain.Yet if we are bold,love strikes away the chains of fearfrom our souls.We are weaned from our timidityIn the flush of love’s lightwe dare be braveAnd suddenly we seethat love costs all we areand will ever be.Yet it is only lovewhich sets us free.

3. "So Much Happiness" by Naomi Shihab Nye

It is difficult to know what to do with so much happiness.With sadness there is something to rub against,a wound to tend with lotion and cloth.When the world falls in around you, you have pieces to pick up,something to hold in your hands, like ticket stubs or change.
But happiness floats.It doesn’t need you to hold it down.It doesn’t need anything.Happiness lands on the roof of the next house, singing,and disappears when it wants to.You are happy either way.Even the fact that you once lived in a peaceful tree houseand now live over a quarry of noise and dustcannot make you unhappy.Everything has a life of its own,it too could wake up filled with possibilitiesof coffee cake and ripe peaches,and love even the floor which needs to be swept,the soiled linens and scratched records…..
Since there is no place large enoughto contain so much happiness,you shrug, you raise your hands, and it flows out of youinto everything you touch. You are not responsible.You take no credit, as the night sky takes no creditfor the moon, but continues to hold it, and share it,and in that way, be known.

4. "The Happy Virus" by Hafiz

I caught the happy virus last nightWhen I was out singing beneath the stars.It is remarkably contagious - So kiss me.

5. "The Invitation" by Oriah

It doesn’t interest mewhat you do for a living.I want to knowwhat you ache forand if you dare to dreamof meeting your heart’s longing.
It doesn’t interest mehow old you are.I want to know if you will risk looking like a foolfor lovefor your dreamfor the adventure of being alive.
It doesn’t interest mewhat planets are squaring your moon...I want to knowif you have touchedthe centre of your own sorrowif you have been openedby life’s betrayalsor have become shriveled and closedfrom fear of further pain.
I want to knowif you can sit with painmine or your ownwithout moving to hide itor fade itor fix it.
I want to knowif you can be with joymine or your ownif you can dance with wildnessand let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toeswithout cautioning usto be carefulto be realisticto remember the limitationsof being human.
It doesn’t interest meif the story you are telling meis true.I want to know if you candisappoint anotherto be true to yourself.If you can bearthe accusation of betrayaland not betray your own soul.If you can be faithlessand therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see Beautyeven when it is not prettyevery day.And if you can source your own lifefrom its presence.
I want to knowif you can live with failureyours and mineand still stand at the edge of the lakeand shout to the silver of the full moon,“Yes.”
It doesn’t interest meto know where you liveor how much money you have.I want to know if you can get upafter the night of grief and despairweary and bruised to the boneand do what needs to be doneto feed the children.
It doesn’t interest mewho you knowor how you came to be here.I want to know if you will standin the centre of the firewith meand not shrink back.
It doesn’t interest mewhere or what or with whomyou have studied.I want to know what sustains youfrom the insidewhen all else falls away.
I want to knowif you can be alone with yourselfand if you truly likethe company you keepin the empty moments.

6. "Sonnet 116" by William Shakespeare

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 markThat 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 cheeksWithin 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.

7. "Desire" by Alice Walker

My desireis always the same; wherever Lifedeposits me:I want to stick my toe& soon my whole bodyinto the water.I want to shake out a fat broom& sweep dried leavesbruised blossomsdead insects& dust.I want to growsomething.It seems impossible that desirecan sometimes transform into devotion;but this has happened.And that is how I’ve survived:how the holeI carefully tendedin the garden of my heartgrew a heartto fill it.

8. "Chemistry" by Nayyirah Waheed

chemistryisyoutouching my armanditsetting fire to my mind.

9. "Ordinary Morning" by Joyce Grenfell

It felt like an ordinary morningIt began an ordinary wayAnd then, without warningOrdinary morning became an extraordinary day.
Hadn’t the slightest sort of inklingNo-one said love was on its wayAnd then within a twinklingWithout the smallest inklingIt became an extraordinary day.
For there you wereAnd the whole world stood still.There you were,I loved you then and I always will
At first, an ordinary morning,Began in an ordinary way,And then my heart was beatingAt this ordinary meetingAnd we both knewThis was not an ordinary day.

10. "Scaffolding" by Seamus Heaney

Masons, when they start upon a building,Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.And yet all this comes down when the job’s doneShowing off walls of sure and solid stone.So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to beOld bridges breaking between you and meNever fear. We may let the scaffolds fallConfident that we have built our wall.

11. "Come, and Be My Baby" by Maya Angelou

The highway is full of big cars going nowhere fast And folks is smoking anything that’ll burn Some people wrap their lies around a cocktail glass And you sit wondering where you’re going to turn I got it. Come. And be my baby.
Some prophets say the world is gonna end tomorrow But others say we’ve got a week or two The paper is full of every kind of blooming horror And you sit wondering What you’re gonna do. I got it. Come. And be my baby.

12. "i carry your heart" by e.e. cummings

i carry your heart with me (i carry it inmy heart) i am never without it (anywherei go you go, my dear; and whatever is doneby only me is your doing, my darling)i fearno fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i wantno world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)and it's you are whatever a moon has always meantand 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 budand the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which growshigher 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)

13. "Sonnet XVII" by Pablo Neruda

I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:I love you as one loves certain obscure things,secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carriesthe light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arosefrom the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,I love you directly without problems or pride:I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,except in this form in which I am not nor are you,so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,so close that your eyes close with my dreams.

14. "Song for the Last Act" by Louise Bogan

Now that I have your face by heart, I lookLess at its features than its darkening frameWhere quince and melon, yellow as young flame,Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd’s crook.Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent easeThe lead and marble figures watch the showOf yet another summer loath to goAlthough the scythes hang in the apple trees.
Now that I have your face by heart, I look.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I readIn the black chords upon a dulling pageMusic that is not meant for music’s cage,Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.The staves are shuttled over with a starkUnprinted silence. In a double dreamI must spell out the storm, the running stream.The beat’s too swift. The notes shift in the dark.
Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.
Now that I have your heart by heart, I seeThe wharves with their great ships and architraves;The rigging and the cargo and the slavesOn a strange beach under a broken sky.O not departure, but a voyage done!The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weepsIts red rust downward, and the long vine creepsBeside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.Now that I have your heart by heart, I see.
Colors passing through us

15. "Untitled Because No Title Is Good Enough" by Mindy Nettifee

if a man is only as good as his word,then I want to marry a man with a vocabulary like yours.
the way you say “dicey” and “delectable” and “octogenarian”in the same sentence—that really turns me on,the way you describe the oranges in your backyardusing “anarchistic” and “intimate” in the same breath.
i would follow the legato and staccato of your tonguewrapping around your dictionuntil listening become more like dreamingand dreaming became more like kissing you.
i want to jump off the cliff of your voiceinto the suicide of your stream of consciousness.i want to visit the place in your heart where the wrong words die.i want to map it out with a dictionary and points of brilliant lightuntil it looks more like a star chart than a strategy for communication.i want to see where your words are born.i want to find a pattern in the astrology.
i want to memorize the scripts of your seductions.i want to live in the long-winded epics of your disappointments,in the haiku of your epiphanies.i want to know all the names you’ve given your desires.i want to find my name among them,‘cause there is nothing more wrecking-sexy than the right word.i want to thank whoever told you there was no such thing as a synonym.
i want to throw a party for the heartbreak that turned you into a poet.
and if it is true that a man is only as good as his wordthen, sweet jesus,let me be there the first time you are speechless,and all your explosive wisdombecomes a burning ball of sun in your throat,and all you can bring yourself to utter is, oh god,oh god….

16. "The Privileged Lovers" by Rumi

The moon has become a dancerat this festival of love.This dance of light,
This sacred blessing,This divine love,beckons usto a world beyondonly lovers can seewith their eyes of fiery passion.
They are the chosen oneswho have surrendered.Once they were particles of lightnow they are the radiant sun.
They have left behindthe world of deceitful games.They are the privileged loverswho create a new worldwith their eyes of fiery passion.

17. "About Marriage" by Denise Levertov

Don’t lock me in wedlock, I want

marriage, anencounter—

I told you about thegreen light ofMay

(a veil of quiet befallenthe downtown park,late

Saturday afternoon, longshadows and cool

air, scent ofnew grass,fresh leaves,

blossom on the threshold ofabundance—

and the birds I met there,birds of passage breaking their journey,three birds each of a different species:

the azalea-breasted with round poll, dark,the brindled, merry, mousegliding one,and the smallest, golden as gorse and wearinga black Venetian mask

and with them the three douce hen-birdsfeathered in tender, lively brown—

I stooda half-hour under the enchantment,no-one passed near,the birds saw me and

let me benear them.)

It’s notirrelevant:I would bemet

and meet youso,in a green

airy space, notlocked in.

Images: Josh Felise/Unsplash; Scott Webb/Unsplash; Jill111/Pixabay; Andrew Itaga, Rachel Crowe, Ezra Jeffrey, Atlas Green, Greg Raines, Alejandra Quiroz/Unsplash