25 Wedding Readings From Classic Literature
Planning a wedding is tough stuff, and finding the perfect vows, music, and readings, in addition to your venue, food, and flowers, can be a nightmare. I'm here to offer a little bit of sweet relief for book nerds with these 25 wedding readings from classic novels. Whether you love Charles Dickens or just can't get enough of Zora Neale Hurston, I've got you covered here.
There are few events more closely tied to age-old traditions than wedding ceremonies. Making your celebration into something unique, while still honoring the customs of your culture or faith, is a daunting task. If you want to go the traditional route with only a peppering of quirky fun, incorporating a bookish wedding reading into your ceremony is a great way to bring your personality and tastes to the altar, without overwhelming your great-grandma.
If none of the 25 wedding readings from classic novels I've picked out for you below strikes your fancy, take the time to pick up your favorite books and give them a re-read. Not only will they help to calm your stress during the wedding-planning process, but they also might just contain the ~perfect~ quotes to make your ceremony pop like a champagne cork.
"There is much to be said for cherry blossoms, but they seem so flighty. They are so quick to run off and leave you. And then just when your regrets are the strongest the wisteria comes into bloom, and it blooms on into the summer. There is nothing quite like it. Even the color is somehow companionable and inviting."
— from The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
"I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it.... Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you."
— Captain Wentworth, from Persuasion by Jane Austen
“He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. [She], for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love.... Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of loving each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs."
— from One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
"Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with pomp and blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music, perhaps... perhaps... love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath."
— from Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
"Now, even more than the evening before, he could think of no one with whom to compare her. She had become absolute, beyond comparison. She had become decision and fate."
— from Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata
"There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere."
— from Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
"It's a bad word, 'belong.' Especially when you put it with somebody you love. Love shouldn't be like that. Did you ever see the way the clouds love a mountain? They circle all around it; sometimes you can't even see the mountain for the clouds. But you know what? You go up top and what do you see? His head. The clouds never cover the head. His head pokes through, because the clouds let him; they don't wrap him up. They let him keep his head up high, free, with nothing to hide him or bind him. You can't own a human being. You can't lose what you don't own. Suppose you did own him. Could you really love somebody who was absolutely nobody without you? You really want somebody like that? Somebody who falls apart when you walk out the door? You don't, do you? And neither does he."
— from Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
"She is all the great heroines of the world in one. She is more than an individual. I love her, and I must make her love me. I want to make Romeo jealous. I want the dead lovers of the world to hear our laughter, and grow sad. I want a breath of our passion to stir dust into consciousness, to wake their ashes into pain."
— from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
"No one knows very much about the life of another. This ignorance becomes vivid, if you love another. Love sets the imagination on fire, and, also, eventually, chars the imagination into a harder element: imagination cannot match love, cannot plunge so deep, or range so wide."
— from Just Above My Head by James Baldwin
"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 centre and spring of life, wrap my existence about you — and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one."
— from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
"He saw all those private aspects of me — and I mean not just sexual private parts, but my darker side, my meanness, my pettiness, my self-loathing — all the things I kept hidden. So that with him I was completely naked, and when I was feeling the most vulnerable — when the wrong word would have sent me flying out the door forever — he always said exactly the right thing at the right moment. He didn't allow me to cover myself up. He would grab my hands, look me straight in the eye and tell me something new about why he loved me."
— from The Joy-Luck Club by Amy Tan
"I cannot make speeches.... If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more. But you know what I am. You hear nothing but truth from me. I have blamed you, and lectured you, and you have borne it as no other woman... would have borne it. Bear with the truths I would tell you now, dearest... as well as you have borne with them. The manner, perhaps, may have as little to recommend them. God knows, I have been a very indifferent lover. But you understand me. Yes, you see, you understand my feelings and will return them if you can. At present, I ask only to hear, once to hear your voice."
— from Emma by Jane Austen
"[J]oy to hearts which have suffered long is like the dew on the ground after a long drought; both the heart and the ground absorb that beneficent moisture falling on them, and nothing is outwardly apparent."
— from The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
"But that had been grief — this was joy. Yet that grief and this joy were alike outside all the ordinary conditions of life; they were loopholes, as it were, in that ordinary life through which there came glimpses of something sublime. And in the contemplation of this sublime something the soul was exalted to inconceivable heights of which it had before had no conception, while reason lagged behind, unable to keep up with it."
— from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
"Love is lak de sea. It's uh movin' thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it's different with every shore."
— Janie Mae Crawford, from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
"For you, and for any dear to you, I would do anything. If my career were of that better kind that there was any opportunity or capacity of sacrifice in it, I would embrace any sacrifice for you and for those dear to you. Try to hold me in your mind, at some quiet times, as ardent and sincere in this one thing. The time will come, the time will not be long in coming, when new ties will be formed about you — ties that will bind you yet more tenderly and strongly to the home you so adorn — the dearest ties that will ever grace and gladden you. O... think now and then that there is a man who would give his life, to keep a life you love beside you!"
— Sydney Carton, from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
"They got up from the bank of stones. It was getting late, the shadows lay cool and lengthened on the grass and the tops of the trees had the stillness around them that means the end of the day and its liquidation in the setting sun. They retraced their steps back to the house where his car was parked, and when they passed through the blighted orchard, he picked up an apple for her and she ate it. She didn't even have to look; she knew it would be whole, without worms or decay."
— from "At the End of the Century" in At the End of the Century: The Stories of Ruth Prawler Jhabvala by Ruth Prawler Jhabvala
"He knew how she would love. He had not loved her without gaining that instinctive knowledge of what capabilities were in her. Her soul would walk in glorious sunlight if any man was worthy, by his power of loving, to win back her love."
— from North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
"[H]e was lucky to get her, and he knew it.... She laughed all the time and made jokes. He was grateful.... He watched her every move and when she left the room, his eyes allowed her reluctantly to go."
— from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
"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."
— Frederic Henry, from A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
"Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house — the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture — must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story."
— from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
"The power of a glance has been so much abused in love stories, that it has come to be disbelieved in. Few people dare now to say that two beings have fallen in love because they have looked at each other. Yet it is in this way that love begins, and in this way only."
— from Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
"But what is the sense in forever speculating what might have happened had such and such a moment turned out differently? One could presumably drive oneself to distraction in this way. In any case, while it is all very well to talk of 'turning points', one can surely only recognize such moments in retrospect. Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one's life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one's relationship with [another]; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable."
— from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
"What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that 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 Adam Bede by George Eliot
"Unless, of course, there's no such thing as chance... in which case, we should either — optimistically — get up and cheer, because if everything is planned in advance, then we all have a meaning and are spared the terror of knowing ourselves to be random, without a why; or else, of course, we might — as pessimists — give up right here and now, understanding the futility of thought decision action, since nothing we think makes any difference anyway, things will be as they will. Where, then, is optimism? In fate or in chaos?"
— Saleem Sinai, from Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie