Finding some suitable words to say (or have said) when you tie the knot is going to be a big part of your planning – the time consuming bit is finding the right wedding readings that are going to say just what you want.

woman performing a wedding reading The Most Popular Wedding Readings for Modern Ceremonies
Credit: Dominique Bader

The Most Popular Wedding Readings for Modern Ceremonies

There are always some perennial favourites at weddings; words that have stood the test of time, that always seem right for the occasion, never date and raise smiles (and possibly provoke a few tears). You want your wedding reading to move you and your guests in all the right ways.

You’ll also have to make your wedding reading suitable for the location of your marriage ceremony. Remember, if you’re having a religious ceremony you can have a religious reading – from the Bible, for example. However if you’re having a civil ceremony, then religion/God cannot be mentioned whatsoever so you’re going to have to think creatively.

Woman giving a wedding reading The Most Popular Wedding Readings for Modern Ceremonies
Photography: Dasha Caffrey

Readings Suitable for a Church Ceremony

Song of Solomon, Chapter 2, verses 10-13; Chapter 8, verses 6&7

My beloved spoke and said to me,
    “Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.”

bride crying at wedding with guests The Most Popular Wedding Readings for Modern Ceremonies
Credit: Albert Palmer Photography

1 Corinthians 13

These words from Corinthians are the most popular reading ever given at a church ceremony. It implies that if you live without love, you really have nothing. (We’d agree with that!)

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have 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. For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Bride and groom at wedding ceremony The Most Popular Wedding Readings for Modern Ceremonies
Credit: Eleanor Jane Weddings

‘Thoughts on Marriage’ by Kahlil Gibran

Of course you don’t have to have a religious reading even if you’re having a religious ceremony. These thought-provoking lines from Kahil Gibran are often heard at weddings, because they seem to say all the right things when you are embarking on a life together.

“You were born together, and together you shall be forever more.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Yes, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness.
And let the winds of heaven dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love.
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but each one of you be
alone – even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not in each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the Cyprus grow not in each other’s shadows”

Readings for a Civil Ceremony

“Registry office ceremonies and civil weddings, which are often less formal than the traditional Church ceremony, lend themselves well to ‘lighter’ readings,” says Lawrence Bernstein from Great Speech Writing. “These are often more fun, certainly more light-hearted and provoke laughter from the guests.”

Some popular readings to consider include these two romantic passages. The first is especially wonderful if you’ve been together for a while already, talking when the first passions of love subside making way for a deeper emotion; the second is about the two of you joining together as a couple, and never being lonely again.

From Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières

“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.”

Apache Wedding Prayer

Commonly recited at weddings in the United States, this poem is on modern non-native origin, written in 1947 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 each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies,
But there is 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.”

These readings are all popular with good reason – whatever the style of your ceremony, you’ll feel that you’re creating a thoughtful but loving mood when the most serious part of your wedding is taking place.

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