Ceremony readings are one of the most effective ways to infuse your service with a sense of who you are – and yet, many couples feel compelled to use the same handful of texts that are most commonly associated with weddings.
For instance, Bible verses for Christian ceremonies are typically limited to 1 Corinthians 13 (“Love is patient, love is kind…”) and Ruth 1:16-17 (“Whither thou goest I will go…”), while Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets from the Portuguese 43 (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…”) almost always represents the literary contingent. All three pieces are indeed powerful and apropos for weddings, but if you’re intent on customizing every aspect of your nuptials, you may want to consider texts that aren’t as commonly referenced.
We researched a variety of sources to collect some of the loveliest passages that work well for weddings. Consider our list of less-common readings below, and see if any are appropriate for your ceremony.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:16-19
Shakespeare Sonnet 15
Of all my loves this is the first and last
That in the autumn of my years has grown,
A secret fern, a violet in the grass,
A final leaf where all the rest are gone.
Would that I could give all and more, my life,
My world, my thoughts, my arms, my breath, my future,
My love eternal, endless, infinite, yet brief,
As all loves are and hopes, though they endure.
You are my sun and stars, my night, my day,
My seasons, summer, winter, my sweet spring,
My autumn song, the church in which I pray,
My land and ocean, all that the earth can bring
Of glory and of sustenance, all that might be divine,
My alpha and my omega, and all that was ever mine.
Shakespeare Sonnet 116
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 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.
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 carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from 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.
“Love One Another” from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran
You were born together, and together you shall be forever more.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens 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 let each 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 into 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 cypress grow not in each other's shadow.
Excerpt from The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
“It was the pure Language of the World. It required no explanation, just as the universe needs none as it travels through endless time. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing. He was more certain of it than of anything in the world. He had been told by his parents and grandparents that he must fall in love and really know a person before becoming committed. But maybe people who felt that way had never learned the universal language. Because, when you know that language, it's easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it's in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, and their eyes meet, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one's dreams would have no meaning.”
Excerpt of letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett dated
September 12, 1846
“When the heart is full it may run over, but the real fullness stays within... What I have professed, (for I have performed nothing) seems to fall short of what my first love required even, and when I think of this moment's love... I could repent, as I say.
“Words can never tell you, however, form them, transform them anyway, how perfectly dear you are to me, perfectly dear to my heart and soul.
“I look back, and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence, you have been entirely perfect to me, I would not change one word, one look. My hope and aim are to preserve this love, not to fall from it, for which I trust to God who procured it for me, and doubtless can preserve it.
“You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another. I am all gratitude, and all pride (under the proper feeling which ascribes pride to the right source) all pride that my life has been so crowned by you.”
Opening photo by David & Tammy Molnar