What kind of wedding planning blog would we be without ceremony reading suggestions? No one should have to suffer through 1 Corinthians ever again. Readings are a great way to personalize your ceremony or include important family members in the wedding. We have compiled a list of 15 of our favorite non-religious wedding readings quotes, poems, and literary excerpts for you to include in your ceremony. We hope you find a few that are a perfect fit for your wedding and relationship!
1 – Excerpt 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 blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two. Love is important and you should love each other the most.
Yep, sounds about right! Understanding this concept and including it in your wedding ceremony shows you know what marriage is all about and that you are in it for the long term.
2 – Excerpt from Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be lonely again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.
The pages of Les Mis are full of truth bombs about life, love, family, and hardship, but out of the 1200 or so pages, this quote has always been a favorite.
3 – Excerpt from The Princess Bride by William Goldman
“Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches… I have stayed these years in my hovel because of you. I have taught myself languages because of you. I have made my body strong because I thought you might be pleased by a strong body. I have lived my life with only the prayer that some sudden dawn you might glance in my direction. I have not known a moment in years when the sight of you did not send my heart careening against my rib cage. I have not known a night when your visage did not accompany me to sleep. There has not been a morning when you did not flutter behind my waking eyelids…
I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I…
I’ve been saying it so long to you, you just wouldn’t listen. Every time you said, ‘Farm Boy, do this’, you thought I was answering, ‘As you wish’, but that’s only because you were hearing wrong. ‘I love you’ was what it was, but you never heard.”
Because if you don’t like The Princess Bride, you might have a heart of stone.
4 – From Where We Belong by Maya Angelou
Then you rose into my life
Like a promised sunrise.
Brightening my days with the light in your eyes.
I’ve never been so strong,
Now I’m where I belong.
Short, sweet, and utterly perfect.
5 – Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
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-fixèd mark,
That looks on tempests and is not 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.
Shakespeare is pretty serious about love, so much that he’ll renounce everything if he ever wrote if proven wrong.
6 – “Love is Love” Poem from Lin Manuel Miranda
…We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they’re finished songs and start to play.
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day
This show is proof that history remembers
We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger
We rise and fall and light from dying embers,
Remembrances that hope and love last longer.
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.
A portion of the poem Lin Manuel Miranda shared when he accepted his Tony for Hamilton, following the tragic shooting in an Orlando nightclub. Miranda’s speech is a reminder that love will win and love has power to get us through even the darkest times.
7 – Excerpt from Advice to Myself by Louise Erdrich
“Leave the dishes.
Let the celery rot in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator
and an earthen scum harden on the kitchen floor.
Leave the black crumbs in the bottom of the toaster.
Throw the cracked bowl out and don’t patch the cup.
Don’t patch anything. Don’t mend. Buy safety pins.
Don’t even sew on a button…
who uses whose toothbrush or if anything
matches, at all.
Except one word to another. Or a thought.
Pursue the authentic-decide first
what is authentic,
then go after it with all your heart.”
In addition to being Feminist AF, this excerpt from Advice to Myself, is actually fantastic advice for marriage as well! Stop stressing about the details and day to day distractions and instead build an authentic and meaningful life together.
8 – Excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering, and uniting with another person … Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distance exists, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of seeing each other as a whole before an immense sky.”
The most successful marriages are those where each partner respects and celebrates their differences and unique qualities, coming together, not as two halves, but two wholes which complement each other.
9 – To Love is Not to Possess by James Kavanaugh
“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 freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are…”
Love the idea that freedom comes from being truly yourself with another person but not being bound or dependent on that person for your wholeness.
10 – Excerpt from The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan
Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
I’m not crying, your crying. Sometimes it’s good to just take a look at the hugeness of the universe and stand in humble awe, but also cherish the fact that in all the ages of the Earth, you and your partner found each other and have chosen to walk the rest of your years on this Pale Blue Dot together.
11 – An Epithalamion by Tony Kushner
Conjunction, assemblage, congress, union:
Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.
A life apart is a desperate fiction.
Life is an intermediate business:
a field of light bordered by love
a sea of desire stretched between shores.
Marriage is the strength of union.
Marriage is the harmonic blend.
Marriage is the elegant dialectic of counterpoint.
Marriage is the faultless, fragile logic of ecology:
A reasonable process of give and take
unfolding through cyclical and linear time.
A wedding is the conjoining of systems in which
Neither loses its single splendor and both are completely
transformed. As, for example,
The dawn is the wedding of the Night and the Day,
and is neither, and both,
and is, in itself, the most beautiful time,
abundant artless beauty,
free and careless magnificence.
Tony Kushner’s ode to marriage is at the same time straightforward and beautiful. A great choice for those looking for a reading that isn’t overly sappy, but captures the essence of love and marriage.
12 – Excerpt from The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again…
I’ll be looking for you… every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you…We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams…And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…
You don’t have to believe in an afterlife to think this quote is simply splendid and captures what it is like to love someone so much it cannot be contained by one life.
Further Reading – On Philip Pullman’s Atheism
13 – Excerpt from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
‘I am,’ he said. He was staring at me, and I could see the corners of his eyes crinkling. ‘I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you.’
John Green makes the case for loving boldly, completely, with everything you have while you are able. Speak the truth and don’t hold back.
14 – Excerpt from The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
“We love what we love. Reason does not enter into it. In many ways, unwise love is the truest love. Anyone can love a thing because. That’s as easy as putting a penny in your pocket. But to love something despite. To know the flaws and love them too. That is rare and pure and perfect.”
It’s not about seeing past flaws and imperfections or trying to change a partner, it’s about embracing those flaws as part of what you love about your partner.
15 – Excerpt from The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life … You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you.
Neil Gaiman gets it. Anyone who has ever been in love gets it. Love sure is horrible and wonderful!
Did you find the perfect ceremony reading here in our list? Have any others you love and think should have been included? Head over to the Secularly Wed Community and share your thoughts!