Maybe you and your fiancé come from different religious backgrounds or maybe you're just itching to stay away from the same ol' "Love is patient, love is kind," reading. Well, good news: If you're not getting married in a religious setting, you're free to choose a reading that speaks to the two of you. Words you've likely heard before will take on a whole new meaning when they're uttered minutes before your vows. Here are our four favorite places to find secular wedding readings.
1. Children's Books
Children's book authors write for 10-year-old ears, so they break complicated concepts like love down to their core. In this passage from the classic book The Velveteen Rabbit the older, wiser Skin Horse is telling Rabbit what it means to be real, which translates perfectly to what it means to be loved.
"The Velveteen Rabbit" by Margery Williams
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room.
"Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
Leave your ceremony's sentimental musings to the world's greatest writers. Novels from the Victorian era, such as Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre or Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights are filled with romantic words about love. Or, if you and your fiancé have been together for a long time, you know the giddiness of a new love has subsided and likely grown into something deeper. These words from Captain Corelli's Mandolin capture that sentiment.
"Captain Corelli's Mandolin" by Louis De Bernieres
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have 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, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being 'in love,' which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.
You and your fiancé can hover over a book of poems and try to extract each one's meaning. Or, you can trust us to do the work for you. Alice Walker's Desire is heavy on metaphors but is still easy to understand, making it a lovely choice for a wedding ceremony.
"Desire" by Alice Walker
is always the same; wherever Life
I want to stick my toe
& soon my whole body
into the water.
I want to shake out a fat broom
& sweep dried leaves
I want to grow
It seems impossible that desire
can sometimes transform into devotion;
but this has happened.
And that is how I've survived:
how the hole
I carefully tended
in the garden of my heart
grew a heart
to fill it.
4. TV Shows
If you and your groom don't take yourselves too seriously, turn your wedding reading over the eloquent Carrie Bradshaw. Back in season two of Sex and the City Carrie read this poem at a friend's wedding, and it's just as enchanting all these years later. Now, if only SJP herself could be there to read it...
"Sex and the City"
His hello was the end of her endings. Her laugh was their first step down the aisle. His hand would be hers to hold forever. His forever was as simple as her smile. He said she was what was missing. She said instantly she knew. She was a question to be answered. And his answer was "I do."