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Words take on a whole new meaning when they're uttered minutes before your vows. After all, this is your time to express your love for your partner as you tie the knot in front of your friends and family. But it can definitely be tricky to find the perfect words for that moment.
Chances are, there are passages from literature, poetry, movies, or songs that have spoken to you and served to clarify what love, marriage, and commitment mean. So why not use them as readings? For nonreligious or religious weddings, these passages just might be the beautiful addition to your ceremony you’ve been searching for. Read on for 30 of our favorite inspiring nonreligious wedding ceremony readings.
Wedding Ceremony Readings Inspired by Novels
1. 'From Beginning to End' by Robert Fulghum
You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or over a meal or during long walks—all those sentences that began with "When we're married" and continued with "I will and you will and we will"—those late night talks that included "someday" and "somehow" and "maybe"—and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding. The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, "You know all those things we've promised and hoped and dreamed—well, I meant it all, every word." Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another—acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this—is my husband, this—is my wife.
2. '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.
3. 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' by Gabriel García Márquez
Madly in love after so many years ... 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 old people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs.
4. 'Jasper Jones' by Craig Silvey
What I'm feeling, I think, is joy. And it's been some time since I've felt that blinkered rush of happiness. This might be one of those rare events that lasts, one that'll be remembered and recalled as months and years wind and ravel. One of those sweet, significant moments that leaves a footprint in your mind. A photograph couldn't ever tell its story. It's like something you have to live to understand. One of those freak collisions of fizzing meteors and looming celestial bodies and floating debris and one single beautiful red ball that bursts into your life and through your body like an enormous firework. Where things shift into focus for a moment, and everything makes sense. And it becomes one of those things inside you, a pearl among sludge, one of those big exaggerated memories you can invoke at any moment to peel away a little layer of how you felt, like a lick of ice cream. The flavor of grace.
One of those sweet, significant moments that leaves a footprint in your mind. A photograph couldn't ever tell its story. It's like something you have to live to understand.
5. 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom
"Still," Morrie said, "there are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don’t respect the other person, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don’t know how to compromise, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. If you can’t talk openly about what goes on between you, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don’t have a common set of values in life, you’re gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike.
"And the biggest one of those values, Mitch?"
"Your belief in the importance of your marriage."
He sniffed, then closed his eyes for a moment.
"Personally," he sighed, his eyes still closed, "I think marriage is a very important thing to do, and you’re missing a lot if you don’t try it."
He ended the subject by quoting a poem he believed in like a prayer: "Love each other or perish."
Wedding Ceremony Readings Inspired by Poetry
6. "Love Sonnet 17" by Pablo Neruda
I don’t love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as certain dark things are loved,
Secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries
hidden within itself the light of those flowers,
and thanks to your love, darkly in my body
lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving
but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom and carries hidden within itself the light of those flowers, and thanks to your love, darkly in my body lives the dense fragrance that rises from the earth.
7. "Untitled" by R.M. Drake
You will be the clouds
and I will be the sky.
you will be the ocean
and I will be the shore.
you will be the trees
and I will be the wind.
whatever we are, you and I
will always collide.
8. "Untitled" by R.M. Drake
9. "The Art of Marriage" by Wilferd A. Peterson
The little things are the big things. It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you" at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice,
but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating
gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful. It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
10. "Always" by Lang Leav
You were you
and I was I;
we were two
before our time
I was yours,
before I knew
and you have always
been mine too.
11. "How Do I Love Thee" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
12. "Love's Philosophy" by Percy Bysshe Shelley
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers with the ocean;
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single:
All things by a law divine
In another's being mingle—
Why not I with thine?
See, the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower could be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?
13. "Untitled" by Christina Rossetti
What is the beginning? Love. What the course. Love still. What the goal. The goal is Love. On a happy hill Is there nothing then but Love? Search we sky or earth There is nothing out of Love Hath perpetual worth; All things flag but only Love, All things fail and flee; There is nothing left but Love Worthy you and me.
14. "Buried Light" by Beau Taplin
Home is not where
you are from
it is where
Some of us
travel the whole
world to find it.
find it in a person.
Wedding Ceremony Readings Inspired by Film and Television
So this is love
So this is what makes life divine
I'm all aglow
And now I know
The key to all heaven is mine
My heart has wings
And I can fly
I'll touch every star in the sky
So this is the miracle
That I've been dreaming of
So this is love
16. 'When Harry Met Sally'
I love that you get cold when it's 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you're looking at me like I'm nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it's not because I'm lonely, and it's not because it's New Year's Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.
17. 'The Wedding Singer'
I want to make you smile whenever you're sad. Carry you around when your arthritis is bad. All I want to do is grow old with you. I'll get your medicine when your tummy aches. Build you a fire if the furnace breaks. Oh it could be so nice, growing old with you. I'll miss you, Kiss you, Give you my coat when you are cold. Need you, Feed you, Even let you hold the remote control. So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink. Put you to bed if you've had too much to drink. I could be the man who grows old with you. I want to grow old with you.
For so long I wondered if I would ever find my prince, my soulmate. Then three years ago, at another wedding, I turned to a friend for comfort. And instead, I found everything that I'd ever been looking for my whole life. And now here we are with our future before us, and I only want to spend it with you, my prince, my soulmate, my friend.
19. '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."
20. 'Boy Meets World'
I haven't been together with Topanga for 22 years, but we have been together for 16. 'Kay, that's a lot longer than most couples have been together. I mean, when we were born, you told me that we used to take walks in our strollers together in the park. When we were two, we were best friends, I mean, I, I knew everything about this girl. I knew her favorite color. I knew her favorite food. Then we became six, you know, and Eric made fun of me because it wasn't cool to have a best friend that was a girl or even know a girl, so for the next seven years I threw dirt at her. I like to call those "the lost years". Then when I was thirteen, Mom, she put me up against my locker and she kissed me. I mean, she gave me my first kiss. She taught me how to dance. She was always talking about these crazy things and I never understood a word she said. All I understood was that she was the girl I sat up every night thinking about, and when I'm with her I feel happy to be alive. Like I can do anything. Even talk to you like this. So that's, that's what I feel is love... When I'm better because she's here...
We’re not saying you can change them, ‘cuz people don’t really change We’re only saying that love’s a force that’s powerful and strange People make bad choices if they’re mad, or scared, or stressed Throw a little love their way (throw a little love their way) and you’ll bring out their best. True love brings out their best! Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper, that’s what it’s all about! We need each other to raise us up and round us out. Everyone’s a bit of a fixer-upper, but when push comes to shove... The only fixer-upper fixer that can fix up a fixer-upper is true love.
Wedding Ceremony Readings Inspired by Song Lyrics
22. "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake
Aren't you something to admire, 'cause your shine is something like a mirror. And I can't help but notice, you reflect in this heart of mine. If you ever feel alone and the glare makes me hard to find. Just know that I'm always parallel on the other side.
'Cause with your hand in my hand and a pocket full of soul I can tell you there's no place we couldn't go. Just put your hand on the glass, I'm here trying to pull you through. You just gotta be strong.
'Cause I don't wanna lose you now, I'm looking right at the other half of me. The vacancy that sat in my heart, Is a space that now you hold. Show me how to fight for now, And I'll tell you, baby, it was easy, Coming back into you once I figured it out. You were right here all along. It's like you're my mirror. My mirror staring back at me. I couldn't get any bigger, With anyone else beside of me. And now it's clear as this promise, That we're making two reflections into one. 'Cause it's like you're my mirror My mirror staring back at me, staring back at me
Aren't you something, an original, 'cause it doesn't seem merely assembled. And I can't help but stare 'cause I see truth somewhere in your eyes. Oh I can't ever change without you, you reflect me, I love that about you. And if I could, I would look at us all the time (...)
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow's a mystery. I can see you looking back at me. Keep your eyes on me, Baby, keep your eyes on me.
You are you are the love of my life (...)
I just wanna see your face light up since you put me on. So now I say goodbye to the old me, it's already gone. And I can't wait to get you home, Just to let you know, you are
You are you are the love of my life.
Girl you're my reflection, all I see is you. My reflection, in everything I do. You're my reflection and all I see is you. My reflection, in everything I do
You are you are the love of my life.
23. "I Choose You" by Sara Bareilles
Let the bough break, let it come down crashing. Let the sun fade out to a dark sky. I can’t say I’d even notice it was absent. ‘Cause I could live by the light in your eyes
I’ll unfold before you, What I have strung together. The very first words of a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right. I choose you I will become yours and you will become mine...
There was a time when I would have believed them, If they told me that you could not come true. Just love’s illusion But then you found me And everything changed And I believe in something again.
My whole heart. Will be yours forever. This is a beautiful start, To a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right. I choose you. I will become yours and you will become mine...
We are not perfect we’ll learn from our mistakes, And as long as it takes I will prove my love to you. I am not scared of the elements I am underprepared, But I am willing. And even better I get to be the other half of you.
24. "Forever and Ever, Amen" by Randy Travis
You may think that I'm talking foolish
You've heard that I'm wild and I'm free
You may wonder how I can promise you now
This love that I feel for you always will be
But you're not just time that I'm killin'
I'm no longer one of those guys
As sure as I live, this love that I give
Is gonna be yours until the day that I die
Oh, baby, I'm gonna love you forever
Forever and ever, amen
As long as old men sit and talk about the weather
As long as old women sit and talk about old men
If you wonder how long I'll be faithful
I'll be happy to tell you again
I'm gonna love you forever and ever
Forever and ever, amen
They say time take its toll on a body
Makes a young girl's brown hair turn gray
Well, honey, I don't care, I ain't in love with your hair
And if it all fell out, well, I'd love you anyway
They say time can play tricks on a mem'ry
Make people forget things they knew
Well, it's easy to see it's happenin' to me
I've already forgotten every woman but you
Oh, darlin', I'm gonna love you forever
Forever and ever, amen
25. "There Will Be Time" by Mumford and Sons, featuring Baaba Maal
But in the cold light I live to love and adore you
It’s all that I am, it’s all that I have
In the cold light I live, I only live for you
It’s all that I am, it’s all that I have
26. "The Book of Love" by Stephin Merritt, featuring The Magnetic Fields
The book of love is long and boring. No one can lift the damn thing. It's full of charts and facts, some figures and instructions for dancing.
But I, I love it when you read to me. And you, You can read me anything.
The book of love has music in it. In fact, that's where music comes from. Some of it is just transcendental, Some of it is just really dumb.
But I, I love it when you sing to me. And you, You can sing me anything.
The book of love is long and boring, And written very long ago. It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes, And things we're all too young to know.
But I, I love it when you give me things. And you, You ought to give me wedding rings.
Wedding Readings Inspired by Children's Books
27. 'Winnie the Pooh' by A. A. Milne
If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart... I’ll always be with you.
28. '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."
29. 'Oh, the Places You'll Go' by Dr. Seuss
"Congratulations! Today is your day. You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away!
You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.
You’ll look up and down streets. Look’em over with care. About some you will say, 'I don’t choose to go there.' With your head full of brains and your shoes full of feet, you’re too smart to go down a not-so-good street.
And you may not find any you’ll want to go down. In that case, of course, you’ll head straight out of town. It’s opener there in the wide open air.
Out there things can happen and frequently do to people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don’t worry. Don’t stew. Just go right along. You’ll start happening too.
Oh! The Places You’ll Go!
You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed. You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.
Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t.
You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3⁄4 percent guaranteed.)
Kid, you’ll move mountains! So...be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray or Mordecai Ale Van Allen O’Shea, you’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!
30. 'The Little Prince' by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
"What does that mean—'tame'?"
"It is an act too often neglected," said the fox. "It means to establish ties."
"Go and look again at the roses. You will understand now that yours is unique in all the world. Then come back to say goodbye to me, and I will make you a present of a secret."
The little prince went away, to look again at the roses.
"You are not at all like my rose," he said. "As yet you are nothing. No one has tamed you, and you have tamed no one. You are like my fox when I first knew him. He was only a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But I have made him my friend, and now he is unique in all the world."
And the roses were very much embarrassed.
"You are beautiful, but you are empty," he went on. "One could not die for you. To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you—the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she is more important than all the hundreds of you other roses: because it is she that I have watered; because it is she that I have put under the glass globe; because it is she that I have sheltered behind the screen; because it is for her that I have killed the caterpillars (except the two or three that we saved to become butterflies); because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled, or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing. Because she is my rose."
And he went back to meet the fox.
"Goodbye," he said.
"Goodbye," said the fox. "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
"What is essential is invisible to the eye," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.
"It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important."
"It is the time I have wasted for my rose—" said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
"Men have forgotten this truth," said the fox. "But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose..."
"I am responsible for my rose," the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.