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gorillapaws's avatar

Suggestions for good material for a reading at a non-religious wedding?

Asked by gorillapaws (20658points) March 7th, 2012

I am doing the reading at my sister’s wedding and I need some good suggestions. It’s a non-religious ceremony conducted by a reverend. He suggested skipping the reading, since it’s almost always the part of the ceremony where everyone mentally checks out, wanting things to cut ahead to the good part (vows, kiss, etc). I know I usually nod off during the reading myself. My sister wanted to keep it in though—I think it’s mostly because she wants me to participate in the ceremony with her.

Now I’m stuck with the difficult task of trying to come up with some good material for a reading that won’t put everyone to sleep. If it were a best man type speech I would be fine (I’ve got plenty of material/dirt on my sis for that), but readings are very different animals. This brings me to this question and all of your collective wisdom. The ideal reading would be funny (but not inappropriately so), have a deeper message that made people reflect a bit with sincerity, it could be religious (any religion really) but certainly dosent have to be and might be surprising or somehow unexpected in a fun and lighthearted way. I’m hoping for something great because I love my sister so much, and I would feel terrible if I let her down. I think people’s expectations are pretty high of me on this one.

I welcome all of your suggestions. If you have experience doing a reading at a wedding, any tips in that department would be welcome as well. Thanks so much for your help.

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18 Answers

KatawaGrey's avatar

Personally, I love this poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay:

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

It’s not necessarily funny or light-hearted but it is short enough to hold people’s attention and it’s sweet and an unexpected look at love. I’ll keep looking through my poetry books though. :)

JLeslie's avatar

I know my answer will not be helpful with a suggested reading, but you could suggest an alternative that would give you a spotlight? Maybe a toast at the reception instead? If you would be more comfortable with that. Or, how about saying something in your own words at the ceremony? Readings and lots of musical pieces once everyone is seated bores me to death. I would assume since it will be non-religious, most likely the ceremony won’t be crazy long in its entirety, which is good.

However, saying that, I understand you want to come through for her. She is trying to do something that makes you a special part of her wedding, and I think that is very sweet. I like your idea for it to be lighthearted and fun. My Rabbi mentioned during the ceremony how he had come to know my husband and I, and running into us at Bloomingdale’s (I worked there at the time, and several people at my wedding worked there too) we all smiled and laughed a little. I like how he made it personal and lighthearted during a rather traditional and serious ceremony. My girlfriend’s priest talked about knwoing the groom as a young boy in his congregation and kept mixing up their names from Gina and Tim to Tina and Jim. Ha!

I hope you get some great suggesstions here. You certainly can run a few choices by your sister and see what pleases her most. Unless you want it to be a surprise?

Are you one of the men standing up with the groom?

marinelife's avatar

From “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.”

Some other readings for weddings.

gorillapaws's avatar

@JLeslie good suggestion, I had thought of that. I’m hesitant to try to “re-arrange” her vision of the ceremony though. I’m not a groomsman, (they are keeping it intentionally very small).

JLeslie's avatar

@gorillapaws Yeah, I understand your reluctance to suggest something else. As you say she probably has a vision of things. At my wedding it was just the nuclear family (our siblings and parents) plus my grandma participating in the wedding ceremony. His family stood on his side under the chupah, and my family on mine. It wasn’t all boys on his, all girls on mine or anything like that. The family was honored by standing with us basically. No one had matchy dresses or anything like that. My parents walked me down the aisle, my husband’s parents him. No moms were left out sitting on the side.

Ok, I will be following to see the suggestions. Good luck in your quest for the perfect pick for the wedding. :).

janbb's avatar

In the 1970s, everyone read from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet at non-religious weddings. I think what he said about love would still hold up well.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Here’s one I used when I use to do online weddings for those who didn’t desire a religiously-oriented wedding:

Beloved friends and guests, we are met today to honor the commitment of this man and this woman to one another.

Here, before us, before nature, and indeed before the entire universe, they are pledging their love and devotion to each other.

We all are travelers in the journey of life, and to find someone who makes our path their own is one of the most rewarding things life has to offer.

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you.

May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.

Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves.

When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong.

And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

Trillian's avatar

I always like to go with Kahlil Gibran, I find his words to be timeless;

Then Almitra spoke again and said, “And what of Marriage, master?”
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, 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 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 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.

CaptainHarley's avatar


But that is a religiously-oriented work of prose.

gorillapaws's avatar

@CaptainHarley it’s ok if it’s religious I think (and it really could be any religion) as long as the message/tone is right. @Trillian that was a beautiful passage.

I think @marinelife‘s suggestion of the Velveteen Rabbit excerpt is the closets to the mark (sweet, warm, thoughtful, and a bit unexpected being from a children’s book). It’s at the top of my list I think at the moment, but keep the suggestions coming in. I’m going to run them by friends and family as well.

Trillian's avatar

@CaptainHarley a mention of God, especially in this particular passage, does not automatically constitute “religious”.
@gorillapaws thank you. My husband and I were married outside beneath a trellis covered in morning glories. We had a spiritualist minister marry us and she read that passage. The marriage did not last but it wasn’t because of the ceremony. I’d use that passage again, as well as the one about love.

SmashTheState's avatar

If you’re looking for something with enough bite of truth to be uncomfortably humorous at a wedding, I would suggest Kipling’s Female of the Species.

janbb's avatar

@Trillian That was the exact passage I had in mind. I think it was read at 90% of the weddings in the 1970s.

linguaphile's avatar

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.

Now you 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 will be no loneliness for you.

Now you are two persons,
but there is only 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 together.
-Native American Blessing

Trillian's avatar

@janbb and did they play “Color my World” as well? That’s my strongest memory of 70’s weddings. :-)

rojo's avatar

@Trillian and if it wasn’t “Color my World” it was “There is Love” or, heaven help us, both.

janbb's avatar

Or “We’ve Only Just Begun”.

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