I've been a reader for many, many weddings over the years. I've done the traditional 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 so many times, I think I have it memorized:
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
I've also been asked to read song lyrics (a phenomenon that always perplexes me; why not just have someone perform the song?) including, but not limited to Endless Love, At Last, and Groovy Kind of Love. In My Life by the Beatles is also a song-turned-reading that seemed to be a popular choice. Luckily, as I got older, I could recommend options that may give the couple's wedding more of the individualized tone they were looking for. For instance, I knew one couple loved more modern touches in their lives and found this gorgeous ee cummings poem, "i carry your heart" which worked perfectly:
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
The lyrical flow of this poem added to the contemporary feel of the ceremony, held in a small side room at a marble-laden museum. Both sets of parents came up to me after the ceremony and thanked me for suggesting something a little different for the reading because the couple was so clearly non-traditional.
Poetry is a great way to convey the romantic sentiment of the wedding ceremony, but one groom in my life requested that I read a love letter penned by Jack London. He wanted to read it himself but felt that he would be too choked up to finish. I thought it was a brilliant idea and found the content to be so appropriate for this shy, sentimental man who loved his bride so dearly:
Oakland, April 3, 1901
Did I say that the human might be filed in categories? Well, and if I did, let me qualify -- not all humans. You elude me. I cannot place you, cannot grasp you. I may boast that of nine out of ten, under given circumstances, I can forecast their action; that of nine out of ten, by their word or action, I may feel the pulse of their hearts. But of the tenth I despair. It is beyond me. You are that tenth.
Were ever two souls, with dumb lips, more incongruously matched! We may feel in common -- surely, we oftimes do -- and when we do not feel in common, yet do we understand; and yet we have no common tongue. Spoken words do not come to us. We are unintelligible. God must laugh at the mummery.
The one gleam of sanity through it all is that we are both large temperamentally, large enough to often understand. True, we often understand but in vague glimmering ways, by dim perceptions, like ghosts, which, while we doubt, haunt us with their truth. And still, I, for one, dare not believe; for you are that tenth which I may not forecast.
Am I unintelligible now? I do not know. I imagine so. I cannot find the common tongue.
Large temperamentally -- that is it. It is the one thing that brings us at all in touch. We have, flashed through us, you and I, each a bit of universal, and so we draw together. And yet we are so different.
I smile at you when you grow enthusiastic? It is a forgivable smile -- nay, almost an envious smile. I have lived twenty-five years of repression. I learned not to be enthusiastic. It is a hard lesson to forget. I begin to forget, but it is so little. At the best, before I die, I cannot hope to forget all or most. I can exult, now that I am learning, in little things, in other things; but of my things, and secret things doubly mine, I cannot, I cannot. Do I make myself intelligible? Do you hear my voice? I fear not. There are poseurs. I am the most successful of them all.
Whatever readings you choose, if any, for your ceremony, are but small moments of time within the wedding. Choose them wisely to set the mood, share your feelings, and give someone close to you the chance to share in your joyous union!
**title quote from Héloïse to Abelard