It’s OK if you’re a Christian isn’t it? Just wheel out the Corinthians, and Robert’s your father’s brother, readings = sorted.
However, what if you are a) a feminist b) have taste c) were not raised in The Romantic Period with Wordsworth as your best friend? It’s a fine line to tread between the not very funny ‘comedy reading’ and a pretentious sermon that makes your guests start studying their fingernails. Hopefully these suggestions will balance nicely on that line between vomit and lead balloons:
1. Film extracts. Film is far more relevant to most peoples lives these days, and it likely to be less turgid. The monologue by Robin Williams about how much he misses his wife’s idiocyncrasies in Good Will Hunting will create an entire congregation of lump-filled throats. Or, Adam Sandler’s “I Wanna Grow Old With You” song from The Wedding Singer, which features rhyming couplets like:
So let me do the dishes in our kitchen sink.
Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink.
2. Song lyrics. No need to read bits which go “la la la”, obviously. There’s ‘Forever Young’ or ‘The Wedding Song’ by Bob Dylan, or how about Fairport Convention’s ‘White Dress’ which has bouncy rhymes like:
Feel how the wind blows, December despair
Bring me a ribbon to tie up my hair
I’ll be your bride, go where you go
All of my life, you’ll be my beau (continued here)
3. Write your own. Tread carefully here. These are usually dire. Sweet, but dire.
4. Prose can work. Sidestep Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and look at Khalil Giblan’s piece on marriage in The Prophet. It encourages space within the marriage, as “the oak tree and the cyprus grow not in each other’s shadow.” Ooh, and it’s not too long. Alternatively there’s a piece on loving the wrong person in Daily Afflictions by Andrew Boyd:
“Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way.”
5. Modern poetry. It seems weird to sum up your love using words like “twas” and betwixt”. Modern poetry avoids this issue, though it can sound a little less grand. Pablo Neruda works if you want a bit of mild erotica in your big day. From ‘Your Laughter‘:
Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter. (continued here)
‘I’ll be there’ by Louise Cuddon
I’ll be there my darling, through thick and through thin
When your mind’s in a mess and your head’s in a spin
When your plane’s been delayed, and you’ve missed the last train (continued here)
‘I like you’ by Sandol stoddard Warburg – an extract, as it goes on rather. It’s a tad corny, but sweet nonetheless.
I like you and I know why.
I like you because you are a good person to like.
I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
And you remember it a long, long time. (continued here)
And for the more cynical bride there’s ‘Lovesong’ by Ted Hughes. It’s a superbly dark, inappropriate and beautiful journey through a relationship. Not for everyone.
5. Slightly less modern poetry
‘Rabbi Ben Ezra’ by Robert Browning in response to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Unfortunately, it mentions God, so that rules out civil readings.
‘I carry your heart’ by e e cummings, performed here by the much revered Cameron Diaz:
Or, there’s ‘Somewhere I have never travelled‘ by e e cummings, possibly minus verses 3 & 4