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Archive for the ‘Readings’ Category

Wedding readings for the disaffected

In Readings on July 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a bride-to-be with a wedding coming up will be in want of a non-schmoltzy wedding reading. Luckily, having scoured the whole literary universe from Austen to Chaucer and back, I’ve come up with a few. Enjoy.

First up, “I do , I will, I have” by Ogden Nash. This man produces melt-in-the-mouth rhymes, and though he can edge on the twee at times, this poem is cynical enough to work. It celebrates the endless disagreements of coupledom, ending with the lines:

So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and
combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.

Read the whole poem here, or watch a (slightly dodgy) reading of it below:

Next up is The Promise by Eileen Rafter. This is one of those odd poems that seems to have crept somehow into The Virtual Book of Wedding Readings and is by a totally unknown poet – it sounds like she’s actually a physician who  made the final of some Australian poetry competition. Despite this, the poem is quite cute, whilst expressing the woman’s practical objections to marriage on the basis they’ll probably break their promises and because she might learn to “ignore/ Dirty socks or damp towels strewn all over the floor.”


Alternative wedding readings (no Corinthians, promise) – Part II

In Readings on July 7, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Beginning with something light, here’s the infamous song from The Wedding Singer. An immensely practical and domesticated avowal of love and good intentions…

I wanna Grow Old With You from The Wedding Singer

I wanna make you smile
whenever you’re sad
carry you around when your arthritis is bad
all I wanna do, is grow old with you

I’ll get you medicine when your tummy aches
Build you a fire if the furnace breaks
So, 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 when you’ve had too much to drink
Oh I could be the man that grows old with you
I wanna grow old with you.

Next up, the ravings of a lunatic/ the words of a man who truly understands the power of love. This could be the one for you, if you’re not too worried about following the learnings of a man who spent the last couple of years of his life swaying between furiously painting or being furiously crazy before topping himself.

Rest from Work (after Millet) by Vincent Van Gogh in his St Remy days

Rest from Work (after Millet) by Vincent Van Gogh in his St Remy days

Letters of Vincent van Gogh

It may well seem to you that the sun is shining more brightly and that everything has taken on a new charm. That, at any rate, is the inevitable consequence of true love, I believe, and it is a wonderful thing. And I also believe that those who hold that no one thinks clearly when in love are wrong, for it is at just that time that one thinks very clearly indeed and is more energetic than one was before. And love is something eternal, it may change in aspect but not in essence. And there is the same difference between someone who is in love and what he was like before as there is between a lamp that is lit and one that is not. The lamp was there all the time and it was a good lamp, but now it is giving light as well and that is its true function. And one has more peace of mind about many things and so is more likely to do better work . . .

For a bit of seventeenth century poetry, try Abraham Cowley...

For a bit of seventeenth century poetry, try Abraham Cowley...

And now for something a little more old-fashioned…

Abraham Cowley

Go bid the needle: his dear north forsake;
to which with trembling reverence, it doth bend.
Go bid the stones: a journey upwards make.
Go bid the ambitious flames: no more to ascend.
And, when these false to their own motions prove,
Then shall I cease, thee alone to love.

You, who men’s fortunes in their faces read;
to find out mine, look not, alas, on me;
but mark her face and all the features heed;
for only there is writ my destiny.
Or, if stars show it, gaze not on the skies;
but study the astrology of her eyes.

If thou find there kind and propitious rays,
what Mars and Saturn threaten, I’ll not fear.
Per chance the fate of mortal man
is writ in heaven, but O, my heaven is here.
What can men learn from stars they scarce can see.
Two great lights rule the world;
and her two, me.


Alternative wedding readings (no Corinthians, promise) Part I

In Readings on June 27, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Hoping to avoid identi-kit wedding readings? Here are a few less obvious selections, courtesy of my marvelously well read sister-in-law-to-be. And no, 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 is not included. Hopefully they avoid patronising lecturing on how to have a good marriage, and don’t mention that sickening word ‘joy’ too much.
First, up is a twentieth century American poet, Ogden Nash.

The versifier extraordinaire, Ogden Nash

The versifier extraordinaire, Ogden Nash

My Dream by Ogden Nash

This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

The next extract is by an American contemporary novelist, Richard Bausch and it positions love as all about the little moments and domestic trivia.

Richard Bausch

Richard Bausch

The Last Good Time by Richard Bausch

There was a lovely time, long ago, too private to tell anyone, or too ordinary. It had nothing to do with anything, really: it was almost embarrassingly humble. One December night, unable to sleep, he had glanced out the bedroom window to discover that it had snowed. He woke his wife and made her come to the window, and the surprise of it delighted her as it had delighted him.

They dressed and bundled the baby up and took a walk, and watched the dawn arrive, and when they returned to the house, he took the day off. They played with the baby, cooked dinner, and baked bread. They listened to the baby playing in his playpen, and they talked idly about anything that came into their minds, and that evening, late, they lay whispering to each other about what a beautiful day it had been.

He thought about all this on his way down to the grocery store. The memory of it came through him like a breath, and then he was savoring it, basking in its warmth. And he thought that this is what love really meant: this very ordinary memory. That love was easy and plentiful as grass, and as still, as calm somehow.

Next up, Charles Darwin‘s memorandum on marriage. Used to jotting down daily notes on animal breeding, he scrawled rambling thoughts about career and prospects on two scraps of paper, one with columns headed “Marry” and “Not Marry”. Brilliantly practical.

Darwins two columns: Not marry? Marry?

Darwin's two columns: Not marry? Marry?

Notes on Marriage by Charles Darwin

Not Marry?
Freedom to go where one liked
choice of Society and little of it.
Conversation of clever men at clubs
Not forced to visit relatives, and to bend in every trifle
to have the expense and anxiety of children –
perhaps quarrelling –
Loss of time –
cannot read in the Evenings –
fatness and idleness –
anxiety and responsibility –
less money for books
if many children forced to gain one’s bread (But then it is very bad for one’s health to work too much).
Perhaps my wife won’t like London, then the sentence is banishment and degradation with indolent, idle fool.

Children – (if it please God) –
constant companion, who will feel interested in one
(a friend in old age) –
object to be beloved and played with – better than a dog anyhow
Home, and someone to take care of house
Charms of Music and female Chit Chat –
These things good for ones health but terrible loss of time
My God, it is unthinkable to think of spending
one’s whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, and nothing after all
No, no won’t do
Imagine living all one’s days solitarily in smoky
dirty London House –
Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa
with good fire, and books and music perhaps – compare this vision with
dingy reality.
Marry! Marry! Marry!

Poetry-free wedding readings

In Readings on May 10, 2009 at 10:04 pm

If you’re more prosaic than poetic, or find that poetry makes your head swim, maybe a wedding reading from a novel might work out better for you. Plus, if you have a burly chap doing a reading, prose might prove less emasculating for him.

Here’s a selection of the finest wedding readings from novels:

1. From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

For those who go slack jawed for some period drama romance, try Mr. Darcy’s response, when asked by Elizabeth how he came to fall in love with her…

I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look, or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.

2. From A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

At night, there was the feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a woman wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.

3. From Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern.

The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits – islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.

4. From The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take…It is indeed a fearful gamble…Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take…If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation…It takes a lifetime to learn another person…When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

5. From The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Chapter 21, The Little Prince Befriends the Fox

It’s all about the little prince learning to value a rose because it is his particular rose, the one he watered and looked after. Kooky, with just a touch of the hallucinogenic about it.

“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…

6. From The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

Here’s a profundity, the best I can do: sometimes you just know… You just know when two people belong together. I had never really experienced that odd happenstance before, but this time, with her, I did. Before, I was always trying to make my relationships work by means of willpower and forced affability. This time I didn’t have to strive for anything. A quality of ease spread over us. Whatever I was, well, that was apparently what she wanted… To this day I don’t know exactly what she loves about me and that’s because I don’t have to know. She just does. It was the entire menu of myself. She ordered all of it.

 The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter

Another recession-defying wedding theme: Alice in Wonderland

In cake, Decoration, Dresses, Readings, Themes on March 24, 2009 at 11:51 pm
Alice in Wonderland: the perfect Credit Crunch wedding theme

Alice in Wonderland: the perfect Credit Crunch wedding theme

So, here’s the secret. If your wedding isn’t being planned by The World’s Leading Wedding Planner with a diploma in Co-ordinating Colours, and is rather more of the budget variety, the Alice in Wonderland theme could be for you. It excuses all sorts of ridiculous randomness, wonky home-made cakes, mismatching decorations and strange behaviour. In fact, it encourages it.

Courtesy of Bridalcheek

Courtesy of Bridalcheek

Here’s a few requirements to keep the Cheshire cat grinning and the Mad Hatter sipping:

1. Croquet.

Croquet with flamingoes as mallets and hedgehogs as balls

Croquet with flamingoes as mallets and hedgehogs as balls

2. Wonky wedding cake. Get a friend to make one and encourage her to wonk it up.

3. Top hats. The more ridiculous and ill-fitting the better.

4. Eat me, drink me signs. These can be adapted for any situation throughout your venue. Drive me, follow me, avoid me, wee inside me etc.

5. Ornate tea cups for your very own Mad Hatter’s tea party. Indeed, add a tea party flavour to your canapes with tiny sandwiches and mini scones.

6. Whimsical nonsense such as stopped clocks.

Ushers with stripey socks: a must for all serious Lewis Carroll fans.

Ushers with stripey socks: a must for all serious Lewis Carroll fans.

7. Nonsensical readings such as:

The Bat
Lewis Carroll

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly
Like a tea-tray in the sky.

By Style Me Pretty

By Style Me Pretty

8. Hallucinogenic drugs. Then you can have all the experiences dear Alice had.

Anne Hathaway as the Alice in Wonderland brides muse

Anne Hathaway as the Alice in Wonderland bride's muse

9. Roses. No need to paint them red. That’s officially When A Theme Goes Too Far.

10. Playing Cards as favours. If you do favours, which I don’t. Though if you do, that’s fine too.

Readings that don’t make you hurl.

In Readings on February 28, 2009 at 1:54 pm

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.

The poem that goes on and on...

The poem that goes on and on...

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.

Grow old with me, the best is yet to be

Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be!

‘I carry your heart’ by e e cummings, performed here by the much revered Cameron Diaz:

Get the poem on a moleskine or printed on canvas, via etsy

Get the poem on a moleskine or printed on canvas, via etsy

Or, there’s ‘Somewhere I have never travelled‘ by e e cummings, possibly minus verses 3 & 4