Powerful Readings - Provided by Couples

Explore the following collections of readings that could be used at your wedding.

Frequently used passages

Biblical readings

Native American prayers

Frequently Used Passages

Sonnet 116

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.

- William Shakespeare

On Marriage

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.

- Kahlil Gibran

From Sound of Silence

Here in the space between us and the world
lies human meaning.
Into the vast uncertainty we call.
The echoes make our music,
sharp equations which can hold the stars,
and marvelous mythologies we trust.
This may be all we need
to lift our love against indifference and pain.
Here in the space between us and each other
lies all the future
of the fragment of the universe
which is our own.

- Raymond J. Baughan

From Standing by Words

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 everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the 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 love thee better after death.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

If Thou Must Love Me

If thou must love me, let it be for naught
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day"--
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheeks dry:
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and love thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love's eternity.

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

From Adam Bede

Love is the simplest of all earthly things.
It needs no grandeur of celestial trust
In more than what it is, no holy wings:
It stands with honest feet in honest dust.
And is the body's blossoming in clear air
Of trustfulness and joyance when alone
Two mortals pass beyond the hour's despair
And claim that Paradise which is their own.
Amid a universe of sweat and blood,
Beyond the glooms of all the nations' hate,
Lovers, forgetful of the poisoned mood
Of the loud world, in secret ere too late
A gentle sacrament may celebrate
Before their private altar of the good.

- George Eliot

By Margaret A. Keip:

Marriage has certain qualities of contract, in which two people take on the housekeeping tasks of living, together, to enhance life's joy.

However, marriage is more than a contract. Marriage is commitment to take that joy deep, deeper than happiness, deep into the discovery of who you most truly are. It is a commitment to a spiritual journey, to a life of becoming-in which joy can comprehend despair, running through rivers of pain into joy again.

And thus marriage is even deeper than commitment. It is a covenant -- a covenant that says:
I love you.
I trust you.

I will be here for you when you are hurting, and when I am hurting, I will not leave. It is a covenant intended not to provide haven from pain or from anger and sorrow. Life offers no such haven. Instead, marriage is intended to provide a sanctuary safe enough to risk loving, to risk living and sharing from the center of oneself. This is worth everything.

By Paul L'Herrou

The hand which you each offer
to the other
is an extension of yourselves;
just as is the warmth and love
which you express to each other.
Cherish the touch,
for you are touching another life.
Be sensitive to its pulse,
and try to understand and respect its flow and rhythm,
just as you do your own.
If your love is to grow and deepen,
you must find a way to move
with each other;
perhaps in a slow and graceful dance
(bare feet firmly feeling the ground),
a dance, that circles and tests
and learns
as it gradually moves closer
to that place
where you can each
pass through the other
and turn and embrace
without breaking
or losing any part of yourselves
but only to learn more of who you each are
by your touching,
to find that you are each whole
and individual and separate
yet, in the same instant,
one, joined as a whole
that does not blur the two individuals
as you dance.
The music is there
if you will listen hard,
through the static and noise of life,
and other tunes that fill your heads.
You are here,
marking time to the music.
The dance can only begin
if you will take the first (and hardest)

By Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.
And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;
A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;
A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.
The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

By Theodore Parker

It takes years to marry completely two hearts, even of the most loving and well assorted. A happy wedlock is a long falling in love. Young persons think love belongs only to the brown-haired and crimson-cheeked. So it does for its beginning. But the golden marriage is a part of love which the Bridal day knows nothing of.

A perfect and complete marriage, where wedlock is everything you could ask and the ideal of marriage becomes actual, is not common, perhaps as rare as perfect personal beauty. Men and women are married fractionally, now a small fraction, then a large fraction. Very few are married totally, and they only after some forty or fifty years of gradual approach and experiment. Such a large and sweet fruit is a complete marriage that it needs a long summer to ripen in, and then a long winter to mellow and season it. But a real, happy marriage of love and judgment between a noble man and woman is one of the things so very handsome that if the sun were, as the Greek poets fabled, a God, he might stop the world and hold it still now and then in order to look all day long on some example thereof, and feast his eyes on such a spectacle.

By Kenneth W. Phifer

The institution of marriage was begun
that a man and a woman
might learn how to love
and, in loving, know joy;
that a man and a woman
might learn how to share pain and loneliness
and, in sharing, know strength;
that a man and a woman
might learn how to give
and, in giving know communion.
The institution of marriage was begun
that a man and a woman
might through their joy,
their strength, and their communion,
become creators of life itself.
Marriage is a high and holy state,
to be held
in honor
among all men and women.
Marriage is a low and common state,
to be built
of the stuff
of daily life.
Men and women are not angels, nor are they gods.
Love can become hatred;
joy, sorrow,
marriage, divorce.
But human beings are not condemned to failure.
Love can grow even in a real world.
The wounds of sorrow can be healed,
And new life built on the learnings of the old.
This is the reason for our gathering today:
to renew our faith
in the strength of hope
and the power of love.

By Betty Pingel

You ask what is this love we here affirm, and I answer, it is a covenant you make, one with the other, a covenant born of commitment to each other's well being and growth and commitment to your relationship itself, allowing it the possibility of change and of growth. And so the covenant reads:

Take time for each other and act always from a caring position. Allow each other time alone for renewal and creativity. Be as honest as possible about feelings as well as actions. Share household and routine tasks with role reversal as a reality. Listen to each other with intent beyond the words. Allow other relationships and commitments in your lives. And make room in your covenant for the children of your love and when the time comes to let them go, do so with joy and caring; then come your primary relationship with fresh commitments to new beginnings.

There is an art to marriage as there is to any creative activity we human beings engage in. This art asks that we pay attention to the little things as well as the big ones that are part of the closeness of marriage. Never grow too old to hold hands. At least once each day, remember to say, "I love you." In so much as it is possible, develop the capacity to forgive and forget and heal quarrels as they happen so that you do not go to bed angry. Your courtship should not end with the honeymoon; so pay attention that you do not come to take each other for granted, and remember to speak words of appreciation and demonstrate your gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is important to have a mutual sense of values and common objectives so that you stand together as you work through the world and do things for each other, not as a duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. Do not expect perfection of each other; perfection is only for the gods. But do give each other room to grow and cultivate flexibility, patience, understanding, and sense of humor in your relationship. And your marriage is not just for two people. Use it to form a circle of love that gathers in your families and the children who may be part of your lives.

Find room for the things of the spirit and make your search for the good and the beautiful a common search. In the words of a counselor, make yours a relationship in which "the independence is equal, the dependent is mutual, and the obligation is reciprocal." Remember that standing together never means dissolving your individual selves into each other, but indeed means the strengthening of the individuality of each. A good marriage evolves when two distinct souls face life's joy and its sorrow in harmony, not in unison.

This list sounds very long and very heavy, yet it is only a small part of what is required of two people who would truly accept that making a marriage over the years is an artistic endeavor worthy of our best efforts. It is not just another relationship in our lives; it is the one that gives us courage and the support to reach out to other people in love and wholeness.

From Letters to a Young Poet

The Fountains mingle with the River
And the Rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?-
See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother,
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

- Rainer Maria Rilke

Translated by J.B. Greene and M. D. H. Norton

From Song of the Open Road

I do not offer the old smooth prizes,
But offer rough new prizes,
These are the days that must happen to you:
You shall not heap up what is called riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you
earn or achieve.
However sweet the laid-up stores,
However convenient the dwellings,
You shall not remain there.
However sheltered the port,
And however calm the waters,
You shall not anchor there.
However welcome the hospitality that welcomes you
You are permitted to receive it but a little while
Afoot and lighthearted, take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before you,
The long brown path before you, leading wherever
you choose.
Say only to one another:
Camerado, I give you my hand!
I give you my love, more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law:
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

- Walt Whitman