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Poetry in the Marriage Ceremony

Poetry and Readings
for your Wedding / Marriage Ceremony

"What is a rite?" asked the little prince.
"Those also are actions too often neglected," said the fox.
"They are what make one day different from other days,
one hour from other hours."

Antoine de Sainte-Exupery: From the Little Prince

Celebrants are extremely fortunate. They are the only profession in the world paid to read poetry in public!

Beautiful poetry can open the heart. Poetry takes you on a path exploring miracles, praising, and exalting in nothing less than life - and to poetry, life is love and love is all. Of course, not every poem is born from bliss; tortured souls have screamed through verse at the curse of human mortality. But the essence remains - poetry is the purging of powerful feelings, and what more profound time to express the most powerful of them all - love - than on your wedding day.

The poet John Keats wrote "Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle or amaze with itself, but with its subject".

... A long time I have loved the sunned mother-of-pearl of your body.
Until I even believe that you own the universe,
I will bring you happy flowers from the mountains,
biuebells, dark hazels, and rustic baskets of kisses.
I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees."

Pablo Neruda: 'Every Day You Play' Selected Poems
Reader at a wedding

As more people choose to tailor their ceremonies and vows to suit their true intentions, their unique connection, poetry has blessed many weddings and set the tone of lovers' lives to come.

Think of the difference between vowing 'to love and obey'
or to: "

...Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For on!y 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: The Prophet

. . . You may decide that you prefer more simple language for your vows, a more natural way to express your commitment, But don't under-estimate the power of poetry. . . The poetry you include in your service may be simply phrased and straight to the point, or elaborate, dense with metaphor and symbolic meaning - so long as it speaks to your hearts and sings for your souls, poetry's mission has been achieved:

"Now all has been made plain between us,
the weights are equal, though the sky tilts,
and the sun with a splash I do not hear
breaks into the dark.
We are one at last.
Assembled here out of earth, water, air to a love feast.
You lie open before me.
I am ready.

David Malouf: The Crab Feast

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.

Sonnett 116: William Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest,
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou gowest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee

Sonnett 118: William Shakespeare

If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say. :This poet lies;
Such heavenly beauty ne'er touched earthly faces.

From Sonnet 117: William Shakespeare

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
Embroider'd 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 Passionate Shepherd to His Love: Christopher Marlowe

O my Luv's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June:
O my Luv's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry:

Till a' the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi' the sun;
I will love thee still, my dear
While the sands o' life shall run.

My Luv is Like a Red Red Rose: Robert Burns

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 another's being 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 are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

Love's Philosphy: Percy Bysshe Shelley

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 another's being 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 are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

The Birthday: Christina Rosetti

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have became shriveled and closed
for fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain,
mine or your own,
without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy,
mine or your own,
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic,
or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you're telling me is true
I want to know if you can disappoint another
to be true to yourself
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.

I want to know
if you can be faithful
and therefore be trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty
even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your life from mysterious presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure,
yours and mine,
and still stand on the edge of a lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes"

It doesn't interest me to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair,
weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are,
how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.

The Invitation: Oriah Mountain Dreamer (a Native American Elder)

The Little Prince by Antoine de Sainte-Exupery

Introduction to Reading Raymond and Anne, when they first met, were understandable cautious, and proceeded with great care, as people of their age and experience should. When Raymond started to get really interested in Anne, and when she was due to come home from work, he found himself going to the window - agitated - until her car came into view.

People of wisdom check each other out gradually and carefully, as is illustrated in this reading, featuring the Little Prince and the Fox.

"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.

"My life is very monotonous," he said. "I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, 1 am a little bored.

But if you tame me, it will be as if the sun came to shine on my life. I shall know the sound of a step that will be different from all the others. Other steps send me hurrying back underneath the ground. Yours will call me, like music, out of my burrow. And then look: you see the grain-fields down yonder? 1 do not eat bread. Wheat is of no use to me. The wheat fields have nothing to say to me. And that is sad. But you have hair that is the color of gold. Think how wonderful that will be, when you have tamed me! The grain, which is also golden, will bring me back the thought of you. And 1 shall love to listen to the wind in the wheat.

The fox gazed at the little prince, for a long time. "Please-tame me!" he said. "I want to, very much," the little prince replied.

"One only understands the things that one tames," said the fox. "What must I do, to tame you?" asked the little prince. "You must be very patient," replied the fox. "First you will sit down at a little distance from me-like that-in the grass. I shall look at you out of the comer of my eye, and you will say nothing. Words are the source of misunderstandings. But you will sit a little closer to me, every day . . .

The next day the little prince came back. "It would have been better to come back at the same hour," said the fox. "If, for example, you come at four o'clock in the afternoon, then at three o'clock I shall begin to be happy. I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances. At four o'clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about. But if you come at just any time, I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . .

To come: (from Poetry Keynote), Christopher Brennan, 1 Corinthians, Apache, Irish Blessing, Song of Songs, Rumi, Christina Rossetti, Rabindranath Tagore, Zouch - To a Marriage and We will not wish, Today I marry my friend, Kahlil Gibran (full), Cavafy,

WEBSITES for poetry

There are many sites that have poems etc..for weddings etc.

a silly website that actually has a great selection of wedding prayers...

Shakespeare's works are all on line at

The Kalevala - a collection of 50 Finnish Poems in the form of a runesong of their lives, Birth, Death, Love and Marriage. (shared by Ariel Brown) Wedding Sites