21 Untraditional Wedding Readings That Will Make Your Ceremony Unforgettable
25 Oct 2021 •32 min read
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” Corithians 13:4
Sound familiar? If you’ve been to a wedding in the last, well, ever, you may have heard this exact phrase repeated in one of the wedding readings during the ceremony. Now, don’t get us wrong; this reading is a beautiful and timeless selection about love and its incredible power. It just feels a little bit old.
Do you and your fiancé(e) march to the beat of your own drum? Then having your nearest and dearest recite the usual suspects at your wedding just won't do. So forget those Shakespeare quotes and that Irish Blessing everyone knows by heart, and get a little more creative with your wedding ceremony readings.
There is tons of inspiration for wedding readings out there; after all, a good reading can come from anywhere. You may have an idea already of what you might want to say, or you’re just getting started and reading every common passage that you can find. Either way, we’ve got you covered!
There are plenty of things to consider when you’re choosing a wedding reading: what kind of ceremony you’re having, what kind of atmosphere the ceremony will have, what you want to convey. However, this can mean that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out what wedding readings you want as part of your big day, whether in the ceremony itself or elsewhere.
Think about what makes you and your partner tick, whether that's music or books or something else entirely, and then look to your favorite song lyrics, poems, novels, or even popular children’s books for inspiration (stay tuned for a wedding reading selection from “The Velveteen Rabbit!). Your wedding readings don’t have to be something you read every day, but they should feel right. Wedding readings can be anything that you want them to be, as long as you feel they are an authentic representation of your partnership and your love.
What is a reading for a wedding?
Not sure where you want to start? Well, let’s first talk about what a wedding reading actually is. In a religious wedding ceremony, wedding readings may come from a religious text and be read by the officiant themselves or couples can choose loved ones to read them. However, if you’re not having a religiously-affiliated wedding ceremony, you can have a little bit more flexibility in your choice of texts.
A wedding reading can be anything that you feel expresses how you feel about your partner or vice versa. It’s simply part of the celebratory process of the wedding ceremony, so it doesn’t have to be religiously tied. Wedding readings can really be anything that you want, as long as you feel like they fit you and your partnership and your ceremony style.
However, you should know that if you are having a religious ceremony, you might not be able to include anything that you want. Talk to your officiant and see if there are any restrictions on readings before you get your heart set on one. You may be able to see if there’s a way to include one wedding reading that you feel strongly about in other parts of your ceremony or wedding day.
Readings at weddings are supposed to show how you feel for one another and are an element of the wedding ceremony where you can usually have a fair bit of say. One person may feel strongly about including one passage or another, so make sure that the readings you select are representative of both of you!
At the end of the day, a wedding reading (or ceremony readings as they might also be called) is a time where either you, your officiant, or a family member or friend can read a passage or two that helps represent to your guests how you feel about one another. It is another way to make the ceremony unique, especially when you choose readings that may not have been done before. This way, you get to highlight your love and maybe your favorite author, too.
How many readings should you have at a wedding?
This is an important question, mostly because if you have a hard number in mind, it will be easier to narrow down the immense amount of material out there. Typically, we would say stick to two or maybe three, depending on their length. Remember that as obsessed as you are with these selections, your guests do want to go home at some point, and after three readings during the wedding ceremony, we think they’ll get the point.
Again, this might be a time to check in with your officiant. Different types and traditions of weddings may call from different wedding ceremony readings, and they may dictate a number as well. Also, remember to check in with your partner and decide what the structure of your ceremony will look like and then how readings may fit into it.
We can’t give you a hard number to stick to, especially because wedding readings can vary so much in length. It may be easier to stick to a specific time of your readings. Try to keep the readings between one and three minutes, and get as many or as few readings into that time as you’d like.
If you’re really struggling because you have some readings that you really want to include but don’t have time for in the ceremony, think about other ways to include them in your wedding day. Quotes on invitations, decorations, or even your wedding vows themselves are great places to highlight elements of wedding readings.
What do you read at a non-religious wedding?
It can be really overwhelming to look for wedding readings when you aren’t having a religious ceremony. So much of the information that is out there is related to specific religious ceremonies, and those ceremony readings are often dictated by the spiritual or faith-based practice you are engaging in.
But fear not! There are plenty of wedding readings out there that have no religious ties or are secular enough to fit any sort of wedding tradition. Readings for weddings don’t even have to be particularly serious, as long as they feel authentic and represent your emotions.
Too often, the idea of “ceremony readings” gets equated with something somber or (we have to admit it) kind of boring. Your wedding readings can really fit any sort of tone that your wedding ceremony has. Whether it’s reflective and passionate or fun and a little silly, your readings should just be another way to connect with one another and commit yourselves to a life together.
This means that you can really pull wedding readings from anywhere; it doesn’t have to be from a book or a poem. Maybe you have a favorite TV show or movie that you feel represents what you and your partner want to be; those lines that you quote to each other can be made into wedding readings as well.
Wondering how to pick a wedding reading that’s perfect for you and your partner? Here are some unique wedding ceremony readings to get you started:
1. "If I Should Fall Behind" by Bruce Springsteen
We said we'd walk together, baby, come what may
That come the twilight should we lose our way
If as we're walking a hand should slip free
I'll wait for you, should I fall behind, wait for me.
We swore we'd travel, darlin', side by side
We'd help each other stay in stride
But each lover's steps fall so differently
But I'll wait for you, and if I should fall behind, wait for me.
Now everyone dreams of love lasting and true
Oh but you and I know what this world can do
So let's make our steps clear that the other may see
And I'll wait for you, and if I should fall behind, wait for me.
Now there's a beautiful river in the valley ahead
There 'neath the oak's bough soon we will be wed
Should we lose each other in the shadow of the evening trees
I'll wait for you, should I fall behind, wait for me
Darlin' I'll wait for you, and should I fall behind, wait for me
2. "Us Two" from Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne
So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,'” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together,” says Pooh, says he. “That's how it is,” says Pooh.
3. "How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog" by Taylor Mali
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know, "Don't you ever do that again!"
Sometimes love just wants to go out for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise. It will run you around the block
and leave you panting, breathless. Pull you in different directions
at once, or wind itself around and around you
until you're all wound up and you cannot move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.
4. "Love" by Roy Croft
I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am
When I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what
You have made of yourself,
But for what
You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me
That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand
Into my heaped-up heart
And passing over
All the foolish, weak things
That you can't help
Dimly seeing there,
And for drawing out
Into the light
All the beautiful belongings
That no one else had looked
Quite far enough to find.
5. Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
If my like for you was a football crowd, you’d be deaf ‘cause of the roar. And if my like for you was a boxer, there’d be a dead guy lying on the floor. And if my like for you was sugar, you’d lose your teeth before you were twenty. And if my like for you was money, let’s just say you’d be spending plenty.
6. Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières
Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being "in love" which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.
7. "Love Sonnet 17" by Pablo Neruda
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
8. "To Love is Not to Possess” by James Kavanagh
To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.
9. "Do you still remember: falling stars" by Rainer Maria Rilke
Do you still remember: falling stars,
how they leapt slantwise through the sky
like horses over suddenly held-out hurdles
of our wishes—did we have so many?—
for stars, innumerable, leapt everywhere;
almost every gaze upward became
wedded to the swift hazard of their play,
and our heart felt like a single thing
beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance—
and was whole, as if it would survive them!
10. "Touched by An Angel" by Maya Angelou
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.
11. Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith
People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a floodlit statue or a skyline. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.
12. "I Choose You" by Sara Bareilles
Let the bough break, let it come down crashing
Let the sun fade out to a dark sky
I can't say I'd even notice it was absent
'Cause I could live by the light in your eyes
I'll unfold before you
What I have strung together
The very first words of a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
There was a time when I would have believed them
If they told me that you could not come true
Just love's illusion
But then you found me and everything changed
And I believe in something again
My whole heart
Will be yours forever
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter
Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
I choose you
We are not perfect
We'll learn from our mistakes
And as long as it takes
I will prove my love to you
I am not scared of the elements
I am underprepared, but I am willing
And even better
I get to be the other half of you
Tell the world that we finally got it all right
I choose you
I will become yours and you will become mine
I choose you
13. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
"What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"
"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."
"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.
"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."
"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"
"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get all loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."
14. "He's Not Perfect" by Bob Marley
He’s not perfect. You aren't either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn't going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don't change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don't analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he's not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don't exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.
15. The Art of Marriage by Wilferd Arlan Peterson
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the art of marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world.
It is forming a circle of love that gathers the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow old.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
16. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Then he looked beyond the thorn bushes, out into the big dark night. Nothing could be farther than the sky.
"I love you right up to the moon," he said, and closed his eyes.
"Oh, that's far," said Big Nutbrown Hare. "That is very far."
Big Nutbrown Hare settled Little Nutbrown Hare into his bed of leaves, leaned over, and kissed him good night. Then he lay down close by and whispered with a smile, "I love you right up to the moon — and back."
17. "All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum
All of what I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
Wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that...
And it is still true, no matter how old you are—when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.
18. "I Wanna Grow Old" 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 your medicine when your tummy aches
build you a fire when the furnace breaks
Oh, 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, I’ll even let you hold the remote control.
So let me do the dishes in the kitchen sink
Put you to bed when you’ve had too much to drink.
Oh I could be the man to grow old with you.
I wanna grow old with you.
19. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
What I’m feeling, I think, is joy. And it’s been some time since I felt that blinkered rush of happiness. This might be one of those rare events that lasts, one that’ll be remembered and recalled as months and years wind and ravel. One of those sweet, significant moments that leaves a footprint in your mind. A photograph couldn’t ever tell its story. It’s something you have to live to understand. One of those freak collisions of fizzing meteors and looming celestial bodies and floating debris and one single beautiful red ball that bursts into your life and through your body like an enormous firework. Where things shift into focus for a moment, and everything makes sense. And it becomes one of those things inside of you, a pearl among the sludge, one of those big exaggerated memories you can invoke at any moment to peel away a little layer of how you felt, like a lick of an ice cream cone. The flavor of grace.
20. From Beginning to End by Robert Fulghum
From that moment of yes until this moment of Yes, indeed, you have been making promises and agreements in an informal way. All those conversations that were held riding in a car or on long walks—all those sentences that began with “When we’re married” and continued with “I will and you will and we will”—those late-night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe”—and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of wedding.
The symbolic vows you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed—well, I meant it all, every word.”
Catch hands now and face one another to make your vows.
Look at one another—remember this moment in time.
Before this moment you have been many things to one another—acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last three years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never be quite the same between you.
21. A Year with C.S. Lewis by C.S. Lewis
If the old fairy-tale ending ‘They lived happily ever after’ is taken to mean ‘They felt for the next fifty years exactly as they felt the day before they were married’, then it says what probably never was nor ever would be true, and would be highly undesirable if it were. Who could bear to live in that excitement for even five years? What would become of your work, your appetite, your sleep, your friendships? But, of course, ceasing to be ‘in love’ need not mean ceasing to love. Love in this second sense—love as distinct from ‘being in love’— is not merely a feeling. It is deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace by which both partners ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be ‘in love’ with someone else. ‘Being in love’ first moved them to promise fidelity: this quieter love enables them to keep the promise. It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.
What are good Bible readings for a wedding?
Traditionally wedding readings often come from religious texts, particularly the Bible in Western cultures. However, the Bible is a long book and there’s more than a few wedding readings in there, so we also want to recognize that it’s possible to want to be untraditional and celebrate your faith as well. Whether it is due to you or your partner’s spiritual practice or just a connection with the Bible as an incredibly powerful text, the Bible offers plenty of options for wedding readings.
There are, quite obviously, lots of Biblical wedding readings out there, like the Corithians passage on love that we began this article with. However, if you want to branch out a bit from what’s been used over and over again, there are plenty of unique wedding readings for you to choose from.
Again, it shouldn’t matter where you source your readings for your wedding ceremony. If choosing wedding readings from the Bible most accurately represents your love for one another, you should feel completely comfortable doing so. A wedding reading from the Bible can be short or long, so you are guaranteed to find something that fits.
If you’re looking for some wedding ceremony readings from the Bible that help you express your love and maybe haven’t been done before, check out the following 11 Bible passages that you can use for your wedding day and every day after.
1. Song of Songs 8:6-7
Place me like a seal over your heart,
like a seal on your arm,
for love is as strong as death,
its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
rivers cannot sweep it away.
If one were to give
all the wealth of one’s house for love,
it would be utterly scorned.
2. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
3. 1 John 3:16-18
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us love not with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
4. Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
5. Ephesians 5:1-2
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
6. 1 Peter 4:8-11
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very word of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength that God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
7. John 17:20-23
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
8. Song of Songs 2:10-13
My beloved spoke and said to me,
“Arise, my darling,
my beautiful one, come with me.
See! The winter is past;
the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
is heard in our land.
The fig tree forms its early fruit;
the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
my beautiful one, come with me.”
9. Romans 15:5-6
May the God who gives you endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
10. 1 John 4:7-12
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.
11. Ecclesiasticus 6:14-17
Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter:
whoever finds one has found a treasure.
Faithful friends are beyond price;
no amount can balance their worth.
Faithful friends are life-saving medicine;
and those who fear the Lord will find them.
Those who fear the Lord direct their friendship aright,
for as they are, so are their neighbors also.
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