7 Things to Read at your Wedding instead of a Poem

by Jennifer Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant © (21/09/2019)
Categories:  | Wedding Ceremony |
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Wedding Crashers $20 First CorinthiansIt is very common for couples to be told that the way to personalise their ceremony is to "select meaningful readings". I disagree. While meaningful readings can add to the whole emotional impact of a personal ceremony, just inserting a standard reading or two adds little or nothing, and can detract.

Remember that great scene in Wedding Crashers when Owen Wilson’s and Vince Vaughan’s characters were placing bets on what the reading at the wedding would be?
Priest: And now for our second reading I’d like to ask the bride’s sister Gloria up to the lectern.
John Beckwith (Owen Wilson): 20 bucks First Corinthians. 
Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughan): Double or nothing Colossians 3:12.
Gloria: And now a reading from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.
Fun for guests who like a side bet. Ho hum for everyone else.

What a wedding reading should do


Wedding readings should heighten the emotions of the ceremony, they should contribute to the feels of that part of the ceremony. For everyone present. Sometimes achieving this can be difficult.

For a religious weddings couples are given a very short list of acceptable Bible readings to choose from, and there is a very good reason for that. A religious wedding is primarily a service of worship, and therefore follows that protocol.

However, marrying with a civil celebrant opens up many more possibilities, as long as we think outside the box and don't feel constrained by (or obligated to follow) the tradition of including 3 readings. Something that came across from the church weddings that served as the model for civil ceremonies way back in the day.

While you can almost bet on 1 Corinthians being included in a religious wedding, predictability is very much a feature of civil ceremony readings too! Not so long ago I read that up to 80% of US wedding ceremonies include the Apache Prayer/Blessing (which is neither Apache, nor a prayer)

And therein lies the big problem with readings picked from a sample list. They aren't personal. And therefore they add little or nothing to the ceremony, have a huge potential to derail the ceremony temporarily, and generally bore the guests witless.

Food for thought about wedding readings


 Let me make some points about readings
  • Readings are optional. You do not have to include a reading, let alone two or three, in your ceremony.
  • If you do choose to include a reading, it does not have to be a poem
  • Unless the reading can be introduced by sharing an explanation about why it is being read,  how the reading links with one or both of you, and why it means so much to have it read in the ceremony, you should question whether it will add to the ceremony
  • The reader is just as important as the reading when it comes to ensuring that the reading adds to the ceremony. And that is not just about how well they read it, but how good a fit the reading is in terms of your relationship with the reader, how relevant it is to the reader as well as to you, the marrying couple.
  • You can choose a person you would like to read, put them in touch with me, and leave it to your special person to choose a reading as a surprise for you. With my guidance, of course, to make sure that there is a personal connection with you.
  • There is nothing wrong with having several people reading different parts of one reading, or, for that matter, having everyone present read something in unison.
  • Just because you haven't come across it before, or someone else tells you it is non-traditional or unique, doesn't mean to say that your guests haven't heard it a million times before. I love Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog by Taylor Mali, but it is trotted out time and again, so even when the couple owns a dog, it doesn't feel personal.

Poetry can be wonderful, but ....


While poetry is wonderful, a good poem requires a deal of introspection and reflection because it is experienced on multiple levels. This, in itself, can insert an emotional pause in the ceremony as guests mentally withdraw from the ceremony to reflect on the poem in order to extract the central message from it, when communicating that message in a direct sentence or two would keep the ceremony moving and the emotions flowing.

Including a reading that's not a poem


OK, so the standard fare, usually a poem, is off the list.  Here are seven great alternatives
  1. A children's picture book. But not just any children's picture book. Many children's books have themes of love, encouragement, and acceptance. Did someone special - father, mother, older sibling, grandparent, etc, read it to you over and over again? Even if the book is tatty, how special would it be to have that person read from that book as part of your wedding? Trust me. There won't be a dry eye, and the photos will be fabulous.
  2. Something personal - like a love letter, email, text message, or Valentine's Day Card. If you have a history of writing to one another, you will have a rich store of material to choose from. And you can read these messages yourselves in your ceremony. There is no rule that says you can't. Of course, make sure that whatever you read is PG rated!
  3. Love letters written especially for the day - and kept as a surprise. Again you can read them yourselves, or you can ask me to read them on your behalf.
  4. A message from parents, grandparents, or other people important to you. Whether advice, good wishes, or recounting of a story from your relationship or a relevant story from your childhood, something personally written, as a gift from someone special, is magic. This can be a wonderful way to include or pay tribute to someone no longer with us, or not able to be at the ceremony.
  5. Something that reflects the history of your family. Of course, it should be relevant to the occasion.  For example, I still have the letter my grandfather wrote to my father, giving his permission for my parents' marriage. It includes some lovely sentiments about marriage, and some advice that is ageless.
  6. Relevant sections from school reports. While that might sound a bit strange, school reports invariably comment on personal characteristics that, in hindsight, are an indicator of what you bring to the relationship and to  your marriage - and can be very funny.
  7. Reflections on your relationship from friends or family members. These can be woven into a single passage to be read by your celebrant or one of those friends or family members.

Take home message, as always. Don't be intimidated by tradition or "the way it is always done".  I'll definitely support you and encourage you to do your own thing.

Thanks for reading!

Jenny xxx Let's talk
                    soon about how you can have the best ceremony ever
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