Today's readings run the gamut, from sweet to silly and modern to traditional.

This story first appeared in the Spring/Summer 2020 issue of Columbus Weddings, published December 2019.

Whether you’re planning a religious or secular wedding ceremony, you’re likely to include at least one reading. Short excerpts can be pulled from texts spanning the Bible to Bob Dylan to add a poetic, poignant and personal note to the occasion.

Windi Noble, owner and wedding officiant at Run to an Elopement, has plenty of advice about underused passages she recommends, pieces that are becoming a little too familiar, and how to choose readings that feel just right for you as a couple.

Decision-Making

“I always encourage my couples to include readings and meaningful rituals. I think one or two readings are enough for a ceremony; they can be read by a friend/family member or the officiant,” Noble says. “I often suggest they include verses from their favorite books, poems, song lyrics or quotes from their favorite movies or TV shows. The most important tip is to make sure it speaks to them and their relationship.”

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The Tried-and-True

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, the biblical passage that begins, “Love is patient, love is kind ...” won’t win points for creativity. But Noble points out that while this verse is arguably overused, “The meaning is great advice for anyone, religious or not,” she says.

Noble adds that often-used poems include “The Art of Marriage” by Wilferd Peterson, “The Prophet, On Marriage” by Kahlil Gibran, and the folksy, fatherly wisdom of Robert Fulghum’s “Union.” However, classics hang around for a reason—their enduring wisdom may remain a perfect fit for couples looking for something timeless or traditional.

Modern Twists

Noble recommends a well-known but not overused Bob Marley quote because it’s “a wonderful example of a real rawness of marriage. Plus, Bob Marley is epic.” It can be adapted with any pronoun and reads:

“She’s not perfect—you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together—but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold onto her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break—her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyze and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”

Science lovers may feel a spark for this Albert Einstein quote that Noble describes as “an uncommon but awesome reading”:

“Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

Noble recommends using some or all of the following excerpt from “Gift From The Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh because “it really speaks to the reality of a true partnership.” This is also ideal for couples seeking to include women-penned works.

“When you love someone, you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is 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.”

Lastly, Noble suggests “The Marriage” by Rumi because to her, it “embodies hope and wonderful relationship blessings.” The poem reads:

“May these vows and this marriage be blessed.

May it be sweet milk,

this marriage, like wine and halvah.

May this marriage offer fruit and shade

like the date palm.

May this marriage be full of laughter,

our every day a day in paradise.

May this marriage be a sign of compassion,

a seal of happiness here and hereafter.

May this marriage have a fair face and a good name,

an omen as welcome

as the moon in a clear blue sky.

I am out of words to describe

how spirit mingles in this marriage.”