How DO you say “I do”?

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(Laura and Israel share a laugh during their vows as she promises to be his loving and faithful “husband”)

You’ve planned the party – the eating, the drinking, the dancing, and celebration – but now it’s time to devote some energy to the reason your friends and family will be coming together in the first place: your wedding ceremony. In the days of the modern ceremony, less couples are choosing to get married in a church, and of those marrying outside of a church, many are choosing to have a non-clergy person perform the ceremony. One of the pros AND cons of this is that a couple has much more influence and decision over what their ceremony should included.

Readings and vows are some of the most personal aspects of the wedding ceremony and in a non-church wedding you’re free to say whatever your heart desires. But wait, what do you want to say to your beloved in front of everybody? If you’re stuck on vows or readings, we’re here to help get the juices flowing. Here are some of our favorite poems and prose guaranteed to help you say what you mean:

Readings to be included in vows:

Roy Croft’s Love (it may be a long one, but you can always pick and choose the verses that suit you best)

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

I love you because you
Are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern
But a temple.

Out of the works
Of my every day
Not a reproach
But a song.

I love you
Because you have done
More than any creed
Could have done
To make me good.
And more than any fate
Could have done
To make me happy.

You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.

You have done it
By being yourself.
Perhaps that is what
Being a friend means,
After all.

EE Cummings, I Carry Your Heart With Me (some people are staunch believers that EE Cummings is overdone, but I will always love this poem for weddings, can’t help it)

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, The Book Of Love (This song is from the album 69  Love Songs which is also a great resource for ceremony or reception music as well. I LOVE  this song and also “You’re My Only Home” for a first dance!)

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It’s full of charts and facts and figures
And instructions for dancing
But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything

The book of love has music in it
In fact, that’s where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb, but
I, I love it when you sing to me, and
You, you can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It’s full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we’re all too young to know, but
I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings

Other possible readings to include in your ceremony:

Apache “Wedding Blessing” (this is rumored to have been made up by Hollywood for the movie Broken Arrow but is nevertheless perfect for the occasion)

Now you will feel no rain,

For each of you will be shelter to the other.

Now you will feel no cold,

For each of you will be warmth to the other.

Now there is no more loneliness,

For each of you will be companion to the other.

Now you are two bodies,

But there is one life before you.

Go now to your dwelling place,

To enter into the days of your togetherness.

And may your days be good and long upon the earth.

Robert Fulghum’s Union (this reading is a lovely sentiment as a reading from someone in the wedding party or from a family member, it really captures the promise you’re about to make to each other)

You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes to 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 over a meal or during 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 a wedding. The symbolic vows that 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.” Look at one another and 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 few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this- is my husband, this- is my wife.

For your vows, there are just so many out there that I’m happy to point you to, they’ve got an extensive list of both vows and readings that can ignite the water works or inspire a stifled chuckle – depending on what you want to represent at your ceremony 🙂

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