Readings for weddings

Readings are listed in alphabetical order by author’s last name.

Why I chose these readings: I searched for readings that might appeal to Unitarian Universalist couples, though non-religious people may also find them suitable. Since I’m a feminist, I looked for readings that didn’t perpetuate sexist stereotypes about marriage. I tried to include readings that could be used regardless of the gender(s) of a wedding couple, the couple’s ages, etc. I wanted to include readings that would represent Unitarian Universalist values of equity and equality (so there are even one or two readings which might sound political, e.g. the excerpt from the Goodridge and Obergfell court decisions). Most importantly, I looked for readings that express the Unitarian Universalist understanding of marriage as a covenant, that is, a set of lifelong promises that a wedding couple make to one another.

Copyright: To the best of my knowledge, all the material included here is either in the public domain, or is included as a fair use of copyrighted material (under 500 words, and less than half of a complete poem). For copyrighted material, I provide links to websites which have permission to post the material. If you are a copyright holder and want your material taken down, please email me.

Please don’t use pirated readings: Most wedding websites include pirated poems and readings, that is, readings posted to the web without permission from the authors. It’s bad luck to use pirated material in your wedding ceremony! Besides, it’s super easy to go buy a collection of wedding readings published by a reputable publisher where permissions have been obtained from the authors. For Unitarian Universalists, I recommend We Pledge Our Hearts, ed. Edward Searl (Boston: Skinner House, 2006). If I’m officiating at your wedding, I can lend you a copy of this book.

Author backgrounds: Authors represent a variety of ethnicities and religious backgrounds, from several different centuries. Unitarian Universalist, or UU, authors are noted by [UU] after their names.

Updated 28 Sept. 2023. 52 readings and links to readings; 3 references to print sources for readings which are not available legally online.

Where We Belong, A Duet

by Maya Angelou

“Then you rose into my life / Like a promised sunrise….”

This reading is typically posted online without permission from the copyright holder. It’s illegal to post the entire poem online without permission! And it’s bad luck to use pirated material in your wedding ceremony! However, this poem is easily available in Maya Angelou’s book And Still I Rise (New York: Random House and Virago Press, 1978) — you should be able to borrow it from your local public library.


by Margaret Atwood

“Marriage is not / a house or even a tent / it is before that….”

Link to poem

To My Dear and Loving Husband

by Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay;
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

from Jane Eyre

by Charlotte Bronte

I have for the first time found what I can truly love — I have found you. You are my sympathy — my better self — my good angel — I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my center and spring of life, wraps my existence about you — and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me into one.

The Bean Eaters

by Gwendolyn Brooks

Quite simply, one of the best short American poems about a long-term marriage.

Link to the poem

Sonnets from the Portuguese 43: How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

A Red, Red Rose

by Robert Burns

O my Luve is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve is like the melody
That’s sweetly played in tune.

So 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.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my luve,
Though it were ten thousand mile.

“i love you to the moon &”

by Chen Chen

“i love you to the moon & / not back , let’s not come back, let’s go by the speed of / queer zest….” I think the first 16 lines of the poem work best for a wedding reading.

Link to the poem

blessing the boats

by Lucille Clifton

“and may you in your innocence / sail through this to that”

Link to the poem

1 Corinthians, chapter 13

from the New Revised Standard Version

If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

from The Love Tree

by Countee Cullen

Come, let us plant our love as farmers plant
A seed, and you shall water it with tears,
And I shall weed it with my hands until
They bleed. Perchance this buried love of ours
Will fall on goodly ground and bear a tree
With fruit and flowers….

love is more thicker than forget

by E. E. Cummings [UU]

“it is most mad and moonly”

Link to the poem

“When two private individuals meet, so do two private worlds….”

by A. Powell Davies [UU]

Link to the reading

“I gave myself to Him…”

by Emily Dickinson

I gave myself to Him —
And took Himself, for Pay,
The solemn contract of a Life
Was ratified, this way —

The Wealth might disappoint —
Myself a poorer prove
Than this great Purchaser suspect,
The Daily Own — of Love

Depreciate the Vision —
But till the Merchant buy —
Still Fable — in the Isles of Spice —
The subtle Cargoes — lie —

At least — ’tis Mutual — Risk —
Some — found it — Mutual Gain —
Sweet Debt of Life — Each Night to owe —
Insolvent — every Noon —

The Good-Morrow

by John Donne

I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till we loved? Were we not weaned till then?
But sucked on country pleasures, childishly?
Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers’ den?
’Twas so; but this, all pleasures fancies be.
If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ’twas but a dream of thee.

And now good-morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love, all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown,
Let us possess one world, each hath one, and is one.

My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears,
And true plain hearts do in the faces rest;
Where can we find two better hemispheres,
Without sharp north, without declining west?
Whatever dies, was not mixed equally;
If our two loves be one, or, thou and I
Love so alike, that none do slacken, none can die.

Invitation to Love

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Come when the nights are bright with stars
Or come when the moon is mellow;
Come when the sun his golden bars
Drops on the hay-field yellow.
Come in the twilight soft and gray,
Come in the night or come in the day,
Come, O love, whene’er you may,
And you are welcome, welcome.

You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,
You are soft as the nesting dove.
Come to my heart and bring it to rest
As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.

Come when my heart is full of grief
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd’ning cherry.
Come when the year’s first blossom blows,
Come when the summer gleams and glows,
Come with the winter’s drifting snows,
And you are welcome, welcome.

Love’s Apotheosis

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Love me. I care not what the circling years
To me may do.
If, but in spite of time and tears,
You prove but true.
Love me—albeit grief shall dim mine eyes,
And tears bedew,
I shall not e’en complain, for then my skies
Shall still be blue.
Love me, and though the winter snow shall pile,
And leave me chill,
Thy passion’s warmth shall make for me, meanwhile,
A sun–kissed hill.
And when the days have lengthened into years,
And I grow old,
Oh, spite of pains and griefs and cares and fears,
Grow thou not cold.
Then hand and hand we shall pass up the hill,
I say not down;
That twain go up, of love, who ‘ve loved their fill,—
To gain love’s crown.
Love me, and let my life take up thine own,
As sun the dew.
Come, sit, my queen, for in my heart a throne
Awaits for you!

“What greater thing…”

by George Eliot

What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life — to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?

From Adam Bede (1859)

from Give All to Love

by Ralph Waldo Emerson [UU]

Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good-fame,
Plans, credit and the Muse, —
Nothing refuse.

’Tis a brave master;
Let it have scope:
Follow it utterly,
Hope beyond hope:
High and more high
It dives into noon,
With wing unspent,
Untold intent:
But it is a god,
Knows its own path
And the outlets of the sky.

It was never for the mean;
It requireth courage stout.
Souls above doubt,
Valor unbending,
It will reward, —
They shall return
More than they were,
And ever ascending….

from Union

by Robert Fulghum [UU]

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.”…

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…. Now you shall say a few words that shall take you across a threshold of life, and things will never be quite the same between you. For after these vows, you shall say to the world, This — is my [spouse].

from “Union,” in The Rituals of Our Lives (Random House, 1996), p. 124. This essay gives the words of an actual wedding at which Fulghum officiated.

from The Dear Togetherness

by William Channing Gannet [UU]

…The love of twos begins in miracle, and the miracle never wholly dies away even when the days of Golden Wedding near. A mystery like that of birth and that of death is the mystery of two young spirits all unconsciously through distant ways approaching, each fated at some turn, some instant, to find and recognize the other. Follows, then, the second and continuing mystery of the two becoming very one….”

from The House Beautiful, pp. 49-50

from The Dear Togetherness

William Channing Gannet [UU]

And still one thing remains to furnish the House Beautiful — the most important thing of all, without which guests and books and flowers and pictures and harmonies of color only emphasize the fact that the house is not a home. I mean the warm light in the rooms that comes from kind eyes, from quick unconscious smiles, from gentleness in tones, from little unpremeditated caresses of manner, from habits of fore-thoughtfulness for one another, all that happy illumination which, on the inside of a house, corresponds to morning sunlight outside falling on quiet dewy fields.

It is an atmosphere really generated of many self-controls, of much forbearance, of training in self-sacrifice; but by the time it reaches instinctive expression these stern generators of it are hidden in the radiance resulting. It is like a constant love-song without words, whose meaning is, “We are glad that we are alive together.” It is a low pervading music, felt, not heard, which begins each day with the Good-morning, and only ends in the dream-drowse beyond Good-night. It is cheer; it is peace; it is trust; it is delight; it is all these for, and all these in, each other.

It knows no moods this warm love-light, — but is an even cheer, an even trust. The little festivals of love are kept, but, after all, the best days are the every-days because they are the every-days of love. The variant dispositions in the members of the home, the elements of personality to be “allowed for,” add stimulus and exhilaration to this atmosphere. Shared memories make part of it, shared hopes and fears, shared sorrows; shared self-denials make a very dear part of it.

from The House Beautiful, pp. 44-46. In Gannet’s original version, this was one long paragraph; I’ve split it up into shorter paragraphs.

On Marriage

by Kahlil Gibran

Then Almitra spoke again and said, And what of Marriage, master?
And he answered saying:
You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only 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.

from The Prophet (New York: Knopf, 1923).

from On Love

by Kahlil Gibran

When you love you should not say, “God is in my heart,” but rather, “I am in the heart of God.”
And think not you can direct the course of love, for love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course.

Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.
But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires:
To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night.
To know the pain of too much tenderness.
To be wounded by your own understanding of love;
And to bleed willingly and joyfully.
To wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving;
To rest at the noon hour and meditate love’s ecstasy;
To return home at eventide with gratitude;
And then to sleep with a prayer for the beloved in your heart and a song of praise upon your lips.

from The Prophet (New York: Knopf, 1923).

We Are, Therefore We Love

by Richard Gilbert [UU]

“…cosmic bits of mass and energy / come to life together…”

from In the Holy Quiet: Meditations

from Concord

by Dana McLean Greeley [UU]

Let all the beauty we have known
Illuminate our hearts and minds;
Rejoice in wonders daily shown,
In faith and joy, and love that binds.

Life’s music and its poetry
Surround and bless us through our days;
For these we sing in harmony,
Together giving thanks and praise….

Two stanzas from a five-stanza poem in his Forward Through the Ages (First Parish in Concord, Mass., 1986), p. 148.

from Growing Together

by Thich Nhat Hanh

An essay on marriage by Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, taken from his introduction to Love’s Garden: A Guide to Mindful Relationships by Peggy Rowe Ward and Larry Ward (Parallax Press, 2008). There are several passages in this lengthy introduction that might make good readings for a wedding — for example this one:

“When we marry or commit to another person, we make a promise to grow together, sharing the fruit and progress of practice. It is our responsibility to take care of each other. Every time the other person does something in the direction of change and growth, we should show our appreciation.

“If you have been together with your partner for some years, you may have the impression that you know everything about this person, but it’s not so. Scientists can study a speck of dust for years, and they still don’t claim to understand everything about it. If a speck of dust is that complex, how can you know everything about another person? Your partner needs your attention and your watering of his or her positive seeds. Without that attention, your relationship will wither.”

There are other passages that could also serve as wedding readings. Read the entire essay and see for yourself.


by Thich Nhat Hanh

“…Therefore you know / that as long as you continue to breathe, / I continue to be in you.”

Link the poem — scroll down to the third poem

Of Love

by Robert Herrick

How Love came in, I do not know,
Whether by th’ eye, or eare, or no:
Or whether with the soule it came
(At first) infused with the same:
Whether in part ‘tis here or there,
Or, like the soule, whole every where:
This troubles me: but as I well
As any other, this can tell;
That when from hence she does depart,
The out-let then is from the heart.

My Loves

by Langston Hughes

I love to see the big white moon,
A-shining in the sky;
I love to see the little stars,
When the shadow clouds go by.

I love the rain drops falling
On my roof-top in the night;
I love the soft wind’s sighing,
Before the dawn’s gray light.

I love the deepness of the blue,
In my Lord’s heaven above;
But better than all these things I think,
I love my own true love.

We Have Lived and Loved Together

by Charles Jefferys

We have lived and loved together
Through many changing years,
We have shared each other’s gladness,
And wept each other’s tears.
I have known ne’er a sorrow
That was long unsooth’d by thee,
For thy smile can make a summer
Where darkness else would be.

Like the leaves that fall around us,
In autumn’s fading hours;
Are the traitor smiles that darken,
When the cloud of sorrow lowers,
And though many such we’ve known, love,
Too prone alas! to range,
We both can speak of one, love,
Whom time can never change.

We have lived and loved together
Through many changing years,
We have shared each other’s gladness,
And wept each other’s tears.
And let us hope, the future,
As the past has been, will be,
I will share with thee thy sorrows,
And thou thy joys with me.

Words above as printed in the Franklin Square Song Collection, No. 2 (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1884), p. 36. This is the earliest version of this poem that I’ve been able to find.

The Awakening

by James Weldon Johnson

I dreamed that I was a rose
That grew beside a lonely way,
Close by a path none ever chose,
And there I lingered day by day.
Beneath the sunshine and the show’r
I grew and waited there apart,
Gathering perfume hour by hour,
And storing it within my heart,
Yet, never knew,
Just why I waited there and grew.

I dreamed that you were a bee
That one day gaily flew along,
You came across the hedge to me,
And sang a soft, love-burdened song.
You brushed my petals with a kiss,
I woke to gladness with a start,
And yielded up to you in bliss
The treasured fragrance of my heart;
And then I knew
That I had waited there for you.

Song: to Celia

by Ben Jonson

Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

Poem for My Love

by June Jordan

“How do we come to be here next to each other….”

Link to the poem

from The Owl and the Pussycat

by Edward Lear

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Vows (for a Gay Wedding)

by Joseph O. Legaspi

…”I’m done with silence… / Truly we are enraptured / With Whitmanesque urge and urgency….”

Link to the poem

from Gift from the Sea

by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, pp. 100-101

The “veritable life” of our emotions and our relationships is … intermittent. When you love someone you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an 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 it 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.

from Obergfell v. Hodges

Justice Anthony Kennedy for the Supreme Court of the United States, Obergfell et al. v. Hodges, Director, Ohio Department of Health, et al., 576 U.S. 644 (2015)

From their beginning to their most recent page, the annals of human history reveal the transcendent importance of marriage. The lifelong union of a man and a woman always has promised nobility and dignity to all persons, without regard to their station in life. Marriage is sacred to those who live by their religions and offers unique fulfillment to those who find meaning in the secular realm. Its dynamic allows two people to find a life that could not be found alone, for a marriage becomes greater than just the two persons. Rising from the most basic human needs, marriage is essential to our most profound hopes and aspirations….

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.

from Goodridge v. Department of Public Health

Chief Justice Margaret H. Marshall for the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Hillary Goodridge & others v. Department of Public Health & another, 440 Mass. 309

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.

from Love Songs

by Harriet Monroe

I love my life, but not too well
To give it to thee like a flower,
So it may pleasure thee to dwell
Deep in its perfume but an hour.
I love my life, but not too well.

I love my life, but not too well
To sing is note by note away,
So to thy soul the song may tell
The beauty of the desolate day.
I love my life, but not too well.

I love my life, but not too well
To cast it like a cloak on thine,
Against the storms that sound and swell
Between thy lonely heart and mine.
I love my life, but not too well.

from Love Songs

by Harriet Monroe

Your love is like a blue blue wave
The little rainbows play in.
Your love is like a mountain cave
Cool shadows darkly stay in.

It thrills me like great gales at war,
It soothes like softest singing.
It bears me where clear rivers are,
With reeds and rushes swinging;
Or out to pearly shores afar
Where temple bells are ringing.

Merlin Said

by Patrick Murfin [UU]

“Love is the only magic — / It enriches the giver…”

Link to the poem

One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII

by Pablo Neruda

“…I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where…”

Link to poem

So Much Happiness

by Naomi Shihab Nye

“…there is no place large enough / to contain so much happiness…”

Link to the poem

This is not exactly a poem about marriage, but it could fit the mood of some wedding couples.

from Phases of Domestic Life

by Theodore Parker [UU]

…It takes years to marry completely two hearts, even of the most loving and well-assorted. But nature allows no sudden change. We slope very gradually from the cradle to the summit of life. Marriage is gradual, a fraction of us at a time. A happy wedlock is a long falling in love. I know young persons think love belongs only to the brown hair, and plump, round cheek. So it does for its beginning, just as Mount Washington begins at Boston Bay. But the golden marriage is a part of love which the bridal day knows nothing of. Youth is the tassel and silken flower of love; age is the full corn, ripe and solid in the ear. Beautiful is the morning of love with its prophetic crimson, violet, saffron, purple, and gold, with its hopes of days that are to come. Beautiful also is the evening of love, with its glad remembrances, and its rainbow side turned towards heaven as well as earth….

A perfect and complete marriage, where wedlock is everything you could ask, and the ideal of marriage becomes actual, is not common…. Men and women are married fractionally, now a small fraction, then a large fraction. Very few are married totally, and they only, I think, after some forty or fifty years of gradual approach and experiment….

“Phases of Domestic Life,” Collected Works of Theodore Parker, vol. XIV, Lessons from the World of Matter and the World of Man (London: Trubner & Co., 1872), pp. 151-152.

The Art of Marriage

by Wilferd Arlan Peterson

This is one of the most popular readings for a wedding. Note that the real title is “The Art of Marriage,” not “The Art of a Good Marriage.”

This reading is typically posted online without permission from the copyright holder. It’s illegal to post the entire poem online without permission! And it’s bad luck to use pirated material in your wedding ceremony! However, I have a printed photocopy that I can loan to wedding couples, which I obtained legally from a library copy of Peterson’s book The New Art of Living (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963, pp. 44-45). Or you can go find a copy of his book in your local library library.

“I knew a couple happily married for over 50 years…”

by Mary Pipher [UU]

This reading, from Mary Pipher’s “Letters to a Young Therapist,” used to be pirated on various wedding sites. But the author was able to have her copyrighted material removed from the web. And you didn’t want to use pirated material in your wedding anyway, because it’s bad luck. Fortunately, I have a book that includes this reading by permission of the author, which I can loan to wedding couples. Or you can get your own copy of We Pledge Our Hearts, ed. Edward Searl (Boston: Skinner House, 2006), and find the reading on page 117. It’s worth it — while the reading is short, it’s perfect for a wedding.

from Twenty-One Love Poems, poem II

by Adrienne Rich

“…and I laugh and fall dreaming again / of the desire to show you to everyone I love…”

Link to the poem

Do You Remember Falling Stars

by Rainer Maria Rilke

“…and our heart felt like a single thing / beneath that vast disintegration of their brilliance…”

Link to the poem

A Birthday

by Christina Rossetti

My heart is like a singing bird
Whose nest is in a water’d shoot;
My heart is like an apple-tree
Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
That paddles in a halcyon sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of silk and down;
Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
In leaves and silver fleurs-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
Is come, my love is come to me.

Note: “vair” is an obsolete term for a rich trimming on a robe or gown.

from the Book of Ruth

King James Version of the Bible

Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.

(Non-religious weddings may leave off the last five words.)

One Girl

by Sappho, translated by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Like the sweet apple which reddens upon the topmost bough,
Atop on the topmost twig, — which the pluckers forgot, somehow, —
Forget it not, nay; but got it not, for none could get it till now.

Like the wild hyacinth flower which on the hills is found,
Which the passing feet of the shepherds for ever tear and wound,
Until the purple blossom is trodden in the ground.

Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds

by William Shakespeare

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 wand’ring 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 prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.

Re-Statement of Romance

by Wallace Stevens

“…Only we two may interchange / Each in the other what each has to give….”

Link to poem


by Sara Teasdale

Peace flows into me
As the tide to the pool by the shore;
It is mine forevermore,
It ebbs not back like the sea.

I am the pool of blue
That worships the vivid sky;
My hopes were heaven-high,
They are all fulfilled in you.

I am the pool of gold
When sunset burns and dies,
You are my deepening skies,
Give me your stars to hold.

from Rivers to the Sea (1915).

Marriage Morning

by Alfred Tennyson

Light, so low upon earth,
You send a flash to the sun.
Here is the golden close of love,
All my wooing is done.
Oh, all the woods and the meadows,
Woods, where we hid from the wet,
Stiles where we stayed to be kind,
Meadows in which we met!
Light, so low in the vale
You flash and lighten afar,
For this is the golden morning of love,
And you are his morning star.
Flash, I am coming, I come,
By meadow and stile and wood,
Oh, lighten into my eyes and my heart,
Into my heart and my blood!
Heart, are you great enough
For a love that never tires?
O heart, are you great enough for love?
I have heard of thorns and briers.
Over the thorns and briers,
Over the meadows and stiles,
Over the world to the end of it
Flash of a million miles.


by Henry David Thoreau [UU]

I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
Love is to me a world,
Sole meat and sweetest drink,
And close connecting link
Tween heaven and earth….

Two sturdy oaks I mean, which side by side,
Withstand the winter’s storm,
And spite of wind and tide,
Grow up the meadow’s pride,
For both are strong

Above they barely touch, but undermined
Down to their deepest source,
Admiring you shall find
Their roots are intertwined

Prayer for a marriage ceremony

by Roscoe E. Trueblood [UU]

Lord, now thy rich rare blessings we would pray
On these who pledge their love and gladly go
Toward destiny — be it of joy or woe
And may their memory ever find its way
Back to the tender impulse of this day:
And may affection’s ties abound and grow
As each unselfish sharing makes it so:
From our heart’s depths these blessings now we pray.

Roscoe Trueblood was minister at First Parish in Cohasset 1951-1969. This is from his book I Was Alive — and Glad, published by First Parish in 1971 (p. 56), and used here by their permission.


by Carolyn Wells

“Until at last / They enter the same door, and suddenly / They meet.”

Link to poem

The Desolate Field

by William Carlos Williams [UU]

Vast and gray, the sky
is a simulacrum
to all but him whose days
are vast and gray, and —
In the tall, dried grasses
a goat stirs
with nozzle searching the ground.
— my head is in the air
but who am I…?
And amazed my heart leaps
at the thought of love
vast and gray
yearning silently over me.


by William Carlos Williams [UU]

So different, this man
And this woman:
A stream flowing
In a field.

This Is Just To Say

by William Carlos Williams [UU]

This delightful and classic poem depicts the give and take needed in a marriage.

Link to the poem