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Great tips for wedding poems and readings.

Great tips for wedding poems and readings.

Great tips for wedding poems and readings.

Great tips for wedding readings and poems

Are you getting married?  Are you considering asking some special people to be involved in your ceremony in different ways?  Asking someone to read poetry or other meaningful words in your wedding ceremony is one really great idea to get people involved.

“But all wedding readings are really naff”, “They are just a waste of time”, “I just zone out during them” I hear you say.  “Not so”, I retort.   There are so many factors that can move a wedding reading from the ‘bland’ category, to the ‘awesome’ one.

  1. Consider your reader.

Choosing the right person to share some well-chosen words is important.

  1. Introducing them properly and allowing everyone present to understand why they were chosen in this role is a good way to start.

E.g.  “The couple have chosen Great Aunty Betty to read this poem, because she and uncle Bill were married for 2711 blissful years and her wisdom is worth a listen, plus that sequin top she’s pulled out for the occasion is a cracka!”

In this way you are giving everyone present a valid reason to prick up their ears and listen to Great Aunty Betty, because she’s put in the miles and is worthy and she’s made an effort. Go Aunty Betty!

  1. Consider if your reader is okay speaking in public and using a microphone.

For example, you want to involve your ex-neighbour in your ceremony. They have a tendency to mumble; have just emerged from 15 years of Hikikomori and you’re not sure if they are going to stick to the script on the day.  They’re probably not a great choice then.

Perhaps someone who is not afraid to eye-ball a crowd, has a certain level of confidence and knows how to comfortably string a sentence together, might be a better choice.   Get your ex-neighbour to bake the wedding cake instead. (Just an idea)

As a celebrant, I find one of the biggest challenges with readers, is getting them to slow down their reading.  Now obviously nerves play a bit part in this, but what do we miss by them reading too fast???  Just about everything.

  1. Therefore, please don’t rush the reading.

A well-chosen reading or poem has both depth and meaning for the couple.  A good reader will hit the verbs and extract their meaning.  They will find the natural pauses in the text and give them the weight they deserve.  Give it a go yourself.  Choose a nice poem and do those simple things and feeeeel the difference.  Trust me. Three years of acting school did teach me a few things (not just bending like a tree in the wind and sinking a thousand schooners at The Scubar).

Take for example this lovely poem my beautiful cousin Tarni and her husband Pete asked me to read at their Church wedding, many moons ago, before I was a marriage celebrant, when I was just a child.

Even though their wedding was so long ago, this reading has stayed with me for some reason and I have never forgotten certain parts of it even though I don’t have the greatest memory in the world.  This shows a couple of things:

  1. Clearly, I was very honoured at the time to be asked to say something during the Church service and took the job very seriously, even though I wasn’t a seasoned public speaker at the time.
  2. Also, that the words within the reading had a depth of meaning that resonated with me but that I was also hoping to convey to the congregation.

Perhaps your chosen readers may feel the same.

Here’s the reading….

The Gift of Love – Author unknown

The gift of love,
The devotion a man and a woman may feel
Each for the other,
It is the great and eternal mystery of this world of ours.
We see it always, know joy beyond measure in its finding.
Find fulfilment and happiness in its sharing.
We need not understand
Only acknowledge and cherish its existence.
Life has the capacity to bring great sorrow as well as great happiness
But no matter what the adversity
Its pain will yield to the acknowledgement of love and the acceptance of life. So keep open your hearts, be true to your souls.
You will remember always that the greatest gift of all is love.
Given and received without reservation, with humility and gratitude,
It forms of itself a bulwark,
A buttress, a haven, a strength that never wanes or weakens,
But grows more wonderful, more unconquerable day by day
And enables life to become
An exciting and satisfying experience,
An existence filled with happiness.


As you can see there are some great verbs in there that are totally worth leaning on.  Also, some very powerful words.

This section in particular in one that has always stayed with me….

“You will remember always that the greatest gift of all is love.
Given and received without reservation, with humility and gratitude,
It forms of itself a bulwark,
A buttress, a haven, a strength that never wanes or weakens,
But grows more wonderful, more unconquerable day by day”

I can only guess as to why, but if you read it through yourself, you will feel it has a particular rhythm that ebbs and flows and causes the reader to pay extra special attention to certain words and obey the punctuation.

By doing these simple things it can in turn, make the audience sit up and listen.   If it feels, looks and sounds like that person out the front is saying something important, you as the audience naturally want to listen in.

The knock-on effect is that by choosing a great reading, having an engaging person read it, you are adding another meaningful layer to your wedding ceremony.  You are making your wedding ceremony more personal, moving and making your guests feel more involved in what it going on before them. Not just a couple of randoms holding hands and exchanging rings.

A well-chosen wedding reading or poem can also inject your personalities into the ceremony. Everyone present at the ceremony, wants to see two people standing up the front that they recognise.

As a couple are you well known for your particular sense of humour?  For your love of dogs?  For your love of Dr Seuss?  Then why not look around or ask your marriage celebrant for some examples of readings that show these traits.  I certainly know that there are quite a few great ones around that fall into these categories.

If you’re extra clever and are super passionate about your Dr Seuss, you can even have your entire wedding ceremony in Dr Seuss rhyme.  Try it.  It’s the most fun… if you do it well.

Which brings me to timing.  If you’re unsure about the length of your wedding reading, check-in with your celebrant. For example, there are many great excerpts from books, prose and poetry which are more powerful as a few short paragraphs, rather than as the entire piece.

Years ago, I had a reader who I thought was going to be sharing a well-known Dr Seuss excerpt, instead she pulled out the book and read it from cover-to-cover for everyone. NIGHTMARE!!  What this in essence did, was lose the entire audience.  If I’m going to be harsh, it was a bit self-indulgent of the reader too and ultimately diluted the entire meaning of what they might have wanted to say.  It all got a little lost.

Over the past fifteen years I have been fortunate to come across some wonderful readings. There is nothing however that breaks my heart more than for them to be massacred.

With a background in acting and some basic training in Shakespeare, I will never forget the wedding, where a very haughty Mother of the Bride, walked up to me, just prior to ceremony commencing.  She had a copy of my ceremony in her hand, which her daughter had reluctantly given her and she was taking it upon herself to tell me of some edits she’d like me to make.

The bride had given her Shakespeare’s Sonnet Number 116 to read.   Coincidently it’s a sonnet I had studied in acting school, so I knew it quite well.  Mother of the Bride then instructed me that one of the words of the Sonnet was incorrect and she would be changing it from “bark” to “bard”.  Can you imagine my mild smugness, let’s call it firmness, when I instructed her “NOT to change Shakespeare’s words”, it is indeed the word “bark” – it means “a ship”.  (Now bugger off and don’t stuff it up).  Naturally I didn’t say that last bit, but you know what I mean).

There are some beautiful, moving, colourful and wonderful wedding poems and readings out there.  Ask your celebrant, if you’re having trouble finding the right one for you. In the end however, don’t be afraid of them.  Choose an awesome one, choose the right person to read it and watch the magic happen

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