Why Marriage? Susan Artup, The Marriage Celebrant

This reading would be beautifully placed at the beginning of the ceremony – maybe after the introduction and welcome to guests. It is a personal view on what the commitment to marriage means. The reading talks of a certain integrity, a quality which the bond of marriage brings. Marriage alone doesn’t create this quality : the relationship does that, but having reached it, marriage is a logical conclusion.

It is by a contemporary American poet, Mari Nichols, entitled “ Why Marriage” :

Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person,
With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body...

Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me,
Who won't hold them against me,
Who loves me when I'm unlikable,
Who sees the small child in me, and
Who looks for the divine potential of me...

Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night
With someone who thanks God for me,
With someone I feel blessed to hold...

Because marriage means opportunity
To grow in love in friendship...

Because marriage is a discipline
To be added to a list of achievements...

Because marriages do not fail, people fail
When they enter into marriage
Expecting another to make them whole...

Because, knowing this,
I promise myself to take full responsibility
For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness
I create me,
I take half of the responsibility for my marriage
Together we create our marriage...

Because with this understanding
The possibilities are limitless.

The Final Word by Susan Artup

There are hundreds and hundreds of poems and formal words of wisdom that could be read at wedding ceremonies. I’ve chosen just a few that have proven to be popular over the years, and some which are my favourites that I wish people would choose.

This last one I offer is a personal gift from one lover to another; it could close the ceremony and be read by them, not me.

It’s by the American poet, e.e. Cummings, who was prolific in the first half of the 2oth century and died in 1962. His unconventional punctuation contributes significantly to the idea of the dreamy, pervasive power of love to infiltrate the depths of your soul, a power driven by itself and out of your control. As Sir Philip Sydney writes in “The Bargain”, Cummings talks of the “just exchange” of hearts, in which “ my true love hath my heart, and I have his”:

“I carry your heart with me
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)”

The poem talks about being at one, about peace, security, strength, trust and comfort – it says it all.

Good Luck - Susan Artup, The Marriage Celebrant

This anonymous reading is often used as a final blessing … the fact that it suggests that the success of your marriage should be based on gentle manipulation is beside the point I suppose! It’s humorous and realistic and talks of the balancing act that it sometimes takes to keep a relationship humming along.

“ When you marry her, love her.
After you marry her, study her.
When she is blue, cheer her.
When she is talkative, by all means, talk to her.
If she dresses well, compliment her.
When she is cross, humour her.
If she is jealous, cure her.
If she is lonely, comfort her.
When she looks pretty, tell her so.
Let her feel you understand her.
But never let her know she isn’t boss.

When you marry him, love him.
After you marry him, study him.
If he is secretive, trust him.
If he is sad, cheer him.
When he is talkative, listen to him.
When he is quarrelsome, ignore him.
If he is jealous, cure him.
If he cares naught for pleasure, coax him.
If he favours society, accompany him.
When he deserves it, kiss him.
Let him think you understand him.
But never let him know you manage him.”

Usually a family member will read this – an aunt, for example ( i.e. in a position to offer such sage advice!)

Simple Blessings

These two blessings are not overly laden with philosophy but in their simplicity they appeal to the universe, like the original epithalamia, to look after the newly-weds as they embark on their new journey through the seasons and twists and turns of life.

Both suggest that the couples have faith in the universe to protect and keep their love.
The first is anonymous:

“The wonderful joys that the future will hold will be found in the plans that you make, the roads that you travel, the sights that you see and the paths that you let your hearts take.
So believe in your dreams, in your hopes and your goals and the trust that you place in each other.
And know that, wherever love leads you, you’ll go step by step and beside one another
We wish you a beautiful life journey together – beginning with this special day of happiness and love.”

And the second was written by a South Australian author called Nan Whitcomb who trained as a nurse and air hostess in the 1950s. In the 1970s she published three volumes of simple poetry entitled “ The Thoughts of Nanushka”. One of her poems, “ To Mourn Too Long For Those We Love”, was read at the funeral of Michael Hutchence. This one though is very popular at weddings!

“May your friendship and trust
Endure and strengthen
Through the winters of your lives
And may your love
Be renewed
As surely as the blossoms
Adorn the trees each spring.
May your understanding of each other
Grow with your love
Until the wonder
Of each night and day
Becomes a lifetime
Of happiness together.”

The Real Deal by Susan Artup - The Marriage Celebrant

James Dillet Freeman was an American minister of the Unity Church. Of Cherokee and English/Irish descent, Freeman identified with Native American culture and was a prolific poet who explored the human condition, not only in his writing, but as a speaker. He wrote of life and loss, longing and fulfillment, tragedy and contentment.
Although it has been read at countless weddings, his ‘Blessing for a Marriage’ is so personal that it seems it was written especially for every couple who hears it:

“May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance and understanding.

May you need one another, but not out of weakness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you entice one another, but not compel one another. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another. May you succeed in all-important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces. May you look for things to praise, often say “ I love you!” and take no notice of small faults.

If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back. May you enter into the mystery that is the awareness of one another’s presence – no more whimsical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or even distant cities.

May you have happiness, and may you find it making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it in loving one another.

James Dillet Freeman died in 2003, aged 91, yet his insight is ageless.

Is It As Simple As This?

This is a blessing I’m often asked to include in a wedding ceremony. Its simplicity and naiveté make it appeal to couples who find neither modern nor classical poetry suitable for their wedding; its hint of spirituality substitutes warmly for religious invocations.

Although it is passed off as an authentic tribute to Apache culture, this reading first appeared in the 1947 novel by Elliot Arnold called “ Blood Brothers” – which was later turned into the movie, “Broken Arrow”. In the story the hero befriends the Indian chief, Cochise, and meets and marries the young woman, Morning Star. The poem was an invention of the author and has undergone many mutations, such is its popularity. To call it Apache is cultural appropriation I suppose, but only for the most benign reason. Such inventions and reflections are better known as “ fakelore” than tradition, but they serve their purpose – here is one version:

“Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be the shelter for each other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be the warmth for the other.
Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before. Go now to your dwelling place to enter into the days of your life together.
And may your days be good and long upon the earth. Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.
Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves.
When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship - as they threaten all relationships at one time or another - remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong.
In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives - remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there.
And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.”

Love Transformed: Exploring the Power of Change

The experience of love, when it hits you that you have found “ the one”, can change your life in an instant. “ What a difference a day makes” says the song – and it’s true: it is the feeling that gets you first; it is certainly the heart, not the head processing this.
Everything is brighter, richer, fuller when you are buzzing along with (especially new-found) love. Clearing rain is a metaphor often used for re-birth, a clean canvass for the emergence of emotions and possibilities … this simple anonymous poem captures this wonder – called “ Renewal”:

The rain had ceased to fall,
new light gave new colour
to leaves and songs of birds.

You quietly entered the room,
softly your arms entwined me

And sunshine followed rain,
new love gave new colour
to leaves and songs of birds.

In his “ A Marriage”, Mark Twain uses a mathematical metaphor for the enrichment of union:

A marriage.....
makes of two fractional lives
a whole,
it gives to two purposeless lives
a work, and doubles the strength
of each to perform it,
it gives to two
questioning natures
a reason for living,
and something to live for,
it will give a new gladness
to the sunshine,
a new fragrance to the flowers,
a new beauty to the earth,
and a new mystery to life

I could imagine the first poem read at the beginning of the ceremony, and Mark Twain’s right at the end – the first about the power of the beloved to transform, the second about the evolution of the relationship to marriage and its potential.

Find Refuge in Love: A Promise Fulfilled

The idea that in finding a loving partner we are finding a place of refuge underlies the trust peculiar to marriage, or commitment. The union of two is exclusive, private and special, a place where you can breathe and rest and be yourself. This might be something you want to acknowledge in your ceremony. Many poems talk of this.
These two are intimate poems of commitment which you could read to each other.

These are both anonymous poems with the same message:
‘My Love’

My love surrounds the house in which you dwell,
The place you work, the streets your feet have known,
With more of tenderness than I can tell,
And prayers I have said for you alone.
If you are lonely, know that I am near;
If you are sad, my faith will comfort you,
The things you value I shall hold most dear;
Your happiness will make me happy, too.
Be sure of this: Though you may travel far,
My love will guard you anywhere you are.

‘A Place’

There is a place within my heart
Where memories of you lie.
A place I visit form time to time;
A place that will never die.
A place that no-one knows about
Except for a very few.
A place that I have set aside
Especially for you.
I go to this place whenever I feel
Lonely when we’re apart.
I go to this place whenever I need
You to touch my heart .
You shall always be in this place,
For I give my heart to you.
If not these, why not find a poem that sums up your feelings and present it as a gift to your beloved on your wedding day? A poem each …

The Promise of Safety

In a world of uncertainty people seek a sense security where they can – in their jobs, their families and in their personal relationships. Wedding promises are the foundation for safety into the future: your marriage will be the one thing that you can count on, to all intents and purposes your commitment will remain unaltered, even if your circumstances don’t.

If you want to express this in a poem, “ I will be here” by Steven Curtis Chapman is perfect:

“In the morning when you wake,
If the sun does not appear,
I will be here.
If in the dark we lose sight of love,
Hold my hand and have no fear,
I will be here.

I will be here
When you feel like being quiet,
When you need to speak your mind I will listen.
Through the winning, losing and trying we’ll be together,
And I will be here.
If in the morning when you wake,
If the future is unclear
I will be here.
As sure as seasons were made for change,
Our lifetimes were made for years, I will be here.

I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder,
When the mirror tells us we’re older.
I will hold you, to watch you grow in beauty
And tell you all the things you are to me.
We’ll be together and I will be here.
I will be true to the promises I’ve made
To you and to the one you gave to me.
I will be here.”

This poem would be just right before you exchange the legal commitment; it could be your “ personal vow” and could be read by you to each other – a stanza each and then the last together, your voices blending, why not? There would be emotion in that. Your ceremony does not have to be a flawless piece of theatre – tears and laughter and stumbling are what make it you.

Symbolism in Indian Vedic Marriage Ceremony

“ Honey-sweet”:  words redolent of gentle fulfilment and serenity. The last reading I shared from an Indian Vedic ceremony described the new marital state with these words.

Milk, honey, wine, dates are all symbols of plenty, celebration, wholeness and gratitude. These two poems, one form Rumi, and one, anonymous, from Ancient Egypt, are stunning in their simplicity:

This Love

This love is as good
as oil and honey to the throat
as linen to the body,
as fine garments to the gods,
as incense to worshippers
when they enter in,
as the little seal-ring
to my finger.
It is like a ripe pear
in a man’s hand,
it is like dates
we mix with wine,
it is like seeds
the baker adds to bread.
We will be together
even when old age comes.
And the days in between
will be food set before us,
daes and honey, bread and wine.

This Marriage - Rumi

This marriage be wine with halvah, honey dissolving in milk.
This marriage be the leaves and fruit of a date tree.
This marriage be women laughing together for days on end.
This marriage, a sign for us to study.
This marriage, beauty.
This marriage, a moon in a light blue sky.
This marriage, this silence fully mixed with spirit.

The Seven Steps: A Hindu Wedding Ritual Adaptation

I described a ritual called “ The Seven Steps” in an earlier entry. This was an adaptation of one of the many Hindu wedding rituals, which invoke blessings of happiness, harmony and growth.

As in western culture, a marriage ceremony in Hindu tradition is a rite which enables two individuals to begin their journey through life together. The ceremony blesses this journey and establishes the union of spirit and matter so that a future of serenity and stability is possible. “The Seven Steps” symbolizes the beginning of the journey, each step representing a vow of marriage.

This anonymous reading has sublimity and earthliness; it says it all:

“ We have taken the even steps. You have become mine forever.

Yes, we have become partners. I have become yours. Hereafter, I cannot live without you. Do not live without me. Let us share the joys. We are word and meaning, united.

You are thought and I am sound.

May the nights be honey sweet for us; may the mornings be honey-sweet for us; may the earth be honey-sweet for us; may the heavens be honey-sweet for us. May the plants be honey-sweet for us; may the cows yield us honey-sweet milk!

As the heavens are stable, as the earth is stable, as the mountains are stable, as the whole universe is stable, so may our union be permanently settled”.

Of course you don’t have to have an Indian ceremony to include this and you don’t have to perform the seven steps… just omit the first sentence!

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran: A Cult Classic Wedding Read

“ The Prophet” is a book by Lebanese-American poet and philosopher Kahlil Gibran who was born in 1883. The renown of “ The Prophet” is still cult-like and excerpts are often quoted at weddings.

In pursuing the theory that the basis for a good marriage is friendship, it is worth looking at what Gibran wrote “On Friendship”. This poem is not about romantic love but it is about an intimate, enduring bond integral to marriage and platonic relationships equally. The distinction between casual friendships and the friendship which defines a real union is that the former is better described as “ friendliness”, general in nature; it is not a bond. But the friendship which evolves through marriage is a bond between souls – a bond in a good way (be advised of Gibran’s best-known poem, which tells us not to make a bond of love!)

Choosing excerpts of “ On Friendship” would work at your wedding: to have the whole piece read is perhaps too philosophical - it is after all marriage that you’re pinning down.

Here it is:

“Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.
And he is your board and your fireside.
For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the "nay" in your own mind, nor do you withhold the "ay."
And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart;
For without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unacclaimed.
When you part from your friend, you grieve not;
For that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit.
For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth: and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend.
If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also.
For what is your friend that you should seek him with hours to kill?
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness.
And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”

Less philosophical but no less true is this charming piece from the Yueh-Fu genre of folk ballads passed down during the Han Dynasty from 206 BC.

This simple little poem, “ I want to be your Friend” says it all:

“I want to be your friend
For ever and ever.
When the hills are all flat
And the rivers are all dry,
When the trees blossom in winter
And the snow falls in summer,
When heaven and earth mix –
Not till then will I part from you.”

The Power of Friendship in Lasting Relationships

At civil wedding ceremonies it sometimes appears as though the celebrant is imparting personal views about love and marriage, as would a minister of religion in delivering a sacrament. This is not ever the case in civil proceedings, whose content is the choice of the couple, the expression of which is shared with guests through the facilitation of the celebrant.

The idea of friendship being the firmest foundation for a lasting relationship is often chosen as a theme for the celebrant to deliver: very sound words of advice.

These two readings remind the wedding guests of this :

EVERY TWO UNIQUE Thomas Davidson

“No human relationship give one possession of another. A relationship links two people together. Each person is unique and different so the mode and style of this linking varies. But whether it is friendship or love, the two people side by side find and achieve so much together, which one of them cannot find or achieve alone.

In a relationship the lover recognises the talent and beauty of the other. They should tell the other of it when they see it. In a relationship if you accept the sunshine and warmth, you must also be able to accept the overcast and the cool.

Among intelligent people, the surest basis of the relationship of marriage is friendship – the sharing of real interests – the ability to work through real issues together, to work towards common goals together, and to understand and share each others thought and dreams.”
The friendship described as the basis for marriage overtakes all other friendships. Love becomes friendship and friendship becomes love.

Love is Friendship Caught Fire Laura Hendricks

“Love is friendship caught fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses.

Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories and working toward common goals. If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.”

Finding Your Perfect Match: The Transition to Lasting Love

Meeting someone with whom you are willing to share your life is for many a dream come true. In fact, when you’ve met that person, being apart is unthinkable, as I’ve written previously. But the prospect of finding your perfect match isn’t just something that makes your heart flutter… the happiness is founded in the certainty that here is someone who complements you and makes you feel better, more secure, more content than when you were single.

Here is how Susan Polis Schutz describes this transition :

“ When I was younger I dreamed how a relationship should be
a sharing of goals and lives
A love so strong that it is always exciting and growing
A blending of two imperfect individuals into stronger, better people
who laugh more, are happier, more successful
and more at peace.
My dream came to be because you had the same dream as I
And I want you to know how thankful I am
For our beautiful relationship and how much I love you.”

And what makes your partner worthy of love? Far from personal charm it is how you are transformed by love that makes you love in return. True, requited love gives and gives, as Roy Croft writes in this poem, “ Love” :

“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
To make me happy.

You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.”

These are both fitting readings if you really want to personalize your ceremony…

Seek and Ye Shall Find

A marriage ceremony is far more than the legalisation of a relationship. This is the public recognition that one’s status has changed and is useful if not essential for the practical purposes of life in society. This is one of the reasons for addressing marriage equality.

But one of the things that is fundamental to a wedding ceremony is that it gives individuals the opportunity to celebrate the culmination of their search, to express their sense of personal fulfillment and jubilation in “finding” a compatible other – more than that, a vital other.

A wedding speaks of seeking and finding, yearning and peace. In this, it celebrates the moment. The most beautiful personal love poems are about this and their place in the ceremony is around the time the vows are exchanged.

So the poems defining love and commitment would come first (introducing the ceremony), then the personal pledges (before or after the vows) then the blessings to express hope and well-wishes (right at the end after the rings and signing).

Here are two poems about the search for love and the place of rest real love can bring to individuals. One is an anonymous Hawaiian wedding song:
Here all seeking is over

Here all seeking is over,
the lost has been found,
a mate has been found
to share the chills of winter-
now Love asks that you be united.
Here is a place to rest,
a place to sleep,
a place in heaven.
Now two are becoming one,
the black night is shattered,
the eastern sky grow bright.
At last the great day has come!

The second is by the Persian poet Rumi, who was born in 1207 and is one of the most widely read poet in modern times:

Lovers

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.

Balance in Love: Individuality vs Unity

In many of the words written in the definition of loving relationships, “respect for each other’s individuality” is a stand-out element. This leads to the question of balance in a relationship : what is more important? To adhere to the self or to blend into the union? Ideal love allows this question and finds the compromise, the complement, the flexibility, the understanding …
Anyway, enough about what love should be!

The love that demands that being apart is intolerable comes from intimacy, not to clinging to an ideal of individuality. This intimacy gives rise to idioms like “ you complete me”, “ you are my other half”, “ I am only half-living without you”.

This is a very dangerous intimacy which makes us vulnerable. To lose that intimacy is the devastation that break-ups deal with. However it is the element of love that you would die for, to feel as one with your partner in a unique and totally exclusive way.

Sometimes this is an intimacy which you best realize years after being together.

Poems about this feeling can be included in your ceremony, even read by you to each other.

Here are two, one by a famous Spanish poet, Pablo Neruda, and the other by the Chinese poet, Kuan Tao Chung:

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you simply, without problems or pride:
I love you in this way because I don’t know any other way of loving

but this, in which there is no I or you,
so intimate that you hand upon my chest is my hand,
so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.”

Married Love

“You and I
Have so much love
That it burns like a fire
In which we bake a lump of clay
Moulded into figure of you
And a figure of me.
Then we take both of them
And break them into pieces
And mix the pieces with water
And mould again a figure of you
And a figure of me.
I am in your clay.
You are in my clay.”

When Love Finds Its Way: Meant to Be Together

The amazing thing about poems written in centuries past, from times whose mores we perceive to be different, is that the words express sentiments EXACTLY as we feel them today. In other words, we did not invent passion in our modest lifetimes!

I've referred to poems which attempt to define love and to tell us what to expect and offer in a relationship. They express the general rules of engagement with another person, with a partner. Someone said to me today that “you don’t marry the person you can live with, but with the person you can’t live without.” Absolutely! You merge your life with the one who complements you in all the things you observe, feel and do. This poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley was written in 1819. It talks of natural attraction : an irresistible law over which we have no control, which, unfulfilled, lays us to waste. It brims with glorious images, and in the right ceremony, read by the right person, works beautifully as a more personal poem you could include before the vows of marriage are exchanged.

Love’s Philosophy
The fountains mingle with the river,
And the rivers mix with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;
All things by law divine
In one another’s beings mingle
Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea,
What are all these kissings worth
If thou kissed not me?

Shelley was no role-model for marital fidelity, however: at age nineteen, he eloped with sixteen-year-old Harriet Westbrook. Shelley also became enamoured of the philosopher Godwin Wollstonecraft’s daughter, Mary, and he left Harriet for her. During a seance it was proposed that each person present should write a ghost story. Mary’s contribution to the contest became the novel Frankenstein. When Harriet Shelley committed suicide, Shelley and Mary Godwin were married. Shelley lost custody of his two children by Harriet because of his adherence to the notion of free love!
Shortly before his thirtieth birthday, Shelley was drowned in a storm while sailing to Italy in his schooner, the Don Juan. Aptly named.

Elegant Poems for Weddings: Classic to Contemporary

Poems for weddings – there is such a range of them. From the classics in language barely recognizable, to the lyrics in the vernacular of 21st century tunes – there is a place for every kind and combination of words. Only the banal and the obvious don’t appeal to me : the point of poetry is that it uses a different way, a simpler way, a more elegant way…
The poems you choose have their best impact if you integrate them appropriately – for example at the beginning of the ceremony you are indicating what this commitment means to you. Many, many attempts have been made to define love but words so often fail – you will choose what resonates with you and what clicks. I’ve already included a number of definitions of love and commitment. These are poems about the general nature of relationships. Later, when it comes to making your vows, you should choose a much more personal reading. There are no rules defining love but it is generally accepted that the love which compels you to consolidate your life with your partner’s is based on the realization that being apart is intolerable. And that you want to be together forever.
Love is true. It doesn’t change. It adapts. It has no conditions or measures. You can count on it.
This sonnet of Shakespeare’s says it all. It is indeed a little overused, and that’s why!
But read well, it is a beautiful introduction to commitment:
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116

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 wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, though 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 proved.
I never writ nor no man ever loved.

The Timeless Importance of Wedding Blessings

So a wedding is not only the declaration of a union but the opportunity for the invited to have their say – to cast a bespoke or borrowed blessing on the newly- weds (coming as it should after the binding is made). The blessing is the finishing touch to the ceremony – the gift from all present, far more important than the dinner sets and wine glasses. There is an infinite number of blessings – a blessing for every couple form here to eternity. And blessings are timeless. Here is one I found applicable to modern relationships (and let us be mindful you don’t need to be “married” to be up for this one!) :

“ May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance and understanding. May you need one another, but not out of weakness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you entice one another, but not compel one another. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another. May you succeed in all-important ways with one another, and not fail in the little graces. May you look for things to praise, often say “ I love you!” and take no notice of small faults.

If you have quarrels that push you apart, may both of you hope to have good sense enough to take the first step back. May you enter into the mystery that is the awareness of one another’s presence – no more whimsical than spiritual, warm and near when you are side by side, and warm and near when you are in separate rooms or distant cities.

May you have happiness, and may you find it in making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it in loving one another.”

The Power of Poems in Wedding Ceremonies

The choice of a couple of poems – or readings – is essential to a wedding ceremony’s meaning. A poem can encapsulate feelings with a poignancy and elegance in a way that ordinary conversation cannot. Clumsy, wordy phrases are replaced by eloquence in a few lines with a poem. The allure of poetry is that the words of a stranger, the poet, can so perfectly sum up our personal feelings. That’s why some poems become famous and endure through centuries: they are as relevant today as when they were written. Contemporary song lyrics, too, are just as much poetry as are classic sonnets and ballads – they allow the soul its self-expression. Words correctly chosen and used enable us to be “ masters of our own mouths” – a description I read recently and share because of its aptness!

Part of the function and process of a traditional wedding ceremony is to call upon blessings from above, from outside this space and time. The vows may be made, but they need to be blessed – hence the epithalamia of ancient times.

What happens in the expression of wedding vows is an earthly binding - but the poetry is something sublime – its role is to invoke a divine blessing, to appeal to eternity to sustain the joy and provide strength through difficult times. It is a blessing which beseeches an unwavering comfort.

You must take responsibility in the ritual promises of marriage, because in them you are binding your soul to another. But the poetry you choose calls on external powers to bless and safeguard your union, just as you might pray for rain or a good harvest or a safe journey. The poetry sets the seal. Poetry reinforces and blesses the promise, and as a couple this blessing will be fundamental to your very being as you go through life together.

There are limitless versions of modern, personal wedding blessings which resonate with tradition. Tradition is a steadying influence in a relationship – it’s up to you to decide what you want to take from the past and what to leave behind.

The poems that you choose should say what you feel about love and the vows you are making. Choosing them makes you think about your ceremony and therefore your marriage. It is an opportunity to think about what marriage means to you.

Romantic Wedding Poetry from Renaissance Masters

Although these poems originated in Roman times they enjoyed a revival in the Renaissance in the work of Spenser, John Donne, Ben Johnson…one of the finest was the 23 stanza Spenser wrote about each hour of his own wedding day.

If you are looking for an anthology of poetry and prose written for weddings, including the above, you should look at Robert Hass’ and Stephen Mitchell’s classic collection, “ Into the Garden – A Wedding Anthology”.

However there are modern epithalamia too – the poems that are read aloud in wedding ceremonies are just this. They are universally delivered to celebrate the joy of union, bestow felicitations on the couple and invoke blessings and best wishes for future harmony and happiness in marriage. Here is one written by in 2014 and copyrighted to Casarah Nance for some friends, called simply “ Wedding Day.”

Bare feet in the sun
kissed sand, he
stands waiting.
His love for his
bride he takes
pleasure in stating.
Beside him his boy,
the other love of
his fortunate life.
To make a family, a
union, addition of a
mother, friend,
wife.
A man with a big
heart, a soul
completed by her
faithful love.
A marriage blessed
by the stars, the
moon and God above.

Bare feet walk along
stone steps, into
the sand her toes
touch.
She looks upon the
face of the man she
loves so very much.
One breath by one
breath, step forward
she steps into the
future.
Her heart is open to
a family, a
friendship, a home
with love pure.
Building a
foundation on
family, two soul
mates become one.
Upon the beach
witnessed by many,
blessed by the waves
and sun.

Congratulations to
the groom and bride.
Smiling so sweet
with joy, happiness
and pride.

Exploring the True Meaning of Romantic Poetry

People talk about a love affair as a romance, and think of a romantic gesture as an expression of modern love. Romantic poetry is pretty much equated with love poetry and for the purpose of Valentine's Day and sentimental occasions this is probably true and adequate - yet ‘romantic’ has a much looser meaning. ‘Romantic’ really just means something related to fiction, an ideal, story-like situation - both the French and German word for novel is ‘roman’. Hence the expression ‘romantic notion’ doesn't actually refer to an idea based on love – it is used in the original sense.

However, it is easy to see how the period of Romantic poetry, which began in the eleventh century and wasn't necessarily about sexual love, gave rise to the modern notion of romantic poetry = love poetry that we use in wedding ceremonies today. Romantic poetry was performed by the troubadours as they travelled from court to court in southern France, celebrating courtly love and adventure. ‘Romance’ was the name given to a story in one of the romance languages, notably French. Romances told fictitious tales of chivalry in which imagination was unrestricted and ideals were striven for and lauded – which was far from the realism of preceding literature. ‘Romance’ came to mean any unreal, improbable or impossible story.

For centuries then ‘romantic’ meant ‘like the old romances’ : fantastic stories of knights, dragons, magicians - in an incredible, fanciful, even absurd world. Then the word evolved to mean pleasing to the imagination, attractive, alluring and captivating. Towards the end of the eighteenth century it began to be used for anything which aroused feelings of awe or wonder at unusual or unearthly beauty. Later it came to take on the meanings ‘magic’, ‘suggestive’ or ‘nostalgic’. Finally it came to mean something you can't describe in exact terms, something infinitely desirable to the heart, something that draws the senses inexplicably, something we cannot resist. This ‘romantic’ attraction that demands romantic, senseless gestures to impress your loved one!

Timeless Truths on Love and Devotion

love

Bertrand Russell was a British philosopher who wrote about many themes on the human condition in books such as “The Problems of Philosophy” (1912) and “ The Conquest of Happiness” (1930).
Rainer Maria Rilke was an Austrian poet responsible for sublime German lyrical poetry and novels. He died in 1927.
The words of these thinkers are relevant still : love, commitment, devotion - truths, defined absolutely.
Pink was not the first to nail The Truth about Love ( 2014).

Best and Most Important - Bertrand Hussel!

It is therefore possible for a civilized man and woman to be happy in marriage, although if this is to be the case a number of conditions must be fulfilled. There must be a feeling of complete equality on both sides; there must be no interference with mutual freedom; there must be the most complete physical and mental intimacy:
and there must be a certain similarity in regard to standards of values........Given all these conditions, I believe marriage to be the best and most important relation that can exist between two human beings.

Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke

For one human being to love another human being - that is perhaps the most
difficult task entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation. Loving does not at first mean merging, surrendering and uniting with another person - it is a high inducement for the individual to ripen, to become something in himself, to become world, to become world in himself lor the sake of another person; it is a great, demanding claim on him, something that chooses him and calls him to great distances

Truths on commitment and marriage from Robert Fulghum

when were married

Robert Fulghum is an American author the title of whose book you may know : “All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”. He was born in 1937.

I used a quote of his at a wedding on Saturday – what he described is truth, not premise. Here it is:

“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
commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held
in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks - all those conversations that
began with, "When we're married", and continued with "I will" and "you will"
and "we will" - all 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 that 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, even teacher, for you have learned
much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few
words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you
will never quite be the same.

For after today you shall say to the world -
This is my husband. This is my wife.”