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.