When [my sister] and [her fiance] asked me to choose or write a reading for their wedding, I thought that the best choice would be a beautiful passage from literature. I figured that there’s nothing I could say about love or marriage that others haven’t already said more wisely and more elegantly. So, I did what any good scholar today would do: I Googled “wedding readings.”
Some of the readings that I found were as timeless and wise as one would expect. For example, there is the famous passage in Corinthians (1-13:4-7) that says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. / It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. / Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. / It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” There’s a reason why that passage has stood the test of time as a wedding reading: it is good advice wrapped in stunning language. I kept searching, though, because I wanted to find something more specific to [my sister] and [her fiance].
Many people choose four-hundred-year-old English poetry for their weddings. I’m not sure why, but it seems that the more “thees” and “thous” a passage contains, the more likely it is to be used in weddings. Do “thee” and “thou” just sound incredibly romantic to us today? A lot of weddings include Shakespeare’s Sonnet #18, which famously begins “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/ Thou art more lovely and more temperate…” We all know that one. Although it’s a wonderful sonnet, I couldn’t choose it for two reasons: first, as lovely as [my sister] is, it’s hard to keep a straight face while you compare your own sister – the girl you used to bicker with endlessly and even BITE occasionally – to a summer’s day. Second, while I’m sure that [my sister’s fiance’s] mom would agree that [sis’s fiance] is, in fact, more lovely and more temperate than a summer’s day, that description doesn’t sound terribly masculine. I can almost hear his buddies teasing him about his “loveliness” already.
I searched “nontraditional readings,” and found that there’s a new trend of couples having children’s literature read at their weddings. One passage that a lot of couples use is from Us Two, by A.A. Milne, who wrote the Winnie the Pooh books. The passage begins: “Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,/ There’s always Pooh and Me.” It’s cute, and it’s about always staying together, but it seems more suited to a kindergarten classroom than to a wedding. Also, how many times can someone say “pooh” at a wedding before the guests start to giggle?
I did find some interesting short quotations about love and marriage, but none long enough to stand alone as a reading. Winston Churchill wrote that his “most brilliant achievement” was his “ability to be able to persuade [his] wife to marry [him],” which is surprisingly romantic coming from a famous military leader, & something that I hope [sis’s fiance] would say about marrying [my sister].
Charles Darwin, the scientist, made a pros and cons list about getting married. On the “pros” side, one entry says “constant companion, & friend in old age … better than a dog anyhow.” While that’s pretty funny, it is pretty unromantic, and possibly offensive to [sis’s dog]. We wouldn’t want to offend [sis’s dog] on his mother’s wedding day.
Robert Fulghum wrote “We’re all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness – and call it love – true love.” This one certainly seems more appropriate for [my sister] and [her fiance] than the thees and thous of Shakespeare. In the same more silly-serious vein is this verse by Bee Rawlinson: “Love me when I’m old and shocking/ Peel off my elastic stockings/ Swing me from the chandeliers/ Let’s be randy bad old dears.” This does kind of sound like [my sister], doesn’t it? I can picture her as an “old and shocking” artist, still swinging from the chandeliers, with [fiance] as her old dear.
The reading that came closest to winning is by two famous English poets who go by the names of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Their “poem” asks perhaps the most important question that a groom could ask his bride: “When I get older losing my hair, /Many years from now,/ Will you still be sending me a valentine/ Birthday greetings bottle of wine?// If I’d been out till quarter to three/ Would you lock the door,/ Will you still need me, will you still feed me,/ When I’m sixty-four?”
Ultimately, though, I realized that I couldn’t choose one prewritten reading. It just felt wrong to choose a reading for [my sister and her fiance’s] wedding that has been used at countless other weddings. [My sister] and [her fiance] are originals! They deserve an original reading.
So here it is:
Most of you sitting out there know more about love and marriage than I ever will. I do know that, in spite of what some of the famous old readings say, it is impossible to perfectly define what love is, or what marriage is, or how to keep them strong. The definition is different for each couple.
[Sister & fiance]: This is your relationship, your wedding, your marriage, your life. You had the amazing good fortune to find one another, and now YOU get to define what love and marriage will mean to you. This will be one of your greatest tasks, and greatest adventures. Your married life will be uniquely yours. No one else has ever had that particular life, and no one else ever will. Make it loving. Make it wild. Make it last.