A point of conversation that comes up fairly often in my chats with wedding couples is about alternative options to bible readings. What do we use in the absence of bible verses and hymns?
Surely someone should be able to express their complete devotion to another without mentioning God (if it’s their wish to do so). I totally understand the question because I myself am not religious, and opted out of bible verses for my own wedding.
A quick Google search and a consult with my very clever friend Caitlin, brought me to these passages. The examples below are a few of my favourite and include poems, short paragraphs, and extracts from novels.
The Amber Spyglass, by Phillip Pullman
I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me.
Extract from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis De Bernieres and adapted
Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being ‘in love’, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident…” Love is having roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms had fallen from the branches, finding that you are one tree and not two.
Why Marriage, by Dena Acolatse
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.
Blessing For A Marriage, by James Dillet Freeman
May your marriage bring you all the exquisite excitements a marriage should bring, and may life grant you also patience, tolerance, an understanding. May you always need one another – not so much to fill your emptiness as to help you to know your fullness. A mountain needs a valley to be complete. The valley does not make the mountain less, but more. And the valley is more a valley because it has a mountain towering over it. So let it be with you and you. 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!” 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 physical 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 loving one another.
Extract from The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach
A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life.
On Marriage from The Prophet by Khalil 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 white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, 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 a 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.
I Carry Your Heart With Me, by E.E. Cummings
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 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 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)
Delirium, by Lauren Oliver
Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side.
- bonus -
And since you’ve got all the way to the bottom of this blog post, here is a really beautiful paragraph that I think would be absolutely perfect for a couple who don’t want to say standard wedding vows to each other, but aren’t confident enough to write their own.
I Promise, by Dorothy R. Colgan
I promise to give you the best of myself
and to ask of you no more than you can give.
I promise to respect you as your own person
and to realize that your interests, desires and needs
are no less important than my own.
I promise to share with you my time and my attention
and to bring joy, strength and imagination to our relationship.
I promise to keep myself open to you,
to let you see through the window of my world
into my innermost fears and feelings, secrets and dreams.
I promise to grow along with you,
to be willing to face changes in order to keep
our relationship alive and exciting.
I promise to love you in good times and bad,
with all I have to give and all I feel inside
in the only way I know how,
completely and forever.