The Bard abides: Shakespeare wedding readings and quotes for the rest of us

Updated Apr 4 2016
Shakespeare wedding readings and quotes as seen on @offbeatbride
Not-entirely-accurate quote print by Forgotten Pages

The Bard is the man. He's definitely said a fair few words about love. And other topics totally relevant to weddings. I decided to trawl Shakespeare's most famous works and pick out some rad quotes and readings from which to steal for your vows, readings, speeches, ironic ramblings, and ceremony in general. Shakespeare was a tongue-in-cheek dude, so there's a lot of snark, sweetness, realism, and general awesomeness to nick for your needs.

"I burn, I pine, I perish."
– Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew (totally stolen for 10 Things I Hate About You, as well!)

"But love, first learned in a lady's eyes,
Lives not alone immured in the brain;
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.
It adds a precious seeing to the eye;
A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle blind;
A lover's ear will hear the lowest sound,
When the suspicious head of theft is stopp'd:
Love's feeling is more soft and sensible
Than are the tender horns of cockl'd snails;
Love's tongue proves dainty Bacchus gross in taste:
For valour, is not Love a Hercules,
Still climbing trees in the Hesperides?
Subtle as Sphinx; as sweet and musical
As bright Apollo's lute, strung with his hair:
And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.
Never durst poet touch a pen to write
Until his ink were temper'd with Love's sighs;
O, then his lines would ravish savage ears
And plant in tyrants mild humility.
From women's eyes this doctrine I derive:
They sparkle still the right Promethean fire;
They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain and nourish all the world:
Else none at all in ought proves excellent."
– Love’s Labor’s Lost

"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, although 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."
– Sonnet 116

"If music be the food of love, play on."
– Orsino in Twelfth Night

"Come, let’s away to prison;
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news."
– Lear in King Lear

"I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is not that strange?"
— Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing

"Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
– Sonnet 18

"If love be blind, it best agrees with night."
– Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

"But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
— from Sonnet 8

"He is the half part of a blessed man,
Left to be finished by such as she;
And she a fair divided excellence,
Whose fulness of perfection lies in him."
– King John

"From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee."
– Sonnet 1

"My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite."
– Romeo and Juliet

"One half of me is yours, the other half yours
Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,
And so all yours."
– The Merchant of Venice

"A heaven on earth I have won by wooing thee."
– All's Well That Ends Well

"Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love."
– Hamlet

"Such is my love, to thee I so belong,
That for thy right myself will bear all wrong."
– from Sonnet 88

"Honour, riches, marriage-blessing,
Long continuance, and increasing,
Hourly joys be still upon you!
Juno sings her blessings upon you."
– The Tempest

"All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me."
– from Sonnet 43

More ceremony reading inspiration

  1. I'm a super theatre nerd so I've been considering a Shakespeare reading. But so many of his sonnets and poems either contain backhanded compliments (so catty and witty!) or they reflect only the speaker's feelings of infatuation. I've read some essays theorizing that Shakespeare was a critic of "love marriages" (in fact, Romeo and Juliet is theorized to be his prime critique – they destroyed their lives and families for a marriage of passion, instead of marrying their intendeds, and some think Shakespeare would have thought this foolish, not romantic) which is why so many of the lovers in his stories perish.

    This is an awesome collection of his pieces… I'm going to send some to my FH.

  2. We were seriously considering Sonnet 116 for a reading at our wedding but went with this instead:

    Sonnet 91:
    Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
    Some in their wealth, some in their bodies force,
    Some in their garments though new-fangled ill;
    Some in their hawks and hounds, some in their horse.
    And every humour hath his adjunct pleasure,
    Wherein it finds a joy above the rest.
    But these particulars are not my measure,
    All these I better in one general best.
    Thy love is better than high birth to me,
    Richer than wealth, prouder than garment's cost.
    Of more delight than hawks and horses be;
    And having thee, of all men's pride I boast.
    Wretched in this alone, that thou mayest take
    All this away, and me most wretched make.

    At our ceremony this was read by my college theater director which made it very special to me. We chose this over Sonnet 116 because we really liked the message of how all the material things in the world mean nothing in comparison to being with the the one you love. We are not extravagant people, and often refer to ourselves as "horrible consumers" so this one really resonated with us. We did discuss how the ending might be taken by those in attendance,, but we recognize the ending as being true of ours, or any marriage / relationship. When you love someone more than anything else that person could make you completely miserable by taking that love away. A somewhat non-traditional thing to think about during your wedding ceremony but it worked for us.

  3. My favorite line from The Winter's Tale, from Florizel to Perdita: "For I cannot be mine own, nor any thing to any, if I be not thine."

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