Awesome wedding readings for bad-ass couples

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Thanks to Neil Girling for submitting this photo to the Offbeat Bride Flickr pool.

I've started my search for some offbeat readings for my wedding in October…

Have you compiled a list anywhere of readings from modern literature, songs, etc that are a little edgier and more current than the traditional?


If you're looking for readings that have a few less thou shalts than your typical wedding material, here are a few of my very favorites, which include references to science-fiction vampires, insomnia, and red right ankles.

From “First Poems,” Rainer Maria Rilke

Understand, I'll slip quietly
Away from the noisy crowd
When I see the pale
Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
I'll pursue solitary pathways
Through the pale twilit meadows,
With only this one dream:
You come too.

Our Union, by Hafiz From “Love Poems from God,” Daniel Ladinsky (ed), c2002

Our union is like this:

You feel cold so I reach for a blanket to cover
our shivering feet.

A hunger comes into your body
so I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.

You asked for a few words of comfort and guidance and
I quickly kneel by your side offering you
a whole book as a

You ache with loneliness one night so much
you weep, and I say

here is a rope, tie it around me,
Hafiz will be your
for life.

Red Right Ankle by the decemberists

this is the story of your red right ankle
and how it came to meet your leg
and how the muscle bone and sinews tangled
and how the skin was softly shaped
and how it whispered ‘oh, adhere to me
for we are bound by symmetry
and whatever differences our lives have been
we together make a limb'
this is the story of your red right ankle

To Love is Not to Possess, by James Kavanaugh

To love is not to possess,
To own or imprison,
Nor to lose one's self in another.
Love is to join and separate,
To walk alone and together,
To find a laughing freedom
That lonely isolation does not permit.
It is finally to be able
To be who we really are
No longer clinging in childish dependency
Nor docilely living separate lives in silence,
It is to be perfectly one's self
And perfectly joined in permanent commitment
To another–and to one's inner self.
Love only endures when it moves like waves,
Receding and returning gently or passionately,
Or moving lovingly like the tide
In the moon's own predictable harmony,
Because finally, despite a child's scars
Or an adult's deepest wounds,
They are openly free to be
Who they really are–and always secretly were,
In the very core of their being
Where true and lasting love can alone abide.

The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.

I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your hearts longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are square in your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed down from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving, to hide it, fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.

I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day, and if you can source your life on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the moon in God's presence.

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.

I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you know, or how you came here.

I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.

I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself, and if you truly like the company you keep in empty moments.

Adrienne Rich, 21 Love Poems

Whenever in this city, screens flicker
with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,
victimized hirelings bending to the lash,
we also have to walk…if simply as we walk
through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties
of our own neighborhoods.
We need to grasp our lives inseparable
from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,
and the red begonia perilously flashing
from a tenement sill six stories high,
or the long-legged young girls playing ball
in the junior highschool playground.
No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,
sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,
dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,
our animal passion rooted in the city.

From The Essential Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks

When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them.

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.

We are the mirror as well as the face in it.
We are tasting the taste this minute
of eternity. We are pain
and what cures pain, both. We are
the sweet cold water and the jar that pours.

I want to hold you close like a lute, so we can cry out with loving.

You would rather throw stones at a mirror?
I am your mirror, and here are the stones.

Love by Roy Croft

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
Spider's WebDimly 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
Could have done
To make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.

From The Irrational Season
By Madeleine L'Engle

But ultimately there comes a moment when a decision must be made. Ultimately two people who love each other must ask themselves how much they hope for as their love grows and deepens, and how much risk they are willing to take. It is indeed a fearful gamble. Because it is the nature of love to create, a marriage itself is something which has to be created, so that, together we become a new creature.

To marry is the biggest risk in human relations that a person can take.If we commit ourselves to one person for life this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession, but participation. It takes a lifetime to learn another person. When love is not possession, but participation, then it is part of that co-creation which is our human calling, and which implies such risk that it is often rejected.

‘The Book of Love' by Stephen Merritt (The Magnetic Fields)
From the album 69 Love Songs

The book of love is long and boring
No one can lift the damn thing
It's full of charts and facts and figures
and instructions for dancing

But I, I love it when you read to me
And you, you can read me anything

The book of love has music in it
In fact that's where music comes from
Some of it is just transcendental
Some of it is just really dumb

But I, I love it when you sing to me
And you you can sing me anything

The book of love is long and boring
And written very long ago
It's full of flowers and heart-shaped boxes
And things we're all too young to know

But I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings

I, I love it when you give me things
And you, you ought to give me wedding rings

…and that's just the tip of the iceberg! We've got more readings here, and I'd love to invite my readers to share their favorite modern, non-“thou shalt” readings in the comments …

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Comments on Awesome wedding readings for bad-ass couples

  1. My two favorite bands in this post?! Ariel, you just made the OBB even more awesome.

    The Magnetic Fields have another great song along the same lines –

    It’s Only Time

    Why would I stop loving you
    a hundred years from now?
    It’s only time.
    It’s only time.

    What could stop this beating heart
    once it’s made a vow?
    It’s only time.
    It’s only time.

    If rain won’t change your mind,
    let it fall.
    The rain won’t change my heart
    at all.

    Lock this chain
    around my hand,
    throw away the key.
    It’s only time.
    It’s only time.

    Years falling
    like grains of sand
    mean nothing to me.
    It’s only time.
    It’s only time.

    If snow won’t change your mind
    let it fall.
    The snow won’t change my heart,
    not at all.

    (I’ll walk your lands)
    I’ll walk your lands
    (And swim your sea)
    And swim your sea

    Marry me.
    Marry me.

    (Then in your hands)
    Then in your hands
    (I will be free)
    I will be free

    Marry me.
    Marry me.

    Why would I stop loving you
    a hundred years from now?

    • Oh, this is our first dance song! And my fiance picked Book of Love for his reading which even though I love the song, I thought might not be quite appropriate. I feel a bit relieved that others have used it before us!

      • aww, i walked down the aisle to ‘the book of love’. i am a huge stephen merritt/the magnetic fields. my ladies walked to ‘nothing matters when we’re dancing’ and one of our “featured songs” was a cover of ‘strange powers’.

      • i might walk down an aisle just to be able to do it to “the book of love” that would be so lovely.

        • I would highly recommend Mike Doughty’s version of Book of Love for wedding songs. So darned perfect.

  2. Can I add one that we’re using? Feel free to take it off the comments if this is the wrong place to post, but we found it hard to find a lovely reading that relates to offbeat mountain bikers!

    Feel free to use: A Marriage Made for Two

    A successful marriage can learn a lot from bicycle riding.

    You should promise each other that you will not be fair weather riders, but venture out together in the wind and the rain. Only by braving the storms as a team will you reap the rewards when the sunshine arrives.

    Look after each other. A well oiled bike will run smoothly and change gear easily.

    Marriage is like a tandem…keep pedalling or the one at the front shouts at you!

    You should promise each other to not only enjoy new adventures and explorations, but appreciate the same old routes you know and love.

    Marriage is a promise to each other to endure the climbs so that you may chase the swoops and swerves of perfect singletrack.

    The journey may be long and may have hills ahead, but if you climb together with love and passion, you will be able to achieve everything you both desire!

    Wishing you all the best from the start line of the greatest endurance event of your lives. Good luck and may each lap be a great adventure.


    Our friend is reading this for us. We actually wrote it ourselves, using some of the lovely comments guests had written with their RSVP’s.

    • AHHH! This is perfect. We’ve just started planning our ceremony. We’re not religious and we’re having problems finding something that suits our families as well…
      Plus, we’re currently restoring an old tandem bike that we’re going to ride off on after the ceremony!!!

    • This is awesome. I am going to write something similar about snowboarding for our wedding!!

    • This is awesome. I am going to write something similar about snowboarding for our wedding!!

      • I love this! We are both mountain bikers & snowboarders did you write something similar about snowboarding in the end? I’d love to read it if you are happy to share it?! Also, can anyone recommend anything else outdoorsy, maybe linked to the beautiful mountains??!! x

        • I’m reading for my best friends wedding and came across this one in my search!
          “Blessing For A Marriage”, by James Dillet Freeman (back to top of page)

          “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 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 out 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 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.”

          • this is a BEAUTIFUL blessing! thanks for posting it … my brother is officiating my ceremony & i wanted something he could say instead of the typical prayer or blessing.

          • This is so beautiful and I am definitely having this at my wedding. Thank you so much for posting. <3

    • Oh my goodness this is amazing! It would be so great to use something like this for my FFIL to read! He is a bicycle enthusiast! You are a great writer!

    • Hi! I love your offbeat biking love writing. We’re getting married in two weeks! Would it be possible to use part/all of your poem? We are both cyclists (road, mountain, and motorcycles). If so, how would you like to be credited if people asked for the author?

    • This is absolutely beautiful. Made me tear up! I am considering it for the wedding…

    • Hi! The link will not work, does anyone have the text for the Strangers Passage? Thanks!

  3. Hey, look at me there in the blue tie getting married! Our reading was from “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” & was the “Green Ribbon.”

  4. Excuse me, I just died from that Rilke poem. Rilke! He is some kind of Teutonic super-genius.

  5. When we started looking for wedding readings I especially had a very hard time – I’d start going through the Neruda and Rilke poems and, though they were often lovely, my eyes just glazed over and I couldn’t foster any personal connection with any of them. But we finally found some GREAT things – here’s what we read when we got married a few weeks ago!


    From Colin’s grandmother, a Miss Manners lover, the following excerpt.

    “While exclusionary interest in one other human being, which is what we call courtship, is all very exciting in the stages of discovery, there is not enough substance in it for a lifetime, no matter how fascinating the people or passionate the romance.
    The world, on the other hand, is chock full of interesting and curious things. The point of the courtship — marriage — is to secure someone with whom you wish to go hand in hand through this source of entertainment, each making discoveries, and then sharing some and merely reporting others. Anyone who tries to compete with the entire world, demanding to be someone’s sole source of interest and attention, is asking to be classified as a bore. “Why don’t you ever want to talk to me?” will probably never start a satisfactory marital conversation. “Guess what?” will probably never fail.”


    My Dad – the only one who actually chose his own reading – read from Da Vinci’s notebooks some Notes on the Construction of Arches, interspersed with his own commentary on how this actually is all about marriage. (I don’t yet have a transcript of his words, alas, which were really the best part.)


    The arch is nothing else than a force originated by two weaknesses,
    for the arch in buildings is composed of two segments of a circle, each of which being very weak in itself tends to fall; but as each opposes this tendency in the other, the two weaknesses combine to form one strength.


    As the arch is a composite force it remains in equilibrium because
    the thrust is equal from both sides; and if one of the segments
    weighs more than the other the stability is lost, because the
    greater pressure will outweigh the lesser.


    The way to give stability to the arch is to fill the spandrils with
    good masonry up to the level of its summit.”


    My dear friend Katie read a selection from the Massachusetts State Supreme Court ruling on Gay Marriage, and we briefly mentioned how awe-inspiring it was that in our very city, in only two days, EVERYONE was about to get the right to marry. The cheer our guests let up was a joy to hear.

    “Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.

    Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition. Tangible as well as intangible benefits flow from marriage. The benefits accessible only by way of a marriage license are enormous, touching nearly every aspect of life and death.

    It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a civil right.”


    Colin’s sister read an excerpt from “So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish,” included partially because the HHGttG being a crucially formative book for me when I was a child, and partially because it is awesome:

    “They looked at each other for a moment.

    The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.

    For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone for long enough with a Swiss Cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who awakes one morning to find the door to his cage hanging quietly open and the savannah stretching grey and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.

    He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.

    He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones till it now said something it had never said to him before, which was “Yes”.”

    And those were our readings. =)

    • Hello Jess! Can you please tell me who wrote the first one" From Colin's Grandmother"? What is that from? Who is Colins Grandmother?

    • The excerpt from “So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish” brought me to tears! I’ve been looking for readings that are personal and non-traditional about honoring and obeying, and he LOVED that book. When looking for readings I had no idea where to start, THANK YOU!

    • Hi Jess

      I realise it was a very long time ago you posted your comment. I’m looking to do a reading for my brothers wedding and I love the one your Dad did. You mentioned that he added some of his own words, which were excellent, but you hadn’t posted them yet.
      If you still have them, and are happy to share them, I’d love to read them.
      Thanks for your time

    • My friends had the Da Vinci and thier wedding, and it was basically perfect for them – one is a bit of a history buff, the other an engineer, and it was just so beautiful and perfect that I couldn’t even.

  6. Thanks, Ariel!

    This is just what I needed. When I started looking for an offbeat-but-meaningful reading for our ceremony, I went to wikiquote and looked up “marriage.” Almost every one of the results were NEGATIVE! How frustrating.

    Ok, I’m off to present the Madeleine L’Engal passage to dear fiance!

  7. If you’re looking for something more secular that could cloak itself easily in a traditional ceremony, give Plato a once-over. My siblings-in-law used passages from Plato’s “Symposium.” It brought something different and unexpected to their otherwise traditional church wedding. It’s the only thing I remember about the ceremony…that counts for something, right?

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