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 …

Comments on Awesome wedding readings for bad-ass couples

  1. I love that first one, I am going to have to hide it away for our rehearsal dinner.

  2. I didn’t know that was L’Engle–I came across it as an option for opening words, so that is what we are using it for, although modified a little.

    I also think that we’re going to use that Magnetic Fields song for either the processional or the signing.

  3. We used:

    Reading # 1: Wedding Ritual (adapted from StarTrek: Celebrations by Maureen McTigue)

    With fire and steel did the gods forge the man’s heart. So fiercely did it beat, so loud was the sound, that the gods cried out: “On this day we have brought forth the strongest heart in all the heavens. None can stand before it without trembling at its strength.” But then the man’s heart weakened, its steady rhythm faltered, and the gods said: “Why do you weaken so? We have made you the strongest in all of creation.” And the heart said…”I…am alone.” And the gods knew that they had erred. So they went back to their forge and brought forth another heart. But the second heart beat stronger than the first, and the first was jealous of its power. Fortunately, the second heart was tempered by wisdom.

    “If we join together, no forces can stop us.” And when the two hearts began to beat together, they filled the heavens with a ferocious sound–and to this very day, no one can oppose the beating of these two hearts.

    Reading #2: “A Picnic on the Earth” by Shuntaro Tanikawa

    Let’s jump rope here, you and I. Right here!
    Let’s have lunch here, you and I.
    Here I will love you.
    Your eyes will reflect the blue of the sky
    And your back will be dyed the color of mugwort.
    Let’s learn, you and I, the names of the constellations.
    Here let us dream of things distant.
    Here let’s gather shellfish.
    Let’s pick a little starfish
    From the sea of the dawning sky.
    At breakfast let’s throw it back
    And let the night recede.
    Here I’ll go on saying “I’m home!”
    While you keep saying, “Welcome back!”
    I’ll come back here again and again.
    Here let’s drink hot tea.
    Let’s sit here, you and I, and be caressed for a while
    By the cool breeze.

  4. My favorite quote that I have had memorized forever:

    To love very much is to love inadequately: We love- That is all. Love cannot be modified without being nullified. Love is a short word but it contains everything. Love means the body, the soul, the life, the entire being. We feel love as we feel the warmth of our blood, we breathe love as we breathe the air, we hold it in ourselves as we hold our thoughts. Nothing more exists for us. Love is not a word. It is a wordless state indicated by four letters.

    Guy De Maupassant

  5. I just got married on June 21 and these are the two readings we used. Though I LOVE all the ones you posted.

    The Journey

    One day you finally knew
    what you had to do, and began,
    though the voices around you
    kept shouting
    their bad advice —
    though the whole house
    began to tremble
    and you felt the old tug
    at your ankles.
    “Mend my life!”
    each voice cried.
    But you didn’t stop.
    You knew what you had to do,
    though the wind pried
    with its stiff fingers
    at the very foundations,
    though their melancholy
    was terrible.
    It was already late
    enough, and a wild night,
    and the road full of fallen
    branches and stones.
    But little by little,
    as you left their voices behind,
    the stars began to burn
    through the sheets of clouds,
    and there was a new voice
    which you slowly
    recognized as your own,
    that kept you company
    as you strode deeper and deeper
    into the world,
    determined to do
    the only thing you could do —
    determined to save
    the only life you could save.

    ~ Mary Oliver ~

    It’s not as much about love, but in a second marriage, it was very appropriate!

    Other one was:
    Crusoe by George Bilgere
    When you’ve been away from it long enough
    You begin to forget the country
    Of couples, with all its customs
    And mysterious ways. Those two
    Over there, for instance: late thirties,
    Attractive and well-dressed, reading
    At the table, drinking some complicated
    Coffee drink. They haven’t spoken
    Or even looked at each other in thirty minutes
    But the big toe of her right foot, naked
    In its sandal, sometimes grazes
    The naked ankle bone of his left foot,
    The faintest signal, a line thrown
    Between two vessels as they cruise
    Through this hour, this vacation, this life,
    Through the thick novels they’re reading,
    Her toe saying to his ankle,
    Here’s to the whole improbable story
    Of our meeting, of our life together
    And the oceanic richness
    Of our mingled narrative
    With its complex past, with its hurts
    And secret jokes, its dark closets
    And delightful sexual quirks,
    Its occasional doldrums, its vast
    Future we have already peopled
    With children. How safe we are
    Compared to that man sitting across the room,
    Marooned with his drink
    And yellow notebook, trying to write
    A way off his little island.

  6. The reading I love that we will use somehow at our ceremony is this one:

    Loving the wrong person

    We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us, but if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems – the ones that make you truly who you are – that you’re ready to find a life-long mate. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person: the right wrong person – someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, “This is the problem I want to have.” – Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions.

  7. I am planning on playing this song or reading the lyrics…

    Dreaming my Dreams
    The Cranberries

    All the things you said to me today
    Changed my perspective in every way
    These things count to mean so much to me
    Into my faith you
    and your baby

    It’s out there
    If you want me
    I’ll be here
    It’s out there

    I’ll be dreaming my dreams with you
    And there’s no other place
    that I’d lay down my face
    I’ll be dreaming my dreams with you

    It’s out there
    If you want me, I’ll be here
    I’ll be dreaming my dreams with you
    And there’s no other place
    that I’d lay down my face
    I’ll be dreaming my dreams with you

  8. Other Lives and Dimensions and Finally a Love Poem, by Bill Hicok

    My left hand will live longer than my right. The rivers
    of my palms tell me so.
    Never argue with rivers. Never expect your lives to finish
    at the same time. I think

    praying, I think clapping is how hands mourn. I think
    staying up and waiting
    for paintings to sigh is science. In another dimension this
    is exactly what’s happening,

    it’s what they write grants about: the chromodynamics
    of mournful Whistlers,
    the audible sorrow and beta decay of “Old Battersea Bridge.”
    I like the idea of different

    theres and elsewheres, an Idaho known for bluegrass,
    a Bronx where people talk
    like violets smell. Perhaps I am somewhere patient, somehow
    kind, perhaps in the nook

    of a cousin universe I’ve never defiled or betrayed
    anyone. Here I have
    two hands and they are vanishing, the hollow of your back
    to rest my cheek against,

    your voice and little else but my assiduous fear to cherish.
    My hands are webbed
    like the wind-torn work of a spider, like they squeezed
    something in the womb

    but couldn’t hang on. One of those other worlds
    or a life I felt
    passing through mine, or the ocean inside my mother’s belly
    she had to scream out.

    Here when I say “I never want to be without you,”
    somewhere else I am saying
    “I never want to be without you again.” And when I touch you
    in each of the places we meet

    in all of the lives we are, it’s with hands that are dying
    and resurrected.
    When I don’t touch you it’s a mistake in any life,
    in each place and forever.

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