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. We had the Sandol Stoddard one at our wedding. It was awesome. My friend is an actor and he read it brilliantly.

    We also had these:

    “All I Ever Really Needed to Know
    I Learned in Kindergarten”
    Robert Fulgham
    “All of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
    These are the things I learned..
    Share everything.
    Play fair.
    Don’t hit people.
    Put things back where you found them.
    Clean up your own mess.
    Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
    Say sorry when you hurt somebody.
    Wash your hands before you eat.
    Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Give them to someone who feels sad.
    Live a balanced life.
    Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day.
    Take a nap every afternoon.

    Be aware of wonder.
    Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

    Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.

    And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”

    and this:

    “When we find someone
    Whose weirdness
    Is compatible with ours
    We join up with them
    And fall into
    Mutually satisfying weirdness
    That is called
    True love”

    We also had this printed on the first page of our orders of service:

    “This guy is walking down the street, when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.

    A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up,
    ‘Hey, you, can you help me out? I’m in a hole here’.
    The doctor writes out a prescription, throws it into the hole and moves on.

    A priest walks past. The guy calls out,
    ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’.
    The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on.

    Then a friend walks by. The guy shouts up,
    ‘Hey, it’s me, can you help me out?’
    The friend jumps into the hole.

    Our guy says,
    ‘Are you stupid, now we’re both down here?’
    The friend says,
    ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out’.”
    Leo McGarry – The West Wing

  2. Writer Dan Savage explaining marriage to his 6-year-old son:

    (From act II of the This American Life Episode “A Little Bit of Knowledge” — It’s a great story about how Dan and his boyfriend explain marriage and gay marriage to their son.)

    “There’s something in your heart that makes you go out into the world and find someone new, someone you’ve met before, and that’s the person you fall in love with.”
    “Because that’s how new families are made and someday you’ll meet the person you want to make a new family with and that’s the person you’re supposed to marry.”
    “Because marriage is a promise that you make to that other person, a promise to stay in love with them forever, to be related forever, and that you’ll always be together.”

    I’m not sure if/how I’ll use this for my wedding, but it’s my favorite definition of marriage so far.

  3. One of my favorite readings is a hilarious and sentimental poem by Ogden Nash, “Tin Wedding Whistle”. I first heard it at one of the first weddings I photographed — a Scottish groom and a Jewish bride under a chuppah made of cornstalks on the family farm. Very OBB long before OBB existed…I’m sure she would have fit right in here! Anyway, it is as follows:

    Tin Wedding Whistle
    Ogden Nash

    Though you know it anyhow
    Listen to me, darling, now,

    Proving what I need not prove
    How I know I love you, love.

    Near and far, near and far,
    I am happy where you are;

    Likewise I have never larnt
    How to be it where you aren’t.

    Far and wide, far and wide,
    I can walk with you beside;

    Furthermore, I tell you what,
    I sit and sulk where you are not.

    Visitors remark my frown
    Where you’re upstairs and I am down,

    Yes, and I’m afraid I pout
    When I’m indoors and you are out;

    But how contentedly I view
    Any room containing you.

    In fact I care not where you be,
    Just as long as it’s with me.

    In all your absences I glimpse
    Fire and flood and trolls and imps.

    Is your train a minute slothful?
    I goad the stationmaster wrothful.

    When with friends to bridge you drive
    I never know if you’re alive,

    And when you linger late in shops
    I long to telephone the cops.

    Yet how worth the waiting for,
    To see you coming through the door.

    Somehow, I can be complacent
    Never but with you adjacent.

    Near and far, near and far,
    I am happy where you are;

    Likewise I have never larnt
    How to be it where you aren’t.

    Then grudge me not my fond endeavor,
    To hold you in my sight forever;

    Let none, not even you, disparage
    Such a valid reason for a marriage.

    • LOVE this poem! I’m also a fan of Ogden Nash’s “To My Valentine”:

      More than a catbird hates a cat,
      Or a criminal hates a clue,
      Or the Axis hates the United States,
      That’s how much I love you.

      I love you more than a duck can swim,
      And more than a grapefruit squirts,
      I love you more than a gin rummy is a bore,
      And more than a toothache hurts.

      As a shipwrecked sailor hates the sea,
      Or a juggler hates a shove,
      As a hostess detests unexpected guests,
      That’s how much you I love.

      I love you more than a wasp can sting,
      And more than the subway jerks,
      I love you as much as a beggar needs a crutch,
      And more than a hangnail irks.

      I swear to you by the stars above,
      And below, if such there be,
      As the High Court loathes perjurious oaths,
      That’s how you’re love by me.

  4. There are some really beautiful readings on here, so many I’d love to use but feel slightly hypocritical as this is my partner’s second marriage so all the ‘marriage is forever’ stuff doesn’t really ring true.

    Anyone got any ideas?

    ~ James Dillet Freeman ~

    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 which 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.

  6. This one is from the Velveteen Rabbit

    a link to the full online text

    I think we edited it down a bit from this though it seems really long now that I look at it again, and my whole ceremony was 15 minutes. No need to make people sit quietly in chairs for hours when really they want to hang out and have fun.


    For a long time he lived in the toy cupboard or on the nursery floor, and no one thought very much about him. He was naturally shy, and being only made of velveteen, some of the more expensive toys quite snubbed him. The mechanical toys were very superior, and looked down upon every one else; they were full of modern ideas, and pretended they were real. The model boat, who had lived through two seasons and lost most of his paint, caught the tone from them and never missed an opportunity of referring to his rigging in technical terms. The Rabbit could not claim to be a model of anything, for he didn’t know that real rabbits existed; he thought they were all stuffed with sawdust like himself, and he understood that sawdust was quite out-of-date and should never be mentioned in modern circles. Even Timothy, the jointed wooden lion, who was made by the disabled soldiers, and should have had broader views, put on airs and pretended he was connected with Government. Between them all the poor little Rabbit was made to feel himself very insignificant and commonplace, and the only person who was kind to him at all was the Skin Horse.

    The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others. He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces. He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else. For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

    “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

    “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

    “Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

    “Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

    “Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

    “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

  7. Oh and some family members who are definitely off beat did a reading of the Owl and the Pussy Cat by Edward Lear. A lot of the vernacular from this childrens poem has changed meaning over time, making it a “safe” yet utterly envelope pushing depending on HOW it is read.

    • OMG!! I haven’t heard this in forever! My mom used to read this to me as a kid!! I’m totally going to make her read it at the wedding! hahaha great poem and hilarious.

  8. Love the MTX song. I’m not sure how we’re going to use it but The Groovie Ghoulies will be part of our wedding for sure. My boy sang this song to me when we first got together and I was down about him going back to base.

    Till Death Do Us Party:
    Here’s how it is, I know the score, don’t count on anything for sure.
    Leave no regrets, and waste no time.
    What’s mine is yours and yours is mine.
    ‘Til death do us party, let us make a pact.

    No one will come between us, no one will turn us back.
    No one will get in our way, no one will bring us down.
    No one will make us feel like we’re not worthy of the crown.
    I look at things surrounding me, and I like everything I see.
    If it was gone, I wouldn’t care, when I look over you’re right there.
    ‘Til death do us party.
    1-2-3-5 No one here gets out alive!
    6-7-9-10 Re-incarnate, do it again!

  9. And hand in hand,
    by the edge of the sand,
    they danced by the light of the moon,
    the moon,
    they danced by the light of the moon

    Amen. I love The Owl and the Pussycat and was wondering how to incoorporate it into the wedding. I made us a picture book once where I was the pusscat and he was the owl (his totem animal). I really want to repeat the theme.

  10. ZOMG!!! I was looking for a reading for our wedding and have to thank Jess for posting the one taken from the Massachusetts Supreme Court. My partner and I have decided to get married in Mass even though our license won’t be valid in our home state of Florida. This makes it bittersweet for us, but just the thought that for the short time we are there, we will have the same rights as our friends, family, neighbors and coworkers have is too much for us to refuse the opportunity. 🙂

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