Readings for the Secular Ceremony

For the most part, Mr. S and I are on the same page when it comes to our wedding. There are a few things we’ve disagreed on, and we’re learning the art of compromise.

One of the things we’re trying to compromise on is whether or not we’re going to have any readings at the ceremony. Mr. S is against it. He wants the ceremony to be as quick as possible so that we can go on to the party. I agree that I want a quick ceremony—10–15 minutes, tops—but I think that we can devote a minute or two of that time to a beautiful, touching secular reading.

We’ve tabled the debate for now, but if we decide to go for a reading, here are some of my faves:

“The Quiet World” by Jeffrey McDaniel

In an effort to get people to look

into each other’s eyes more,

and also to appease the mutes,

the government has decided

to allot each person exactly one hundred

and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it in to my ear

Without saying hello. In the restaurant

I point at chicken noodle soup.

I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,

proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.

I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn’t respond,

I know she’s used up all her words,

so I slowly whisper I love you

thirty-two and a third times.

After that, we just sit on the line

and listen to each other breathe.

“Why Marriage?” by Mari Nichols-Haining

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 am unlovable,

who sees the small child in me,

and looks for the pine potential of me…

Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night

with someone I feel blessed to hold…

Because marriage means opportunity to grow in love, in friendship…

Because, knowing this, I promise myself to take full responsibility

for my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness.

Because with this understanding the possibilities are limitless…

“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 dimly 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

“Your Laughter” by Pablo Neruda

Take breath away from me, if you wish,

take air away, but

do not take from me your laughter.

Do not take away the rose,

the lanceflower that you pluck,

the water that suddenly

bursts forth in your joy,

the sudden wave

of silver born in you.

My struggle is harsh and I come back

with eyes tired

at times from having seen

the unchanging earth,

but when your laughter enters

it rises to the sky seeking me

and it opens for me all

the doors of life.

My love, in the darkest

hour your laughter

opens, and if suddenly

you see my blood staining

the stones of the street,

laugh, because your laughter

will be for my hands

like a fresh sword.

Next to the sea in the autumn,

your laughter must raise

its foamy cascade,

and in the spring, love,

I want your laughter like

the flower I was waiting for,

the blue flower, the rose

of my echoing country.

Laugh at the night,

at the day, at the moon,

laugh at the twisted

streets of the island,

laugh at this clumsy

boy who loves you,

but when I open

my eyes and close them,

when my steps go,

when my steps return,

deny me bread, air,

light, spring,

but never your laughter

for I would die.

Are you including a reading in your ceremony? Do you prefer religious or secular readings?


Ms. Sloth

Wedding Date:
May 2011
Eating My Words About That Facebook Thing.
Gallery of the Day
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  1. Member
    OttawaBride2011 4510 posts, Honey bee @ 12:05 pm

    Those are all really great, “Love” is my favorite!! We’re having a church wedding, so at least one of our readings will be religious. We are allowed some customization though, so I think I’ll pick one secular reading. Thanks for the ideas :)

  2. Member
    emma5w 547 posts, Busy bee @ 12:23 pm

    Yeah, we had to have at least one religious reading (we chose Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). For our other reading, we chose “Union,” by Robert Fulghum. It just fits us.

  3. Member
    irun2004 929 posts, Busy bee @ 12:26 pm

    Ha. That whole first part about the Mr. wanting to do a 15-20 minute ceremony … I feel like I could have written that myself. We compromised by agreeing no readers, but we will have a beautiful short reading – it will just be read by the officiant.

  4. Member
    ohheavenlyday 2398 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:26 pm

    We’re having two; one by Walt Whitman and the other is this excerpt from Committed, by Elizabeth Gilbert. (It’s long, but I’ll share it because I think it’s great and someone else may want to use it):

    “Once upon a time, Aristophanes relates, there were gods in the heavens and humans down on earth. But we humans did not look the way we look today. Instead, we each had two heads and four legs and four arms- a perfect melding, in other words, of two people joined together, seamlessly united into one being. We came in three different possible gender or sexual variations: male/female meldings, male/male meldings, and female/female meldings, depending on what suited each creature the best. Since we each had the perfect partner sewn into the very fabric of our being, we were all happy. Thus, all of us doubled headed, eight-limed, perfectly contented creatures moved across the earth much the same way that the planets travel through the heavens- dreamily, orderly, smoothly. We lacked for nothing; we had no unmet needs; we wanted nobody. There was no strife and no chaos. We were whole.
    But in our wholeness we became overly proud. In our pride, we neglected to worship the gods. The mighty Zeus punished us for our neglect by cutting all the doubled headed, eight-limbed, perfectly contented humans in half, thereby creating a world of cruelly severed one-head, two-armed, two-legged miserable creatures. In this moment of mass amputation, Zeus inflicted on all mankind that most painful of human conditions: the dull and constant sense that we are not quite whole. For the rest of time, humans would be born sensing that there was some missing part- a lost half, which we love almost more than we love ourselves- and that this missing part was out there someplace, spinning through the universe in the form of another person. We would also be born believing that if only we searched relentlessly enough, we might someday find that vanished half, that other soul. Through union with the other, we would recomplete our original form, never to experience loneliness again.”

  5. ribbons Member
    ribbons 1992 posts, Buzzing bee @ 12:31 pm

    I highly suggest doing a reading — it was the best part of our ceremony I think and all of the guests commented on what we had chosen. You want the ceremony to feel significant! A reading would only add a minute or two.

  6. Member
    EAQ219 1458 posts, Bumble bee @ 1:17 pm

    We used the Roy Croft reading and oh my gosh…our reader was so outstanding. It was worth it to lengthen the ceremony by a few minutes to have the reading. The ceremony really is the most meaningful part of the day, but I didn’t really “get” that until I was actually there, doing it. Hopefully Mr. Sloth agrees to a short reading :)

  7. hotwings Member
    hotwings 2200 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:20 pm

    We didn’t do a reading at our wedding, but we did other things that we prioritized. But had I seen those first two readings, I think I would have tried to find a way to include them. Just beautiful words!

  8. Member
    crayfish 10384 posts, Sugar Beekeeper @ 1:40 pm

    Our ceremony was 11 minutes long, and that included 2 readings, us writing our own vows, and my mom doing a nice intro (she was our officiant). Totally doable to make it meaningful and still short!

  9. elephant Member
    elephant 6339 posts, Bee Keeper @ 1:41 pm

    I read “Love” by Roy Croft during my friend’s wedding. I am really excited about the readings that we have decided on for our ceremony.

  10. Guest Icon Guest
    MrsAJ, Guest @ 2:01 pm

    We used “The Art Of Marriage” by Wilferd A. Peterson and everyone loved it:
    The little things are the big things.
    It is never being too old to hold hands.
    It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
    It is never going to sleep angry
    It is at no time taking the other for granted;
    the courtship should not end with the honeymoon.
    It should continue through all the years.
    It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
    It is standing together facing the world.
    It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.
    It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
    It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
    It is not expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have wings of an angel.
    It is not looking for perfection in each other.

    It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humor.
    It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
    It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.
    It is finding room for the things of the spirit.
    It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
    It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
    It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

  11. Member
    chrispygal 1472 posts, Bumble bee @ 2:05 pm

    Oh readings, I love readings – especially non-religious ones. They are different, and invoke so much more feelings in my opinion. My fiance is the same way. Short, short ceremony. I told him there was no way we weren’t doing readings though. My two favorites are Love (yay!) and The Lovely Other Dinosaur. The dinosaur reading is a little corny, but we really are a lot like those dinosaurs and it’s such a fun story.

  12. trailmix Member
    trailmix 6663 posts, Bee Keeper @ 2:25 pm

    These are all so beautiful, I adore the first one! We did a reading by the Sufi poet Rumi, which was short but so sweet, I loved it! It’s called “A Moment of Happiness”

  13. Member
    IvyClimb 2612 posts, Sugar bee @ 2:42 pm

    We included the Roy Croft reading at our wedding. It was beautiful. We enjoyed having both religious readings and readings that weren’t exclusively religious in our ceremony. It all tied together beautifully, thanks in no small part to our amazing pastor.

  14. Member
    theresa1078 194 posts, Blushing bee @ 2:44 pm

    We did two readings and also had two friends of ours perform “Two of Us” by the Beatles in between the readings, and with the intro, the marriage blessing, and the vows, the ceremony was still only about 15 minutes. You’d be amazed how fast you get through the ceremony.

  15. earrings Member
    earrings 2611 posts, Sugar bee @ 3:19 pm

    That Roy Croft reading is one of my all time favs :)

  16. glasses Member
    glasses 2749 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:19 pm

    Wow, I’ve never heard any of those readings before! We are having 4 (!!!) readings and a Japanese sake ceremony, hopefully it’ll only run 30 minutes.

  17. locket Member
    locket 2821 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:29 pm

    I borrowed some of Roy Crofts words in my vows ….we had a friend read Neruda, but the more popular Love Sonnet XVII. We also had a reading the went with the sand ceremony, but Mr. L took care of that so I am not exactly sure what all the words were.

  18. barrettes Member
    barrettes 913 posts, Busy bee @ 4:45 pm

    We ended up using Gibran’s chapter on in “The Prophet” and the love passage from Corinthians 13.

  19. barrettes Member
    barrettes 913 posts, Busy bee @ 4:45 pm

    sorry— Gibran’s chapter on marriage…

  20. cheetah Member
    cheetah 297 posts, Helper bee @ 7:18 pm

    We’re still undecided about whether or not to include readings… I love all your choices!

  21. Member
    mrspaetz 3812 posts, Honey bee @ 10:01 pm

    We had a secular ceremony and incorporated “On Love” by Khalil Gibran, ‘Union’ by Robert Fulghum and ‘These Hands’.

    Yaay for secular readings! :)

  22. Member
    bunnylovesbear 2248 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:51 pm

    love love LOVE that “why marriage?” reading you included. I wish I could incorporate it into my church wedding somehow!!

  23. Member
    jordynrose 6351 posts, Bee Keeper @ 10:33 pm

    Love the Roy Croft reading. I wanted to use it, but ended up going with “The Art of Marriage” by Wilferd Peterson.

  24. Guest Icon Guest
    I’m All for Brevity, but Seriously? | Weddingbee, Guest @ 1:45 pm

    […] tried to talk him into having a reading or two, but he wasn’t into it. I also wanted to write our own vows, but when I first brought this up to […]

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