Readings are a popular addition to your ceremony. By sharing a meaningful quote or passage with your guests, you add to the magical ambience of the moment and deepen your personal connection. Most couples choose several short passages to read at their ceremony, usually three or four. If you settle on more than one, keep in mind their length. It’s suggested that the readings take up no more than 10 minutes, give or take.
However, many popular choices for ceremony readings mention a man or woman, husband or wife, or other gender-specific pronouns. And if you’re having an LGBT, gender-neutral, or even feminist wedding, you might have a hard time finding the perfect accompaniment to your vows.
Of course, should you have a passage you love but find that it mentions gender-specific terms, you can always alter a word or two, or skip the sentence that mentions what you’re not comfortable with. But if you’re looking for a non-gender specific ceremony reading, here are a few popular suggestions from books, poems, speeches, and even a couple from the Bible.
“People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.”
– Hilary T. Smith, Wild Awake
“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.”
– James Kavanaugh, To Love Is Not to Possess
“We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.”
– Maya Angelou, Touched by an Angel
“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”
—Justice Anthony Kennedy, Hodges v. Obergefell
“I want to be your friend forever and ever.
When the hills are all flat
And the rivers run dry;
When the trees blossom in winter
And the snow falls in summer;
When heaven and earth mix,
Not till then will I part from you.”
– A Chinese Wedding Poem
“A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other.”
– Richard Bach, The Bridge Across Forever
“Within this blessed union of souls, where two hearts intertwine to become one, there lies a promise. Perfectly born, divinely created, and intimately shared, it is a place where the hope and majesty of beginnings reside. Where all things are made possible by the astounding love shared by two spirits.”
– Heather Berry, The Promise
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?”
– Book of Ecclesiastes 4:9
“Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, If anything but death parts you and me.”
– Book of Ruth 1:16-17