You have watched the movie “The Wedding Crashers” and laughed as the two rascal wedding crashers talk all during a predictable wedding ceremony. They bet on which often heard reading would come next. You know the one!
You too can probably recall some wedding readings that were obscure, too long, unintelligible, or, well, just plain boring. So for your wedding ceremony, here are two principles to follow that will make the readings complement your wedding ceremony and catch the attention of your guests.
1. Select a reading that means something to you and can be understood by your guests.
2. Chose a reader who can make the reading come alive.
Note: While much of this content relates to wedding ceremonies that are not held in a church, where wedding ceremony readings are often prescribed, these two principles still apply – the right reading for you and the right reader for the occasion.
Selecting your reading(s) takes effort and time, but there is a payoff, and the payoff is that your guests won’t yawn or roll their eyeballs during your ceremony. They will be engaged in what is happening, and they will come to understand just what getting married means to you.
Think of what is important to you on your wedding day – love, marriage, family, etc. – so you can identify what you want in the content of your readings.
Some readings talk about the meaning of marriage, how people find each other, or how you know this is really love. An example of the type of reading that is about an aspect of love or marriage is this short piece by Mark Twain:
A marriage makes of two fractional lives a whole, gives to two purposeless lives a work, and doubles the strength of each to perform it. It gives it two questioning natures a reason for living and something to live for; It will give a new gladness to the sunshine a new fragrance to the flowers, a new beauty to the earth, and a new mystery to life.
Other readings bestow blessings or good wishes on the new marriage. This type of reading usually fits in well toward the end of the ceremony. Here is an example of a reading that congratulates the couple. It is a portion of “Blessing for a Marriage” by 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.
While you and your fiancé are thinking about the content of reading you want, also talk about what type of readings appeal to you. For example, you may prefer a classic poem or passage from literature, memorable song lyrics, traditional wedding readings, or something offbeat and surprising. You may want an ethnic reading, a Biblical verse, or a lighthearted essay or fable.
When you know what you want the message of the readings to be, then you can zero in on finding the right reading. Do an internet search on “wedding readings.” Go through the books in the library or your local book store on wedding ceremonies and readings. Ask your officiant to provide suggestions based on what you want. Call up your old buddy, the English major.
I know I have said to be sure your reading selection is understandable. If you are a fan of Early English poetry, you know most of your guests won’t understand the words, but include the reading anyway. It’s part of you! But balance that choice with a contrasting type of reading such as the more popular lyrics from the song you have chosen for your first dance.
Here is another idea on making your wedding ceremony reading connect with your guests if there is a critical mass of non-English speaking or bi-lingual people in attendance. Have the reading you select be read in English and the other language. Alternatively, you can print the reading in both languages in your printed program. It is such a beautiful moment when you and your guests hear the “mother tongue,” which connects you to the heritage that you bring to your marriage.
So now you are on track to finding the right reading; the next step is finding the right reader.
Asking someone to do a reading in your wedding ceremony is an honor. It can be a family elder, a sibling, someone you wanted to be in your wedding party but just couldn’t add any more people, your college roommate, or a person who brought the two of you together.
Now here’s the catch: The person you want to ask, for symbolic and heartfelt reasons, may be the worst choice. Ask yourself these questions: Is that person comfortable speaking in front of groups? Does that person have a voice that can be easily understood? Does that person have the ability to “interpret” your reading so the message comes through? Does the reader actually understand and like the reading you have selected?
If you come to the conclusion that the person you would like to ask is not the right match for this task, find something else for that person to do. Move on to the next choice – the person who has experience speaking in public, the one who will rehearse the piece beforehand, and the one who can “command the room” for the moments he or she does your reading. You won’t regret it when that person does an Oscar-worthy job of reading the words you want to hear.
Using these two principles, selecting the right reading and the right reader, your wedding ceremony will be enhanced by the readings you include and your guests will not tune out. The readings will add meaning to your ceremony, and they will convey the words you want everyone to listen to on your wedding day. It could just be the highlight of your ceremony, and your wedding crashers might even listen.
Julie Laudicina is a non-denominational wedding officiant, serving couples in the New York CIty area. She is a 2010 Brides Choice winner with Wedding Wire based on excellent reviews from her clients.
Having created and officiated at over 150 ceremonies, Julie has helped couples select all kinds of readings that are tailored for each couple’s ceremony. She often says, “…from Springstein to Shakespeare” as her way of encouraging couples to feel confident in selecting readings from a wide range of categories. She advocates for involving family and friends in the ceremony, and doing that with the readings is ideal.