Today we’re going to take an in-depth look at the readings that often take place as part of both religious and civil marriage ceremonies.

First of all, don’t confuse ceremony readings with the traditional wedding speeches. The later are much more informal monologues delivered at the reception immediately before, or just after, the wedding breakfast.

wedding ceremony readings

We’ve written this principally for the attention of brides and grooms, who may want advice on who to ask to give a reading during the ceremony, and what their chosen readers should read. But we hope this article will be useful for those reading, too!

Readings at civil ceremonies

If you are marrying in a civil ceremony, your readings must be devoid of any specific religious references. The registrar will ask to see all of your readings (and vows) beforehand. There are various other rules about what you can and cannot do at a civil wedding ceremony. As a result of breaking the rules, the registrar has the authority to void your marriage if you reference religion.

wedding ceremony readings

As civil ceremonies tend to be relatively short, the length of any readings should reflect this. They should be five minutes maximum, and you should feature no more than two readings in total. Be aware, especially if you are in a registry office, of the timeslot of your ceremony. However, try not to feel rushed as this is your special day. Plan accordingly.

Readings at religious ceremonies

There are usually anything from one to three readings in a church or religious wedding ceremony. These are usually interspersed with sung hymns or, if there is a choir, an anthem.

If your readers are particularly devout, encourage them to talk to the clergyman so they can work together and create or select some appropriate texts. Let your devotion, to each other and to God, shine through in the readings you select.

Who should read?

Like when picking your best man and maid of honour, it can be hard not to offend. Try to pick someone who has considerable significance to the both of you. Choosing someone who is a confident speaker-cum-writer may also be wise. It won’t do good for the reader to get cold feet before your vows!

If you know that you have several guests who may be confident in reading, choose someone who isn’t already giving a speech. Your close family, maid of honour and best man may all get their chance to speak at the reception. If you have children, this would be a wonderful way to get them involved. That is to say, if they are confident enough!

wedding ceremony readings

On the other hand, if your friends and family are all likely to get stage fright, you could ask your chosen celebrant to read for you. This may not work in a registry office setting, but would be lovely if you’ve formed a connection with whoever is officiating.

Provide a reading for your speakers?

A lot of the time, couples select their reader and let them choose a script. You could give guidance on the sort of thing you are looking for, for example more funny than serious. On the other hand, if you have a favourite reading you really want featuring, provide them with the text.

Make sure you give them plenty of time to practise, especially if you are letting them choose their own reading. And, if you want the choice to remain a surprise, ask a friend to coordinate with the registrar.

What to read?

Excerpts from poetry (Shakespeare is perennially popular) novels, spiritual prose or even song lyrics are popular readings. There are even options with a humorous or slightly unusual touch.

If your readers are more creative, or want to add a personal flair, they could write their own readings. Think of the personal significance of your wedding – for example, did your parents or grandparents tie the knot in the same venue or in a similar ceremony?

wedding ceremony readings

Anecdotes about drunken antics and how the couple met should be strictly reserved for the speeches during the reception!

Some of our favourite readings are below:

Every Day – David Levithan

This is what love does: It makes you want to rewrite the world. It makes you want to choose the characters, build the scenery, guide the plot. The person you love sits across from you, and you want to do everything in your power to make it possible, endlessly possible. And when it’s just the two of you, alone in a room, you can pretend that this is how it is, this is how it will be.

Oh, the Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss

I Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

The Bible quote above is taken from the English Standard Version. Because of its origin, it is allowed at religious ceremonies only.

Sleepless in Seattle

wedding ceremony readings

The above is said in the film Sleepless in Seattle, when Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks) is talking about why he loved his wife.

Have You Got a Biro I Can Borrow? – Clive James

Have you got a biro I can borrow?
I’d like to write some lines
In praise of your knee, and the back of your neck
And the double-decker bus that brings you to me
So when the sun comes up tomorrow
It’ll shine on a world made richer by a sonnet
And a half-dozen epics as long as the Aeneid

Oh give me a pen and some paper
Give me a chisel or a camera
A piano and a box of rubber bands
I need room for choreography
And a darkroom for photography
Tie the brush into my hands

Have you got a biro I can borrow?
I’d like to write your name
From the belt of Orion to the share of the Plough
The snout of the Bear to the belly of the Lion
So when the sun goes down tomorrow
There’ll never be a minute
Not a moment of the night that hasn’t got you in it

The above poem is now a popular alternative reading for weddings!

When Harry Met Sally

Well, that’s about it for advice on ceremony readings! Take everything above into the equation; you’ll be on your way to achieving a smooth, uplifting, personal and entertaining marriage ceremony.

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