It will surprise none of you, I'm sure, to know that I had a greedy FOUR poems read at my (approx 15 minute-long, that's basically the whole thing) wedding. The readings are so often one of my favourite parts of a ceremony, revealing as they do, so much about a couple and the love they share. However I appreciate that not everyone is a poetry buff, or particularly cares about it, or, frankly, has time in between the caterer and the table plan and the hyperventilating family members to give it too much thought- enter one bloody Corinthians or Dr bloody Zeuss or Kahil Gibran and The bloody Prophet. Don't get me wrong, all lovely (yawn) but certainly part of a stock roster of dependable wedding readings, the ones that come up, sleepily, dependably, on google searches. But, I insist, a wedding day calls for words that will move your audience- poems or readings that don't speak in platitudes, but instead surprise and move your guests (disclaimer: #5 and #7 of this list are poems I chose for my own wedding). In a bid to inspire anyone who's stumped, below are eight suggestions- authored by everyone from The Supreme Court to Frank O'Hara to Ann Drysdale, each a beautiful and unique reading strong enough to do true justice to a beautiful and unique love.
1) No Union Is More Profound Than Marriage by The Supreme Court of The United States (otherwise known as the most romantic piece of legislation of all time)
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. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.
2) Song of Smoke by Kevin Young
To watch you walk
cross the room in your black
corduroys is to see
of your strut is flint
striking rock—the spark
of a length of cord
smoke starts—you stir
me like coal
and for days smoulder.
I am no more
a Boy Scout and, besides,
put you out—you
keep me on
all day like an iron, out
you threaten, brick-
house, to burn
all this down. You leave me
only a chimney.
3) Friday by Ann Drysdale
The print of a bare foot, the second toe
A little longer than the one which is
Traditionally designated "great".
Praxiteles would have admired it.
You must have left in haste; your last wet step
Before boarding your suit and setting sail,
Outlined in talcum on the bathroom floor
Mocks your habitual fastidiousness.
There is no tide here to obliterate
Your oversight. Unless I wipe or sweep
Or suck it up, it will not go away.
The thought delights me. I will keep the footprint.
Too slight, too simply human to be called
Token or promise; I am keeping it
Because it is a precious evidence
That on this island I am not alone.
4) Cultural Studies by John Hicock
They were in the air on chairs,the bride and groom, when of course they needed a table so we lifted
a table, a dishwasher and our shoulders were strong enough,
a sofa and I began to understand
the demands of Judaism
when we let go and they stayed, decades, their children balloons
who’ve risen even higher, O love, that makes us want to live in the sky with the hawks,
the clouds, the pollen, the dust,the planes, the satellites, the moon, the clear, the clear, the blue.
5) Animals by Frank O'Hara
Have you forgotten what we were like then
when we were still first rate
and the day came fat with an apple in its mouth
it's no use worrying about Time
but we did have a few tricks up our sleeves
and turned some sharp corners
the whole pasture looked like our meal
we didn't need speedometers
we could manage cocktails out of ice and water
I wouldn't want to be faste
r or greener than now if you were with me
O you were the best of all my days
6) Abide by Jake Adam York
Forgive me if I forget
with the birdsong and the day’s
last glow folding into the hands
of the trees, forgive me the few
syllables of the autumn crickets,
the year’s last firefly winking
like a penny in the shoulder’s weeds,
if I forget the hour, if I forget
the day as the evening star
pours out its whiskey over the gravel
and asphalt I’ve walked
for years alone, if I startle
when you put your hand in mine,
if I wonder how long your light
has taken to reach me here.
7) The Amorous Shepherd by Fernando Pessoa
When I wasn’t with you
I loved Nature like a monk contemplating Christ...
Now I love Nature
Like a monk contemplating the Virgin Mary,
Religiously, in my own way, like before,
But in another way more moving and nearer.
I see the rivers better when I go with you
Through the fields to the bank of the rivers;
Sitting at your side looking at the clouds I look at them better—
You didn’t take me from Nature...
You changed Nature...
You brought Nature to my feet,
Because you exist I see it better, but the same,
Because you love me, I love it the same, but more,
Because you chose me to be with you and love you,
My eyes stare at everything more lingeringly.
I don’t regret anything I was before because I still am.
I only regret not having loved you.
Put your hands in mine
And let’s be quiet, surrounded by life.
I'm curious, what poems did you read at your wedding? Any suggestions to add to this list? I'd love to hear.