A Selection of Wedding Ceremony Vows and Readings
by The Knot
If you’re thinking of writing your own marriage vows or personalizing your ceremony by reading meaningful passages, explore the world’s treasure trove of beautiful literature. Prose, poetry, religious texts, modern spiritual writing, Hollywood movies, and folk songs can all provide inspiration. Here are several great verses.
From “Invitation to Love,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, in I Hear a Symphony: African Americans Celebrate Love; eds. Paula Woods and Felix Liddell:
Come when my heart is full of grief,
Or when my heart is merry;
Come with the falling of the leaf
Or with the redd’ning cherry
From “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven,” in The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats:
But I, being poor have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
From The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran:
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
From “Somewhere I Have Never Traveled,” by E. E. Cummings in Complete Poems: 1904-1962:
your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose
From “Sonnet 116,” in Love Poems and Sonnets of William Shakespeare:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken
From “How Do I Love Thee?”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning in One Hundred and One Classic Love Poems:
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach
From Beloved, by Toni Morrison:
Paul D sits down in the rocking chair and examines the quilt patched in carnival colors. His hands are limp between his knees. There are too many things to feel about this woman. His head hurts. Suddenly he remembers Sixo trying to describe what he felt about the Thirty-Mile Woman. “She is a friend of my mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”
From “A Poem of Friendship” in Cotton Candy on a Rainy Day by Nikki Giovanni:
I don’t want to be near you
for the thoughts we share
but the words we never have
From “The Book of Ruth,” 1: 16-17 in The Bible
For whither thou goest, I will go;
And where thou lodgest, I will lodge;
Thy people shall be my people;
And thy God my God.
Here are a few books to explore for more words from the heart:
- The Book of Love, edited by Diane Ackerman and Jeanne MacKin (Norton, 1998); this anthology includes passages from love letters.
- Into the Garden: A Wedding Anthology, edited by Robert Hass and Stephen Mitchell (Harper Perennial, 1994)
- The Library of World Poetry, edited by William Cullen Bryant (Grammercy, 1999)
- Weddings: The Magic of Creating Your Own Ceremony, by Henry S. Basayne and Linda R. Janowitz Ph.D. (Bookpartners, 1998)
- Wedding Readings: Centuries of Writing and Rituals on Love and Marriage, edited by Eleanor Munro (Penguin Books, 1996)