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Classic Wedding Readings

Sonnet XLIII, from "Sonnets from the Portuguese" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of Being and ideal Grace. I love thee to the level of every day's Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for Right; I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old grief's, and with my childhood's faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints, --I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life!-- and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.


If I can let you go as trees let go Their leaves, so casually, one by one; If I can come to know what they do know, That fall is the release, the consummation, Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit Would not distemper the great lucid skies

This strangest autumn, mellow and acute. If I can take the dark with open eyes and call it seasonal, not harsh or strange (for love itself may need a time of sleep) and, treelike, stand unmoved before the change, Lose what I lose to keep what I can keep, The strong root still alive under the snow, Love will endure - if I can let you go.

Sonnet XVII By Pablo Neruda

I don't love you as if you were the salt-rose, topaz or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:

I love you as certain dark things are loved, secretly, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that doesn't bloom carries hidden within itself the light of those flowers, and thanks to your love, darkly in my body lives dense fragrance that rises from the earth.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,

I love you simply, without problems or pride:

I love you in this way because I don't know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep it is your eyes that close.

SONNET XXVI By 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-fixèd mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken. Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved

Sonnet XXIV By William Shakespeare

When, in disgrace with Fortune and Men's eyke's,

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

Haply I think on thee, and then my state

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate,

For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings,

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

FROM THE "SONG OF SOLOMON" - King James Bible version

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over, and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land. The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away


Allons! The road is before us! It is safe--i have tried it--my own feet have tried it well--be not detain'd! Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen'd! Let the tools remain in the workshop! Let the money remain unearn'd! Let the school stand! Mind not the cry of the teacher! Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! Let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law. Camerado, i give you my hand! I give you my love more precious than money, i give you myself before preaching or law; will you give me yourself? Will you come travel with me? Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?

TO A STRANGER by Walt Whitman

Passing stranger! you do not know how longingly I look upon you; You must be he I was seeking, or she I was seeking (it comes to me, as of a dream). I have somewhere surely lived a life of joy with you. All is recalled as we flit by each other, fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured; You grew up with me, were a boy with me, or a girl with me; I ate with you, and slept with you--your body has become not yours only, nor left my body mine only; You give me the pleasure of your eyes, face, flesh, as we pass--you take of my beard, breast, hands in return; I am not to speak to you--I am to think of you when I sit alone, or wake at night alone; I am to wait--I do not doubt I am to meet you again; I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

THE BARGAIN By Sir Philip Sidney

My true love hath my heart, and i have his, by just exchange one for another given: i hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss, there never was a better bargain driven: my true love hath my heart, and i have his. His heart in me keeps him and me in one, my heart in him his thoughts and senses guides: he loves my heart, for once it was his own, i cherish his because in me it bides: my true love hath my heart, and i have his.


To whom I owe the leaping delight that quickens my senses in our wakingtime and the rhythm that governs the repose of our sleepingtime, the breathing in unison of lovers whose bodies smell of each other who think the same thoughts without need of speech and babble the same speech without need of meaning. No peevish winter wind shall chill no sullen tropic sun shall wither the roses in the rose-garden which is ours and ours only but this dedication is for others to read: these are private words addressed to you in public.

BROWN PENNY By William Butler Yeats

I WHISPERED, 'I am too young,' And then, 'I am old enough'; Wherefore I threw a penny To find out if I might love. 'Go and love, go and love, young man, If the lady be young and fair.' Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, I am looped in the loops of her hair. O love is the crooked thing, There is nobody wise enough To find out all that is in it, For he would be thinking of love Till the stars had run away And the shadows eaten the moon. Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny, One cannot begin it too soon.

LOVE SONG By Rainer Maria Rilke

How shall I hold my soul and yet not touch It with your own? How shall I ever place It clear of you on anything beyond? Oh gladly I would stow it next to such Things in the darkness as are never found Down in an alien and silent space That does not resonate when you resound. But everything that touches me and you Takes us together like a bow on two Taut strings to stroke them to the voice of one. What instrument have we been lain along? Whose are the hands that play our unison? Oh sweet song!


If ever two were one, then surely we. If ever man were loved by wife, then thee; If ever wife was happy in a man, Compare with me ye women if you can. I prize thy love more that whole mines of gold, Or all the riches that the East doth hold. My love is such that rivers cannot quench, Nor ought but love from thee give recompense. Thy love is such I can no way repay, The heavens reward thee manifold I pray. Then while we live, in love let’s so persevere, That when we live no more, we may live ever.


She walks in beauty, like the night Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that's best of dark and bright Meet in her aspect and her eyes: Thus mellow'd to that tender light Which heaven to gaudy day denies. One shade the more, one ray the less, Had half impair'd the nameless grace Which waves in every raven tress, Or softly lightens o'er her face; Where thoughts serenely sweet express How pure, how dear their dwelling-place. And on that cheek, and o'er that brow, So soft, so calm, yet eloquent, The smiles that win, the tints that glow, But tell of days in goodness spent, A mind at peace with all below, A heart whose love is innocent!


Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths, Enwrought with golden and silver light, The blue and the dim and the dark cloths Of night and light and the half-light, I would spread the cloths under your feet: But I, being poor, have only my dreams; I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.


I wonder by my troth, what thou and I Did, till we loved ? were we not weaned till then ? But sucked on country pleasures, childishly ? Or snorted we in the Seven Sleepers' den ? 'Twas so ; but this, all pleasures fancies be; If ever any beauty I did see, Which I desired, and got, 'twas but a dream of thee. And now good-morrow to our waking souls, Which watch not one another out of fear; For love all love of other sights controls, And makes one little room an everywhere. Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone; Let maps to other, worlds on worlds have shown; Let us possess one world ; each hath one, and is one. My face in thine eye, thine in mine appears, And true plain hearts do in the faces rest; Where can we find two better hemispheres Without sharp north, without declining west ? Whatever dies, was not mixed equally; If our two loves be one, or thou and I Love so alike that none can slacken, none can die


When you came, you were like red wine and honey, And the taste of you burnt my mouth with its sweetness. Now you are like morning bread, Smooth and pleasant. I hardly taste you at all for I know your savour, But I am completely nourished.

WEDDING PRAYER - by Robert Lewis Stevenson

Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank you for this place in which we dwell, for the love that unites us, for the peace accorded us this day, for the hope with which we expect the morrow, for the health, the work, the food, and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth. Amen

FROM “MAUD” by Lord Alfred Tennyson

There has fallen a splendid tear From the passion-flower at the gate. She is coming, my dove, my dear; She is coming, my life, my fate; The red rose cries, "She is near, she is near;" And the white rose weeps, "She is late;" The larkspur listens, "I hear, I hear;" And the lily whispers, "I wait." She is coming, my own, my sweet; Were it ever so airy a tread, My heart would hear her and beat, Were it earth in an earthy bed; My dust would hear her and beat, Had I lain for a century dead, Would start and tremble under her feet, And blossom in purple and red.


Come live with me, and be my love, And we will all the pleasures prove That valleys, groves, hills and fields, Woods, or steepy mountain yields. And we will sit upon the rocks, Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks By shallow rivers, to whose falls Melodious birds sing madrigals. And I will make thee beds of roses, And a thousand fragrant posies, A cap of flowers, and a kirtle, Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle. A gown made of the finest wool Which from our pretty lambs we pull, Fair lined slippers for the cold, With buckles of the purest gold. A belt of straw and ivy buds, With coral clasps and amber studs, And if these pleasures may thee move, Come live with me, and be my love. The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing For thy delight each May-morning; If these delights thy mind may move, Then live with me, and be my love.


Love holds me captive again and I tremble with bittersweet longing As a gale on the mountainside bends the oak tree I am rocked by my love


Never marry but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely. He that minds a body and not a soul has not the better part of that relationship, and will consequently lack the noblest comfort of a married life. Between a man and his wife nothing ought to rule but love. As love ought to bring them together, so it is the best way to keep them well together. A husband and wife that love one another show their children that they should do so too. Others visibly lose their authority in their families by their contempt of one another, and teach their children to be unnatural by their own examples. Let not enjoyment lessen, but augment, affection ; it being the basest of passions to like when we have not, what we slight when we possess. Here it is we ought to search out our pleasure, where the field is large and full of variety, and of an enduring nature; sickness, poverty or disgrace being not able to shake it because it is not under the moving influences of worldly contingencies. Nothing can be more entire and without reserve; nothing more zealous, affectionate and sincere; nothing more contented than such a couple, nor greater temporal felicity than to be one of them.

MY HEART IS LAME by Charlotte Mew

My heart is lame with running after yours so fast

Such a long way, Shall we walk slowly home, looking at all the things we passed Perhaps to-day? Home down the quiet evening roads under the quiet skies, Not saying much, You for a moment giving me your eyes When you could bear my touch. But not to-morrow. This has taken all my breath; Then, though you look the same, There may be something lovelier in Love's face in death As your heart sees it, running back the way we came; My heart is lame.


You -- you --

Your shadow is sunlight on a plate of silver; Your footsteps, the seeding-place of lilies; Your hands moving, a chime of bells across a windless air. The movement of your hands is the long, golden running of light from a rising sun; It is the hopping of birds upon a garden-path. As the perfume of jonquils, you come forth in the morning. Young horses are not more sudden than your thoughts, Your words are bees about a pear-tree, Your fancies are the gold-and-black striped wasps buzzing among red apples. I drink your lips, I eat the whiteness of your hands and feet. My mouth is open, As a new jar I am empty and open. Like white water are you who fill the cup of my mouth, Like a brook of water thronged with lilies. You are frozen as the clouds, You are far and sweet as the high clouds. I dare to reach to you, I dare to touch the rim of your brightness. I leap beyond the winds, I cry and shout, For my throat is keen as is a sword Sharpened on a hone of ivory. My throat sings the joy of my eyes, The rushing gladness of my love. How has the rainbow fallen upon my heart? How have I snared the seas to lie in my fingers And caught the sky to be a cover for my head? How have you come to dwell with me, Compassing me with the four circles of your mystic lightness, So that I say "Glory! Glory!" and bow before you as to a shrine? Do I tease myself that morning is morning and a day after?

Do I think the air is a condescension, the earth a politeness, heaven a boon deserving thanks? So you -- air -- earth -- heaven -- I do not thank you, I take you, I live. And those things which I say in consequence are rubies mortised in a gate of stone.

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