Outlining a wedding ceremony means making some big decisions right from the get-go. While you’ll be selecting everything from the music to the vows to the overall formatting, you might also consider some beautiful non-religious wedding ceremony readings to commemorate the moment. Not only are readings an opportunity to involve more people in your special day, but they allow you to express a unique sentiment and personalize your ceremony. However, if you aren’t looking for something steeped in spiritual tradition, rest assured there’s no shortage of non-religious wedding ceremony readings to choose.
We know finding the perfect words is no easy feat, but we’ve collected our favorite 15 non-religious wedding ceremony readings to celebrate your love and leave a lasting impression.
“I Carry Your Heart With Me” by E.E. Cummings
A classic poem that could fit beautifully into any ceremony.
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)
"Scaffolding" by Seamus Heaney
Written by one of the most celebrated Irish poets, these words speak to the unbreakable bonds of love.
Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
"Vow," by Roger McGough
A beautiful reading to complement your own heartfelt vows.
I vow to honour the commitment made this day
Which, unlike the flowers and the cake,
Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey
But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console,
For once incomplete, we now are whole.
I vow to bear in mind that if, at times
Things seem to go from bad to worse,
They also go from bad to better.
The lost purse is handed in, the letter
Contains wonderful news. Trains run on time,
Hurricanes run out of breath, floods subside,
And toast lands jam-side up.
And with this ring, my final vow:
To recall, whatever the future may bring,
The love I feel for you now.
“Love Is Friendship Caught Fire” by Laura Hendricks
Perfect for the couple whose love first began as a dear friendship.
Love is friendship caught fire; it is quiet, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection, and makes allowances for human weaknesses.
Love is content with the present, hopes for the future, and does not brood over the past. It is the day-in and day-out chronicles of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories, and working toward common goals.
If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things you lack. If you do not have it, no matter what else there is, it is not enough.
“The Art of a Good Marriage” by Wilferd Arlan Peterson
A great non-religious wedding ceremony reading to be read by a loved one who understands the art of marriage themselves.
Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens.
A good marriage must be created. In marriage the little things are the big things.
It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say “I love you” at least once a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship should not end with the honeymoon, it should continue through the years.
It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.
It is standing together facing the world. It is forming a circle of love that gathers the whole family.
It is doing things for each other, not in the attitude of duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy.
It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour.
It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.
It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow old.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner; it is being the right partner.
A Natural History of Love by Diane Ackerman (excerpt)
These impactful words celebrate the vast greatness of love.
"Love. What a small word we use for an idea so immense and powerful. It has altered the flow of history, calmed monsters, kindled works of art, cheered the forlorn, turned tough guys to mush, consoled the enslaved, driven strong women mad, glorified the humble, fueled national scandals, bankrupted robber barons, and made mincemeat of kings. How can love's spaciousness be conveyed in the narrow confines of one syllable? Love is an ancient delirium, a desire older than civilization, with taproots spreading into deep and mysterious days. The heart is a living museum. In each of its galleries, no matter how narrow or dimly lit, preserved forever like wondrous diatoms, are our moments of loving, and being loved."
The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White (excerpt)
A lovely choice to be read by a close friend or officiant just before the vows.
“I didn’t fall in love with you. I walked into love with you, with my eyes wide open, choosing to take every step along the way. I do believe in fate and destiny, but I also believe we are only fated to do the things that we’d choose anyway. And I’d choose you; in a hundred lifetimes, in a hundred worlds, in any version of reality, I’d find you and I’d choose you.”
“Love" by Roy Croft
This romantic poem captures the essence of finding your forever love.
I love you,
Not only for what you are,
But for what I am when I am with you.
I love you,
Not only for what You have made of yourself,
But for what You are making of me.
I love you
For the part of me That you bring out;
I love you
For putting your hand into my heaped-up heart
And passing over all the foolish, weak things
that you can't help dimly seeing there.
And for drawing out into the light
all the beautiful belongings that no one else
had looked quite far enough to find.
I love you
because you are helping me to make
Of the lumber of my life
Not a tavern but a temple;
Out of the works of my every day
Not a reproach but a song.
I love you
Because you have done more than any creed
could have done to make me good,
And more than any fate to make me happy.
You have done it
Without a touch,
Without a word,
Without a sign.
You have done it
By being yourself.
"Carrie's Poem" from Sex and the City by Cindy Chupack
This short and sweet non-religious wedding ceremony reading works especially well for a child or younger reader.
His hello was the end of her endings
Her laugh was their first step down the aisle
His hand would be hers to hold forever
His forever was as simple as her smile
He said she was what was missing
She said instantly she knew
She was a question to be answered
And his answer was "I do."
“Union” by Robert Fulghum
A popular non-religious wedding ceremony reading that’s perfect for a relative or close friend.
"You have known each other from the first glance of acquaintance to this point of commitment. At some point, you decided to marry. From that moment of yes, to this moment of yes, indeed, you have been making commitments in an informal way. All of those conversations that were held in a car, or over a meal, or during long walks – all those conversations that began with, “When we’re married”, and continued with “I will” and “you will” and “we will” – all those late night talks that included “someday” and “somehow” and “maybe” – and all those promises that are unspoken matters of the heart. All these common things, and more, are the real process of a wedding.
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things that we’ve promised, and hoped, and dreamed – well, I meant it all, every word.”
Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another – acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, even teacher, for you have learned much from one another these past few years. Shortly you shall say a few words that will take you across a threshold of life, and things between you will never quite be the same.
For after today you shall say to the world –
This is my husband. This is my wife."
The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach (excerpt)
These words thoughtfully explore what it means to be soulmates.
"A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we're pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we're two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we've found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life."
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare’s words stand the test of time, including this familiar sonnet about love.
"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;
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."
“Blessing of the Hands” by Rev. Daniel L. Harris
An emotionally impactful reading that won’t leave a dry eye in the room.
These are the hands of your best friend, young and strong and full of love for you, that are holding yours on your wedding day, as you promise to love each other today, tomorrow, and forever.
These are the hands that will work alongside yours, as together you build your future.
These are the hands that will passionately love you and cherish you through the years, and with the slightest touch, will comfort you like no other.
These are the hands that will hold you when fear or grief fills your mind.
These are the hands that will countless times wipe the tears from your eyes; tears of sorrow, and tears of joy.
These are the hands that will tenderly hold your children.
These are the hands that will help you to hold your family as one.
These are the hands that will give you strength when you need it.
And lastly, these are the hands that even when wrinkled and aged, will still be reaching for yours, still giving you the same unspoken tenderness with just a touch.
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman (excerpt)
A unique reading selection for couples who appreciate a literary reference.
“I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till I find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… We’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… And when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me.”
“That Still And Settled Place” by Edward Monkton
A short yet tender poem that manages to say it all.
In that still and settled place
There's nobody but you
You're where I breathe my oxygen
You're where I see my view
And when the world feels full of noise
My heart knows what to do
It finds that still and settled place
And dances there with you