Struggling to find the right reading for someone’s big day? Looking for a less traditional wedding poem or reading? Here’s our pick of the most beautiful, moving and original lines ever written about love from literature and poetry, the perfect inspiration if you’re planning a wedding, civil ceremony or vow renewal.
Adorable wedding readings
'The Owl and the Pussy-Cat' by Edward Lear, from The Picador Book of Wedding Poems
The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat.
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’
Pussy said to Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-Tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.
‘Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dinèd on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
'Us Two' by A.A. Milne, from Now We Are Six
Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ’cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.
“What’s twice eleven?” I said to Pooh.
(“Twice what?” said Pooh to Me.)
“I think it ought to be twenty-two.”
“Just what I think myself,” said Pooh.
“It wasn’t an easy sum to do,
But that’s what it is,” said Pooh, said he.
“That’s what it is,” said Pooh.
“Let’s look for dragons,” I said to Pooh.
“Yes, let’s,” said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
“Yes, those are dragons all right,” said Pooh.
“As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That’s what they are,” said Pooh, said he.
“That’s what they are,” said Pooh.
“Let’s frighten the dragons,” I said to Pooh.
“That’s right,” said Pooh to Me.
“I’m not afraid,” I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted “Shoo!
Silly old dragons!“- and off they flew.
“I wasn’t afraid,” said Pooh, said he,
“I’m never afraid with you.”
So wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
“What would I do?” I said to Pooh,
“If it wasn’t for you,” and Pooh said: “True,
It isn’t much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he. “That’s how it is,” says Pooh.
Extract from Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton
‘I like you a lot. You’re funny and kind. So let me explain what I have in mind. I want to be Your Personal Penguin. I want to walk right by your side. I want to be Your Personal Penguin. I want to travel with you far and wide.’
Poetic wedding readings
'Have You Got a Biro I Can Borrow?' by Clive James, from Clive James’ Collected Poems 1958-2015
Have you got a biro I can borrow?
I’d like to write your name
On the palm of my hand, on the walls of the hall
The roof of the house, right across the land
So when the sun comes up tomorrow
It’ll look to this side of the hard-bitten planet
Like a big yellow button with your name written on it
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
'Bridled Vows' by Ian Duhig, from The Blind Roadmaker
I will be faithful to you, I do vow
but not until the seas have all run dry
etcetera: although I mean it now,
I’m not a prophet and I will not lie.
To be your perfect wife, I could not swear;
I’ll love, yes; honour (maybe); won’t obey,
but will co-operate if you will care
as much as you are seeming to today.
I’ll do my best to be your better half,
but I don’t have the patience of a saint;
not with you, at you I may sometimes laugh,
and snap too, though I’ll try to learn restraint.
We might work out: no blame if we do not.
With all my heart, I think it’s worth a shot.
'The Present' by Michael Donaghy, from Michael Donaghy’s Collected Poems
For the present there is just one moon,
though every level pond gives back another.
But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,
perceived by astrophysicist and lover,
is milliseconds old. And even that light’s
seven minutes older than its source.
And the stars we think we see on moonless nights
are long extinguished. And, of course,
this very moment, as you read this line,
is literally gone before you know it.
Forget the here-and-now. We have no time
but this device of wantonness and wit.
Make me this present then: your hand in mine,
and we’ll live out our lives in it.
'Patagonia' by Kate Clanchy, from Kate Clanchy’s Selected Poems
I said perhaps Patagonia, and pictured
a peninsula, wide enough
for a couple of ladderback chairs
to wobble on at high tide. I thought
of us in breathless cold, facing
a horizon round as a coin, looped
in a cat’s cradle strung by gulls
from sea to sun. I planned to wait
till the waves had bored themselves
to sleep, till the last clinging barnacles,
growing worried in the hush, had
paddled off in tiny coracles, till
those restless birds, your actor’s hands,
had dropped slack into your lap,
until you’d turned, at last, to me.
When I spoke of Patagonia, I meant
skies all empty aching blue. I meant
years. I meant all of them with you.
Traditional wedding readings
'Sonnet 116' by William Shakespeare, from The Picador Book of Love Poems
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:
Oh, 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.
'Fidelity' by D. H. Lawrence, from The Picador Book of Wedding Poems
Fidelity and love are two different things, like a flower
and a gem.
And love, like a flower, will fade, will change into
or it would not be flowery.
O flowers they fade because they are moving swiftly; a
little torrent of life
leaps up to the summit of the stem, gleams, turns over
round the bend
of the parabola of curved flight,
sinks, and is gone, like a cornet curving into the invisible.
O flowers they are all the time travelling
like cornets, and they come into our ken
for a day, for two days, and withdraw, slowly vanish again.
And we, we must take them on the wing, and let them go.
Embalmed flowers are not flowers, immortelles are not
flowers are just a motion, a swift motion, a coloured
that is their loveliness. And that is love.
But a gem is different. It lasts so much longer than we do
so much much much longer
that it seems to last forever.
Yet we know it is flowing away
as flowers are, and we are, only slower.
The wonderful slow flowing of the sapphire!
All flows, and every flow is related to every other flow.
Flowers and sapphires and us, diversely streaming.
In the old days, when sapphires were breathed upon and
during the wild orgasms of chaos
time was much slower, when the rocks came forth.
It took aeons to make a sapphire, aeons for it to pass away.
And a flower it takes a summer.
And man and woman are like the earth, that brings forth
in summer, and love, but underneath is rock.
Older than flowers, older than ferns, older than
older than plasm altogether is the soul of a man
And when, throughout all the wild orgasms of love
slowly a gem forms, in the ancient, once-more-molten
of two human hearts, two ancient rocks, a man’s heart
and a woman’s,
that is the crystal of peace, the slow hard jewel of trust,
the sapphire of fidelity.
The gem of mutual peace emerging from the wild chaos
'The Passionate Shepherd to His Love' by Christopher Marlowe, from The Picador Book of Wedding Poems
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 shepherd 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.
Unashamedly romantic wedding readings
From Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
‘I have for the first time found what I can truly love - I have found you. You are my sympathy - my better self - my good angel; I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wraps my existence about you - and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.’
'i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart)' by E. E. Cummings, from The Picador Book of Wedding Poems
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)
From Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
‘The future belongs to hearts even more than it does to minds. Love, that is the only thing that can occupy and fill eternity. In the infinite, the inexhaustible is requisite.
Love participates of the soul itself. It is of the same nature. Like it, it is the divine spark; like it, it is incorruptible, indivisible, imperishable. It is a point of fire that exists within us, which is immortal and infinite, which nothing can confine, and which nothing can extinguish. We feel it burning even to the very marrow of our bones, and we see it beaming in the very depths of heaven.’
'Love’s Philosophy' by Percy Bysshe Shelley, from The Picador Book of Love Poems
The fountains mingle with the rivers
And the rivers with the oceans,
The winds of heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?
See the mountains kiss high heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother,
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?
'Sonnet XVII' by Pablo Neruda
I don’t love you as if you were a rose of salt, topaz,
or arrow of carnations that propagate fire:
I love you as one loves certain obscure things,
secretly, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that doesn’t bloom but carries
the light of those flowers, hidden, within itself,
and thanks to your love the tight aroma that arose
from the earth lives dimly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where,
I love you directly without problems or pride:
I love you like this because I don’t know any other way to love,
except in this form in which I am not nor are you,
so close that your hand upon my chest is mine,
so close that your eyes close with my dreams.
'The Sun Rising' by John Donne, from The Picador Book of Love Poems
Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.
Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th’ Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw’st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.
She’s all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor’s mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world’s contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that’s done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.
Funny wedding readings
'A Word to Husbands' by Ogden Nash
To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong admit it;
Whenever you’re right shut up.
'I Wanna Be Yours' by John Cooper Clarke
I wanna be your vacuum cleaner
Breathing in your dust
I wanna be your Ford Cortina
I will never rust
If you like your coffee hot
Let me be your coffee pot
You call the shots
I wanna be yours
I wanna be your raincoat
For those frequent rainy days
I wanna be your dreamboat
When you want to sail away
Let me be your teddy bear
Take me with you anywhere
I don’t care
I wanna be yours
I wanna be your electric meter
I will not run out
I wanna be the electric heater
You’ll get cold without
I wanna be your setting lotion
Hold your hair in deep devotion
Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean
That’s how deep is my devotion
From The Princess Bride
‘True love is the greatest thing, in the world-except for a nice MLT — mutton, lettuce and tomato sandwich, where the mutton is nice and lean and the tomato is ripe.’
Quirky wedding readings
'Ode' by Gillian Allnutt, from The Picador Book of Wedding Poems
To depict a (bicycle), you must first come to love (it).
I swear by every rule in the bicycle
that I love you, I, who have repeatedly,
with accompanying declaration of despair,
tried to repair
you, to patch things up,
to maintain a workable relationship.
I have spent sleepless nights
in pondering your parts – those private
and those that all who walk the street
may look at –
wondering what makes you tick
over smoothly, or squeak.
my trusty steed,
my rusty three-speed,
I would feed you the best oats
Only linseed oil
to nourish you.
so much to paint
and standing as you do, ironic
at the rail
provided by the Council –
the sun caught in your back wheel –
or at home in the hall, remarkable
among other bicycles,
your handlebars erect.
Allow me to depict
you thus. And though I can’t do justice
to your true opinion of the surface
of the road –
put into words
the nice distinctions that you make
among the different sorts of tarmac –
still I’d like to set the record of our travels straight.
I’d have you know that
not with three-in-one
but with my own
spittle I anoint your moving parts.
From So Long and Thanks For All the Fish by Douglas Adams
There was a sort of gallery structure in the roof space which held a bed and also a bathroom which, Fenchurch explained, you could actually swing a cat in, “But,” she added, “only if it was a reasonably patient cat and didn’t mind a few nasty cracks about the head. So. Here you are.
They looked at each other for a moment.
The moment became a longer moment, and suddenly it was a very long moment, so long one could hardly tell where all the time was coming from.
For Arthur, who could usually contrive to feel self-conscious if left alone long enough with a Swiss cheese plant, the moment was one of sustained revelation. He felt on the sudden like a cramped and zoo-born animal who wakes one morning to find the door of his cage hanging quietly open and the savannah stretching grey and pink to the distant rising sun, while all around new sounds are waking.
He wondered what the new sounds were as he gazed at her openly wondering face and her eyes that smiled with a shared surprise.
He hadn’t realized that life speaks with a voice to you, a voice that brings you answers to the questions you continually ask of it, had never consciously detected it or recognized its tones until it now said something it had never said to him before, which was,
From The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
‘Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn’t it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defences, you build up a whole suit of armour, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life … You give them a piece of you. They didn’t ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn’t your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you.’
'Litany' by Billie Collins, from Aimless Love
’You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine . . .’
You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine- scented air.
There is no way you are the pine- scented air.
It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general’s head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.
I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.
I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman’s tea cup.
But don’t worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and – somehow – the wine.
From The Road by Cormac McCarthy
‘Lying under such a myriad of stars. The sea’s black horizon. He rose and walked out and stood barefoot in the sand and watched the pale surf appear all down the shore and roll and crash and darken again. When he went back to the fire he knelt and smoothed her hair as she slept and he said if he were God he would have made the world just so and no different.’
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