Earlier this summer, my oldest friend asked me if I could suggest a reading for his wedding ceremony. The criteria: 'Nothing religious, nothing too flowery and over the top, no Eskimo blessings.'
Should be easy, I thought … until I typed 'wedding readings' into a search engine, and was greeted with reams and reams of 1) quotes from the psalms, 2) flowery poems and 3) Eskimo blessings. So what should I have read at his wedding, in place of a chant comparing his fiancée to a lovely big blubbery seal? Below are the five different 'options' I put to him:
1) Short and fierce:
'Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.'
I once saw this quote from Hamlet - or at least, an Italian version of it - scrawled in metre-high graffiti on the pavement outside a quiet house in Puglia, one Valentine's morning. Now, part of me thinks that this was a pretty damn cool thing for a spotty Italian teenager to have done (and/or brave, depending on his girlfriend's father - think Robert de Niro in Meet the Parents…). But if you read it a second time, it perhaps speaks more of restraining orders than wedding vows. Rejected.
2) The comedy route; if not for the ceremony itself, then surely one for the father of the bride's speech:
To Keep Your Marriage Brimming, 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.'
3) Earthy, Latin and passionate: some Pablo Neruda:
'I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz, or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off. I love you as certain dark things are to be loved, in secret, between the shadow and the soul.
I love you as the plant that never blooms but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers; thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance, risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way
than this: Where "I" does not exist, nor "You", so close that your hand on my chest is my hand, so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.'
Rejected, on the grounds that Sting probably had this read out at his wedding.
4) Out and out sentimentality, but still rather lovely for all that: a short letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth B-B on the morning of their wedding day, taken from Love Letters of Great Men:
'I look back and in every one point, every word and gesture, every letter, every silence - you have been entirely perfect to me - I would not change one word, one look … You have given me the highest, completest proof of love that ever one human being gave another. I am all gratitude - and all pride… that my life has been so crowned by you.'
5) From Richard Bach's The Bridge Across Forever: very popular in the pre-nup chat rooms, and ultimately, the one my friend chose:
'A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks… No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we're safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate 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 soulmate is the one who makes life come to life.'
Not a great selection, I'll admit, but trust me, if you'd seen the schmaltz those 'wedding reading' sites throw up … Perhaps it's time for a fresh injection of undiscovered romantic gems from contemporary literature? Any suggestions gratefully received, to prepare us all for another long year of weddings.
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