How to: Speak Now

How to choose your readings ... and the readers who read them

Have you heard? Love is patient. Love is kind. Maybe it’s refreshing simplicity
that makes this biblical passage (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) such a popular wedding reading for couples otherwise occupied with figuring out mind-boggling seating charts, the font for their programs and how to accommodate Aunt Sylvia’s new raw-foods diet. Maybe it’s just a classic that takes the decision-making out of yet another decision.

Except … aside from your vows and the officiant’s script, your ceremony readings can be the perfect way to make your own imprint on a thousands-of-years-old ritual, to convey a message about the personal meaning of your pending union, and to get even more people involved in your Big Day.

“If you don’t know where to begin, think about the sentiment,” says Miki Young, a minister with Journeys of the Heart, a local ministry of nondenominational officiants. “It’s important that a reading fits into the context and flow of the ceremony. It should be a way to reflect more deeply about the relationship.”

The Reading Search

Instead of automatically reaching for the tried-and-true or randomly Googling “love poems,” dust off that book of poetry you kept by your bedside for a year in college, or pop in the first mix CD one of you made for the other. Even try going through e-mails you exchanged (or letters, if you were that romantically old-fashioned) in those getting-to-know-you days. Don’t worry about some superficial standards of being profound; just think about words that resonate with both of you.

That’s exactly what Katherine Kelton and Troy Graham did for their wedding last year at Headhouse Square. Kelton is a lawyer who went to law school in Boston, and Graham is a journalist. So it made complete sense that one of their readings was from a court case opinion (Goodridge v. Dept. of Public Health), which was written when the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts sanctioned same-sex marriage. Hardly legalese, the meaningful reading began: “Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society.” Kelton and Graham’s other choice, Walt Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” paid homage to Graham’s writerly life, as well as a hometown poet.

Wedding planner Lynda Barness, who owns I Do Wedding Consulting in Philadelphia, has had couples opt for odes to love by Joan Walsh Anglund, Roy Croft, Robert Fulghum and Kahlil Gibran. She’s also seen readings of song lyrics — in one case, “Push” by Sarah McLachlan. “Something from your ethnic background can be very meaningful, too,” Barness says, adding that one bride honored her national heritage by having a friend read a work by 19th-century Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi in the piece’s original language.