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In Search of a Wedding Poem

March 12, 2012 | 18 Comments

Hey Garrison,

I'd like to have my mom read a poem during our wedding ceremony, but I don't want the standard fare "oh how I love thee...." Got any recommendations? I'm looking for a short, unique, unusual poem that profoundly conveys the simple, splendid joy of love between two people, piece of work. It could also be humorous. No preference on age; modern, classic, or ancient. English is the preferred language. Where's an English major when you need one??

Thanks so much!
Kim Shellock   
Pataskala, OH


You could start by looking at an anthology, Into The Garden: A Wedding Anthology (edited by Robert Hass & Stephen Mitchell), which shows you some of the standard fare, which might include something you'd find profound and splendid. There's a poem in there by James Wright, "A Blessing," which has been recited at weddings AND at funerals. A poem by Mary Oliver, which isn't in the book, is "Wild Geese," that might strike a chord with you, and it's not standard fare. There's a poem of mine, which is pretty standard, but has its merits:

    Here on a spring night in the sweet grass smell,
    Drunk on the crickets and the starry sky,
    Oh what lovely stories we could tell
    With all these bright stars to tell them by.

    A spring night, and you, and paradise,
    So lovely and so full of grace,
    Above your head, the universe has hung its lights,
    And I reach out my hand to touch your face.

    I believe in impulse, in all that is green,
    Believe in the foolish vision that comes true,
    Believe that all that is essential is unseen,
    And for this lifetime I believe in you.

    All of the lovers and the love they made:
    Nothing that was between them was a mistake.
    All that we did for love's sake,
    Is not wasted and will never fade.

    All who have loved shall be forever young
    And walk in grandeur on a summer night
    Along the avenue,
    They live in every song that is ever sung,
    In every painting of pure light,
    In every pas de deux.

    Oh love that shines in every star
    And love reflected in the silver moon.
    It is not here, but it's not far.
    Not yet, but it will be here soon.

And if your heart is set on something humorous, here's a few lines that could be sung to the Wedding March. I am responsible for the words, but I am not responsible for what your mother will think.

    Here comes the bride and groom
    Make room, out of the way, clear the decks.
    We're going to cut the cake,
    And then hit the road and have sex.
    We're taking off these clothes
    And we'll have a glass of wine
    And we'll jump  between the sheets
    And we will intertwine.
    We'll do it fifteen times
    And then tomorrow fifteen more
    And we'll do it on and on
    Until we're stiff and sore.
    So here comes the bride and groom
    We're walking fast and that's why
    We're going to have some sex
    So thanks for the gifts and goodbye. 


Garrison you are so honest. I mean, what's a wedding for but to make the honeymoon behavior OK with the older relatives.
We are great fans of yours. Enjoyed so much the cruises to Alaska ( my favorite) and Nova Scotia. Wish we hadn't been too shy to approach you and glean some of your wisdom
Thank you for making our Saturday nights special

Take a look at Anne Bradstreet's sonnet, "To My Dear and Loving Husband," although it might be better read by you then by your Mom. I recited as a toast at my wedding reception.

Take a look at Kahlil Gibran's section from The Prophet titled On Marriage. We used it at our marriage. It's not lovey-dovey, but it does speak honestly of marriage and of the need [we had, anyway] to maintain your personal strength in the bonds of marriage.

Ah Garrison, in your anthology “Good Poem’s for Hard Times” you shared one of the most illuminating poems about marriage I’ve ever come across. As with all great poetry Bill Holm’s “Wedding Poem for Schele and Phil” precisely captures the essence of life, in this case the wonderful experience of a long and loving marriage. Ever since my discovery of this extraordinary poem it has been my wish for every newlywed couple to eventually realize the shared experience Holmes so beautifully describes.

You are not my pulse;
You are my heart.
You are not my breath;
You are the lungs which gather it.
You are not my sweetheart, darling, honey;
You are soul's soil where such names grow.
And you are certainly not my life,
for then I could not give it up to you today,
which here I do, my love.

Consider the song---which could be read as a poem..."Come Walk With Me". I don't know the author or song writer.

See e e cummings: i thank you for this most amazing day. . .

especially appropriate for a second or subsequent marriage or for a more mature couple.

Maybe after 46 years they can reflect back as I did and read this. Thank you for listening. Sherron


Sentences they finish for one another,
For God and family they’ve journeyed farther.
Their union on earth cannot be compared
Of blessings and heartaches they chose to share.

Unable to tell where one starts and one ends;
Walking this life, the best of friends
Oh, yes there were battles, worry and strife
But they made the choice, walk together for life.

Don’t toss this precious, sweet union away
Was the choice that they made that long ago day
When they began their walk together as one
Bound in sweet union they walk toward the Son.

Be careful your choices, be very sure
Because it takes courage to stay and endure;
Stick to your promises; don’t turn away.
Be vigilant and wise, sweet union just stays.

By Sherron Fields

What about another e.e.cummings -- I carry your heart....

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.

Ogden Nash

The Changing Face of Romance

When they first met,
Everything was grand.
You’d never seen
Such a wonderful man.

You were his “ideal woman”
Beauty, brains and talent, too
He couldn’t stop talking about you.

You decided to marry
Walk down the aisle,
A lavish, fairy-tail party
Done in splendid style

Time passed, the children came
Nothing seemed quite the same.

What happened to Romance?
We’ve no time for ourselves
A big time now is papering shelves….

But understand,
There’s other ways too
Your partner in life
Can show love for you.

Appreciate ANYTHING done
Out of spontaneous emotion
Be happy and value
These signs of devotion.

Linda Schumacher

Here’s one of my poems to read at the wedding.

No better than "Luck" by Langston Hughes:

Sometimes a crumb falls
From the tables of joy,
Sometimes a bone
Is flung.
To some people
Love is given,
To others
Only heaven.

this is one of my favorites from: The Odyssey
Odysseus and Nausicaa speak
‘Princess, see me at your feet. Are you mortal, or a goddess? If a goddess, one of those who keep the wide heavens, you seem to me most like Artemis, great Zeus’ daughter, in beauty, stature and form.
But if you are an earthbound mortal, three times blessed is your dear father and mother, and three times blessed are your brothers. How their hearts must glow with pleasure when they watch so sweet a flower join the dancers. But the man most blessed is he who shall woo and conquer you with his gifts, and lead you homewards. For my eyes have never looked on such a mortal woman or man as you. Only in Delos once I saw the like, a tender palm shoot springing up by Apollo’s altar, for I have been there as well, and an army with me, on that voyage where evil sorrows were my share. Just so I marvelled when I saw it, for never did such a tree grow on earth.
And now I marvel at you, lady, in wonder, and am afraid to clasp your knees, though my troubles are harsh enough. Yesterday, the twentieth day, I escaped the wine-dark sea: and all that time the turbulent wind and waves carried me here from Ogygia’s isle. Now fate drives me on shore, so that I may suffer harm here too, no doubt. I don’t expect my sufferings to end yet: the gods will inflict many more before that moment comes.
But, Princess, pity me: since I come to you first of all, after my heavy labours, and I know none of the people of this land or its city. Show me the way to town, and give me some rags to throw over me, perhaps whatever wrapped the clothes you brought.
And may the gods grant you all your heart’s desire, a husband and a home, and mutual harmony, in all its beauty. Since nothing is finer or better than when a man and a woman of one heart and mind stay together, a joy to their friends, a sorrow to their enemies: their own reputation of the very highest.’

Most Like an Arch This Marriage, by John Ciardi --

Most like an arch—an entrance which upholds
and shores the stone-crush up the air like lace.
Mass made idea, and idea held in place.
A lock in time. Inside half-heaven unfolds.

Most like an arch—two weaknesses that lean
into a strength. Two fallings become firm.
Two joined abeyances become a term
naming the fact that teaches fact to mean.

Not quite that? Not much less. World as it is,
what’s strong and separate falters. All I do
at piling stone on stone apart from you
is roofless around nothing. Till we kiss

I am no more than upright and unset.
It is by falling in and in we make
the all-bearing point, for one another’s sake,
in faultless failing, raised by our own weight.

Check out other options in his, I Marry You, published in 1958.

Try "Loving The Wrong Person" by Andrew Boyd.
This poem was read at a wedding that I attended last week. It was funny and honest.


Into spring is next step
On the road of cycle change
Comes anew with modest rewards
Of sweet kisses from the swarm
Offered up to merriment

From a disk of sparkling gold
Shines upon this midday hour
For to see what does unfold
Through the mesmerizing haze
For a stardust memory

To the colors all but gray
A tint away from the gold
There be not a sight that’s seen
From the fields to the sea
That is taken for exaggeration

Of the folds that twist and twine
From the mountains to the creeks
Comes a heartfelt rhythmic rhyme
Taking a step within this time
For the steps we take in spring

Wilferd A. Peterson's "The Art of Marriage"(Simon & Schuster, 1962) has been read at many marriage ceremonies, both in the USA and around the world. Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman read it at their wedding.

THE ART OF MARRIAGE by Wilferd A. Peterson

Happiness in marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created. In the art of 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 each day. It is never going to sleep angry. It is at no time taking the other for granted; the courtship shouldn't end with the honeymoon; it should continue through all 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 in 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 expecting the husband to wear a halo or the wife to have the wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other. It is cultivatig flexibility, patience, undertanding and a sense of humor. It is having the capacity to forgive and forget. It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow. It is finding room for the the things of the spirit. It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is not only in marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.

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