Inspirational readings about love and marriage are one of the most popular additions to wedding ceremonies. Traditionally, wedding readings have focused on God or religion, but as more couples opt for non-religious ceremonies, it becomes important for them to feel represented in their wedding ceremony, too. We have put together a complete compendium of the most beautiful non-religious wedding readings for you.
No matter if you’re going for a religious reading or one that’s more secular, the choice of reading is up to you. You’ll only need to have it approved by your registrar or minister beforehand. Our top tip for choosing a reading is to choose one that is persona and that speaks to you and your soon-to-be spouse. Whether your reading resonates with you because it brings a sense of comfort or joy or is something that you and your intended can relate to, just be sure to choose a reading that you want.
Here are some of the oldest and most lovely readings:
To Be One with Each Other by George Eliot
What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined together to strengthen each other in all labour, to minister to each other in all sorrow, to share with each other in all gladness, to be one with each other in the silent unspoken memories?
Love’s Philosophy by Percy Bysshe Shelley
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?
Perfect Woman by William Wordsworth
She was a phantom of delight
When first she gleam’d upon my sight;
A lovely apparition, sent
To be a moment’s ornament;
Her eyes as stars of twilight fair;
Like twilight’s, too, her dusky hair;
But all things else about her drawn;
A dancing shape, an image gat,
To haunt, to startle, and waylay.
I saw her upon nearer view,
A spirit, yet a Woman too!
Her household motions light and free,
And steps of virgin liberty;
A coumtenance in which did meet
Sweets records, promises as sweet;
A creature not too bright or good
For human natures daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles.
And now I see with eye serene
The very pulse of the machine;
A being breathing thoughtful breath,
A traveller between life and death;
The reason firm, the temperate will,
Endurance, foresight, strength, and skill;
A perfect woman, nobly plann’d,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a Spirit still, and bright
With something of angelic light.
But never doubt I love.
Love Lives by John Clare
Love lives beyond
The tomb, the earth, which fades like dew.
I love the fond,
The faithful, and the true
Love lives in sleep,
The happiness of healthy dreams
Eve’s dews may weep,
But love delightful seems.
‘Tis heard in spring
When light and sunbeams, warm and kind,
On angels’ wing
Bring love and music to the mind.
And where is voice,
So young, so beautiful and sweet
As nature’s choice,
Where Spring and lovers meet?
Love lives beyond
The tomb, the earth, the flowers, and dew.
I love the fond,
The faithful, young and true.
So, We’ll Go No More A-Roving by Lord Byron
So, we’ll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outweighs it sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving,
By the light of the moon
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My Delight and Thy Delight Robert Bridges
My delight and thy delight
Walking, like two angels white,
In the gardens of the night:
My desire and they desire
Twining to a tongue of fire,
Leaping live, and laughing higher:
Thro’ the everlasting strife
In the mysteries of life.
Love, form whom the world begun,
Hath the secret of the sun.
Love can tell, and love alone,
Whence the million stars were strewn,
Why each atom knows its own,
How, in spite of woe and death,
Gay is life, and sweet is beath:
This he taught us, this we knew,
Happy in his science true,
Hand in hand as we stood
‘Neath the shadows of the wood,
Heart to heart as we lay
In the dawning of the day
Friendship by Hartley Coleridge
When we were idlers with the loitering rills,
The need of human love we little noted:
Our love was nature; and the peace that floated
On the white mist,
And dwelt upon the hills,
To sweet accord subdued our wayward wills:
One soul was ours, one mind, one heart devoted,
That, wisely doting, ask’d not why it doted,
And ours the unknown joy, which knowing kills.
But now I find how dear thou wert to me;
That man is more than half of nature’s treasure,
Of that fair beauty which no eye can see,
Of that sweet music which no ear can measure;
And now the streams may sing for others’ pleasure,
The hills sleep on in their eternity.
Never Marry but for Love by William Penn
Never marry but for love; but see that thou lovest what is lovely. He that minds a body and not a soul has not the better part of that relationship, and will consequently lack the noblest comfort of a married life.
Between a man and his wife nothing ought to rule but love. As love ought to bring them together, so it is the best way to keep them well together.
A husband and wife that love one another show their children that they should do so too. Others visibly lose their authority in their families by their contempt of one another, and teach their children to be unnatural by their own examples.
Let not enjoyment lessen, but augment, affection ; it being the basest of passions to like when we have not, what we slight when we possess.
Here it is we ought to search out our pleasure, where the field is large and full of variety, and of an enduring nature; sickness, poverty or disgrace being not able to shake it because it is not under the moving influences of worldly contingencies.
Nothing can be more entire and without reserve; nothing more zealous, affectionate and sincere; nothing more contented than such a couple, nor greater temporal felicity than to be one of them.
Love Rules the Court by Sir Walter Scott
Love rules the court,
The camp, the grove,
And man below, and the saints above,
For love is heaven
And heaven is love
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
Your friend is your needs answered. He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and fireside. For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.
When your friend speaks his mind you fear not the ‘nay’ in your own mind, nor do you withhold the ‘aye’. And when he is silent your heart ceases not to listen to his heart; for without words, in friendship, all thoughts, all desires, all expectations are born and shared, with joy that is unclaimed.
When you are part from your friend, you greive not; for that which you love most in him may be clearer in his absence, as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.
And let there be no purpose in friendship save the deepening of the spirit. For love that seeks aught but the disclosure of its own mystery is not love but a net cast forth; and only the unprofitable is caught.
And let your best be for your friend. If he must know the ebb of your tide, let him know its flood also. For what is your friend that should seek him with hours to kill? Seek him always with hours to live. For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.
One Day I Wrote Her Name upon the Strand by Edmund Spenser
One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
Vain man, said she, that dost in vain assay
A mortal thing so to immortalize”
For I myself shall like to this decay.
And eke my name be wiped out likewise.
Not so (quoth I), let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where, whenas Death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.
On Marriage by Kahlil Gibran
Then Almitra spoke again and said, ‘And what of Marriage, master?’ And he answered saying: You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days. Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together : for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Truth and Beauty by John Hogben
Two souls there are in nature and in life –
The soul of Beauty and the soul of Truth;
Towards which we yearn and strain with restless strife,
Along paths fraught with malice or with ruth; –
In the red face of ridicule and scorn,
Men sought, and still must seek these – or within,
(In spite of all earth’s sorrow and her sin),
The soul is to search and manner born.
And still, in looking Beauty in the face,
With strong Prophetic joy we recognise
Something of what we may be, as we trace
Our own dim shadow in her lustrous eyes;
Nor may we part such with a dull harsh rule –
Beauty is true and Truth is Beautiful!
True Woman – Her Love by Dante Gabriel Rossetti
She loves him; for her infinite soul is Love,
And he her lode-star. Passion in her is
A glass facing his fire, where the bright bliss
Is mirrored, and the heat returned. Yet move
That glass, a stranger’s amorous flame to prove,
And it shall turn, by instant contraries,
Ice to the moon; while her pure fire to his
For whom it burns, clings close I’ the heart’s alcove.
Lo! they are one. With wifely breast to breast
And circling arms, she welcomes all command
Of love, – her soul to answering ardours fann’d:
Yet as morn springs or twilight sinks to rest,
Ah! Who shall say she deems not loveliest
The hour of sisterly sweet hand-in-hand?
Extract from Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall love thee better after death.
Two Lovers ll by Mary F Robinson
I have another lover loving me,
Himself beloved of all men, fair and true.
He would not have me change altho’ I grew
Perfect as Light, because more tenderly
He loves myself than loves what I might be.
Low at my feet he sings the winter through,
And, never won, I love to hear him woo.
For in my heaven both sun and moon is he,
To my bare life a fruitful-flooding Nile,
His voice like April airs that in our isle
Wake sap in trees that slept since autumn went.
His words are all caresses, and his smile
The relic of some Eden Ravihment;
And he that loves me so I call: content.
Extracts from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
Love is a smoke made with the fume of sighs;
Being purg’d. a fire sparkling in lovers’ eyes;
Being vex’d, a sea norish’d with lovers’ tears;
What is it else? A madness most discreet,
A choking gall, and a preserving sweet.
O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!
So shows a snowy dove trooping with crow,
As yonder lady o’er her fellows shows.
The measure done, I’ll watch her place of stand,
And, touching hers, make blessed my rude hand.
Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight!
For I ne’er saw true beauty till this night.
But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East and Juliet is the sun!
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief
That thou her maid art more fair than she.
Be not her maid, since she is envious.
Her vestal livery is but sick and green,
And none but fools do wear it. Cast it off.
It is my lady; O it is my love!
O that she knew she were!
She speaks, yet she says nothing. What of that?
Her eye discourses; I will answer it.
I am too bold; ‘tis not to me she speaks.
Two of the fairest stars in all the heaven,
Having some business, do entreat her eyes
To twinkle in their spheres till they return.
What if he eyes were there, they in her head?
The brightness of her cheek would shame those stars
As daylight doth a lamp; her eyes in heaven
Would through the airy region stream so bright
That birds would sing and think it were not night.
See how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O that I were a glove upon that hand,
That I might torch that cheek!
Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimm’d.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Not lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall death brag thou wanderest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long as lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare
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 lov’d.
She Walks in Beauty by Lord Byron
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!
Extract from the Anniversary by John Donne
All kings, and all their favourites,
All glory of honours, beauties, wits,
The sun itself, which makes times, as they pass,
Is elder by a year now than it was
When thou and I first one another saw:
All other things to their destruction draw,
Only our love hath no decay;
This no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday,
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps his first, last, everlasting day.
A White Rose by John Boyle O’Reilly
The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O the red rose is a falcon,
And the white rose is a dove.
But I send you a cream-white rosebud
With a flush on its petal tips;
For the love that is purest and sweetest
Has a kiss of desire on the lips.
Only our Love by John Donne
Only our love hath no decay;
This, no tomorrow hath, nor yesterday,
Running it never runs from us away,
But truly keeps him first, last, everlasting day?
Love is Enough by William Morris
Love is enough: though the World be a-waning,
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,
Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover
The gold-cups and daises fair blooming thereunder,
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder
And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass’d over,
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter
These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.
Love and Age by Thomas Love Peacock
I play’d with you’ mid cowslips blowing,
When I was six and you were four;
When garlands weaving, flower-balls throwing,
Were pleasures soon to please no more.
Through groves and meads, o’er grass and heather,
With little playmates to and fro,
We wander’d hand in hand together;
But that was sixty years ago.
You grew a lovely roseate maiden,
And still our early love was strong;
Still with no care our days were laden,
They glided joyously along;
And I did love you very dearly,
How dearly words want power to show;
I thought your heart was touch’d as nearly;
But that was fifty years ago.
Then other lovers came around you,
Your beauty grew from year to year,
And many a splendid circle found you
The centre of its glittering sphere.
I saw you then, first vows forsaking,
On rank and wealth your hand bestow;
O, then I thought my heart was breaking! –
But that was forty years ago.
And I lived on, to wed another:
No cause she gave me to repine;
And when I heard you were a mother,
I did not wish the children mine.
My own young flock, in fair progression,
Made up a pleasant Christmas row:
My joy in them was past expression;
But that was thirty years ago.
You grew a matron plump and comely,
You dwelt in fashion’s brightest blaze;
My earthly lot was far more homely;
But I too had my festal days.
No merrier eyes have ever glisten’d
Around the hearth-stones wintry glow,
Than when my youngest child was chtisten’d:
But that was twenty years ago.
Time pass’d. My eldest girl was married,
And I am now a grandsire gray;
One pet of four years old I’ve carried
Among the wild-flower’d meads to play.
In our fields of childish pleasure,
Where now, as then, the cowslips blow,
She fills her basket’s ample measure;
And that is not ten years ago.
A Walled Garden
‘Your marriage’, he said, ‘Should have within it a secret protected place, open to you alone. Imagine it to be a walled garden. Entered by a door to which only you have the key. Within this garden you will cease to be a mother, father, employee, homemaker or any other role which you fulfil in daily life. Here you are yourselves, two people who love each other. Here you can concentrate on one another’s needs. So take my hand and let us go back to our garden. The time we spend together is not wasted but invested. Invested in our future and the nurture of our love.’
(Untitled) by Rumi
The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.
May this be the start of a happy new life
That’s full of special moments to share
May this be the first of your dreams come true
And of hope that will always be there…
May this be the start of a lifetime of trust
And of caring that’s just now begun…
May today be a day that you’ll always remember
The day when your hearts become one…
On Your Wedding Day
Today is a day you will always remember
The greatest in anyone’s life
You’ll start off the day just two people in love
And end it as Husband and Wife
It’s a brand new beginning the start of a journey
With moments to cherish and treasure
And although there’ll be time when you both disagree
These will surely be outweighed by pleasure
You’ll have heard many words of advice in the past
When the secrets of marriage were spoken
But you know that the answers lie hidden inside
Where the bond of tru love lies unbroken
So live happy forever as lovers and friends
It’s the dawn of a new life for you
As you stand there together with love in your eyes
From the moment you whisper ‘I do’
And with luck, all your hopes, and your dreams can be real
May success find its way to your hearts
Tomorrow can bring you the greatest of joys
But today is the day it all starts.
What is Love?
Sooner or later we begin to understand that love is more than verses on valentines and romance in the movies. We begin to know that love is here and now, real and true, the most important thing in our lives. For love is the creator of our favourite memories and the foundation of our fondest dreams. Love is a promise that is always kept, a fortune that can never be spent, a seed that can flourish in even the most unlikely of places. And this radiance that never fades, this mysterious and magical joy, is the greatest treasure of all – one known only by those who love.
Extract from the the Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
‘What is real?’ asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. ‘Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?’ ‘Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When someone loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real.’ ‘Does it hurt? Asked the Rabbit. ‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.’ ‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’ ‘ It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.’ ‘I suppose you are real?’ said the Rabbit. And then he wished he had not said it, for he thought the Skin Horse only smiled. ‘Someone made me real,’ he said. ‘That was a great many years ago; but once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.’
Marriage Advice by Jane Wells
Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger.
Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.
Believe the best rather than the worst.
People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them.
Remember that true friendship is the basis for any lasting relationship.
The person you choose to marry is deserving of the courtesies and kindness you bestow on your friends.
Please hand this down to your children and your children’s children.
Our family is a circle of love and strength.
With every birth and every union, the circle grows.
Every joy shared odds more love.
Every obstacle faced together makes the circle stronger.