If you’re having a civil wedding ceremony in 2021, you need to choose a wedding reading that doesn’t mention God and isn’t religious. Modern wedding readings offer plenty of choice to help you avoid this.
23 of Our Favourite Modern Wedding Readings
While these quotes, extracts, and verses work wonderfully for modern wedding readings and other wedding speeches, we think they’ll also work beautifully if used as part of your wedding vows!
1) All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten – Robert Fulgham
“All of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.
These are the things I learned…
Don’t hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
Say sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Give them to someone who feels sad.
Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day.
Take a nap every afternoon.
Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the plastic cup? The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.”
Why we adore it: This verse from American author Robert Fulgham is a wonderful wedding speech idea that’s easily reworked to suit you. It’s both sentimental and a little on the humorous side, and we can imagine it as a best man’s speech or groom’s speech.
2) Captain Correlli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernières
“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love, have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.”
Why we adore it: We love this extract from Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières because it speaks of how relationships are things that need to be nurtured, and not only is it perfect for modern wedding readings, but it would also work wonderfully for an anniversary milestone or a renewal of wedding vows.
3) The Notebook – Nicholas Sparks
“Poets often describe love as an emotion that we can’t control, one that overwhelms logic and common sense. That’s what it was like for me. I didn’t plan on falling in love with you, and I doubt if you planned on falling in love with me. But once we met, it was clear that neither of us could control what was happening to us. We fell in love, despite our differences, and once we did, something rare and beautiful was created. For me, love like that has happened only once, and that’s why every minute we spent together has been seared in my memory.”
Why we adore it: The Notebook has become a staple of romance. It’s full to the brim with some very sweet quotes perfect for both brides and grooms, making it a perfect source for modern wedding readings.
4) i carry your heart – e. e. cummings
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)
Why we adore it: It has to be said that e. e. cummings didn’t follow the rules when it came to poetry or even punctuation, but his beautiful sentiments will add so much to a wedding ceremony when read aloud.
5) Quote From How I Met Your Mother
“When you love someone you just…don’t stop. Ever. Even when people roll their eyes or call you crazy. Even then. Especially then. You just…you don’t give up… If I could just, you know, take the whole world’s advice and move on and find someone else, that wouldn’t be love. That would be…some other disposable thing that is not worth fighting for. But that is not what this is.”
Why we adore it: What could be more modern than using a reading from your favourite TV show? Contemporary classic How I Met Your Mother sums up what it means to be in love.
6) Have You Got a Biro I Can Borrow? – Clive James
“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”
Why we adore it: This is a beautiful extract from Clive James’ “Have You Got a Biro I Can Borrow?” and one of the sweetest modern wedding readings we can think of (especially if you and your partner were classmates at school).
7) Soul Mates – Lang Leav
“I don’t know how you are so familiar to me—or why it feels less like I am getting to know you and more as though I am remembering who you are. How every smile, every whisper brings me closer to the impossible conclusion that I have known you before, I have loved you before—in another time, a different place, some other existence.”
Why we adore it: Another of our favourite modern wedding readings is to use a beautiful verse, like this simply stunning verse from Lang Leav about soul mates. It’s perfect for all of those people who feel such a deep connection to their partner that they feel they must have met somewhere before.
8) Extract from a Letter by Johnny Cash to June Carter
‘We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each others’ minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit.
Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met.’
Why we adore it: Johnny Cash and June Carter share one of the most famous love stories out there – she inspired many of his songs, and together they inspired the Oscar-winning film Walk the Line. This simple but so sweet sentiment really hits the nail on the head when it comes to describing every day love – which is the best kind of love.
9) Quote from Sleepless In Seattle
“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together … and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming home … only to no home I’d ever known … I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like … magic.”
Why we adore it: Sleepless in Seattle is a classic romantic movie, and you get some of the best wedding readings from movies. It’s difficult to find a much more magical speech than this.
10) Quote from When Harry Met Sally
“I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
Why we adore it: You have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by this beautiful quote – and you know that it’s so simple, yet so true. You could use this as a starting point for creating your own wedding reading.
11) The Princess Bride – William Goldman
“Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches…I have stayed these years in my hovel because of you. I have taught myself languages because of you. I have made my body strong because I thought you might be pleased by a strong body. I have lived my life with only the prayer that some sudden dawn you might glance in my direction. I have not known a moment in years when the sight of you did not send my heart careening against my rib cage. I have not known a night when your visage did not accompany me to sleep. There has not been a morning when you did not flutter behind my waking eyelids…
I love you. Okay? Want it louder? I love you. Spell it out, should I? I ell-oh-vee-ee why-oh-you. Want it backward? You love I…”
Why we adore it: There’s so much passion in this quote, making it the perfect modern wedding reading for couples who are crazy in love with each other.
12) Quote from How I Met Your Mother
“But love doesn’t make sense. You can’t logic your way into or out of it. Love is totally nonsensical. But we have to keep doing it, or else we’re lost and love is dead and humanity should just pack it in. Because love is the best thing we do.”
Why we adore it: This second How I Met Your Mother quote is another great option for modern wedding readings. While less poetic than a song or poem it feels raw and real, and that’s part of its charm.
13) 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.’
Why we adore it: It’s a little bit quirky, making it a great choice for couples who don’t want an overly romantic wedding reading. It would also make a cool alternative first dance song – The Arctic Monkeys recorded a great cover of it!
14) She’s Not Perfect – Bob Marley
“She’s not perfect – you aren’t either, and the two of you may never be perfect together – but if she can make you laugh, cause you to think twice, and admit to being human and making mistakes, hold on to her and give her the most you can. She may not be thinking about you every second of the day, but she will give you a part of her that she knows you can break – her heart. So don’t hurt her, don’t change her, don’t analyse and don’t expect more than she can give. Smile when she makes you happy, let her know when she makes you mad, and miss her when she’s not there.”
Why we adore it: Bob Marley remains an icon, and as well as creating great music he created a fantastic quote for modern wedding readings when he talked about love, trust, and accepting each other in spite of imperfections. This quote is also easily reworked when talking about the groom.
15) Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog – by Taylor Mali
“First of all, it’s a big responsibility,
So think long and hard before deciding on love.
On the other hand, love gives you a sense of security:
when you’re walking down the street late at night
and you have a leash on love
ain’t no one going to mess with you.
Because crooks and muggers think love is unpredictable.
Who knows what love could do in its own defense?
On cold winter nights, love is warm.
It lies between you and lives and breathes
and makes funny noises.
Love wakes you up all hours of the night with its needs.
It needs to be fed so it will grow and stay healthy.
Love doesn’t like being left alone for long.
But come home and love is always happy to see you.
It may break a few things accidentally in its passion for life,
but you can never be mad at love for long.
Is love good all the time? No! No!
Love can be bad. Bad, love, bad! Very bad love.
Love makes messes.
Love leaves you little surprises here and there.
Love needs lots of cleaning up after.
Sometimes you just want to get love fixed.
Sometimes you want to roll up a piece of newspaper
and swat love on the nose,
not so much to cause pain,
just to let love know Don’t you ever do that again!
Sometimes love just wants to go for a nice long walk.
Because love loves exercise.
It runs you around the block and leaves you panting.
It pulls you in several different directions at once,
or winds around and around you
until you’re all wound up and can’t move.
But love makes you meet people wherever you go.
People who have nothing in common but love
stop and talk to each other on the street.
Throw things away and love will bring them back,
again, and again, and again.
But most of all, love needs love, lots of it.
And in return, love loves you and never stops.”
Why we adore it: It’s such a cute poem and it’s perfect for the couple who are doggo mad! It’s definitely a wedding reading for those planning to have their dog at their wedding.
16) The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
“People say they ‘find’ love, as if it were an object hidden under a rock. But love takes many forms, and it is never the same for any man and woman. What people find then is a certain love. And Eddie found a certain love with Marguerite, a grateful love, a deep but quiet love, one that he knew, above all else, was irreplaceable.”
Why we adore it: It’s a simple and straightforward paragraph about the kind of love that drives people to marriage – that ‘certain’ love that is irreplaceable.
17) Carrie’s Poem – Sex and the City
“His hello was the end of her endings
Her laugh was their first step down the aisle
His hand would be hers to hold forever
His forever was as simple as her smile
He said she was what was missing
She said instantly she knew
She was a question to be answered
And his answer was ‘I do'”
Why we adore it: We love the episode where Carrie has to write a poem for her friends’ wedding. It’s such a lovely idea, but if you don’t think you can write your own wedding reading, it’s fine to borrow Carrie’s!
18) The One – Rupi Kaur
They should feel like home
A place that grounds your life
Where you go to take the day off
Why we adore it: We love this simple but beautiful verse about the one by Rupi Kaur – it’s lovely for a brief wedding reading, part of your vows, or even printed on your wedding stationery.
19) Extract from A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
At night, there was the feeling that we had come home, feeling no longer alone, waking in the night to find the other one there, and not gone away; all other things were unreal. We slept when we were tired and if we woke the other one woke too so one was not alone. Often a man wishes to be alone and a woman wishes to be alone too and if they love each other they are jealous of that in each other, but I can truly say we never felt that. We could feel alone when we were together, alone against the others. We were never lonely and never afraid when we were together.
Why we adore it: You could be forgiven for thinking Ernest Hemingway wrote about fishing and war and not romance, but actually he has written some beautifully romantic pieces, such as this one about finding someone you can be alone together with.
20) Marriage is Being in Love For the Rest of Your Life – Chris Ardis
Marriage is love walking hand in hand together. It’s laughing with each other about silly little things and learning to discuss big things with care and tenderness. In marriage, love is trusting each other when you’re apart. It’s getting over disappointments and hurts, knowing that these are present in all relationships. It’s the realisation that there is no one else in this world that you’d rather be with than the one you’re married to. It’s thinking of new things to do together; it’s growing old together. Marriage is being in love for the rest of your life.
Why we adore it: This is a wonderful summary of what it means to be married and share a true partnership with someone.
21) Close Close All Night – Elizabeth Bishop
Close, close all night
the lovers keep.
They turn together
in their sleep,
Close as two pages
in a book
that read each other
in the dark.
Each knows all
the other knows,
learned by heart
from head to toes.
Why we adore it: This simple poem was written by feminist and one-time Poet Laureate Elizabeth Bishop, whilst living with her same-sex lover. It’s a perfect pick for any kind of wedding or civil partnership, especially if the couple are book lovers.
22) From Beginning to End – Robert Fulghum
The symbolic vows that you are about to make are a way of saying to one another, “You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed—well, I meant it all, every word.” Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another—acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, dancing partner, and even teacher, for you have learned much from one another in these last few years. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never quite be the same between you.
For after these vows, you shall say to the world, this—is my husband, this—is my wife.
Why we adore it: Why wouldn’t we adore it?! It’s one of our favourite modern wedding readings and is perfectly set up for a close friend or family member to read during a wedding ceremony and has a beautiful ending.
23) The Art of Marriage – Wilfred A. Peterson
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 a day.
It is never going to sleep angry.
It is at no time taking the other for granted;
the courtship should not end with the honeymoon,
it should continue through all the years.
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 wings of an angel.
It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding 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 things of the spirit.
It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.
It is establishing a relationship in which the independence is equal, dependence is mutual and the obligation is reciprocal.
It is not only marrying the right partner, it is being the right partner.
Why we adore it: Wedding readings are supposed to add something to the ceremony, and it’s a great chance to share wisdom with the newlyweds. This modern wedding reading by Wilfred A. Peterson does exactly that.
For more wedding readings, don’t miss our pick of some of the most romantic wedding readings.