Readings and poems - civil ceremonies
Readings and poems - civil ceremonies

Your choice of readings will help set the mood for your big day, so choose something that reflects your own feelings or has a special significance to the two of you. If you want to print the words of any readings or songs in your order of service, ask your registrar whether you need copyright clearance. This can usually be arranged for a small fee.

It’s also worth thinking carefully about who you want to read at your wedding. Ask someone who is able to speak clearly and confidently in public (there’s no point you spending hours choosing a favourite poem if it’s inaudible on the day!). If they’re planning to learn the piece off by heart, it’s still worth them having a printed copy in front of them – just in case. And ask your venue in advance whether the reader will have a microphone to speak into – if not, they’ll want to practice projecting their voice so that the guests at the back can still hear.

If you haven’t chosen your reading/s yet, check out the extracts below for inspiration. Most of them contain no religious references so they should be suitable for a civil ceremony – but always check with your registrar. In some cases, you may also be able to include one of these pieces at a religious ceremony (though you may need to have a religious reading as well). Speak to your priest or vicar for more advice.

The Beauty of Love

The question is asked: “Is there anything more beautiful in life than a young couple clasping hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be anything more beautiful than young love?” And the answer is given: “Yes, there is a more beautiful thing.

"It is the spectacle of an old man and an old woman finishing their journey together on that path. Their hands are gnarled but still clasped; their faces are seamed but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired but still strong with love and devotion. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love.”


You can give without loving

You can give without loving but you can never love without giving.

The great acts of love are done by those who are habitually performing small acts of kindness. We pardon to the extent that we love. Love is knowing that even when you are alone, you will never be truly alone again. And great happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved. Loved for ourselves. And even loved in spite of ourselves.

Victor Hugo, from Les Miserables

To my bride

To my bride, I give you my heart

Sharing love each day, from the very start.

To my bride, I give you my kiss

Filling each day with joy and bliss.

To my bride I give you my being

To love, to play, to work and to sing

To my bride I give you my mind

Learning each day to be more kind.

To my bride I give you my soul

Growing together to be more whole.

To my bride I give you my life

Rejoicing each day that you are my wife.

Steven Reiser

Our great adventure

We are today still dizzy with the astonishment of love.

We are surrounded by affection – by smiles and kindliness,

by flowers and music and gifts and celebration.

Yet they enclose a silence

where we are close with one another.

My eyes see only you.

I hear nothing but the words we speak to one another

This is the day we start our life together.

This is our new beginning

Pamela Dugdale

Married love

You and I

Have so much love

That it burns like a fire

In which we bake a lump of clay

Moulded into a figure of you

And a figure of me

Then we take both of them

And break them into pieces

And mix the pieces with water

And mould again a figure of you

And a figure of me

I am in your clay

You are in my clay

In life we share a single quilt

In death we will share one coffin

Kuan Tao-Sheng

True Love

True love is a sacred flame

That burns eternally

And none can dim its special glow

Or change its destiny

True love speaks in tender tones

And hears with gentle ear

True love gives with open heart

And true love conquers fear

True love makes no harsh demands

It neither rules nor binds

And true love holds with gentle hands

The heart that it entwines

Author unknown

These I can promise

I cannot promise you a lifetime of sunshine

I cannot promise riches, wealth or gold

I cannot promise you an easy pathway

That leads away from change or growing old

But I can promise all my heart's devotion

A smile to chase away your tears of sorrow

A love that's ever true and ever growing

A hand to hold in yours through each tomorrow.


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 they'll be times 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 true 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


Doves Poem

Two doves meeting in the sky

Two loves hand in hand, eye to eye

Two parts of a loving whole

Two hearts and a single soul

Two stars shining big and bright

Two fires bringing warmth and light

Two songs played in perfect tune

Two flowers growing into bloom

Two doves gliding in the air

Two loves free without a care

Two parts of a loving whole

Two hearts and a single soul

Two dreams found before too late

Two lives together bound by fate

Two people cling to one another

Two people in love with each other

Two doves, can you see them soar?

Two loves – who could ask for more?

Two parts of a loving whole

Two hearts and a single soul

Author unknown

A Good Wedding Cake

4lb of love
1/2lb of sweet temper

1lb of butter of youth

1lb of blindness of faults

1lb of pounded wit

1lb of good humour

2lbs of sweet argument

1 pint of rippling laughter

1 wine glass of common sense

A dash of modesty

Put the love, good looks and a sweet temper into a well-furnished house. Beat the butter of youth into a cream and mix well together with the blindness of faults. Stir the pounded wit and good humour into the sweet argument, then add the rippling laughter and common sense. Work the whole together until everything is well mixed and bake gently for ever.

Author unknown


A marriage is a promise

That two hearts gladly make

A promise to be tender

To help, to give and take

A marriage is a promise

To be kind and understanding

To be thoughtful and considerate

Fair and undemanding

A marriage is a promise

To share one life together

A love-filled promise meant to be

Kept lovingly forever


The Art of Marriage

A good marriage must be created,

In 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 a day.

It is never going to sleep angry.

It is having a mutual sense of values and common objectives.

It is standing together and facing the world.

It is forming a circle of love that gathers in the whole family.

It is speaking words of appreciation and demonstrating gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is having the capacity to forgive and forget.

It is giving each other an atmosphere in which each can grow.

It is a common search for the good and the beautiful.

It is not only marrying the right person –

It is being the right partner.


If Thou Must Love Me 

If thou must love me, let it be for naught

Except for love's sake only. Do not say

“I love her for her smile...her look...

her way of speaking gently -for a trick of thought

That falls in well with mine and certes bought

A sense of pleasant ease on such a day.”

For these things in themselves, beloved, may be changed,

or changed for thee – and love so wrought may be unwrought so.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Doubt that the stars are fire

Doubt that the sun doth move

Doubt truth to be a liar

But never doubt I love thee

William Shakespeare from Hamlet

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediment. 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 not shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Loves 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 write nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

The Bargain

My true love hath my heart, and I have his,

By just exchange one for another given:

I hold his dear and mine he cannot miss,

There never was a better bargain driven:

My true love hath my heart, and I have his.

His heart in me keeps him and me in one,

My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides:

He loves my heart, for once it was his own.

I cherish his because in me it bides:

My true love hath my heart, and I have his

Sir Philip Sidney

Love and Friendship

Love is like the wild rose-briar

Friendship like the holly tree

The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms

But which will bloom most constantly?

The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,

Its summer blossoms scent the air

Yet wait till winter comes again

And who will call the wild-briar fair?

Then, scorn the silly rose-wreath now

And deck with thee the holly's sheen,

Then when December blights thy brow

He still may leave thy garland green.

Emily Bronte

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Hannah3 This is the second time I've seen Bronte's "Love and Friendship" on a wedding reading webpage - it's actually saying friendship lasts longer than love...possibly true, but not so suitable for a wedding!

Posted: 26/09/2012 at 17:29