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19 Alternative Wedding Readings for Non-Traditional Couples

Want a reading with a bit of a difference at your wedding?

Like just about everything else involved in your big day wedding readings are a deeply personal choice and the process of choosing yours shouldn’t be rushed.

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While some couples know instantly the pieces they would like to feature in their ceremony, others may struggle for ideas. If you’re not sure which readings you would like but you do know that you’d like to stray from traditional choices and popular favourites, then this is the article for you.

There are plenty of romantic and funny wedding readings that crop up in ceremonies time and time again and while they’re certainly popular for a reason, they’re not for everyone. If you’re looking for something a little unique and alternative then you’re going to need to think outside the box.

Romantic novels, poems and movies often contain the perfect material for wedding readings, but for something a little more original we recommend looking further afield. Think of the books you love, films or songs, not all of them will be romantic but they may feature a line or passage that says something about you as a couple. Whether it’s a funny story or statement that just feels right for you, it’s the perfect alternative wedding reading.

If you’ve scanned your brain for fitting material but you still can’t find something that speaks to you then don’t fear. We have plenty of ideas that you may not have thought of and every single one is totally unique – just like you.

Remember, there are no rules when it comes to choosing your wedding readings. The choice is all yours and you should only feature readings that are true to you as a couple. Happy reading!

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

If you and your partner both love to read and have been searching for a wedding reading from literature, this beautiful extract from Philip Pullman’s ‘The Amber Spyglass’ could be ideal.

It’s not overly sentimental making it a dream choice for couples who want an alternative wedding reading to the typical gushingly romantic pieces – this text is romantic but in it’s own way. Who doesn’t feel compelled by the idea of atoms searching for their other half and becoming totally inseparable? It perfectly describes the totally consuming, passionate love that is the basis for a dream marriage.

half up half down wedding hair with a veil

I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till i find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… we’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… and when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…

I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper Clarke

If you’re looking for a poem with a bit of humour for your wedding ceremony, what about ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ by John Cooper Clarke? It’s guaranteed to raise a smile from your guests.

Advice for other couples

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

Let Me Put it This Way by Simon Armitage

This short, simple poem by Simon Ermitage is one of our favourite modern wedding readings – it’s about someone who would rather remove their own arm than disturb their sleeping partner. We think it’s the ideal choice if you don’t want a romantic wedding reading as that’s not your style, but instead want something that suits your love in a totally non-slushy way.

Advice for other couples

Let me put it this way:
if you came to lay
your sleeping head
against my arm or sleeve,
and if my arm went dead,
or if I had to take my leave
at midnight, I should rather
cleave it from the joint or seam
than make a scene
or bring you round.
There,
how does that sound?

First Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke

If you’re looking for a brief ceremony reading, this beautiful piece by Rainer Maria Rilke is short but definitely sweet.

First Poems by Rainer Maria Rilke

Understand, I’ll slip quietly
Away from the noisy crowd
When I see the pale
Stars rising, blooming over the oaks.
I’ll pursue solitary pathways
Through the pale twilit meadows,
With only this one dream:
You come too.

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

This poem is perfect if you or your partner work in construction – but even if you don’t, it’s actually a really gorgeous piece of writing about having secure foundations to your relationship. It’s beautiful without being overly sentimental.

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

Albert Einstein on Relativity

If we were to say ‘Albert Einstein’ to you, you’d probably think of wild hair and science, right? However, the guy had some pretty nice things to say about love too – specifically, how it fits in to his theory of relativity. It’s ideal if you want a non-religious wedding ceremony reading that is sweet but scientific.

Wedding advice for other couples

Gravitation cannot be held responsible for people falling in love. How on earth can you explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a biological phenomenon as first love? Put your hand on a stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with that special girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

If you’re looking for the perfect wedding reading for a child, what about this cute extract from ‘The Velveteen Rabbit’ about how love makes everything real?

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 a child 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 all loose in the 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.”

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was known for his tough-guy persona and love of adventure, but he also wrote some pretty beautiful prose. This extract from his wartime novel ‘A Farewell to Arms’ is ideal if you’ve overcome obstacles together or really see yourselves as a team.

The couple

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.

Bob Marley on Love

Bob Marley didn’t just make great music – he also had some pretty lovely ideas about love to share too. We think this reading would be great for a best man to read during the ceremony, or as part of a best man’s speech.

Advice for other couples

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.

The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach

If you think of your partner as your soul mate, this dreamy definition of soul mates by Richard Bach could be the perfect reading for your wedding ceremony. We especially love the closing line: ‘our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life’.

The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach

A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.

I Like You by Sandol Stoddard

This cute poem by Sandol Stoddard is a little different to your traditional wedding reading and would actually work really well as a reading for a younger person, if you have children attending your wedding. This would be good either as a ceremony reading or as the opening to one of the speeches. Know someone who’s nervous about giving their speech? Direct them to our amazing guide to everything you need to know about wedding speeches.

I Like You by Sandol Stoddard

I like you and I know why.
I like you because you are a good person to like.
I like you because when I tell you something special, you know it’s special
And you remember it a long, long time.
You say, ‘Remember when you told me something special?’
And both of us remember

When I think something is important
You think it’s important too
We have good ideas
When I say something funny, you laugh
I think I’m funny and you think I’m funny too
Hah-hah!

…And I like you because when I am feeling sad
You don’t always cheer me up right away
Sometimes it is better to be sad…
I like you because if I am mad at you
Then you are mad at me too
It’s awful when the other person isn’t…

I like you because I don’t know why but
Everything that happens is nicer with you
I can’t remember when I didn’t like you
It must have been lonesome then
I like you because because because
I forget why I like you but I do.

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is famous for her beautiful use of words, and her description of how she feels about her husband makes for a lovely reading for a bride, whether as part of the ceremony or as the basis for a bride’s speech. You could even be inspired by it and write your own version about how your partner makes you feel.

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath by Sylvia Plath

I feel good with my husband: I like his warmth and his bigness and his being-there and his making and his jokes and stories and what he reads and how he likes fishing and walks and pigs and foxes and little animals and is honest and not vain or fame-crazy and how he shows his gladness for what I cook him and joy for when I make him something, a poem or a cake, and how he is troubled when I am unhappy and wants to do anything so I can fight out my soul-battles and grow up with courage and a philosophical ease. I love his good smell and his body that fits with mine as if they were made in the same body-shop to do just that. What is only pieces, doled out here and there to this boy and that boy, that made me like pieces of them, is all jammed together in my husband. So I don’t want to look around anymore: I don’t need to look around for anything.

Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog by Taylor Mali

If you want to include pets at your wedding but it’s not allowed, you can still do it with a reading. This cute reading about dogs will go down a storm at a wedding where the couple’s pet is their baby.

Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog by Taylor Mali

Falling in love is like owning a dog

First of all, it’s a big responsibility, especially in a city like London.
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 defence?
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.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

Want wedding vow inspiration from literature? What about this wonderful excerpt from Jonathan Safran Foer’s ‘Everything is Illuminated’? It willl leave no doubt about how you feel about your partner.

Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer

I love you also means I love you more than anyone loves you,

or has loved you, or will love you,

and also, I love you in a way that no one loves you,

or has loved you, or will love you, and also,

I love you in a way that I love no one else,

and never have loved anyone else,

and never will love anyone else.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

If music is a big part of the couple’s life, this reading from Boris Pasternak’s ‘Doctor Zhivago’ could be ideal as it compares the couple’s thoughts to songs.

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Oh, what a love it was, utterly free, unique, like nothing else on earth! Their thoughts were like other people’s songs.

They loved each other, not driven by necessity, by the ‘blaze of passion’ often falsely ascribed to love. They loved each other because everything around them willed it, the trees and the clouds and the sky over their heads and the earth under their feet. Perhaps their surrounding world, the strangers they met in the street, the wide expanses they saw on their walks, the rooms in which they lived or met, took more delight in their love than they themselves did.

If you love this idea, we bet you’ll love our edit of the most unusual first dance song choices.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy has a magical way with words and this extract from ‘The Road’ is truly powerful. If you’re having a star themed wedding this is the perfect fit.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Lying under such a myriad of stars.

The sea’s black horizon.

He rose and walked out and stood barefoot in the sand and watched the pale surf appear all down the shore and roll and crash and darken again.

When he went back to the fire he knelt and smoothed her hair as she slept and he said if he were God he would have made the world just so and no different.

Having a Coke with You By Frank O’Hara

For a really unusual reading, this poem by Frank O’Hara is a great choice. The rhythm is unusual, so be sure to pick someone who is confident reading out loud.

Having a Coke with You By Frank O’Hara

Having a Coke with you is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as stillas solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of itin the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forthbetween each other like a tree breathing through its spectaclesand the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did themI look at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the worldexcept possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurismjust as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefullyas the horse it seems they were all cheated of some marvellous experiencewhich is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

Wide Awake by Hilary T. Smith

When you truly love someone, you know all their flaws and secrets and still think they are the most wonderful person in the world. This is totally summed up in this Hilary T. Smith piece.

Wide Awake by Hilary T. Smith

People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

At Princess Eugenie’s wedding, her sister Beatrice read this passage from The Great Gatsby, explaining that it brought Jack to mind as soon as she read it.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

“He smiled understandingly- much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life.  It faced–or seemed to face–the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour.

It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.  Precisely at that point it vanished—and I was looking at an elegant young rough-neck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Some time before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care.”

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton

If you’re looking for something cute and a bit tongue-in-cheek for your wedding ceremony reading, this sweet little poem about penguins could be ideal – bonus points if you both love penguins!

Your Personal Penguin by Sandra Boynton

I like you a lot.
You’re funny and kind.
So let me explain
What I have in mind.
I want to be your personal penguin.
I want to walk right by your side.
I want to be your personal penguin.
I want to travel with you far and wide.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James

This extract from Henry James is really lovely – and despite the title, it doesn’t just have to be directed to a lady. If you’re writing your own wedding vows you can definitely be inspired by this passionate piece of prose.

The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
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It has made me better loving you… it has made me wiser, and easier, and — I won’t pretend to deny — brighter and nicer and even stronger. I used to want a great many things before, and to be angry that I didn’t have them. Theoretically I was satisfied, as I once told you. I flattered myself I had limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation; I used to have morbid, sterile, hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I really am satisfied, because I can’t think of anything better.