By Anna Bailey
Humanist wedding celebrant Anna Bailey shares her favourite modern and non-religious wedding ceremony readings and light-hearted poems for your special day.
Choosing the right funny poem or non-religious wedding ceremony reading for your wedding can feel pretty overwhelming.
Although there are so many non-religious wedding ceremony readings to choose from, you’ll often find the same ones keep cropping up time and time again.
You’ll no doubt want to choose one that is meaningful, while resisting the age-old clichés. Humanist celebrant Anna Bailey shares her favourites below...
The best non-religious wedding ceremony readings -according to a celebrant
As a Humanist UK celebrant, I work with couples to create totally unique and meaningful wedding ceremonies - ones that tells each couple's story, reflects their personalities and values. And, of course, that involves helping them choose the perfect non-religious poems and readings.
If you’ve opted for a civil or religious ceremony, you’ll be required to stick to a set script and formal wording. So choosing a suitable reading for your family member or friend to read is a wonderful way to add a personal touch to your ceremony.
A wedding ‘reading’ doesn’t just need to be a poem or a piece of classical prose. I always encourage couples to think about words that have a special meaning to them – so that could include song lyrics, a book extract, or even a scene from a favourite TV show or film. I’ve listed a few of my favourite non-religious wedding ceremony readings below.
Once you’ve chosen the right poem or reading, you’ll want to ensure whoever is sharing it, feels completely comfortable on the day.
Here are a few tips to share or bear in mind:
- Practise, practise, practise. Weddings are often planned weeks, months, and even years in advance. So, as long as you’re organised, there's plenty of time for the reader to get to know the text. Whether that be for non-religious wedding ceremony readings, a poem or a reading from a religious text. They don’t need to memorise it, but ideally should get a sense of what comes next. Reading the words regularly will ensure they flow on the day, and they’ve got to grips with any unusual pronunciations, alliteration or other stumbling blocks. If there are any words that make them nervous, just replace them with something that is easier to say - will anyone really notice? It may help to talk the pressure off - or, just spell it phonetically. It might help.
- Make sure your reader has printed the poem out. It sounds obvious, but in these technological days, many people decide to read their poem on their phone. Not only does this make it harder to read clearly, but it won’t look as good in the photographs (and wedding photos are not cheap!). I always bring along extra laminated copies of readings for the weddings I conduct. Ideally, readings should be printed in a large font (14pt) and double-spaced, with any tricky words underlined.
- Slow DOWN and speak UP. When people are nervous, it’s natural to rush through a reading. Slowing down will ensure these carefully chosen words don't lose their impact. A speaker should always aim to raise their voice, so it can be heard at the very back of the room or space. Adding a quick note at the top of the page, as a nudge to 'look up and smile' every now again is also a good idea.
This is basic advice most people have heard before. But it's easily forgotten! When the pressure is on, it's calming to have a reminder.
Modern and non-religious wedding ceremony readings
Bob Marley, He’s Not Perfect (Or She’s….)
He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold on to him and give him the most you can.
He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyse.
Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had, because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.
Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist
When he looked into her eyes, he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke — the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert. What the boy felt at that moment was that he was in the presence of the only woman in his life, and that, with no need for words, she recognized the same thing.
Because when you know the language, it’s easy to understand that someone in the world awaits you, whether it’s in the middle of the desert or in some great city. And when two such people encounter each other, the past and the future become unimportant. There is only that moment, and the incredible certainty that everything under the sun has been written by one hand only. It is the hand that evokes love, and creates a twin soul for every person in the world. Without such love, one’s dreams would have no meaning.
When Harry Met Sally
I love that you get cold when it’s seventy-one degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour-and-a-half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes.
And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. 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. —Harry
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 use 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. —Noah
Modern, funny and light-hearted poems for wedding ceremonies
Falling in Love is Like Owning a Dog - by Taylor Mali
First of all, it's a big responsibility, Especially in a town like ___________*. 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.
*Add in the couple's hometown.
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 idea
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 Art of Marriage, by William 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 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 wings of an angel. It is not looking for perfection in each other.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience, understanding and a sense of humour. 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.
I Will Be Here by Steven Curtis Chapman
Tomorrow morning if you wake up And the sun does not appear I… I will be here If in the dark we lose sight of love Hold my hand and have no fear ‘Cause I… I will be here I will be here
When you feel like being quiet When you need to speak your mind I will listen And I will be here When the laughter turns to crying Through the winning, losing and trying We’ll be together ‘Cause I will be here
Tomorrow morning if you wake up And the future is unclear I… I will be here As sure as seasons are made for change Our lifetimes are made for years So I… I will be here I will be here
And you can cry on my shoulder When the mirror tells us we’re older I will hold you And I will be here To watch you grow in beauty And tell you all the things you are to me And just as sure as seasons are made for change Our lifetimes are made for years So I… I will be here We’ll be together I will be here
I Wanna Be Yours by John Cooper-Clark
Let me be your vacuum cleaner Breathing in your dust Let me 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
Let me be your raincoat For those frequent rainy days Let me be your dreamboat When you wanna sail away. Let me be your teddy bear Take me with you anywhere I don’t care I wanna be yours
Let me be your electric meter I will not run out Let me be the electric heater You get cold without Let me be your setting lotion Hold your hair with deep devotion Deep as the deep Atlantic ocean That’s how deep is my emotion Deep deep deep deep deep deep I don’t wanna be hers I wanna be yours
Why Marriage? by Mari Nichols-Haining
Because to the depths of me, I long to love one person, With all my heart, my soul, my mind, my body... Because I need a forever friend to trust with the intimacies of me, Who won't hold them against me? Who loves me when I'm unlikable? Who sees the small child in me, and Who looks for the full potential of me..?
Because I need to cuddle in the warmth of the night With someone who is thankful for me, With someone I feel blessed to hold... Because marriage means opportunity To grow in love in friendship... Because marriage is a discipline To be added to a list of achievements... Because marriages do not fail, people fail When they enter into marriage Expecting another to make them whole...
Because, knowing this, I promise myself to take full responsibility For my spiritual, mental and physical wholeness I create me, I take half of the responsibility for my marriage Together we create our marriage... Because with this understanding The possibilities are limitless.
With You In My Heart by Mick Jennings
With you in my heart, my life is complete, You're the air that I breathe and the food that I eat. You are my soul mate, the beat in my heart, It feels like a year each second we're apart.
With you in my heart I'm walking on air, I can imagine your perfume and the touch of your hair. Your beautiful eyes, so kind and so green, The loveliest sight I ever have seen.
With you in my heart, I am brim full of pride, It's as though I can achieve anything with you by my side. You're my rock, you're my angel, my one true love, You're my present from heaven, my gift from above.
With you in my heart, I love you so much, How caring you are, my soul you do touch. You're a beautiful princess, a pleasure to know, My love for you just continues to grow.
With you in my heart, I'm the happiest man on earth, I feel this has been planned this since the day of my birth. I could never love anyone the way I love you, I hope and I pray that you feel the same way too.
With you in my heart, through the good and the bad, I'll be there when you need me, when you're hurting or sad. In fact I'll be there for you any night, any day,
Whenever you need me, you just have to say. With you in my heart, it really makes my day, With the things that you do and the things that you say. You and Eva deserve happiness and I will ensure,
From now, only good times come knocking at your door. With you in my heart, I hope it feels good, And that I am caring for you the way that I should. I will always be happy, just by the love that you give, I will protect you and love you for as long as I live.
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'
Nothing Else Matters by Metallica
So close, no matter how far Couldn't be much more from the heart Forever trusting who we are And nothing else matters
Never opened myself this way Life is ours, we live it our way All these words I don't just say And nothing else matters
Trust I seek and I find in you Every day for us something new Open mind for a different view And nothing else matters
Never cared for what they do Never cared for what they know But I knowSo close, no matter how far Couldn't be much more from the heart Forever trusting who we are And nothing else matters
Never cared for what they do Never cared for what they know But I know
I never opened myself this way Life is ours, we live it our way All these words I don't just say And nothing else matters
Trust I seek and I find in you Every day for us, something new Open mind for a different view And nothing else matters
Never cared for what they say Never cared for games they play Never cared for what they do Never cared for what they know And I know, yeah!
So close, no matter how far Couldn't be much more from the heart Forever trusting who we are No, nothing else matters
Were your favourite non-religious wedding ceremony readings in the list above? If not, share your favourite non-religious wedding ceremony readings with us in the comments below.
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