Choosing wedding readings for your big day needn't be difficult. Whether you're a traditional bride at heart or want something alternative or funny, there are plenty of wedding readings out there which you haven't heard at every single wedding before.
For traditionalists, though E.E Cummings' 'I carry your heart with me' is beautiful, think to yourself: is it 'us'? As tear-jerking as a wedding reading might be, the first, and most important rule for wedding readings is: can you relate to it? If you've been married before, for example, a poem that speaks about the madness of first love may not be altogether relevant for you as a couple.
An extract from your favourite novel, song or film is the perfect place to start as its personal to you. The good news is, whether it's a bible extract, a Shakespearean play, a passage from Harry Potter or a Beatles song, nothing is off limits (but do check this first, as in civil ceremonies for example, you aren't allowed any religious or spiritual references).
While it's your big day and the wedding readings must ultimately be your choice, if you're stuck, ask family and friends what they would recommend. If your Dad will read in church, ask him: what would he like to read that he thinks relates to you as a couple? If nothing else, it'll get the ball rolling and help you narrow down your favourites.
Want a traditional reading for your wedding? Here are five of the most beautiful:
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 loved.
These I Can Promise by Mark Twain
I cannot promise you a life of sunshine;
I cannot promise you 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 true and ever growing;
A hand to hold in your's through each tomorrow
Extract from Arcadia by Sir Philip Sydney
My true-love hath my heart and I have his,
By just exchange one for the other given:
I hold his dear, and mine he cannot miss;
There never was a bargain better driven.
His heart in me keeps me and him 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.
His heart his wound received from my sight;
My heart was wounded with his wounded heart;
For as from me on him his hurt did light,
So still, methought, in me his hurt did smart:
Both equal hurt, in this change sought our bliss,
My true love hath my heart and I have his.
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 sometimes declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimm'd:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
Love's Omnipresence by Joshua Sylvester
Were I as base as is the lowly plain,
And you, my Love, as high as heaven above,
Yet should the thoughts of me your humble swain
Ascend to heaven in honour of my Love.
Were I as high as heaven above the plain,
And you, my Love, as humble and as low
As are the deepest bottoms of the main,
Wheresoe'er you were, with you my love should go.
Were you the earth, dear Love, and I the skies,
My Love should shine on your like to the sun,
And look upon you with tenthousand eyes,
Till heaven waxed blind, and till the world were done.
Wheresoe'er I am, below or else above you,
Wheresoe'er you are, my heart shall truly love you.
Extract from '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 lies in sleep,
The happiness of healthy dreams,
Eve's dews may weep,
But love delightful seems.
'Tis seen in flowers,
And in the even's pearly dew
On earth's green hours,
And in the heaven's eternal blue.
'Tis heard in spring
When light and sunbeams, warm and kind,
On angel's wing
Bring love and music to the wind.
And where is voice
So young, so beautiful, so sweet
As nature's choice,
Where spring and lovers meet?
Love lies beyond
The tomb, the earth, the flowers, and dew.
I love the fond,
The faithful, young, and true.
No 43 from 'Sonnets from the Portugese' 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 everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
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 with 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 but love the better after death.