When you’re heavily involved in planning, organising, and making your own wedding there are so many details to consider. I found it was quite easy to get wrapped up in whether or not I should wind ivy inside the tealight lanterns on the dinner tables (ran out of time/forgot in the end!) and other details, without putting as much thought into our ceremony.
And however beautiful, pretty, rustic, handmade we want to create our weddings, however great that need for attention to small details, there wouldn’t be all that if we weren’t getting married. I think partly I put off getting to grips with the content of our wedding ceremony because it seemed an insurmountable task to craft something that was so heavy and laden with meaning.
I find myself getting so lost in trying to create meaning with words when it comes to the different ways you can say ‘I love you’, that I end up just throwing up my hands and admitting defeat – sometimes ‘I love you’ says it all. At any rate, Nick and I know how much we love and care for each other, so why fret over putting that all into words?
Well I think that it is important to give it your best shot. I’m sure that with thought and care whatever you decide on for your ceremony, whether it be traditional hymns, modern love songs, readings for children’s books or excerpt from the world’s greatest poets – it will be lovely and meaningful.
So with that preface, these are what Nick and I chose for our wedding ceremony back in May. On the first page we had a short thank you to our family and friends for coming to share the day with us, including a list of everyone’s names. We also made special mention to Nick’s granny who died a month before our wedding – she was a very special lady in our lives and we wanted to recognise that.
Now I know that a church wedding isn’t for everyone, but I have grown up always going to church, with a mom who’s involved in the local community and the local church – I used to help make brownies and biscuits and played waitress for the tea moment after church, I also helped as a teenager running kids clubs through our local church, and in a small village it is still an important part of life.
We chose three hymns and three readings for our ceremony – initially I had wanted to keep the ceremony short and sweet, but we worked closely with our lovely vicar and in the end this seemed right for us. After a welcome from the vicar, we had the first hymn – All Things Bright and Beautiful.
When I was looking for readings (and hymns) there were things I wanted to reflect:
1) I wanted to include the changing seasons and in a rural setting. Not only do I love the seasons, but they are a beautiful image of the passing of the year, and also the passing of our lives.
2) Journeys. This was something I really wanted to find in our readings, that idea of life as a journey together. I can’t imagine living my life without Nick, I want to share adventures together whether they be travelling across America (a dream of ours) or building a bookcase. However grand or simple they might be, the idea of life as a journey together was really important.
3) Nature and the countryside. Quite simply I like nature and I like the countryside, so readings that told of nature’s beauty appealed to me.
The first reading was done by my brother and sister (15 and 17 at the time for anyone who doesn’t follow regularly – that’s them above) and was an excerpt from J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings. I can already hear some people chuckle or roll the eyes, it does sound silly, and yes I am a bit of a Lord of the Rings geek, but I came across this part from one of the books and it just hit the right note:
When Spring unfolds the beechen leaf, and sap is in the bough;
When light is on the wild-wood stream, and wind is on the brow;
When stride is long, and breath is deep, and keen the mountain-air,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is fair!
When Spring is come to garth and field, and corn is in the blade;
When blossom like a shining snow is on the orchard laid;
When shower and Sun upon the Earth with fragrance fill the air,
I’ll linger here, and will not come, because my land is fair.
When Summer lies upon the world, and in a noon of gold
Beneath the roof of sleeping leaves the dreams of trees unfold;
When woodland halls are green and cool, and wind is in the West,
Come back to me! Come back to me, and say my land is best!
When Summer warms the hanging fruit and burns the berry brown;
When straw is gold, and ear is white, and harvest comes to town;
When honey spills, and apple swells, though wind be in the West,
I’ll linger here beneath the Sun, because my land is best!
When Winter comes, the winter wild that hill and wood shall slay;
When trees shall fall and starless night devour the sunless day;
When wind is in the deadly East, then in the bitter rain
I’ll look for thee, and call to thee; I’ll come to thee again!
When Winter comes, and singing ends; when darkness falls at last;
When broken is the barren bough, and light and labour past;
I’ll look for thee, and wait for thee, until we meet again:
Together we will take the road beneath the bitter rain!
BOTH : Together we will take the road that leads into the West,
And far away will find a land where both our hearts may rest.
It looks hideously long, but when my little brother and sister stood before us and read this reading (in the book it is called a song), one of them reading one part and the other replying, it was so lovely.
The funny thing was, during the afternoon when we were getting ready for the wedding, Izzy and Freddie realised they hadn’t printed off the reading and hadn’t practised it – unless you count the first time Freddie saw it and decided to read it in an ‘old tree’ voice – thankfully he didn’t recreate this for the service!
So there was a mad moment where we had to turn the laptop on and print them both out a copy with less than an hour to the wedding. I remember having my hair done with those two behind me practising their reading – even then it felt special.
The second reading was more a long quote, read by one of our best friends Maria. It’s called Oh the comfort and is possibly from George Eliot although there does seem to be some debate about this.
Nick and I went on a marriage course a few months before our wedding – something that I’m a bit scared to admit to everyone as you might think we’re a bit odd! It was really one of the best things we could have done before our wedding and was a lovely way to look at where we were in our relationship, work on the bits that needed improving and celebrate the bits we do well. Anyway, this quote was read out at the first evening and I just thought it was amazing.
Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.
I love real love. Real life love. The kind of love where it isn’t always perfect. For me, this quote sums up the real love I believe in.
Next there were the declarations followed by another hymn – we chose For The Beauty of the Earth. I love this hymn because it’s a celebration of all that is beautiful in the world. It speaks of the beauty of the natural world, of the beauty in tiny things such as each hour of the day, and it celebrates the beauty of love in all our different relationships.
The final reading was a Bible reading – as is required in a church wedding. We chose Song of Songs 2:10-13 and 8:6-7 – these are two bits from the same section. We asked Nick’s mom and stepdad to read them, and in a similar way to the Tolkein reading, this was like two people telling the other how they love them.
Song of Songs, 2:10-13
My beloved spoke, he said to me:
Rise up, my darling;
My fairest, come away.
For now the winter is past,
The rains are over and gone;
The flowers appear in the countryside;
The time is coming when the birds will sing,
And the turtle dove’s cooing will be heard in our land;
When the green figs will ripen on the fig trees
And the vines give forth their fragrance.
Rise up, my darling;
My fairest, come away.
Song of Songs, 8:6-7
Wear me as a seal upon my heart,
As a seal upon your arm;
For love is strong as death,
Passion cruel as the grave;
It blazes up like blazing fire,
Fiercer than any flame.
Many waters cannot quench love,
No flood can sweep it away;
If a man were to offer for love
The whole wealth of his house,
It would be utterly scorned.
Something that was particularly lovely, was that our vicar got the people doing the readings to stand in front of Nick and I and read them to us. Not to everyone in the church, but as though they were reading them just to us. I was really happy we did it this way, rather than at other weddings where the bride and groom have sat down to the side while the readings have been read to the whole congregation.
Then it was the vows and signing of the register, which you can read on this post on the wedding ceremony. I think I mentioned in that post also that my mom wrote the prayers and read them, which she personalised, and we also asked her to read out the names of family who have died and weren’t able to be with us.
The final hymn we chose was Lord of all Hopefulness – a good way to finish a marriage ceremony and a good way to start married life I hoped. It talks about being hopeful, eager, kind and gentle, all things I hope we can fill our lives with.
On the back of our order of service I included a quote from one of my favourite authors – Louise Erdrich:
Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death rushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
Other readings I looked at but we didn’t use were:
- The Owl and the Pussycat – I really loved this, the symbolism of going on an adventure together and getting married with a ring from a pig’s nose. A bit quirky and fun! Nick did not love it.
- Us Two from Winnie the Pooh – it’s just very sweet and probably well used at weddings for that reason.
- The famous quote from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – another lovely one, but not one that had any specific meaning to us.
- I also wanted to use in either word or song the lyrics from I’ll Be With You In Apple Blossom Time because it couldn’t have been more perfect for our wedding “One day in May…” but sometimes you can’t fit everything in. So we didn’t.
Do you have any good suggestions for different readings – one’s that don’t always crop up when you do a Google search for wedding readings? It would be lovely if you had any to share as it was one of the things I found most difficult, and imagine other couples struggle with as well.