How to Choose Your Ceremony Readings

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At Karen & Jeff’s wedding, two friends performed a speech written specially for the day. Photo: GIULIA SANTARELLI.

Our Managing Editor Christina and I got to talking the other day, and she admitted something that totally shocked me – she and her husband didn’t have any readings in their ceremony. Nope, that wasn’t the shocking part, it was why! “Back then, I thought readings would be boring, and I didn’t think that they would be a significant part of our ceremony”,  she told me. (Though if you’re an avid Snippet & Ink reader, you’ll know her thoughts have changed since then! The words you say to each other on that day can truly impact your marriage, so it makes sense to choose them carefully. These days there is inspiration everywhere, and people pick what is right for them for all sorts of reasons – maybe you want to use a reading that your parents had on their wedding day, or maybe you both have a favorite song and want to include the lyrics. The options are pretty much endless… which can be its own problem! Unless you want to use super traditional readings, it’s normal to feel a bit lost. So we’d love to help you decide whether to include readings in your own ceremony, and if so, how do you choose? (And for some seriously fantastic inspiration, even if we do say so ourselves, be sure to check out our very own readings archive from our fabulous couples who share their readings with us!)

Ceremony Readings – for the win!

So I just can’t hide my own feelings here. I love ceremony readings, and I’m a huge believer in their importance. I think picking the right ones help you and your partner solidify what you both see marriage as. And they also do a beautiful job of conveying the way you both see love, and your relationship, to your guests. Having said that, deciding on them is definitely not an easy job, so here are some tips I hope will help!

At Rayn & Ryan’s wedding, they didn’t want their ceremony to feel too traditional, so chose to include, among other things, excerpts from Winnie the Pooh! Photo: ASH CARR.

Tip #1: balance the tone of your readings: one tragic, heartbreaking reading can honestly be a beautiful inclusion in your ceremony. Some of the most wonderful things ever written about love are also about death, after all (cheerful, right?) But two or three of them? We’re not at a funeral! Equally, even if you both value humor and want to have a light, fun ceremony, you probably don’t want your wedding to seem like it has a two drink minimum! It’s really important to think about the overall tone of your readings so that they are reflective of you both, and also keep your guests engaged.

For our wedding, we started off with the longest and the teariest reading because it said best what my husband and I think of love. It was an excerpt read by my dad from one of my favorite childhood books he used to read to me when I was little. Photo: Jonas Peterson.

Tip #2: keep an eye on the length of the readings: and speaking of keeping your guests engaged – don’t let readings go too long! My husband Dan and I had four readings! I know, I know, we were worried about guests getting bored… but we kept two of them really short (and followed tip #1).

Tip #3: only include readings that really speak to you: the entire point of including readings is to represent your thoughts and beliefs. If you half-heartedly pick something you’re not that interested in, what’s the point? Only include readings if it says something you think is important enough to include in your ceremony. If you are a religious couple, for instance, it may be more important to you both to have readings representing your faith than your love for one another. Equally, maybe choose a secular reading if your faith is not going to form a central part of your marriage.

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Allison told us “we didn’t choose readings that were directly about marriage, but more about what it means to be a good person and what God asks of us in daily life – readings that spoke to us.” Photo: ALEA LOVELY, from Allison & Brad’s wedding

Ceremony Readings – not for us!

If you think you’re anti-readings…  well hopefully by now I’ve change your mind, ha! But if not, I respect that too. I just want to be sure the only reason you’re not including them is because you’ve never found one you love!

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For Katie & Anthony’s wedding, they chose not to have readings at all, and had friends tell stories about their relationship. Photo: ABBY ROSS.

Tip #4: don’t include readings just because “it’s tradition”: no part of your ceremony (or your entire wedding day) should be done just because it’s tradition, if you don’t want to do it! Maybe one of you is very shy and wants the ceremony over and done with the minimum of fuss. Or maybe you don’t like the idea of including words someone else has written when your ceremony is about the two of you. Both perfectly fair points! But equally, don’t feel like you’re bored or unmoved by ‘traditional’ readings when there really are so many options for you to find something you truly love. Which brings me to…

Tip #5: you can use almost anything as a reading: please don’t think “I’m not religious and I hate poetry, so I guess it’s no readings for us.” If we break it down, a reading is really just a part of your ceremony that says something you believe about love and marriage (and hopefully in more beautiful words than most of us non-writers could ever come up with!) Think about your favorite books, movie quotes, song lyrics… my husband is obsessed with The Muppets, so he googled Jim Henson quotes until he found one we both loved!


So what do you think? Do you plan on including readings in your own ceremony? Which ones? And if you’re already married, did you decide to include any? And if you want to include some and are looking for inspiration, be sure to check back next week when we publish a round up of our very favorite readings!

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