The 10 best modern and traditional readings for your wedding ceremony

Readings can inject personality, emotion and poignancy into your ceremony, but with so many options, it’s hard to know where to begin. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favourites, from lighthearted contemporary pieces to traditional tearjerkers

A bride and groom stand at the top of the aisle alongside a celebrant, a bridesmaid and a groomsman
A Humanist Society Scotland ceremony, where, by the looks of things, there were plenty of laughs in amongst the romance (Photo: Karen Wotherspoon Photography)

There’s a moment in the 2005 film Wedding Crashers where Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson try to guess what reading will be given at a wedding. One puts his money on First Corinthians, the other on Colossians 3:12, with First Corinthians coming out on top. As funny as it is, this scene reflects a real dilemma: how do you chose a reading that’s charged with feeling but fresh enough to keep you and your guests engaged?

We think we’ve got the answer. First, check out our piece on the Dos and Don’ts of finding a reading, for guidance on everything from how to find your reading style to which of your guests to entrust with the delivery. Then, read on to find 13 fabulous hand-picked pieces, from poetry to traditional hand-fasting vows, that cover the classics (here’s looking at you, Shakespeare and Rabbie Burns) and some exciting newcomers. Oh, and we’ve put First Corinthians in too – it would be rude not to, really.

Modern and secular

A celebrant and couple stand in front of an arch decorated with flowers during the ceremony
Fuze Ceremonies can help you add substance to your weddings with a well-chosen reading (Photo: Paul and Nanda)

1. He Never Leaves The Seat Up, Pam Ayres

Even if you swear poetry isn’t for you, check out this humorous and very readable piece. It’s a great option for a friend or sibling to read on your behalf, as it focuses on the everyday moments of being in love.

2. How Falling In Love Is Like Owning a Dog, Taylor Mali

We here at Tie the Knot Scotland are dog people through and through, so when we saw this adorable poem about love and devotion, we simply had to share it with you. Celebrant Suzanne Teed points out it can be read by a friend on behalf of the couple’s dog. Paw-fect!

3. Today I Marry My Best Friend, Bertrand Russell

Short but oh-so sweet, this poem could work well for a bride or groom who wants to do a reading themselves, but is nervous about taking on a longer piece.

4. All I Know About Love, Neil Gaiman

Fans of this fantasy author will be delighted to hear this reading on the big day. Some of our favourite lines include: ‘It’s not two broken halves becoming one. It’s the light from a distant lighthouse bringing you both safely home, because home is wherever you are both together.’

5. I Wanna Be Yours, John Cooper Clarke

Arctic Monkeys fans will recognise the words of this uniquely direct and humorous love poem, which was used as the lyrics to their 2013 song by the same name. Lines like:-
‘I wanna be your Ford Cortina / I will never rust’ will generate welcome laughs among your guests, while allowing readers who are uneasy with florid language to express their emotions in terms they’re more comfortable with.

Traditional and religious

A couple exchanges vows in front of their guests and a celebrant
Wedding ceremonies needn’t be strictly business – there’s plenty of room for laughter too. Just ask Humanist Society Scotland (Photo: SimonsStudio)

1. Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Famously used in the 1995 film of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, this is one of the Bard’s most widely recognised poems. The idea of reading Shakespeare can sound pretty daunting, but don’t be put off: this one is short enough to be read in its entirety, and the language is fairly straightforward compared to some of his work.

2. Happy Is The Bride That Rain Fell Upon

If the blue skies and fair weather you’ve been dreaming of all the way through your wedding planning fail to materialise on the day itself, console yourself with this reading. Originally from Ireland, it has a Christian message and a strong sense of optimism for the couple’s future.

3. A Red, Red Rose, Robert Burns

In a wedding featuring kilts, bagpipes and a dram or two, it would be rude not to include some lines from Scotland’s own Bard. Just make sure your chosen reader can handle the Scots dialect – or play it for laughs by asking a guest from further afield to give it a go!

4. On Marriage, Kahlil Gibran

This 1923 poem, by Lebanese-American writer and painter Kahlil Gibran, speaks eloquently about loving each other without losing yourself, a message that’s as relevant today as it ever was.

5. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast…” You probably know the rest. A classic for a reason, these biblical verses cut to the heart of what it means to love. They contain no direct references to God or Christianity, so are a good option if you’re personally not religious but are facing familial pressure to include Christian elements in your big day.