Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Humanist Wedding Readings

One of the things I really enjoy about my wedding ceremonies is the contributions that other people make to them. I feel that readings are very important to a wedding ceremony because they break up what I am saying, giving the ceremony variety and colour and they're a way of including some guests in the ceremony.

However, I've noticed that some couples take a bit of convincing when it comes to readings. I think this is partly because they think of 'readings' in the context of a religious ceremony where the contributor would be reading a Bible passage that would be in the same tone of voice as the rest of the ceremony. In Humanist weddings it works so differently because there are endless possibilities of what you could have and there really is something that would suit everyone.

What I'm most interested in is giving the ceremony flow so it's important to put the readings in the right place. For example, if a couple have chosen a funny reading I'd put that in after the welcome and introduction. Anything romantic would go near where I talk about why the couple love one another and a more serious piece would be nearer the vows and the thoughts on marriage section. I've had some pretty unusual readings in the past but have always managed to fit them in and for them to resonate well with the rest of the ceremony.

Sometimes choosing readers is a problem but there are ways of thinking out of the box for this too. Here are a few examples of the ways readings have been done in my ceremonies:

Surprise readings

This is always a fun one! The couple choose several people to make contributions then trust them to come up with something they'd like. I always check what the readings are directly with the people chosen so that I can put them into the right part of the ceremony and also to make sure they haven't chosen the same thing! At a recent wedding the bride's friend got up and read from 'The Gospel according to Edward', which turned out to be an extract from the Twilight books! Her other friend read from her favourite novel, Wuthering Heights. So this worked really well and we ended up with two thoughtful contributions, one lighthearted and one more serious but romantic too.

Group readings

I've noticed an emerging trend where readings are done as a group activity! This mainly happens when a bride has a gaggle of girlfriends who aren't going to be bridesmaids but she wants to involve them all. So they all come up and read a verse each from a (usually humourous poem. This works well because it involves a few people rather than singling one out and the contributors feel brave and confident because they have their chums alongside them. This also works well with children. I've a wedding coming up where there are as many child guests as adult ones, all relatives of the couple. The children are all going to get up and read a poem together and although some of them will be too small and shy to read they will come to the front and be part of it anyway!

Couple readings

Some pieces lend themselves to a male and female voice or can be done by a same sex couple. Simply knowing the people reading are in love with one another really adds something to the atmosphere of the reading.

Foreign language readings

I'm always keen for non-English speaking guests to feel acknowledged in the ceremony and having a reading in their mother tongue is a great way of doing that. So everyone has an understanding of what's being said I would either briefly explain the reading as I'm introducing the contributor or another reader can translate it, either verse by verse or at the end.

The no reading reading

Contributors don't have to pick a reading that someone else has written, they can read something they've penned themselves. This could be a piece about the couple or some advice to newlyweds.

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration to have fun and use your imagination when it comes to readings. It can often be difficult to choose people but I find that if you give the reader a piece that suits their personality they are likely to be able to carry it off well.

Here's a charming and well known poem by Edward Lear that would work well for a couple to read together:

The Owl and the Pussy Cat went to sea 
In a beautiful pea green boat.
They took some honey, and plenty of money
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!’
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! Too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows,
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood,
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose!
With a ring at the end of his nose.

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ said the Piggy, ‘I will’.
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dines on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

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