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  • Writer's pictureLisa Flahant

My favourite modern readings (no cheese here)

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

When it comes to choosing the readings for your ceremony, finding something that really speaks to you is often a tougher proposition than you first imagined.

I have two ways of dealing with this: one is to trust me and your reader to find that perfect piece – see this earlier blog – alternatively, let's have a chat about it, because I have probably heard over 200 readings during my time delivering ceremonies, so I am pretty confident I can come up with some suggestions that will appeal.

What makes a perfect reading you might ask?

Firstly, it shouldn’t be too long. I definitely subscribe to the school of less is more, and people’s attentions spans are shorter than you might think.

The second is – it shouldn’t be too ‘rhymey’. Perhaps it's just me, but I think very few people can pull off a rhyming reading. And – again, just my view - I think a lot of rhyming poems can be a bit heavy on the cheese factor. This isn't a register office wedding - let's avoid the cheese!

The third is – call me a heathen, but I prefer pieces which are not stacked with words we don’t use in every day language. So generally I would avoid the classics packed with thees and thous; I am a girl with simple tastes :-)

And finally, ideally, please not something I've listened to 20 times before, because if I've heard it a fair few times, you can bet there will be some of your guests who have heard it. And I guess you might have chosen a celebrant ceremony because you are looking for something a bit different, right?

So the readings which float my boat are those that are highly personal and meaningful to the couple. The ones that make me think. Deeply. I'll add bonus points for those that send a little shiver down my spine and make my eyes leak. And if it’s something highly original, perhaps even a little offbeat – you might just have my perfect reading,

Of course these are just my humble opinions. While I love a modern piece of prose, if you are looking for something more traditional, or romantic, or popular – I am sure I can help you out there. And of course it doesn’t have to be poetry or prose, you can choose a favourite scene from a film or even lyrics from song. I have some great examples of these – but will save them for another post!

Let me know if there is something you particularly like in my selection here – and if you can guess my personal favourite, I will be super-impressed!

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney

Masons, when they start upon a building,

Are careful to test out the scaffolding; Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,

Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done

Showing off walls of sure and solid stone. So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be

Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall

Confident that we have built our wall.

The Bridge Across Forever by Richard Bach

A soul mate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be.

Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soul mate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soul mate is the one who makes life come to life.

Waiting by Raymond Carver

Left off the highway and

down the hill. At the

bottom, hang another left.

Keep bearing left. The road

will make a Y. Left again.

There’s a creek on the left.

Keep going. Just before

the road ends, there’ll be

another road. Take it

and no other. Otherwise,

your life will be ruined

forever. There’s a log house

with a shake roof, on the left.

It’s not that house. It’s

the next house, just over

a rise. The house

where trees are laden with

fruit. Where phlox, forsythia,

and marigold grow. It’s

the house where the woman

stands in the doorway

wearing the sun in her hair. The one

who’s been waiting

all this time.

The woman who loves you.

The one who can say,

“What’s kept you?”

The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman

I will love you forever; whatever happens. Till I die and after I die, and when I find my way out of the land of the dead, I’ll drift about forever, all my atoms, till i find you again… I’ll be looking for you, every moment, every single moment. And when we do find each other again, we’ll cling together so tight that nothing and no one’ll ever tear us apart. Every atom of me and every atom of you… we’ll live in birds and flowers and dragonflies and pine trees and in clouds and in those little specks of light you see floating in sunbeams… and when they use our atoms to make new lives, they won’t just be able to take one, they’ll have to take two, one of you and one of me, we’ll be joined so tight…

Reading of Love by Laura Hendricks

Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet

understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and

forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times.

It settles for less than perfection and makes

allowances for human weaknesses.

Love is content with the present, it hopes for the

future, and it does not brood over the past. It’s the

day-in and day-out chronicle of irritations, problems, compromises, small disappointments, big victories and working toward common goals.

If you have love in your life, it can make up for a great many things that are missing. If you don’t have love in your life, no matter what else there is, it’s not enough.

Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith

People are like cities: We all have alleys and gardens and secret rooftops and places where daisies sprout between the sidewalk cracks, but most of the time all we let each other see is is a postcard glimpse of a skyline or a polished square. Love lets you find those hidden places in another person, even the ones they didn’t know were there, even the ones they wouldn’t have thought to call beautiful themselves.

Extract from Gift of the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

When you love someone; you do not love them all the time, in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity — in freedom, in the sense that the dancers are free, barely touching as they pass, but partners in the same pattern. The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even.

Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what was in nostalgia, nor forward to what it might be in dread or anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is now. Relationships must be like islands, one must accept them for what they are here and now, within their limits — islands, surrounded and interrupted by the sea, and continually visited and abandoned by the tides.

Maybe (Anon)

Maybe we are supposed to meet the wrong people before we meet the right one so when they finally arrive we are truly grateful for the gift we have been given.

Maybe it’s true that we don’t know what we have lost until we lose it but it is also true that we don’t know what we’re missing until it arrives.

Maybe the happiest of people don’t have the best of everything, but make the best of everything that comes their way.

Maybe the best kind of love is the kind where you sit on the sofa together, not saying a word, and walk away feeling like it was the best conversation you ever had.

Maybe once in a lifetime you find someone who not only touches your heart but also your soul, someone who loves you for who you are and not what you could be.

Maybe the art of true love is not about finding the perfect person, but about seeing an imperfect person perfectly.

From A Natural History Of Love by Diane Ackerman

Love. What a small word we use for an idea so immense and powerful. It has altered the flow of history, calmed monsters, kindled works of art, cheered the forlorn, turned tough guys to mush, consoled the enslaved, driven strong women mad, glorified the humble, fueled national scandals, bankrupted robber barons, and made mincemeat of kings. How can love’s spaciousness be conveyed in the narrow confines of one syllable? Love is an ancient delirium, a desire older than civilization, with taproots spreading into deep and mysterious days. The heart is a living museum. In each of its galleries, no matter how narrow or dimly lit, preserved forever like wondrous diatoms, are our moments of loving, and being loved.

The Beauty of Love (Anon)

The question is asked: “Is there anything more beautiful in life than a young couple clasping hands and pure hearts in the path of marriage? Can there be anything more beautiful than young love?” And the answer is given: “Yes, there is a more beautiful thing.

“It is the spectacle of an old man and an old woman finishing their journey together on that path. Their hands are gnarled but still clasped; their faces are seamed but still radiant; their hearts are physically bowed and tired but still strong with love and devotion. Yes, there is a more beautiful thing than young love. Old love.”

From Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

We are all on our own paths, all on our own journeys. Sometimes the paths cross, and people arrive at the crossing points at the same time and meet each other. There are greetings, pleasantries are exchanged, and then they move on. But then once in a while the pleasantries become more, friendship grows, deeper links are made, hands are joined and love flies. The friendship has turned into love.

Paths are joined, one path with two people walking it, both going in the same direction, and sharing each other's journeys. They will now skip together in harmony and love, sharing joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, strengthening and upholding each other as they walk along side by side. At home by the fire, whenever I look up, there you will be. And whenever you look up, there I shall be.

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