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    Dressing Up Your Ceremony

    1-PHOTO-ElizabethRiver-Columnist-Elizabeth_at_CCC_2011If you are the romantic type, you will want to have poems, quotations, song lyrics, and the like in your ceremony. Of course, your own writing would be fabulous! But, if you aren’t a poet, and want the language in your wedding to express something more than traditional ceremonies do, great writers have been writing about love and marriage for hundreds of years. Find something that resonates with you!

    The basic elements of a wedding are very simple. Without any frills, the whole ceremony would take only about 10 minutes:  welcome, prayer, statement of intention, vows, ring ceremony, pronouncement, kiss.

    So, to make it richer, to imbue it with deeper meaning, to bring forth more of the emotional, spiritual, and individual aspects of the two of you as a couple, see if you can find some good poems.

    I have been amazed at the diverse and amazing pieces that couples have found for their wedding ceremonies. Last year, a couple used “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss, and it was perfect! Two of my favorites are poems by e. e. cummings: “I carry your heart with me (I carry it in your heart)” and “somewhere I have never traveled.” These are exquisite and tender.

    There are funny ones, like “He Never Leaves the Seat Up” by Pam Ayres:

    He never leaves the seat up
    Or wet towels upon the floor
    The toothpaste has the lid on
    And he always shuts the door!

    (and many more verses.)

    Here are some of my other favorites:

    Fragment from the Commitment Reading of the Pueblo Indian:       

    When you came to me, the sun surged towards the earth and moon escaped from darkness to bless the union of two spirits, so alike that the creator had designed them for life’s endless circle.

    From a poem by Hugh Prather in Notes on Love and Courage:

    the quiet thoughts

    of two people a long time in love

    touch lightly

    like birds nesting in each other’s warmth

    From a poem by Roy Croft:

    I love you

    Because you have done

    More than any creed

    Could have done

    To make me good…

    You have done it

    Without a touch,

    Without a word,

    Without a sign.

    You have done it

    By being yourself.              

    From the Love sonnet
    by Pablo Neruda:

    I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
    or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
    I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
    in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

    I love you as the plant that never blooms
    but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
    thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
    risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

    I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way
    than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
    so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
    so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

    And here’s my last word on this subject: I recommend you ask your officiant to make you a copy of your ceremony to keep and re-read together on your anniversary every year. Make it a special part of your anniversary ritual and celebration! And remind yourselves just how magnificent and precious this thing—your marriage—is.

    Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit