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Readings, Prayers, & Poetry


Two are better than one,
because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall,
one will lift up his fellow;
but woe to him who is alone when he falls
and has not another to lift him up.
Again, if two lie together, they are warm;
but how can one be warm alone?
And though a man might prevail against one who is alone,
two will withstand him.
A threefold cord is not quickly broken.

This next reading is best when read by two people:
God was sowing the gift of love and marriage among His sons and daughters.

Some gifts of love an marriage fell into hard hearts,
and selfishness killed it.

Some of the gifts of married love fell among men and women
whose hearts were shallow.
They at first received the gift with great joy,
but the love was not really deep;
and when trouble and hurt and misunderstanding and boredom came,
their shallow love withered and died.

Some men and women received the gift of love,
but they let concern for money, image, prestige, or power grow in their hearts
until those concerns choked out love.

God's gift fell into the hearts of some men and women
who both received and understood the gift.
These let the gift grow in them so love increased and deepened.
In some instances, the love was 30 times more than it had been on their wedding day..
It was 60 times or even 100 times more.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three, but the greatest of these is charity.
---First Corinthians, Chapter Thirteen, King James Version

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken,
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come,
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom:
If this be error, and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
---Sonnet 116, William Shakespeare

Here in the space between us and the world
lies human meaning.
Into the vast uncertainty we call.
The echoes make our music,
sharp equations which can hold the stars,
and marvelous mythologies we trust.
This may be all we need
to lift our love against indifference and pain.
Here in the space between us and each other
lies all the future
of the fragment of the universe
which is our own.
---From Sound of Silence

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, If God choose,
I shall love thee better after death.
---Elizabeth Barrett Browning

What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel that they are joined for life, to strengthen each other in all labour, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?
(Following this reading the officiant might say: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Now is a time for a wedding." )
---Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, New Revised Standard Version

Love is the simplest of all earthly things.
It needs no grandeur of celestial trust
In more than what it is, no holy wings:
It stands with honest feet in honest dust.
And is the body's blossoming in clear air
Of trustfulness and joyance when alone
Two mortals pass beyond the hour's despair
And claim that Paradise which is their own.
Amid a universe of sweat and blood,
Beyond the glooms of all the nations' hate,
Lovers, forgetful of the poisoned mood
Of the loud world, in secret ere too late
A gentle sacrament may celebrate
Before their private altar of the good.
---Arthur Davison Ficke

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me, and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.
---Christopher Marlowe

It takes years to marry completely two hearts, even of the most loving and well assorted. A happy wedlock is a long falling in love. Young persons think love belongs only to the brown-haired and crimson-cheeked. So it does for its beginning. But the golden marriage is a part of love which the Bridal day knows nothing of.

A perfect and complete marriage, where wedlock is everything you could ask and the ideal of marriage becomes actual, is not common, perhaps as rare as perfect personal beauty. Men and women are married fractionally, now a small fraction, then a large fraction. Very few are married totally, and they only after some forty or fifty years of gradual approach and experiment.

Such a large and sweet fruit is a complete marriage that it needs a long summer to ripen in, and then a long winter to mellow and season it. But a real, happy marriage of love and judgment between a noble man and woman is one of the things so very handsome that if the sun were, as the Greek poets fabled, a God, he might stop the world and hold it still now and then in order to look all day long on some example thereof, and feast his eyes on such a spectacle.
---Theodore Parker

The institution of marriage was begun
that a man and a woman
might learn how to love
and, in loving, know joy;
that a man and a woman
might learn how to share pain and loneliness
and, in sharing, know strength;
that a man and a woman
might learn how to give
and, in giving know communion.

The institution of marriage was begun
that a man and a woman
might through their joy,
their strength, and their communion,
become creators of life itself.

Marriage is a high and holy state,
to be held
in honor
among all men and women.

Marriage is a low and common state,
to be built
of the stuff
of daily life.

Men and women are not angels, nor are they gods.
Love can become hatred;
joy, sorrow,
marriage, divorce.

But human beings are not condemned to failure.
Love can grow even in a real world.
The wounds of sorrow can be healed,
And new life built on the learnings of the old.

This is the reason for our gathering today:
to renew our faith
in the strength of hope
and the power of love.
---Kenneth W. Phifer

You ask what is this love we here affirm, and I answer, it is a covenant you make, one with the other, a covenant born of commitment to each other's well being and growth and commitment to your relationship itself, allowing it the possibility of change and of growth. And so the covenant reads:

Take time for each other and act always from a caring position. Allow each other time alone for renewal and creativity. Be as honest as possible about feelings as well as actions. Share household and routine tasks with role reversal as a reality. Listen to each other with intent beyond the words. Allow other relationships and commitments in your lives. And make room in your covenant for the children of your love and when the time comes to let them go, do so with joy and caring; then come your primary relationship with fresh commitments to new beginnings.

---Betty Pingel

There is an art to marriage as there is to any creative activity we human beings engage in. This art asks that we pay attention to the little things as well as the big ones that are part of the closeness of marriage. Never grow too old to hold hands. At least once each day, remember to say, "I love you." In so much as it is possible, develop the capacity to forgive and forget and heal quarrels as they happen so that you do not go to bed angry. Your courtship should not end with the honeymoon; so pay attention that you do not come to take each other for granted, and remember to speak words of appreciation and demonstrate your gratitude in thoughtful ways.

It is important to have a mutual sense of values and common objectives so that you stand together as you work through the world and do things for each other, not as a duty or sacrifice, but in the spirit of joy. Do not expect perfection of each other; perfection is only for the gods. But do give each other room to grow and cultivate flexibility, patience, understanding, and sense of humor in your relationship. And your marriage is not just for two people. Use it to form a circle of love that gathers in your families and the children who may be part of your lives.

Find room for the things of the spirit and make your search for the good and the beautiful a common search. In the words of a counselor, make yours a relationship in which "the independence is equal, the dependent is mutual, and the obligation is reciprocal." Remember that standing together never means dissolving your individual selves into each other, but indeed means the strengthening of the individuality of each. A good marriage evolves when two distinct souls face life's joy and its sorrow in harmony, not in unison.

This list sounds very long and very heavy, yet it is only a small part of what is required of two people who would truly accept that making a marriage over the years is an artistic endeavor worthy of our best efforts. It is not just another relationship in our lives; it is the one that gives us courage and the support to reach out to other people in love and wholeness.
---Betty Pingel

The Fountains mingle with the River
And the Rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?-
See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother,
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?
---Percy Bysshe Shelley,"Love's Philosophy"


Wildflowers bloom on a mountainside,
As icy waters on their tumbling ride,
Flow in haste to meet the Sea,
On a cycle that will always be.

Cycles, cycles everyplace,
Even in my life, I face
The fact that cycles often race
With no regard to proper pace.

So I was born and grew up fast,
And now I'm free to love at last,
And need (Bride or Groom's Name) to complete the chain
Of the cycle that is in my name.


Two birds begin a journey long,
From different points in far off lands;
With a luring urge - in heart a song,
Two novices heed life's commands.

As they make their great migration,
Their feeble feet turn to taloned hands;
And the two reach their destination
As seasoned travelers in the northern lands.

Still unaware that the other lives,
Each alights upon the very same tree;
And there the two, as if guided by God,
Fall madly in love and marry.

Thus so it is with (Bride and Groom);
Two birds which Heaven's winds did blow
To this blessed rendezvous of life,
Like the two birds at Capistrano.


The recipe of love must always include
Some herbs and spices for fortitude;
A tablespoon of forgiveness -
A clove of loyalty -
A cup of faith -
And a sprig of honesty;
A pinch of patience -
A teaspoon of trust -
A cup of friendship -
And a bit of lust;
Mix all these herbs and spices well -
No other recipe could ever excel;
Add (Bride's Name) and (Groom's Name) for proper effect;
Then saute the whole in two cups of respect. 3r


You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days.
Ay, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other's cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,

Even as the strings of the lute are alone
though they quiver with the same music.

Give your hearts, but not into each other's keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.

--Kahil Gibran--