Many ceremonies often include at least one civil wedding reading or poem. Usually delivered by a close friend or relative, the words themselves are normally chosen by the couple but can be suggested by the reader themselves.
Before going ahead and deciding who, what and at which point in the proceedings the civil wedding readings and/or poems will take place, it is a good idea to speak to the Superintendent Registrar about what lee-way you have.
Some Registrar’s are happy for you to have multiple readings scattered throughout the service, whereas others may say that you can only have one civil wedding reading or wedding poem at the end, or, in certain cases, none at all. If your Registrar is being particularly uncooperative on this matter, do not be afraid to ask if there is an alternative Registrar available to solemnise the ceremony.
Once you have had approval to include readings and poems, the next task is to determine how many.
Your Registrar will have the final say on at which point in the service the civil wedding readings and poems will take place and they will also give guidance as to how many would be appropriate.
As a guide, in civil ceremonies, most Superintendent Registrar’s will be happy with one, two or even three readings/poems but may take umbrage if the numbers begin to rise higher. A lot of course will depend on just how long the civil wedding readings and poems are – if your Registrar suggests up to two readings or poems, but you really want four short ones, then there may be room for compromise.
The best course of action is to seek guidance from the Registrar as to how many civil wedding readings and/or poems would be suitable, then go out and do some research.
When it comes down to which civil wedding readings and poems to choose, the world is pretty much your oyster, so long as they continue the non-religious theme of the ceremony.
Whether it’s a poem by Wordsworth, some lyrics from a song, a piece of text from a novel, a specialist civil wedding reading or some words especially written for the day, it doesn’t really matter. The key to any reading or poem is to make it relevant and timely – as such the song lyrics from Metallica's ‘Enter Sandman’ or the whole of Tolstoy’s War and Peace will not be recommended, nor approved by your Registrar!
As you can imagine, your choices are pretty limitless, so to help you out you may want to check out some of our favourites civil wedding readings and poems:
Irish Wedding Blessing : Traditional - view reading
I Promise : Dorothy R. Colgan - view reading
Love Is A Great Thing : Thomas à Kempis - view reading
Marriage Joins Two People In The Circle Of Its Love : Edmund O'Neill - view reading
My True Love Hath My Heart - Sir Philip Sidney - view poem
Never Marry But For Love : William Penn - view reading
On Marriage : Kahil Gibran - view reading
On Your Wedding Day : Author Unknown - view poem
O Tell Me The Truth About Love : W.H. Auden - view poem
Somewhere : Sir Edwin Arnold - view poem
Sonnet 18 : William Shakespeare - view poem
Sonnet 116 : William Shakespeare - view poem
The Art Of A Good Marriage : Wilfred Arlan Peterson - view reading
The Bargain : Sir Philip Sidney - view poem
The Passionate Shepherd To His Love : Christopher Marlowe - view poem
The Prophet : Kahil Gibran - view reading
To My Dear Loving Husband : Anne Bradstreet - view poem
True Love : Author Unknown - view poem
What is Love? : Author Unknown - view reading
Wedding Wind : Philip Larkin - view poem
Yes, I'll Marry You : Pam Ayres - view poem
Once you have decided upon the civil wedding readings and/or poems, your penultimate task is to determine just who will be reading them. In the vast majority of weddings up and down the country, this will be a task for close friend or relative, although in a few cases we have even heard of couples convincing Superintendent Registrars or even enrolling professional speakers to help out. However, wedding guests are by far the most common option, so it is down this path that you will probably want to start looking.
In terms of who to ask, it is entirely up to you. Perhaps you have a confident and well-spoken guest attending who will be ideal for the role, or perhaps you may want a close friend (a Bridesmaid, Groomsman or friend who nearly made it into the wedding party) or maybe even a parent to get involved. The best advice we can give is to think carefully about who you are to ask and take your time.
To be asked to give a civil wedding reading or poem is an honour, but it can also be quite a daunting experience so you shouldn’t take it for granted that your kind offer will be welcomed with open arms. A simple conversation face-to-face is the best way to make the offer and it is wise to seek a response, positive or negative, as soon as possible to allow you to finalise arrangements with the Register Office, or perhaps even look elsewhere for someone to give the reading/poem. Don’t force someone into doing something they are reluctant to do, but likewise don’t be upset if they turn down your request. The key is to get someone who you are happy to make the reading/poem, who in turn is is happy to deliver it.
As soon as all the previously mentioned tasks have been completed, your final chore is to confirm details with the Superintendent Registrar and get the green light from them. Once this has been done, that’s the planning of the civil wedding readings and poems over – roll on the big day!
For those of you wanting to find out more, we've a whole host of other wedding ceremony articles on our site packed full of expert information and helpful advice, not to mention our online wedding directory that's filled with loads of civil wedding venues, decorations, florists and more.