21 Real Poems to Read at your Wedding

Updated: Apr 21, 2019

If, like me, you love poetry, it's hard to imagine your wedding ceremony without a poetic reading or two but it's so difficult to find the right one.

When I was planning my wedding, I thought it would be easy to choose the perfect reading but whenever I found a poem I loved I'd find a problem too.

Here are a few excerpts from my train of thought during this time:

1) Won't people assume the speaker in the poem is me or David and then won't they be confused if there's a detail that doesn't match our exact biographies? (NB - the answer is no!)

2) This poem might be hauntingly lovely when you've sat down and read it five times but would it make any sense to a diverse audience on one reading?

3) Why do half these poems need to throw in overtly sexual references? My parents will be there!

4) Why do the other half always have to end with death?

5) Is there a way you can exclude horrible, cringey greetings card 'poems' from your search results? (Answer: I have never found a way to do this - please tell me if you do!)

6) Why does almost every blog that promises 'different' or 'unusual' wedding poems have all the same poems in them?

Well, I concluded it's just a numbers game - you have to efficiently search through as many potential candidates as possible, not wasting time on the ones that don't do it for you. (It's actually remarkably similar to the strategy I used to find the husband in the first place.)

So, if you're currently reading through lots of love poems until you find one that resonates with you, here are few more ideas. I do hope you haven't seen them all before on other blogs - I did find them in real printed books, rather than just copy and pasting! I haven't written you any commentary or analysis because - well to be honest I don't think you'll read it!

So, here it is, my selection of wedding poems - written by real poets and the odd songwriter, but definitely not by anyone working for Hallmark. The poems in this selection are mainly fairly short, accessible and quite romantic (with a small 'r').

If you've got some great ideas for love poems to read at weddings, please share them in the comments!


by Nikki Giovanni

I love you

because the Earth turns round the sun

because the North wind blows north


because the Pope is Catholic

and most Rabbis Jewish

because the winters flow into springs

and the air clears after a storm

because only my love for you

despite the charms of gravity

keeps me from falling off this Earth

into another dimension

I love you

because it is the natural order of things

I love you

like the habit I picked up in college

of sleeping through lectures

or saying I’m sorry

when I get stopped for speeding

because I drink a glass of water

in the morning

and chain-smoke cigarettes

all through the day

because I take my coffee Black

and my milk with chocolate

because you keep my feet warm

though my life a mess

I love you

because I don’t want it

any other way

I am helpless

in my love for you

Love Listen

By Ann Gray

Let’s love, listen, take time when time is all we have. Let’s be unafraid to be kind, learn to disregard the bad if the good outweighs it daily. Let’s make a gift of silence, the day’s hushing into dark, and when we hold each other let’s always be astonished we are where we want to be. Let’s hope to age together, but if we can’t, let’s promise now to remember how we shone when we were at our best, when we were most ourselves.


by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not

a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

The edge of the forest, the edge

of the desert

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat

outside, eating popcorn

where painfully and with wonder

at having survived even

this far

we are learning to make fire

from First Poems

by Rainer Maria Rilke

Understand, I’ll slip quietly

Away from the noisy crowd

When I see the pale

Stars rising, blooming over the oaks

I’ll pursue solitary pathways

Through the pale twilit meadows,

With only this one dream:

You come too.

So in Love

by Cole Porter

Strange, dear

But true, dear

When I'm close to you, dear

The stars fill the sky

So in love with you am I

Even without you

My arms fold about you

You know, darling, why

So in love with you am I

In love with the night mysterious

The night when you first were there

In love with my joy, delirious

When I knew that you could care

So taunt me

And hurt me

Deceive me, desert me

I'm yours 'til I die

So in love

So in love

So in love with you my love

Am I

Taunt me

And hurt me

Deceive me

Desert me

I'm yours 'til I die

So in love

So in love

So in love

So in love

So in love with you my love

My love

Am I

Let Me Put It This Way

by Simon Armitage

Let me put it this way:

if you came to lay

your sleeping head

against my arm or sleeve,

and if my arm went dead,

or if I had to take my leave

at midnight, I should rather

cleave it from the joint or seam

than make a scene

or bring you round


how does that sound?


by Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion. It is a moon wrapped in brown paper. It promises light like the careful undressing of love.

Here. It will blind you with tears like a lover. It will make your reflection a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion. Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips, possessive and faithful as we are, for as long as we are.

Take it. Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding ring, if you like. Lethal. Its scent will cling to your fingers, cling to your knife.


by John Agard

River, be their teacher,

that together they may turn

their future highs and lows

into one hopeful flow

Two opposite shores

feeding from a single source.

Mountain, be their milestone,

that hand in hand they rise above

familiarity's worn tracks

into horizons of their own

Two separate footpaths

dreaming of a common peak.

Birdsong, be their mantra,

that down the frail aisles of their days,

their twilight hearts twitter morning

and their dreams prove branch enough.

Not Anyone Who Says
by Mary Oliver

Not anyone who says, “I’m going to be careful and smart in matters of love,” who says, “I’m going to choose slowly,” but only those lovers who didn’t choose at all but were, as it were, chosen by something invisible and powerful and uncontrollable and beautiful and possibly even unsuitable — only those know what I’m talking about in this talking about love.

The Romance

by Shel Silverstein

Said the pelican to the elephant, “I think we should marry, I do. ’Cause there’s no name that rhymes with me, And no one else rhymes with you.”

Said the elephant to the pelican, “There’s sense to what you’ve said, For rhyming’s as good a reason as any For any two to wed.”

And so the elephant wed the pelican, And they dined upon lemons and limes, And now they have a baby pelicant, And everybody rhymes.

A Word to Husbands

by Ogden Nash

To keep your marriage brimming, With love in the loving cup, Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; Whenever you’re right, shut up.

Hug O’ War

by Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o’war.

I’d rather play at hug o’war,

Where everyone hugs

Instead of tugs,

Where everyone giggles

And rolls on the rug,

Where everyone kisses,

And everyone grins,

And everyone cuddles,

And everyone wins.


by Roger McGough

I vow to honour the commitment made this day Which, unlike the flowers and the cake, Will not wither or decay. A promise, not to obey But to respond joyfully, to forgive and to console, For once incomplete, we now are whole.

I vow to bear in mind that if, at times Things seem to go from bad to worse, They also go from bad to better. The lost purse is handed in, the letter Contains wonderful news. Trains run on time, Hurricanes run out of breath, floods subside, And toast lands jam-side up.

And with this ring, my final vow: To recall, whatever the future may bring, The love I feel for you now.

I Love You

by Roy Croft

I love you

Not only for who you are

But for what I am when I am with you.

I love you

Not only for what you have made of yourself

But for what you are making of me.

I love you for the part of me that you bring out.

I love you for putting your hand into my heart

And passing over all the foolish, weak things that you can’t help.

Dimly seeing there and drawing out, into the light all the beautiful belongings

That no one else had looked quite far enough to find.

You have done it without a touch, without a word, without a sign.

Touched by an Angel

by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage

exiles from delight

live coiled in shells of loneliness

until love leaves its high holy temple

and comes into our sight

to liberate us into life.

Love arrives

and in its train come ecstasies

old memories of pleasure

ancient histories of pain.

Yet if we are bold,

love strikes away the chains of fear

from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity

In the flush of love's light

we dare be brave

And suddenly we see

that love costs all we are

and will ever be.

Yet it is only love

Close Close All Night

by Elizabeth Bishop

Close close all night the lovers keep. They turn together in their sleep, close as two papers in a book that read each other in the dark. Each knows all the other knows learnt by heart from head to toes.

which sets us free.

Two Fragments by Sappho

Love holds me captive again

and I tremble with bittersweet longing

As a gale on the mountainside bends the oak tree

I am rocked by my love

He Wishes For Cloths of Heaven

by W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with golden and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half-light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet:

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

It Is Here

(for A)

by Harold Pinter

What sound was that?

I turn away, into the shaking room.

What was that sound that came in on the dark? What is this maze of light it leaves us in? What is this stance we take, To turn away and then turn back? What did we hear?

It was the breath we took when we first met.

Listen. It is here.

Admonitions to a Special Person by Anne Sexton

Watch out for power, for its avalanche can bury you, snow, snow, snow, smothering your mountain.

Watch out for hate, it can open its mouth and you’ll fling yourself out to eat off your leg, an instant leper.

Watch out for friends, because when you betray them, as you will, they will bury their heads in the toilet and flush themselves away.

Watch out for intellect, because it knows so much it knows nothing and leaves you hanging upside down, mouthing knowledge as your heart falls out of your mouth.

Watch out for games, the actor’s part, the speech planned, known, given, for they will give you away and you will stand like a naked little boy, pissing on your own child-bed.

Watch out for love (unless it is true, and every part of you says yes including the toes) , it will wrap you up like a mummy, and your scream won’t be heard and none of your running will end.

Love? Be it man. Be it woman. It must be a wave you want to glide in on, give your body to it, give your laugh to it, give, when the gravelly sand takes you, your tears to the land. To love another is something like prayer and can’t be planned, you just fall into its arms because your belief undoes your disbelief.

Special person, if I were you I’d pay no attention to admonitions from me, made somewhat out of your words and somewhat out of mine. A collaboration. I do not believe a word I have said, except some, except I think of you like a young tree with pasted-on leaves and know you’ll root and the real green thing will come.

Let go. Let go. Oh special person, possible leaves, this typewriter likes you on the way to them, but wants to break crystal glasses in celebration, for you, when the dark crust is thrown off and you float all around like a happened balloon.


by UA Fanthorpe

There is a kind of love called maintenance Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;

Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;

Which answers letters; which knows the way The money goes; which deals with dentists

And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains, And postcards to the lonely; which upholds

The permanently rickety elaborate Structures of living, which is Atlas.

And maintenance is the sensible side of love, Which knows what time and weather are doing To my brickwork; insulates my faulty wiring; Laughs at my dryrotten jokes; remembers My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps My suspect edifice upright in air, As Atlas did the sky.

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