Making The Most of Prose and Poetry in Your Wedding Ceremony

An idea that is always popular for wedding ceremonies is to have readers.’ It is a wonderful way to honor a special friend or family member. Many couples choose poems, inspirational readings or compose something original. But always remember: don’t choose just any reader, and not just any reading, either

Unfortunately, too often the reading is either not heard nor the meaning clear.

Here are some helpful ideas for selecting and performing – yes, performing – a reading. Brides and grooms, share this information with your readers, please.

First and most important, is practice, practice, practice! Unless you are a professional actor or public speaker, in which case you already know this, it really makes all the difference. The piece should be practiced out loud. It is not the same to read it to oneself.

Choose the right reader and the right reading.

Typing or writing the piece out (even if it’s been given to you) helps, plus you can put accents, or stress marks, as cues for the proper inflection. Trust me – it helps!

As slow as you may try to read the piece, go even slower. Perhaps even jot a note to yourself to remember to read slowly and where to pause. When we are anxious or excited we often go faster than we realize. Remember, the listener needs to absorb the meaning.

With only one opportunity to hear it, unless you are providing the ‘Cliff notes,’ go simple! Unless your guests are literature scholars, choose something easy to understand. Classics often require some analysis and are written in a style unfamiliar to most of us. A simple, straight forward piece, such as “The Art of Marriage,” is not only beautiful and meaningful, but accessible for most of us.

Don’t put the text in your program booklet – it will shift people’s attention away from the reader.

Consider having several people read one piece. It can be very effective to have a group, such as siblings, read alternating lines or stanzas. Pauses tend to be longer between the readers, slowing it down, and each reader gains confidence from being with the other.

Volume, volume, volume. If there is a microphone, don’t shy away from it. If there is no microphone you will need to project your voice. Again, practice that.

There are many places to look for ideas, including song lyrics, excerpts from novels, contemporary poets, and religious writings. From Dylan Thomas to Bob Dylan, Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou, or even children’s literature – I have found all of the above inspiring. We are free to borrow wisdom from other cultures. The writings of the Persian philosopher Rumi, or the Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran who wrote: “Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”

Bob Dylan wrote: “… she opened up a book of poems and handed it to me. Written by an Italian poet from the thirteenth century. And every one of them words rang true and glowed like burnin’ coal, pourin’ off of every page like it was written in my soul from me to you.”  I hope your readings ring true for you, too.

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